Wisconsin protests: updates and discussion

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Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
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Feb 18 2012 19:57

There's a 'zine' put out about the capitol occupation, now available online. Haven't read it yet.
http://occupationzine.org/download/

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Mar 24 2012 13:00

Pretty much gotta read it to believe it...

Randy Hopper Found Not Guilty Of DUI Charge, After Union-Conspiracy Defense
http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/03/randy_hopper_found_not_guilty_of_dui_charge_after.php?m=1

In other news, there's a number of different candidates that have announced or are suspected of announcing soon their candancy for governer in the recall election against Walker. One of them, seemingly the most popular, is one of the Democrats who fled to Illinois. Russ Feingold, a former Congressman who was also one of the most left in Congress for a while, was a favorite, but he has continuously declined.

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Mar 24 2012 14:52

That Randy Hopper thing is pretty amazing to read.

Is his wife the one who met a crowd outside their house by saying that he was with his girlfriend and that she'd sign the recall petition?

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boozemonarchy
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Mar 24 2012 16:35


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Melowski did admit at trial that Hopper drank as many as three and a half beers at a Green Bay Packers game on October 16, 2011, before driving home to Fond du Lac with his girlfriend, Valerie Cass.

Remarkable, this guy has amazing shit-head credentials.
-Anti union legislation
-Drunk Driver
-gets away with it via conspiracy theory
and perhaps worse of all. . .
he is that guy leaving half-empties laying aorund

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Juan Conatz
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Mar 24 2012 23:43
OliverTwister wrote:
That Randy Hopper thing is pretty amazing to read.

Is his wife the one who met a crowd outside their house by saying that he was with his girlfriend and that she'd sign the recall petition?

Hahaha, I forgot about that, not sure.

Surtrsflame
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Mar 26 2012 20:18

Yup, that'd be him - it earned him the nickname BedHopper. His girlfriend (in the car with him when he got the DUI) also got a nice spoils position in the Walker administration with something like double the salary of the positions previous occupant.

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Mar 27 2012 14:06

The following is from a pamphlet recently put out by Socialist Alternative. I haven't read it all, but zeroed in on what seemed relevent to my experience. Here's some excerpts.

Politically a disagree with SA quite a bit, but they were one of the first groups to call for a general strike and put out a lot of material for that. They also had a grouping in the TAA union that attempted to organize for strike action but got outmaneuvered by pro-recall people.

Quote:
The International Socialist Organization

The group in the best position to have an impact on the struggle was the International Socialist Organization (ISO). The ISO was the largest revolutionary socialist organization in the United States and Madison was one of its flagship branches. In addition to a sizeable student presence, the ISO had active members in AFSCME locals 60 and 171 and a good concentration of members in the TAA.

The ISO also had an extensive journalism apparatus, including the newspaper Socialist Worker, the journal International Socialist Review, and the website SocialistWorker.org. Throughout the protests, the ISO engaged in extensive reporting. While the mainstream media, run by big business, generally attacked or ignored the protests, the ISO's coverage of events proved useful for activists across the country eager to find the truth about what was going on.

On the ground, the ISO played an important role in the occupation of the Capitol, challenging the positions of the union leaders and the Democratic politicians. Their members, along with the NNU, were among the most energetic and effective at popularizing the "No Cuts, No Concessions" demand. They also helped set up the Kill the Whole Bill Coalition to challenge the concessionary positions of the union leaders. It is to their merit that they took a lead in organizing a section of the most left-wing part of the anti-Walker movement. Their main energies went into building support for the movement around this coalition. The coalition has changed its name and survives today as Wisconsin Resists.

The ISO showed their commitment to building the movement on the ground. However, the role of socialists is not only to build the movement but to point a way forward and raise what strategy, tactics, and policies are needed for the movement to be successful. When it came to providing a strategy for the movement beyond the Capitol occupation, they were found wanting. This becomes clear when one looks at their position on the general strike.

Throughout the crucial period of the struggle, a review of the articles and flyers of the ISO finds no call or support for a general strike.

The following is the most concrete proposal the ISO put forward for the movement:

The challenge now is for public-sector union members in Wisconsin to show their unity and power in the workplace. This can be done in a number of ways - from wearing union T-shirts and buttons, holding meetings during breaks and lunch periods, and organizing informational pickets before work.

If there are to be further job actions - or more decisive measures - they will be all the more effective if union members take the organization and initiative they have shown in Madison back to their cities and towns around the state. That's the only kind of pressure that politicians like Walker will ever understand.

At the same time, rank-and-file members should tell union officials that workers won't accept any concessions - at meetings, through petitions and leaflets, and with signs and banners on protests. After the greatest show of union strength and solidarity in decades, it would be a crime to waste it on a deal that lets workers' pay be cut ("Time to show our power," SocialistWorker.org, 2/24/2011).

While no one can argue against such proposals, they fail to touch on the crucial issue - the need for strike action, especially a one-day public sector general strike as a first step. Their first real discussion of the general strike only came in their theoretical magazine in the aftermath of the events:

The idea of a general strike, usually discussed by labor history professors and socialists, was discussed from day one of the struggle. The difficulty was that the low level of politics and organization in the unions prior to the movement made it difficult for militants who favored such a strategy even to find one another, let alone organize themselves to challenge the strategy of union leaders ("The lessons of Wisconsin's labor revolt," International Socialist Review, Issue 77, May-June 2011).

This paragraph shows the flaw of the ISO's approach to this struggle. Socialists cannot limit themselves to the prevailing mood, demands, or consciousness in the movement. Instead, while taking into account the current level of consciousness, it is necessary to honestly point toward the measures that are needed to win. The issue was that a general strike was necessary and, as Socialist Alternative argued, the best way to build such a movement was through a 24-hour public sector general strike.

Furthermore, as the ISO itself acknowledges in the above quote, "The idea of a general strike ... was discussed from day one of the struggle." In fact, there was a raging debate on the issue throughout the Wisconsin labor movement. Socialists have a duty to engage in this debate and weigh in with what we think. Clearly, the tasks of socialists under the conditions that existed in Wisconsin during the struggle in February and March was to link up with the big layer of workers and activists who supported a general strike and help push it forward.

The claim that general strike supporters couldn't find each other is astonishing considering the SCFL motion, the vast support for a general strike at the protests, and the large number of ISO members with "General Strike" buttons made by the IWW. Socialist Alternative members gave out 15,000 flyers agitating for general strike action and found broad support for such a demand. Our tables were approached with throngs attracted by the idea, many making firm declarations of support for it, some in fact boggled at the fact one hadn't been called already.

At the same time, it is true that Wisconsin demonstrated the lack of a strong activist layer in the unions or among working people more generally, which was why the strong mood for strike action was not able to be translated into an organized struggle to force the union leaders to take action. Socialist Alternative fully recognized this. But it would be completely wrong to conclude from this that we shouldn't educate and agitate for the ideas that would be needed to win. We explained that it was not enough to just support strike action but that an organized struggle inside the unions was needed.

In Wisconsin, there was mass action right at the start. The public sector unions were already engaged in coordinated action, trying to get people to the Capitol. There were already mass student walkouts, which inspired a wave of sick-outs by teachers who went above the heads of the union leaders in a de-facto strike. The idea of a general strike was widely being debated. The SCFL passed a motion calling for one, as did the president of the Madison Firefighters union. The capitalist media in Wisconsin was even reporting that a general strike was being threatened.

Beyond that, all of the public sector workers in the state were under attack, except police and firefighters. The TAA went on strike for much less in 2004. This time, public sector workers in general were under attack, so it was only natural that there should be a public sector general strike.

The ISO was absolutely correct to highlight the "No Cuts! No Concessions!" demand, as did Socialist Alternative. However, even maintaining collective bargaining rights would require at least a one-day public sector general strike, and guaranteeing a reversal of all cuts would require much more than that. The ISO rightly attacked the leaders of AFSCME, WEAC, and MTI for accepting concessionary contracts. So why shouldn't socialists also criticize the union leaders for opposing and campaigning against strike action?

Unfortunately, the ISO was not a force that pushed forward the need for a general strike. Subsequently, they failed to be a lever that could challenge the union leadership on this essential issue.

The Industrial Workers of the World

The other major force on the left was the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). While the ISO failed to take up the general strike call, the IWW made it their central slogan.

The roots of the IWW go back to 1905, when it became an organizing core of powerful left union activists, including the mass Western Federation of Labor. Quite quickly, it adopted an anarcho-syndicalist strategy, which was based on calling for a powerful upsurge of struggles of workers and organizing them into revolutionary unions, separate from the larger AFL-affiliated unions. However, the IWW was effectively smashed as a mass force by the Palmer raids as part of the vicious government crackdown on radicals during World War I. After that, most serious union radicals, including many leading IWW members, joined with the Communist Party and later the new, mass Committee for Industrial Organization industrial unions in the 1930s. Newer activists have looked to keep the IWW alive until this day. While they are much smaller now, they have campaigned to organize in workplaces that bigger unions won't touch, such as Starbucks and Jimmy Johns.

The IWW were the biggest popularizers of the general strike demand. They produced an iconic poster depicting a cat beneath the phrase "General Strike," which could be seen throughout the protests. The use of the cat in the poster was a reference to a wildcat strike, which is where a group of radicals organize a strike by moving around the official structures of the union.

They wrote a pamphlet putting forward steps to organize the general strike. On March 12, they held a public meeting, with 150 in attendance, about building for a general strike. The fact that this meeting was larger than any of the ISO's public meetings during the protests contradicts the ISO's claim that general strike advocates couldn't find each other.

Although the IWW is not part of the AFL-CIO, many of their members are "dual carders" who are in the IWW as well as another mainstream union. One of the dual carders, Tony Schaeve of Plumbers Local 75, was a delegate to the SCFL assembly and played an important role in getting them to endorse a general strike.

The IWW's anarcho-syndicalist methodology meant that it was more willing to go against the strategy put forward by the mainstream unions. However, this same anarcho-syndicalist methodology also entailed a rejection of organized structure that prevented the IWW from effectively combating the bureaucratic leadership of those unions.

The IWW's General Strike Pamphlet argued, "The first step is to get as many workers to commit to the strike as possible." While this is an important step, it was necessary to lay down a nuts-and-bolts strategy to achieve this. The vast majority of workers were just beginning to move into struggle and did not have the experience to know how to organize a general strike.

For a general strike, there also needs to be coordination between the different workplaces. Without some sort of structure in place, it is difficult to get workers to commit to a strike. Such a structure could not be built up from scratch on such short notice. Fortunately, there were structures in place during the struggle: the mainstream public sector unions. When the public sector workers were under attack, they turned to their unions for guidance and those unions formed the backbone of the protests.

To carry out a successful general strike, it would be necessary to organize in these unions and convince them to adopt a general strike strategy. The IWW should have used its profile to help organize public sector workers to build massive pressure to force their unions to organize a general strike. Instead, they put the burden of that work on the rank and file as individuals, without helping to create the mechanism to achieve it.

Much of their public material was centered on promoting the idea of a general strike rather than its necessity. Their General Strike Pamphlet emphasized that a strike would "cause serious economic disruption" and that it was "the ultimate tool of change." But there was nothing about how to build for it, nor how to politically explain the ways to overcome the concrete obstacles, like developing a strategy to deal with the fact that public sector strikes are illegal in Wisconsin or answering what to do if Walker still doesn't budge. This romanticism made it easier for the union leaders to portray their own conservatism as sanity rather than treachery.

syndicalist
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Apr 4 2012 13:29
Quote:
"This romanticism [of the IWW with the GS] made it easier for the union leaders to portray their own conservatism as sanity rather than treachery"

Interesting way to look at it. Years ago, when the UFCW was agreeing to huge concessions in the meatpacking industry, they would call such such a tactic a "strategic retreat". No doubt, this theory is a permanent one in labor leaderships thinking.

Quote:
"The IWW's General Strike Pamphlet argued, "The first step is to get as many workers to commit to the strike as possible." While this is an important step, it was necessary to lay down a nuts-and-bolts strategy to achieve this. The vast majority of workers were just beginning to move into struggle and did not have the experience to know how to organize a general strike.

For a general strike, there also needs to be coordination between the different workplaces. Without some sort of structure in place, it is difficult to get workers to commit to a strike. Such a structure could not be built up from scratch on such short notice. Fortunately, there were structures in place during the struggle: the mainstream public sector unions. When the public sector workers were under attack, they turned to their unions for guidance and those unions formed the backbone of the protests."

There's a truism to both in what the IWW was arguing for and what the on-the-ground reality might have been. While both are at loggerheads and in conflict with each other, this will be the push and pull of all struggles in unionized sectors. This came about in Longview, WA as well.

Obviously we can not predict when fight will happen. Obviously "our" numbers are weak and sacttered. But this should never prevent "us" from both the practical efforts at constructive workplace organizing and of raising concepts broader then a small sectoral battle. While not being the main demand or platform of ones struggle, perhaps the demand should become more regular at timke and places where it might make tactical sense to raise it.Perhaps it will take mucho time before folks understand or agree to the concept of the generl strike....but yas gots to start sometime, some place.

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Apr 21 2012 22:18

Walker supporters/right wing have been trying to out people that signed the recall petitions, including specifically media people. This has resulted in some death threats towards some media people.

http://www.defendwisconsin.org/2012/04/21/news-anchor-threatened-for-signing-recall-petition/

Also, I was in Wisconsin a couple weeks ago and there are pro-Walker or pro-recall signs pretty much everywhere. The amount of these signs rivals, if not exceeds, a presidential election.

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Apr 22 2012 07:11

I am so fucking sick of "RECAAAAALLLLL" chants. I can't stand this fucking state anymore.

tastybrain
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May 2 2012 07:12
Redwinged Blackbird wrote:
I am so fucking sick of "RECAAAAALLLLL" chants. I can't stand this fucking state anymore.

You and me both, brother. You and me both.

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May 9 2012 06:38

The guy who Walker beat to be elected Governor just won the Democratic primary for the recall election

Milwaukee mayor earns a do-over with convincing win in recall primary
http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/elections/milwaukee-mayor-earns-a-do-over-with-convincing-win-in/article_288099fe-9974-11e1-949a-001a4bcf887a.html

In Madison, a Republican Challenger to Walker won that district or ward or whatever its called. He was a protester that dressed up as Abe Lincoln.

https://www.facebook.com/artforgov

tastybrain
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May 9 2012 10:34
Juan Conatz wrote:
The guy who Walker beat to be elected Governor just won the Democratic primary for the recall election

Milwaukee mayor earns a do-over with convincing win in recall primary
http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/elections/milwaukee-mayor-earns-a-do-over-with-convincing-win-in/article_288099fe-9974-11e1-949a-001a4bcf887a.html

In Madison, a Republican Challenger to Walker won that district or ward or whatever its called. He was a protester that dressed up as Abe Lincoln.

https://www.facebook.com/artforgov

Yeah, Art came to my school. Just a typical left-liberal, but nice enough, and I love it when people troll the political system!

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May 11 2012 19:20

Wife hits husband with SUV after argument over recalls
http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/wife-drives-into-chippewa-falls-man-after-vote-argument-ke5bdap-150697635.html

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May 11 2012 19:22
tastybrain wrote:
Yeah, Art came to my school. Just a typical left-liberal, but nice enough, and I love it when people troll the political system!

I remember seeing him at stuff when I was there. I think he was involved in the capitol occupation and/or ASO, although I could be wrong.

liam sionnach
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May 25 2012 21:02

bump.

Hey yall. So the damn thing is finally happening. The Recall election results will be public June 5. The news says Walker is ahead in the polls, and most people I've talked to believe he's going to win. I'm not to plugged into anything here, but one can imagine that maybe something is going to happen when Walker wins. Either that, or the Left just wasted a year plus of its falling political capital.

I would be interested to know if anyone has heard of any emergency plans, and if so perhaps the midwest could think quickly and not make the same mistakes as before. My guess is there's going to be a demonstration in Madison, but I have no idea if that's the case.

I'd say we should organize our own dumb thing, but I think most of us are not networked in way to have a core of 100 or so that can create the buzz for more (I probably wouldn't be posting on Libcom if that weren't the case). Nonetheless, what do yall think?

People are going to be angry, and feel betrayed. It would seem like a pretty good opportunity to strike.

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May 25 2012 21:18

Yeah I have no idea what will happen. I don't think there is a 'Plan B' from what I've heard, although I'm in Minneapolis now and I haven't been keeping in contact with WI folks as much anymore.

My impression, from the bits I've heard from people who've talked to some of the IWW dual carders in the public sector is that morale is pretty low. That said, WI in general and Madison specifically are still pretty unique places. For example there is a non-public organizing campaign going on and comrades have co-workers coming into work everyday plastered in pro-union buttons, unaware of the organizing committee that exists there. So because of the atmosphere that seems to still exist, there's more of a chance of something happening than, say, tomorrow in Minneapolis.

I saw a lone individual start a 'General Strike' Facebook event, but such things are not started by lone individuals on Facebook, they're started by angry workers that go out and others go out, too.

liam sionnach
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May 26 2012 18:22

Theres a demonstration called for june 6 in milwaukee on facebook i think by occupy milwaukee. I'm not sure if that means theres also one called for in madison and i dont know which would be more fruitful. Some comrades in mke are talkin about doing an ancap march & pushing an antiausterity position, but its unclear if that will be in mke or madison. I think it mite be cool for other comrades in wi & around the region to think about coming to wi. If theres a coherent plan that comes out it will be posted here.

Surtrsflame
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May 27 2012 13:22

Walker is going to win the recall, and he's probably going to do it with some cheating. I'm going to use it to blast liberals on how broken their stupid election system is. At least we can all stop hearing "reeeeeeeecaaaaawwwwwwwlllll waaaaaallllllkkkkeeeeerrrrr!" all over the fucking capitol square, regardless of who wins. As much as I hate Barrett, I'm going to vote for him out of damage control. I can't take any more of Walker's bullshit, his latest deal is a plan to privatize all the public land and sell it to game farms. This is basically a privatization of the commons. I grew up in the northwoods of this state, this plan would be a fucking death-blow to a lot of people up there, many of whom rely on hunting and fishing as a food source and obviously can't afford to pay the prices of game farms ($1000 for a deer? fuck that!) nor would they want to hunt on what people know is a breeding ground for CWD (deer version of Mad Cow Disease).

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Jun 1 2012 03:49
Quote:
ancap march & pushing an antiausterity position

confused confused confused

redsdisease
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Jun 1 2012 04:13
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Quote:
ancap march & pushing an antiausterity position

confused confused confused

I'm pretty sure that was supposed to mean anti-capitalist and not anarcho-capitalist.

liam sionnach
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Jun 3 2012 06:45

It was meant to mean that...
There is march called for by occupy milwaukee "keep it n the streets" with an anti-capitalist bloc June 6 pere marquette park 5pm. While it would be nice for many people to come either way, i think it would be very good for comrades in the surrounding area to make their way to mke if walker wins. There are a few places to stay, but you might wish to bring a sleeping bag if the general assembly goes well. Either a march will happen or this will may be the begining of something more interesting. I think its in our best interest to make plans & be ready.

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Jun 3 2012 07:04

Yeah FRSO just sent that out (I'm on the email list of pretty much every Trot/Maoist group in the U.S.).

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Jun 4 2012 16:58

What are the plans of Wisconsin anarchos in relation to this? Not voting presumably?

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Jun 4 2012 21:00
Juan Conatz wrote:
Yeah FRSO just sent that out (I'm on the email list of pretty much every Trot/Maoist group in the U.S.).

share your lists!

pm me, i'm nerdy like that

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Jun 5 2012 10:28

Well, today is the recall election for governor. From what I've seen, Walker has had a slight lead in the polls, but not significant enough to really say which one will win.

This, of course, has national implications as well. I think more for the Democrats though.

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Jun 5 2012 10:34
Chilli Sauce wrote:
What are the plans of Wisconsin anarchos in relation to this? Not voting presumably?

I imagine some are and some aren't. There really isn't any precense of anarchists with their own projects in WI. The closest would be the Burnt Bookmobile blog or the infoshop/social center type places in Madison or Milwaukee. I imagine in Madison, those people will vote. In Milwaukee, less likely.

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Jun 5 2012 13:53

Thanks Juan.

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klas batalo
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Jun 6 2012 04:11

seems walker beat the recall neutral

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Jun 6 2012 06:23

trying to bring a crew of @ from up nort, Liam... It's either Mdsn or MKE, but I'm not driving...