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Text coloring decodes as follows:
Black: Ken Ellis
Red: Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.
Green: Press report, etc.
Blue: Recent correspondent
Purple: Unreliable Info
Brown: Inaccurate quote
Jan. 14, 1995
Dear Labor Party Advocates,
Thank you for organizing the Public hearing today in Hayward, where I was happy to have the opportunity to put in my two cents in favor of the thirty-hour week. In the Organizer bulletin I picked up there, I read about the need to organize chapters in the East Bay, and would like to be part of a Berkeley or a Berkeley/Oakland Chapter of LPA. I am also curious about the organizational structure of LPA, and wonder if a copy of the by-laws is available. Thanks for your hard work.
In another 20 years, the introduction of nano-technology into productive processes will begin to make commodities 100 times cheaper, and with 10 times the quality. Another report claims that molecular manufacturing will liberate many people from productive processes. Another predicted that all physical labor will be abolished over the course of the next century. Jeremy Rifkin's new book declares that the mass labor market will be a thing of the past as soon as within thirty or forty years.
Our goose is cooked! And the Republocrats will be all too happy to let starve those of us who get shut out of the increasingly private club of owners and over-exploited workers. Hopefully, the Republocrats' complete bankruptcy in solving the problems of the lower classes will doom their supremacy as parties that the majority will support. But, unless there is a viable alternative, the supremacy of the Republocrats will not be challenged.
Unions work well in several ways. They help to even out the treatment of labor, they are active in enforcing safety standards, they bargain for higher wages and benefits for the group instead of letting each worker cut their own individual deals, and therefore help cut down the competition between workers. Where unions fall short is in their inability to change the conditions of the working class as a whole, but a Labor Party could step in and fill that gap and push for legislation to improve the conditions of the working class as a whole.
The reason that our condition gets worse all over the world is that there is a far greater supply of labor than what little demand exists for it. With such a great supply, and with so little demand, the price of labor can sink lower and lower, and the low wages that desperate workers will compete for and accept will continue to decline as labor is replaced with machinery that can run 24 hours a day without complaint, without breaks for lunch or coffee, without the need to go home at the end of the day, and without expensive health-care and benefit packages, etc. If a machine can be found that will do the job of a human, you can be sure that an employer will buy and use it, if they can afford it.
We need to distribute what little work remains for humans to do among many more people. The working class needs to hold back its services to create a higher demand for labor, driving wages up for a change. In order to get by well in the labor market, a worker has to be highly educated, talented or have some skills in high demand. The rest of us have to fight harder to make a dollar, which will get even more difficult in the future.
Here we are, in the labor market, but helpless to do anything about affecting the conditions of the market, simply because we are not organized to do anything about it. We need to make the market work for us by holding back the supply and letting demand raise the price of labor. Our Party should seek a reduction in the length of the work week as a first step in creating a scarcity of labor. If we spread what little work exists for humans to do among many more of us by reducing the length of the work week, and if we demanded much higher rates for overtime, such as double time for thirty to forty hours, triple time for forty to fifty, quadruple time for fifty to sixty, and so on, a sixty-hour week would cost the employer 120 hours of pay, compared to only 70 hours at time and a half over forty hours, or 80 hours at double time over forty.
If we succeeded in incorporating these reforms into the law of the land, demand for labor would be increased, and those of us who had once been replaced by computers and automation could be put back to work. A shorter work week will create demand for labor and higher wages like no government program ever could.
We are working a month longer per year than we did in the sixties. If we do nothing, exhausted workers will have less energy to devote to their homes, families and communities. Drug dependence and abuse will increase, and children will get less guidance from the productive members of society, who will be spending more time at work. If we do nothing, people will continue to grasp at straws, such as term limitations, to solve the fundamental problems of society. The burden of taxation will increase on those who are still working, and they will resist the increased tax burden, and will continue to go along with schemes to deprive immigrants and other scape-goated sectors of society out of badly needed services. With an increased tax burden on a declining work force, necessities of life will seem more expensive than ever before. The rich will continue to bribe politicians to ensure tax loopholes for them to squirm out of, they will continue to demand more police protection for themselves, and more jails for the rest of us.
With the proper organization, we could keep a close eye on the economy to see to it that, as labor is replaced by technology, the work week is reduced accordingly to keep unemployment figures down to a tenth of a percent or less, and we could keep it there. Our Party could build bridges to workers' organizations in other countries, and encourage them to do the same things so that the technology we continue to invent, and which continues to throw us out on the street, works for the lower classes of the world, instead of exclusively for the bosses. There is good reason to suspect that a reduction in the length of the work week would not work very well in just one country, for capital would flee to countries that had not yet adopted that reform. This should be the main reform that our Party should pursue, not only in this country, but all over the industrialized world.
Some representatives of the bosses have recently had the audacity to suggest that we go back to a longer workday. They know their class interests well. They know how to make their profits higher, and our wages lower, and how to make us fight each other for scarce jobs. The big question today is, will we ever figure out that a shorter work week will make our labor scarcer, will increase demand for our labor, and will make our wages higher? If we don't begin to think about and debate this issue, we may never figure this out as a class, and instead may let the bosses have their way with us for a long time, if not forever.
We have the ability to stop betrayals of our class interests, even within a Party that might assure us that it is standing up for our interests automatically, simply because of what it calls itself, or for some other inadequate reason. We should choose our leaders very carefully, fight against bureaucratic organizational structures, demand that many points of view be heard on an equal basis, and see to it that we meet every two weeks to see to it that a lower-class agenda is adopted by the new Party in Denver*. Our very status as a true mass-based party will depend upon our conscious efforts to make it so. The battle over the structure of the Party begins now, if it hasn't begun already. Question every rule that you didn't take a part in creating. Make sure that what you create is not bureaucratic, censorious, secretive, and sectarian like the parties of the left.
* 2002 note: Instead of in Denver, the Labor Party was founded at a Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in June of 1996. (End of note.)
So many similar ventures have boomed and gone bust because they failed to take a class-based interest in the issues of the day, and ended up putting across programs that could barely be differentiated from the programs of the Democrats and Republicans. And because the Democrats and Republicans can sometimes deliver on a few insignificant promises, there would be little reason for the lower classes to support a Party so small as to be capable of delivering nothing, and never able to outdo what the Democrats and Republicans do far more effectively every day. Nowadays, the Republicans can even outdo the anarchists with promises to abolish the state, but, similar to the old-time anarchists, their promises to abolish the state extend only to the civilized aspects of the state, such as social programs and congressional committees. Don't count on either the Democrats or Republicans to fight for the class interests of the lower classes, or for a reduction in the length of the work week, for the implementation of a thirty-hour week and higher overtime rates would cause profits to fall as wages went up.
Getting a profit-lowering agenda adopted may not be easy. It would not be too far afield to assume that the battle for our hearts and minds began a long time ago. Given the quantity and quality of previous betrayals of working class interests, suspect that there are forces working to contain our political agenda to one that would not benefit our class by one little bit. Resist the temptation to sit back and allow yourselves to be entertained and used as rubber stamps to approve an agenda that may address one or two of your concerns but fails to address the root source of our misery, which is that of keeping us on the job 40 hours a week and longer, while keeping many others from working at all, all the while trying to make us feel happy to have any job at all. We must stop taking courses on how to make ourselves palatable to employers, and instead begin to study how to withhold our services from the labor market, and thus drive up demand for the services of our class. The bosses have lots of experience making the market work for them; we have to learn to make it work for us.
The anarchists may be quite capable of coming up with a program that is more radical than this, but we have to figure out and implement what's possible. In the last couple of hundred years, we have gone from a 12-hour day to a 10-hour day to an 8-hour day, and we did it within the context of capitalist exploitation and capitalist political rule.
It is necessary to follow a path which is neither anarchist nor socialist, for the latter two paths are fraught with mistakes which make them ineffective. And while the mistakes of the socialists were based upon the honest mistakes of high-minded and well-meaning individuals of the 1800's, it is not so innocent a case with the anarchists, for their plans to do away with politics are based upon falsifications of history, and lead nowhere but to where we already are, only worse. The anarchists have diverted us from politics for a long time, and it is past time for us to immerse ourselves in politics. Let us prove that we can learn lessons from history, and use our knowledge to realize a lower class agenda.
March 4, 1995
Thanks for the LPA newsletter and your kind note about my 'Technology and Unemployment' article.
I have been following attempts by Bay Area socialists to form an LPA Chapter with some interest. The Organizer Editor encourages me to subscribe to his paper, but, after reading a good deal of his material, I saw no evidence of interest in reducing the length of the work-week, but lots of interest in socialism. I enclose the text of a letter that I sent to him outlining some of my concerns, but, instead of answering them, he merely sent more newsprint, along with a petition to get a Bay Area Chapter of LPA organized (also enclosed). Sometimes I get the impression that a portion of the left allows impressions to be created that they are connected with LPA, and then use their alleged connections to divert interest away from LPA and into their own organizations. Perhaps if they were not afraid that socialism would alienate a lot of people, they would be more up front with their agendas from the start.
I have just finished writing a 600-page book that closely examines both anarchism and socialism, and have concluded that both ideologies are wanting in internal consistency, especially anarchism. LPA probably understands, at least at some level, that for it to adopt any kind of ideology such as anarchism or socialism, no matter how innocently it may be packaged, would mean the death on the vine of the movement, for it could never then attract those who know that no ideologies other than capitalism and democracy are right for America at this time, perhaps even until there's no longer the economic necessity for anyone to work. I am convinced that labor can do everything it needs to do within current political and economic contexts, if only we organize to win political influence and reform.
If it doesn't have one already, I think that it would be useful for LPA to have a well-reasoned rebuttal to leftists who clamor for a piece of the action around the business of building and staffing a socialistic labor party in America. There may be some who are willing to attack the LPA as reactionary for its non-ideological stance, and would remain confused and/or disappointed if LPA didn't give a good answer as to why the labor movement should not be socialistic. A small document that gave very good reasons why socialism and anarchism are not appropriate for the USA might be able to influence the many honest but politically naive who often get sucked into movements of dubious intent, such as the anarchist movement I got suckered into a generation ago. Such a document, of course, need not be forced down everyone's throat, but might come in handy for guiding those who haven't shut off their minds to all but the dictates of their leaders.
For these reasons, I think that it would be useful for LPA to publish a separate document based on real scholarship explaining just what socialism and anarchism are, their internal contradictions, and why reforms that are neither anarchist nor socialist, such as reducing the length of the work-week, would be far more useful to the lower classes than any radical sounding 'ism. If LPA does not have such a resource at its disposal, I would be glad to take a stab at preparing one for its perusal.
Per the ad in the newsletter, I have just sent away to OCAW for copies of their speakers' and organizing manuals. I am interested in making myself useful to the movement by speaking in public and recruiting, but first want to study whatever it takes to ensure that I understand LPA objectives. If there's a reading list of material that would be useful in my endeavor, please send one along or let me know how to get one. Thank you.
At its August 17, 1995 meeting, our Executive Board moved to limit the scope of the Pre-Convention Discussion Committee to 'Issues .. which affect the broad social-economic existence of the working population, such as affirmative action, health care, child care, and globalization of work.' Hopefully, the range of our discussion will not be limited to just the subtopics mentioned, for much can also be said about our 'broad social-economic existence', with regard to which:
We should convert competition between workers for scarce jobs into competition between bosses for scarce labor.
If we gradually withdrew our services from the labor market in an organized fashion, and if we made our labor a scarce commodity, competition among bosses for our services would drive wages up, and everyone could be put to work at a living wage or greater, thereby eliminating unemployment, poverty, most crime, and much of the root of racial antagonism. Equitable ways with which to withhold our services include winning a minimum of a month of vacation per year, winning more paid universal holidays, winning earlier retirement with livable pensions, ending forced overwork, and winning a shorter work week, etc.
Before we try for a shorter work week, we need to erect a financial brick wall against overwork. It is absurd for so many of us to have to work beyond 40 hours per week, given all of the others who have no decent way to make a living. Overtime premiums should be raised to a minimum of double time, or else, at mere time and a half, bosses will continue to find it easy to ignore nominal limits, and will keep us working many hours beyond. A study has shown that raising the overtime premium to double time would, by itself, reduce unemployment by 1-2%. Double time for the first ten hours, triple for the second ten, and quadruple time for everything over that would be better. With such premiums, a sixty hour week would cost bosses 90 hours of pay instead of merely 70. If all of the previously mentioned measures fail to put everyone to work, then shortening the work week would be the order of the day. The 60th Annual Convention of UE has endorsed higher overtime premiums and a 35-hour week.
If there are those who think that smashing the state, building a workers' state, or concentrating means of production into the hands of the state will do anything good at all for us, these matters should be addressed soon, if not now.
As for socialism, the unwillingness of a billion people to prevent its being driven to near extinction has spoken to its worthlessness far more eloquently than I will ever be able, but, if the events of recent years remain insufficient to convince some, then unveiling the much-suppressed logical contradiction within socialism may help. Marx said, on the one hand, that socialism would begin in the most advanced capitalist countries, which then included the USA, England and some of Western Europe, and that it would spread from there to the rest of the world. Instead, socialism was more easily implemented after smashing feudal monarchies in lesser developed countries, because socialists in new states then possessed the newly created governmental power necessary for concentrating means of production into their hands. As an example: on the very first day of the Bolshevik revolution, all of the land was concentrated into the hands of the Soviets, and that was also the same day production began a long decline. After mere electoral victories by workers' parties in Western democracies, however, established government forces that protect private property before elections go on protecting private property afterwards, rendering Marxian socialism impossible to implement in the same advanced capitalist countries where it was predicted to happen first. This contradiction in the feasibility of socialism calls into question the entire validity of concentrating means of production into the hands of workers, as radical or appealing as it may sound to some. Much more easily implemented than socialism in democracies are measures governing conditions of labor.
The systematic cover-up of the contradiction in socialism by parties and organizations calling themselves socialist, and their wholesale adoption and practice of bureaucracy, censorship, internal secrecy and sectarianism indicates that socialism has nothing to offer to the lower classes except for more of the evils that socialist parties suffer from, making it essential that our new Labor Party get a fresh start, leaving behind internal secrecy, bureaucratic and censorious practices, and worn-out ideologies. We will never be able to rebuild our country in a positive way by using the failed methods of the past. Attempts to turn LPA into a carbon copy of failed models should be rejected as we struggle to find effective means of realizing social, political and economic justice, and as increasingly blatant social injustices and inequalities reveal the directions we must travel in order to do something real about our mutual problems.
Where Marx was right was in advocating peaceful change in democracies, and in demonstrating that long hours at work make bosses rich and governments powerful. For that reason he supported measures for shorter work days, including the 12 and 10 hour laws of his era, and agitation for the 8 hour day. At the same time, however, he criticized workers for not simultaneously lusting after political supremacy so that socialism could be implemented. But, we should not allow our critique of socialism to prejudice us against all of his valid work in the interests of the lower classes. Like most of us will in our time, he left a mixed legacy in his.
As for child care, many of us know how expensive and difficult it is to find. But, with higher wages derived from shorter hours of labor, it may become less of a concern than at present, when so much time is spent away from home while trying to make a living.
As for health care, we badly need affordable insurance, for many are losing what health care plans they once might have enjoyed. Higher wages derived from a withdrawal of our services from the labor market would enable health care to be affordable to more people.
As for globalization of work, we have to start reducing overwork and unemployment, and we might as well do it where labor is most productive. Doing it here may reduce American competitive advantage and send some jobs overseas, but no matter how much work gets taken away from the USA, distributing what little is left more evenly among ourselves will provide social and economic justice right where we need it. The greatest mistake we could make would be to do nothing for fear of how much work bosses might take away from us. Our success here will be sufficient example to others elsewhere to think about doing the same thing.
As for affirmative action, honest activists admit that it was never intended to help the working class as a whole, for it does nothing to deliver jobs to all who could use them. If we favor justice only for a few based on gender and color, then let us openly embrace affirmative action. But, lest it fail miserably, the Labor Party will fight for measures that improve the conditions of the whole class, rather than for measures that benefit only certain portions of it. The day we embrace measures favoring only certain portions of the class is the day we should renounce our claims to being a Labor Party. We should maintain critical neutrality to measures that do nothing to put the whole working class back to work.
The working class has never been in such a bad strategic position. Of the 124 million jobs that exist in this country, 90 million are slated for replacement by machines, and computers as smart as humans may be available in a mere decade. Upper classes are no more likely to share benefits of technology in the future than today, and will rather use future technologies to maintain and increase their political and economic advantages over us. As the time required to produce necessities of life decreases, we find ourselves working more and more for governments and bosses, and less and less for ourselves. Ninety-eight per cent of what the lower 80% produces goes to the upper 20%, meaning that the lower 80% get only 2% of what's produced. And 1% of the population owns 95% of the wealth.
The time is long past for us to stand idly by after getting replaced by machinery, while those who keep jobs get overworked so that profits can increase. Until the very last job is phased out by the march of technology sometime in the future, we must insist that what little work that remains for humans to do gets shared by all of us, to assure every one a decent living and an ongoing involvement in the affairs of society, though we are not at all talking about 'make-work' programs for slaves. What this means, rather, is worker control of supply and demand in the labor market, a worker-led phase-out of forced overwork for some while many others cannot find jobs, and a phase-out of unemployment, poverty and alienation.
(At our next general meeting, should we request additional written Preamble statements and Platform measures, sort them out, respond to them, and develop a time line for submitting a finished proposal regionally and/or nationally?)
Workers in this country have never been in such a poor strategic position. Of the 124 million jobs that exist, 90 million are slated for eventual replacement by automation, and computers as smart as humans may be available in a mere decade. Competition for scarce jobs drives wages down to less than subsistence levels. As labor time required to produce necessities of life decreases, we work less and less for ourselves, and more and more for bosses and government. Ninety-eight per cent of what the lower 80% produces goes to the upper 20%, meaning that the lower 80% get only 2% of what's produced. The 358 billionaires in the world net as much as the lower 45% of the world's population, about 2.7 billion people.
Unrest and hardship are assured unless what little work that remains for humans to do gets shared by everyone who could use a job. We are not talking about 'make-work' programs for slaves, but, rather, worker control of supply and demand in the labor market, a worker-led phase-out of forced overwork, unemployment, poverty and alienation. To do this, we need to convert competition between workers for scarce jobs into competition between bosses for scarce labor. Withdrawal of our services from the labor market in an organized fashion would make our labor a scarce commodity; competition for our services would drive wages up, and everyone could work at a living wage or greater, thereby eliminating unemployment, poverty, most crime, and much of the root of racial antagonism. Higher wages derived from shorter hours of labor would render child care much less of a concern than when so much time is spent making a living, many times far away from home. Higher wages with no unemployment would also enable health care insurance to be affordable to everyone.
Economic Platform Measures
1) A minimum of a month's vacation per year for all workers.
2) More paid universal holidays, or comp time in their stead.
3) Earlier retirement with guaranteed livable minimum pensions.
4) An end to forced overtime, with a minimum of a double time overtime premium.
5) A shorter work week, if measures 1-4 fail to put everyone back to work.
6) Overtime rates to grow steeper as the work week shortens.
7) Prison labor to be compensated at comparable union rates.
Political Platform Measures
1) Repeal of Taft-Hartley Act.
(Statement to be solicited from Victor.)
2) Decriminalization of consensual and victimless activities.
3) Full and equal protection of rights of residents, non-residents, aliens and immigrants, no detention or isolation without probable cause.
4) Unlimited sanctuary for refugees from oppressive regimes, no detention or isolation without probable cause.
5) Immigration to be proportional to population sizes of countries of origin.
Things to think about and discuss - please comment, good or bad:
Upper classes know that socialism can never threaten their system, because internal contradictions of socialism have rendered it subject to a wide variety of sectarian interpretations, no version of which can ever be implemented in a democracy. The unconverted, who will always be the overwhelming majority, will always associate it with failed undemocratic regimes in less developed countries, but never as a logical replacement for democracy in advanced capitalist countries, nor as any kind of curative remedy for our society's ills. As effectively as socialism divides the lower classes amongst themselves, we cannot expect upper classes to lend us their brightest minds to help us to logically refute it. It is therefore up to us to do it for ourselves, if we dare to deconstruct it. Religious beliefs in impossible-to-realize-'isms prevent us from clearing old cobwebs, and prevent us from working for what's real and effective.
Many on the left will wonder why LPA does not take a militant stand for a socialist program, or a socialist revolution, or communism or anarchism, etc. They will accuse us of selling-out if we don't adopt an 'ism, and will influence quite a few dogmatists to think the same way. We may need a statement to answer the ideological left, to let them know that many of us have been there, have thought it through, and have been frustrated enough with bureaucratic, censorious, and internally secretive organizations that are in the business of marketing worthless ideologies in the name of working class liberation. Radical or socialist sounding measures in our Platform will ruin LPA faster than nothing else, will make of us just another little sect divorced from the realities of the present, incapable of appealing to millions of oppressed and non-ideological workers throughout the land.
Monday, October 30, 1995
I wanted to pass out the enclosed Platform proposals to everyone in our East Bay LPA Platform Discussion Committee, but failed to get one to you before leaving, on this past Saturday morning, Oct. 28. During our informal discussion while wondering where you were, I painfully became aware of the ideological bent of many members of the Committee. I may have been mistaken to try to influence them to abandon their outworn ideologies, and my arguments may have only antagonized them. It might have been much better to just brainstorm about measures that reflect the interests of the working class, which is what I will concentrate on in the future, unless proposals creep in that reflect nothing more than ideologies, at which point I will be moved to speak against.
It is also important to line up good speakers to inspire us, and I would once again like to suggest the team from the National Office that lectures about economics. This was also openly suggested at our last general meeting by someone sitting up front; I think it was someone on the Executive Committee. Also, our horseshoe seating arrangement at the last general meeting was too narrow a shoe to encourage communication. A more circular arrangement would be an improvement.
November 2, 1995
Enclosed are my latest thoughts about Platform issues, etc. In my Discussion Group, we recently had a good argument about ideology. As I expected, but didn't really want to witness, was that many in my discussion group are infected with the socialist bug. When it was over, they congratulated themselves on the job they had done defending their 'isms, even though their knowledge of the subject proved quite lacking, and betrayed a lack of awareness that Marx advocated peaceful change for democracies. They may be under the impression that the matter is settled once and for all, and I may in the future refrain from trying to change people's minds about their ideologies, but I won't stand for socialist or other ideological Planks in our Platform. Socialism was a mistake, causing the working class to not really care about it, enabling middle class activists to make businesses out of the inevitable variations that sprang up around it, which explains the bureaucracy, censorship, and internal secrecy that had to be employed to protect their myriad business interests. But, they do it in the name of working class liberation, thereby enabling them to recruit many a sucker, like myself in the early seventies. If LPA turns into just another collection of business people and their recruits, then it will be a tragedy if they promise things that are impossible to realize, like democratic control of the industries, or promises that are easily eroded, like free transportation. I would still be glad to help prepare a document explaining why LPA has good reasons for not embracing ideologies.
March 20, 1996
From my notes, here is what I recollect people saying during our first meeting on Monday, March 18:
Rivka put forth a five-point Program:
1) Full employment
2) Automatic right to unionize
3) An all-encompassing union
4) Pension funds to be controlled by labor
5) Collective enterprises and cooperatives
Ken put forth his Program:
1) Reduce hours of labor for full employment
2) Make Party and Press democratic in structure
3) Party Press to be of highest priority after convention; Press to be accessible to all members
John put forth his Program:
1) Worker-owned firms to be encouraged
2) Federal legislation around employee ownership needs to be addressed
Someone suggested that equality of rights should not be based on religion, color, gender, etc. Our next meeting was set for April 8 at the same time, same place.
Enclosed is an improved version of my Platform, Structure, and Press proposals, containing Preambles and concrete proposals very similar to the original, but divided up into more discrete segments.
snip old version
It will also be essential to our democratic well being if all of our internal business gets printed in our journal. Arguments for expulsion of Chapters or members should be printed in full, and require a majority vote of the entire Party after a full hearing. Financial reports, reports of meetings of elected bodies, etc., should all be lain out in print to prevent us from becoming internally secretive and bureaucratic. If our initial structure proves inadequate to our needs, we will never be able to learn of that possibility if meetings are held in secret, and if members never gain an idea of what elected officials are doing, or how much money they are making. Only by being able to follow the course of official action will we know when to make changes here or there that will prevent an endeavor that has so much hope attached to it from becoming as worthless to us as any of a myriad of other parties and organizations operating in secrecy.
snip another repetition
With regard to our National staff, we ought to elect a committee of equally capable individuals, at least one from each of ten regions of the country, and more, if necessary, letting Party officials divide up the work among themselves. Just electing a single head of the Party, and letting the boss hire and fire whomever he or she wants would encourage cronyism and bureaucracy. Being elected to the working committee would prevent situations similar to so many other workplaces, where alienation and distrust develops among workers who are just hired and fired by bosses. Each Office should be good for two years, except for the first election, when lots could be drawn to determine which half of the officials would serve for only one year. Lots of space should be given to any candidate for Party Office to express their views.
A Party that represents the interests of the lowest classes would not dream of copying corporate pay scales, and low rates of pay would probably prevent office-seekers from wanting to work for us. The day on which we pay anyone much more than $30k per year, with due allowance for annual COLAs, may be the day we are taken over by corporate interests, the flow of information is cut short, our journals get censored, and we start advocating longer hours at work.
Reforms that are desirable in our national political arena, such as recall, initiative and referendum, should be immediately adopted within our own Party. Chapters, regional organizations and the National Organization will be allowed to initiate measures.
Naturally, much more along the lines of protecting workers' interests in and out of our Party needs to be developed.
If what you see here looks like a good start for what you want fought for, elect Ken Ellis as Delegate to our founding National Convention.
April 04, 1996
This week, I worked on the enclosed. You get the first copy. I'll have enough to hand out at the meeting. I think that it's important for our Chapter be able to walk into the Convention with a Resolution or two, so I have prepared one on the Party Press, and one on the Program. It will also be very important if our Chapter endorses some suggestions for our Party Constitution; it will then have far more weight than if submitted by a lone individual. All of this stuff will need quite a bit of going over, so it may be necessary to schedule a few more meetings for our committee to hammer things out. I have no idea what the forces of democracy and freedom will be up against at the Convention, and I don't want our side to lose to the old forces of hierarchy, bureaucracy, censorship and secrecy, so much of what I have written represents a 'Bill of Rights' against the old forces, and against the way things have been done so many times before, and in so many other organizations, none of which work in the interests of the majority.
I also enclose something for the ideologues to chew on, and maybe before we waste too much time in our committee arguing over what's here, this represents the kind of thing that the ideologues should first rebut in writing. Since last year, I have been writing stuff like this ad infinitum for people to rebut, and no one but Van Bourg has had a single thing to say about it; but if you demand that they rebut these damning points of mine in writing, and before arguing, then all of the wind will be taken out of their sails, which may please Leo very much.
To guide our tactics, we need to observe the fact that, without economic power, and while suffering from poverty or close to it, we stand little chance of affecting what goes on in the political arena. By withholding votes, the public is saying that political involvement is meaningless if, in the economic arena, we have been reduced to the status of serfs. Many jobless have little hope in finding substantive work, workers are competing for too few jobs, while bosses scheme to change laws and contracts to get us to spend even longer hours at work.
None of us has to be a rocket scientist to understand that there are not enough 8-hour jobs to go around, that there would be a lot more 7-hour jobs, and that there just might be enough 6-hour jobs to pass out to everyone who wants one. We almost don't need to be told yet again that competition for scarce jobs drives wages down, but which economist has the guts to admit that the opposite is true, that competition between bosses for scarce labor drives wages up? Just ask the bosses in Madison, Wisconsin, who were 'victimized' by a labor shortage in a recent economic boomlet. Too few people, especially those who identify with upper class interests, are willing to admit that, if workers organized to create an artificial shortage of their services from the labor market, demand for labor would be created, wages would rise, and everyone would be able to find a job. Not enough people are willing to admit that, but it's as much a vicissitude of the labor market as is the example that we're more familiar with. A practical and effective Program for labor will revolve precisely around workers withholding their services from the labor market in an organized fashion. As unionists of a century ago used to say, "Whether you work by the piece or the day, decreasing the hours increases the pay." There is more than one tactic we can use to withhold our services, including:
Raise the overtime premium to a minimum of double time, which alone will cut unemployment 1-2%, as a beginning to making overtime prohibitively expensive. With so many people unemployed, overtime has to be made much more expensive to the bosses.
Bring all workers under the purview of the Fair Labor Standards Act, so that the overtime labor of all can be compensated at premium rates.
Guarantee a minimum of a month's paid vacation per year for full timers.
Guarantee a minimum of 10 or a dozen paid holidays per year, or comp time.
Grant workers an option to retire with full benefits earlier than age 65.
If the above measures fail to ensure everyone a job, raise the overtime premium again, or move to a 7-hour day, 35-hour week.
On the political front, laws need to be changed to make it easier to organize.
Worker-owned enterprises and cooperatives should be encouraged.
If what you see here, and on the back of this page, looks like the beginning of what you want fought for, elect Ken Ellis Delegate to our founding National Convention.
If our Party is to represent our interests as workers, many theoretical and factual matters need to be discussed, and the only way for ideas to compete for hegemony in a free marketplace without being censored will be through the medium of a truly free Press. A journal that contains a wide variety of issues and arguments will become a medium in which many workers of an intellectual disposition will learn to express themselves in full. Our most important business after the Founding Convention will be the establishment of such a free and unfettered Party journal.
Reader submissions shall be encouraged, and columns shall expand to incorporate as many points of view as are submitted.
Editors should be given a free hand at sorting and categorizing, and should make an effort to set facts straight in various issues.
Writers should be able to overcome what they feel is censorship by applying to their Chapters for a guarantee of the printing of their ideas. A mandate from a Chapter would be irreversible, but if an Editor felt that a Chapter was being particularly obnoxious, non-productive, irrelevant or repetitive, then a system of checks and balances shall be evolved that will end up being fair to everyone.
Lots of space shall be given to all Party Office candidates to express their views.
The journal shall be on line, and articles submittable over the Net.
It is hard to imagine such a thing as 'too much disclosure' in a working class Party operating in a democracy. If we adopt a Platform based on eliminating overwork as a good way to eliminate unemployment, and if our Platform is based on reducing hours of labor so as to create demand for our services, ensuring everyone in the lower classes a means of making a living wage or better, then it is hard to imagine us ever having anything to hide from anyone, our maximum Program will equal our minimum Program, and no one will be able to accuse us of lusting after anything un-American, or of having a hidden agenda.
If our initial structure proves inadequate to our needs, we will never be able to learn of that possibility if meetings are held in secret, and if members never gain an idea of what elected officials are doing, or how much money they are making. Only by being able to follow the course of official action will we know when to make changes that will prevent an endeavor that has so much hope attached to it from becoming as worthless to us as any of a myriad of other parties and organizations operating in secrecy. Just electing a single head of the Party, and letting the boss hire and fire whomever he or she wants would encourage cronyism and bureaucracy. Being elected to a working committee would prevent situations similar to so many other workplaces, where alienation and distrust develops among workers who are just hired and fired by bosses. Along those lines, the following measures are proposed for our National level of organization:
A committee of equally capable individuals, at least one from each of ten regions of the country, and more, if necessary, shall be elected, allowing Party officials to divide up the work among themselves.
Each Office shall be good for two years, except for the first election, when lots can be drawn to determine which half of the officials would serve for only one year.
All of our internal business, financial reports, reports of meetings of elected bodies, etc., shall be printed in full in our journal.
Arguments for expulsion of Chapters or members shall be printed in full, and require a majority vote of the entire Party after a full hearing.
Reforms that are desirable in our national political arena, such as recall, initiative and referendum, should be immediately adopted within our own Party. Chapters, Regional organizations and the National organization will be allowed to initiate measures.
One recent morning, I came down with a feeling of considerable pessimism about the future of the Labor Party and the human race. Gathered here are a wide variety of hopes and agendas, the most vociferous of us dying to capture the floor and convince others of the immutable perfection of our own logic systems.
Many of us want to get others to accept our visions of what our Party should stand and fight for, I no less than others, but the stakes are so high, too high for mere mortals like us to be given the exclusive privilege to dominate our processes, for we are only human, and we make mistakes.
When we consider the process that we have been through already, one can only wonder at all of the potential for communication that was there, and yet was not used, and is now lost forever, for we failed to create the dialogue that needed to occur, and I wonder what we were waiting for. And now, can anyone expect the needed dialogue to occur at a time when we are very soon expected to go to a Convention with well-founded proposals, resolutions, and Platform Planks? I frankly doubt that we can do it, and I'm not exactly sure what to do, except for us to resolve to make sure that the process remains open in the future by means of a truly free Press in which we all will be able to argue for whatever we wish, and may the best ideas win.
So, let us go to the Convention with what may be the only kind of resolution we can agree upon, which is that we establish a truly free Press in which all of the solutions to the problems of society can be argued to finality, that the forum be weekly, for time is a-wasting, and people are suffering. If anything, the Convention should devise the kind of Party structure that will guarantee the continuation of truly free discussion for as long as our Party needs to exist.
We have the opportunity to create history in Cleveland, to be the first Labor Party that insists that what little work that has yet to be taken over by machines and technology gets shared by the whole working class. Our system contains the economic incentives to replace most of our labor with machines, and, of the 124 million jobs that exist, 90 million, or the vast majority, will easily be replaced with automation. If the bosses have their way, they will keep 34 million of us working long into the night doing the remaining 34 million jobs, while the 90 million of us who get downsized and laid off will all just have to become independent contractors, or start selling apples and pencils on the street. It has been proven that longer hours at work do not necessarily translate into higher pay, especially when so many of us are competing for the same scarce jobs. It's not a very bright picture for the working class, for we are slated for a very complete replacement by machines. We could just roll over and play dead, or else we could convert competition between workers for scarce jobs into competition between bosses for scarce labor, which would put everybody to work at a living wage.
We could be the first Party to organize to create a positive demand for labor that will enable us to pick and choose how we will use our talents, and will enable us to reject and even boycott occupations that work to the detriment of society or the planet. As it is now, for every worker who is tempted to quit making land mines or clearcutting forests, a dozen or more are desperate enough for work to take the places of the moral objectors.
I was pleased that many of the Platform proposals I drafted were approved by the Pre-Convention Discussion Committee. Some of the other proposals that I had hoped would have been voted on today contain pretty much what amounts to a Bill of Rights for Labor Party members. The history of working class organizations prove that we need to build in protections for the airing of unpopular voices, and that we need a non-hierarchical Party structure that will be independent of everything but union shops and Chapters, but, unfortunately, our committee ended up not considering my latest proposals in time for us to consider it here today, but I do have a few extra copies on the table in back.
At our outdoor meeting last month, I was very much honored to be nominated by a representative of quite a few working people, so, if elected to go to Cleveland, I will feel as though I will be representing the hopes and aspirations of those many workers, as well as so many others at the bottom of the heap. Thank you for your time.
That a mandate by a Chapter or a shop will guarantee a printing in our Press of original, timely and pertinent articles by Labor Party members.
That our Party structure will reflect our independence from all entities except members, Chapters and union locals.
In an effort to get dialogue going on the question of socialism vs. capitalism, the following questions for socialists are proposed:
Since this challenge is in writing, it is desired that responses will also be in writing, and on point as well, and it is expected that a complicated issue such as this may not be settled right away.
1) Why is it that collectivization of land and means of production, such as what occurred in the old Soviet Union, was more easily implemented in backward countries than in the advanced capitalist democracies where Marx predicted it would happen first? On the other hand, which tactic is more easily implemented in advanced capitalist countries than in backward countries, and has often been pursued by labor in advanced capitalist countries for the last two centuries?
2) The Soviet bloc experience showed that changing ownership of means of production required force and civil war, and collectivization ended up being so unsatisfactory for its peoples that they refused to defend it during its collapse a few years ago. Given the history of what was possible after workers' parties won elections in Europe, do socialists here expect to be able to change ownership of means of production after a mere election of a Labor Party in a democracy, or do they intend to smash any democracy that gets in the way of socialist aspirations? How does that square with socialist ideals of creating societies based on freedom and democracy?
3) The American Civil War showed that Southerners were willing to fight to the death to preserve as immoral a form of private property as private ownership of slaves. Now that the question of slavery has been settled in this country, wouldn't many more Americans be willing to die to preserve the institution of private property in general? Do American socialists derive a similar lesson from their study of the Civil War, and if not, why not? Does evidence exist that people are ready and willing to give up on the institution of private property? What percentage of our population would be willing to fight to abolish it?
4) Do socialists think that the process of creating social, economic and political justice for the lower classes is inseparable from divorcing the rich from their property? If so, then, at what degree of wealth do they draw the line as to who will be expropriated, and who decides where that line will be drawn?
5) How many different ways of changing or altering ownership of means of production exist, how many of them do not exclude other methods, and how many of them can be implemented simultaneously? Or, do they all compete with one another and require a grand compromise in order for any of the plans to be implemented?
6) One of the problems with changing ownership of means of production, or of dealing with the question of state power, is that there are so many ways of doing either, many of which contradict each other, and many of which different versions are impossible to do at the same time. With regard to socialism vs. anarchism, is it possible to simultaneously create a workers' state, and to smash the state? If not, which method of dealing with the state will workers adopt? Is not the impossibility of doing both at the same time a cause of division of the left into factions that may never get anywhere? How does the ideological left propose to deal with this issue, and will it ever sufficiently agree about tactics dealing with the state and with property that a majority of workers (or a large enough quantity to be effective) will consider adopting?
Statements to refute:
The cause of low wages is competition between workers for scarce jobs. Shortening hours of labor and eliminating the overwork of those who work would create a positive demand for labor, put an end to competition between workers for scarce jobs, and drive wages up for a change.
There are perhaps a half-dozen means of shortening hours of labor that all complement each other, and which can all be implemented at the same or at any time, such as: raising the overtime premium to a minimum of double time; bringing all workers under the purview of the Fair Labor Standards Act, so that all workers can be compensated for overtime at the premium rate; guaranteeing a minimum of a month's vacation for full-timers, pro-rated for part-timers; guaranteeing a minimum of 10 or a dozen holidays per year, or comp time; enabling retirement with full benefits at an age younger than 65; and, if all of those fail to put everyone to work, then a 35 hour work week, to begin with. As time continues, and as labor saving technology displaces even more workers, all of these measures will have to be modified in the direction of further discouraging overtime, further reducing hours of labor, and taking labor off the market, so that everyone will always be able to have some kind of a job for the asking.
There is also a question of the morality of a society that produces so many items and services destructive to society itself, to the environment, and to the planet, such as factories that produce land-mines that continue to injure and kill people long after being placed in the ground. If, on the other hand, we could create a positive demand for labor, and give people the opportunity to turn down occupations that are morally repulsive without the danger of not being able to find work that is less morally repulsive, we would then have a greater chance of becoming a more moral nation. Step by step, we could solve the problems that environmentalists and civil rights activists complain about.
Is there a better way of creating positive demand for labor than by withholding our services from the labor market, thus enabling people to choose what they want to do with their lives? And in order to do that at all, will we not have to be organized and unified around tactics that reduce hours of labor and overtime?
Compare reducing hours of labor to organizing to overthrow the government, or to create a workers' state, or to tax the rich to create a benevolent state, or to nationalize industries, or to confiscate private property, etc., none of which in themselves do a thing to put everyone to work, but are projected by ideologues as necessary intermediate steps to creating the desired social, political and economic justice.
Is it not possible in a democracy to pass reforms that will put everyone to work, even though we have never done it before? Or, is competition between workers for scarce jobs such a harsh obtrusion that we will never be able to do anything about it until we get rid of the system? If so, then how do you explain the fact that, in the past, 12 hour, 10 hour, 8 hour and many other laws protecting interests of labor have been passed in more advanced capitalist democracies? Since around 1850, hours worked per week have decreased a few percent each decade until the sixties. Bonus question: Why has progress in the direction of reducing weekly hours of work been stymied in recent decades, at a time when we have continued, as in the past, to be more and more productive each and every decade? We are now an estimated 40 times more productive than we were two centuries ago, so theoretically we could move to a one-hour week, and still feed, clothe and house everyone, if it were not for our capacity and willingness to keep on working far beyond the time necessary to produce the necessities of life. Is the 8 or more hour day a natural barrier that labor will continue to resist shrinking?
Food for Thought and Debate
What many progressives share in terms of a larger vision for society is a phasing out of political government and a phasing out of economic distinctions between people. As everyone knows, the left is deeply divided over the ways to achieve those goals, socialists wanting to do it by taxing to create a benevolent state, communists wanting to do it through a workers' state, anarchists wanting to abolish the state, administration of production to be accomplished by means of unions and workers organizations. Few seem willing to consider, as a way of achieving the goal, reducing hours of labor enough to create a positive demand for it, which would raise wages, eliminate unemployment, alienation and hopelessness, end any need for minimum wage laws, affirmative action, welfare and free health care for any but the youngest, oldest, and disabled, and would be an effective means of delivering the desired economic justice for decades to come, probably until the robots take over completely, at which time future generations will have to discover the mechanisms that will enable them to peacefully evolve. We have enough of our own problems at the end of this century, but 19th century solutions will not work.
The left generally does not consider a fourth way, perhaps because there isn't a learned book about it, and neither Marx, Engels, Bakunin, De Leon, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao or Ho promoted it as the best way to achieve justice in advanced capitalist democracies, forcing us to discover it for ourselves. We are witnessing the birth pangs of a new Labor Party. We may eventually come out of this experience with a brand new vision of social progress, not considered by those whose texts gave us so many insights into the nature of injustice, but who never gave us the correct answer as to how to get us where we want to go in advanced capitalist democracies, Marx at his 1872 Hague Congress of the First International saying that workers in democracies can get what they want by peaceful means, but, from the context of his speech, thought that what we want is what he wanted, viz., collectivization, so he chastised labor leaders of the time for wanting not much more than high wages and short hours, and for not lusting after political supremacy so as to be able to impose collectivization. And, of the many volumes written by Marx, of the pages he devoted to making revolution, he must have written a hundred more about surplus value, most of the time having the clue in his hand as to what really counts, but limited by the far less complete evolution of society in his time to proposing the old solution of collectivization that one of our own suggests he got right out of the Old Testament. None of the classic lefty solutions are either likely or desirable in the USA, the job of discovering a new way left to lowly, under-educated minds such as our own; but hopefully our process represents the beginning of the debate that progressives and activists will tackle with seriousness and earnestness, and we will have to, if we are ever to move forward together into the realm of equality, fraternity and liberty for all.
Our greatest challenge is to see that the debate about this and many other topics go forward without censorship, in a free Press of our own creation that cannot, by rules of our own making, refuse to honor any serious attempt to make sense of our experiences. There should be room for all kinds of ideas that ostensibly aim at solving the problems of our times, but all contributors should be prepared to defend their positions. We are also challenged to create an organizational structure that will allow the greatest amount of freedom for our members and Chapters, will encourage the ascent to positions of responsibility people who show determination to create a just society by peaceful and democratic means, and who see no need for the elevation of the lowest classes to be built on the ruin or the unequal treatment of the upper classes.
The upper classes are counting on us not to create a newspaper of our own with which we can organize ourselves, and would rather see us remain a party in name only, silently stewing in our own juices, helpless to affect anyone or anything outside of our own organization, which, without its own free press, would shrink to the size of any of a number of small sects.
It is very likely that our Program, our structure and our modes of communication will all be reflections of our overall vision. If we take the position right away that we will never get anywhere if we allow anyone to go unemployed, unhoused, unfed or uncared for, and if we adopt a Program that aims at ensuring jobs to all who could use them (but not by make-work government programs) then that solid foundation will probably be reflected in a truly free Press with lots of readers' contributions that cannot be censored when endorsed by Chapters; and that solid foundation will have be reflected by an organizational structure with democratic values, by 10 National Regions electing a group that will be its own boss, dividing the work among themselves as they see fit, never hiring any more helpers than the number of National Officers, such helpers to have their own guaranteed voice in the Press about the conduct of the organization, or about any other topic.
On the other hand, if we adopt a Program that features higher minimum wages, affirmative action, free health care, campaign finance reform, a shorter work-day before we do anything about overwork, make-work programs, higher welfare payments, etc., then a Program like that could very well be reflected by two Party Presses, a public Press in the form of a slick, glossy magazine, with few letters to the Editor, and an internal Press containing mostly directives from above; we would also probably adopt a bureaucratic organizational form with a board of directors from union hierarchies, a few highly paid executives with lots of hired help, and it would be very ironic if hired helpers were forced to organize into their own union, but Party executives discouraged them from doing so.
If we make a big mistake while delivering this baby, it could end up being crippled for the rest of its life, but if we take into account all of the false starts that have occurred before, and if we build in the kind of freedom and flexibility that will enable us all to learn from our mistakes, then we will probably build something that will really fly.
There's only so much work that hasn't been taken over by computers and machinery, consequently, only so many 8 hour jobs to pass around to everyone who could use one, and it is the competition between ourselves for scarce 8 hour jobs that drives wages down, so it is our duty to organize to eliminate competition among ourselves, and spread what little work that remains for humans to do among everyone who could use a job, by reducing the hours of labor of each individual worker. Sharing what little work that remains for humans to do among the whole class would put everyone to work at a decent living wage, and we could eliminate unemployment, minimum wage laws, affirmative action, welfare for the able, child care hassles, bankruptcy, debt, crime, breakup of families, competition between genders, and having to work at occupations beneath our thresholds of dignity and morality.
But, a consequence of this would be lower corporate profits, lower CEO salaries, less money for the rich to bribe politicians, and the flight of even more jobs overseas, this latter consequence requiring us to further reduce hours of labor, enough to enable some of us the time to reach out to where labor remains unorganized. Our movement, in order to enjoy ultimate success, should become international. It could be a slave revolt unprecedented since the time of Spartacus.
A higher standard of morality on an individual level, afforded only by a positive demand for labor, enabling freedom to choose occupations that reflect our own moral choices, will cause us to become a more moral nation at the national level. We will stop supporting tin-pot dictatorships, gleefully observe dictatorships get replaced with democracies, the new governments to be much more likely to endorse efforts to help workers organize to obtain greater shares of the wealth they produce.
This will all be possible, but only if we can keep our eyes on the goal of equal opportunity for everyone, by making sure that the lowest of the lowly will be able to find a good job at truly life-sustaining wages. This will be a far cry from any notion of just trying to win a few comforts for an aristocracy of labor, for opportunities like that come but rarely in human existence. Automation has pegged the entire working class for extinction, and we either let them continue to pick us off one by one as they've been doing for far too long, or else we live up to the old motto of "One for all, and all for one!"
We identify the main problems besetting labor to be a problem within the ranks of labor itself, the only problem which, in our weakness, it could reasonably be expected that we could conceivably do anything about. That problem we identify as competition between ourselves for scarce jobs, which can only drive wages in one direction - down - and drive unemployment, crime, and many other forms of social misery - up. We will accumulate strength and influence to the degree we successfully eliminate competition between ourselves for scarce jobs.
Let it be resolved then, that we will do what we can to convert competition between ourselves for scarce jobs into competition between bosses for scarce labor. To the task of creating a continual, ongoing, scarcity of our services in order to ensure the employment of all, our Party of labor should, in the main part, be dedicated.
A scarcity of labor will be created in the following ways:
First and foremost, initially, by encouraging the work force to refuse all overtime over 40 hours per week, or over 8 hours per day, at any rate less than double time, an act that will discourage overwork, will encourage hiring and training new workers, and, if militantly adhered to, will encourage a measure to this effect becoming an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Secondly, and of equal importance to the first, by petitioning government to bring all workers under the purview of the Fair Labor Standards Act, so that all work of duration greater than 40 hours per week, and 8 hours per day, will be remunerated at the premium rate.
Of great importance to further creating a scarcity of our services are the following measures:
3) A minimum of a month's paid vacation per year for all.
4) A minimum of a ten paid holidays per year, or comp time.
5) Retirement with full benefits at age 62, partial at 60.
6) Prison labor to be compensated at comparable union rates.
7) A 35 hour work week if all of the above fail to put everyone to work.
8) As human labor gets further replaced by technology, overtime premiums will be further increased, benefit packages will be improved, and hours of labor further reduced.
1) Repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act.
2) Decriminalization of consensual and victimless activities.
3) Full and equal protection of rights of citizens, residents, non-residents, aliens and immigrants, no detention or isolation without probable cause, without regard to gender, race, or religion.
4) Unlimited sanctuary for refugees from oppressive regimes, no detention or isolation without probable cause.
5) Immigration to be proportional to population sizes of countries of origin.
6) In order to maximize their freedom, those incapacitated due to age or infirmity will be provided with remuneration at least equal to that of the average unskilled worker, with all of their necessary sustaining equipment provided free.
7) Pension funds should be controlled by labor, not management.
8) Federal legislation around employee ownership needs to be addressed.
9) Collective enterprises and cooperatives are encouraged.
Because a free Press is inseparable from any notion of democracy, and because a powerful labor Press is a prerequisite to a powerful labor movement, and because we want our Party to be as democratically controlled as possible, we resolve that:
The Party will establish a weekly newspaper, to be published each Saturday.
The newspaper will hit the streets by the last weekend of June of 1996, the first issue to contain the text of the Declaration of Independence of the USA, and will also contain our own Labor Party Declaration of Independence from any and all other parties, whether it expresses the interests of labor or not, from any and all official organizations of labor unions, from any entity of government, and from any other individual, organization or country.
The newspaper solicits articles and letters from individuals, Chapters, unions, labor scholars, social theorists, etc.
A mandate from a Chapter will guarantee the printing of any new and previously unpublished work by a Chapter member that is relevant to the Party or to the labor movement, all other submissions from members to be considered optional by the Editors.
The Editorial Board will be composed of a minimum of three of the nationally elected Officers with no maximum, to be selected among themselves. A diversity of views will be encouraged, with none of the Editors having veto power over the original writings of any of the other National Officers, or of any of the other Editors.
The Press will encourage advertisements and classified ads from all segments of the world of commerce, government and labor, etc., policy on advertising to be determined by the Editors, or a subcommittee thereof, which policy shall be published, and debated and modified in the Press by the members as they see fit.
The section on letters to the Editor shall comprise up to half of the information content of the journal. Editors will more categorize issues than edit them out, and will make an effort to set facts straight in various issues. Editorial policy, to the extent that generalities can be made about it, shall be published, and debated and modified by majority vote of the members as desired.
All Party business, summaries of all national level meetings, salaries and benefits of everyone employed and elected by the Party, statements of all candidates for internal Party Office, and items and debates of importance to the Party or the labor movement shall be printed in the Party Press weekly, monthly, annually, or when appropriate.
Party structure must reflect our intent to promote and live the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity within our own ranks, as well as in our communities.
Article One: Party Name
1. The name of our Party will be the American Labor Party (ALP), and the name of our journal will be the American Worker, unless these names are in common use elsewhere.
Article Two: Membership
2. Membership shall have no qualifications whatsoever, one never knowing at what age or condition at which one might find oneself in the working class. To prevent easy manipulation of the very youngest, though, the minimum age of membership should be 12.
3. As long as one's dues are not up to date, so long will the right to vote be constrained. Membership cards will be issued, and dues exchanged for stamps. At the beginning, dues will be a dollar per month. After our economic status is sufficiently elevated, dues shall be doubled. Half of all dues collected by a Chapter shall be sent to the National Organization, the other half to be used or saved at the will of the Chapter. Optional surcharges may be imposed on members for support of their city-wide units of organization, county-wide, state-wide, and regional units. Paid-up dues shall warrant one subscription to the Party newspaper.
4. At-large status will be granted only to those who live more than 10 miles from Chapter meeting places and desire such status, or who live in exceptional circumstances and request it.
5. No restrictions will ever apply to membership in other organizations. Sectarianism is the result if we do.
6. Arguments for expulsion of Chapters or members will require a majority vote of the entire Party after a full hearing in the Party Press. Grounds for expulsion shall evolve on a case-by-case basis, no rules to be lain down initially.
Article Three: Chapters
7. Chapters may be established on any basis of mutual interest.
8. Chapters must have at least 5 members in good standing before applying for a charter.
9. Chapters shall assist in the campaign against competition between workers for scarce jobs, and in the campaign to make overtime prohibitively expensive.
10. Each Chapter shall elect such Officers and set up such committees as it deems necessary to carry out its work. One of these Officers must be assigned the duties of Treasurer, who will maintain records, collect dues, and send half to the National Office.
11. Each Chapter shall encourage and train as many members as are willing to master Robert's Rules of Order.
Article Four: Democratic Mechanisms
12. Initiative: Any Chapter or higher unit of organization may initiate a change in the Party Constitution, which may be argued in the Party Press for five weeks, after which the change will be implemented if it wins by a majority vote of the members.
13. Referendum: A majority of National Officials may initiate changes in the Party Constitution, but said changes must be referred to majority votes of the membership, and argued in the Press for a minimum of three weeks.
Article Five: The National Office
14. National Officers will be ten in number, one from each of Postal Zip-Code Areas 0-9, and will be the posts of highest authority in the Party. Each Office will last two years. (Except for the first election, when lots will be drawn to see which half serves for only one year, so as to provide overlap in succeeding elections.)
15. Any sub-unit of the Party may nominate National Officers at any time, no earlier than three months before an election. Nominees will run their campaigns in the Party Press and in any other accessible media. All nominees will have optional access to the same quantity of space in each edition of the Party Press. Each nominee must be a member in good standing.
16. In case that only a plurality of votes is cast for the top vote-getter, the number of candidates, if odd, will have one added to the sum, which will then be cut in half, the top vote-getters allowed to carry on their campaigns for another month, after which another election will be held. In case of another plurality, the process will be repeated, but campaigns carried on for only two more weeks. Under these last conditions, the top vote-getter will take the Office, whether a plurality or a majority is secured.
17. Offices will be filled by newly elected Officers two months after the original election, to be held each year on the last Tuesday in April.
18. Based on records kept at the National Office, members will be sent ballots that are uncoded in any way. Ballots will be collected by Chapters, while members at large will send them to Regional Offices. Votes will be counted and the results sent to the National Office, which shall tally the results and announce in the next available edition of the Press.
19. In case of resignation, unexpected incapacitation, or other circumstance preventing normal participation in National Office activities, the absent Office may be filled by a member in good standing by unanimous vote of Officers remaining on duty, or held open until the next scheduled election.
20. The National Officers may not hire any more helpers than their own number, such helpers to have their own guaranteed voice in the Press about the conduct of the Organization, or about any other topic. Any one, or all of them, may be hired and fired by unanimous votes of the Officers, or by a majority vote of the whole Party.
21. If Party growth requires more help at the national level, more National Officers will be elected from the states, starting with the most populous state first, the new Officers to be equal in privilege and responsibility in every way to the other Officers.
Article Six: Recall of National Officers
22. National Officers may be recalled by a majority vote after a full hearing of the issues in the Party Press, and for a minimum of five weeks. Once the process is initiated in a complaint by any Party entity, the vote must take place within four weeks of filing rebuttals in the Party Press. Rebuttals must be filed within two weeks of the original charge. In case of physical harm to anything or anyone perceived by a majority of other Officers as the result of continuation of duties by the charged Officer, a unanimous vote of the remaining Officers will require the charged Officer to sit out the ensuing debate on the sidelines, and without a vote or normal Party responsibilities, but will not prevent access to the Party Press by the charged Officer.
Article Seven: National Conventions
23. At the request of a majority of members, or by a unanimous vote of National Officers, National Conventions may be called at any time of the year to address matters of urgency within the Party, nation or world, or, at appropriate times to be decided by the National Officers, to select nominees for National Presidential and Vice-Presidential Offices.
24. Chapters shall send Delegates to National Conventions at the rate of one Delegate per 10 or fewer members, each Chapter in good standing to be allotted at least one Delegate. Convention votes will be allotted at the rate of one per Delegate. For the purpose of electing Delegates, members at large may be considered part of the Chapter of their choice. Small Chapters may coalesce with others for the purpose of meeting quantity requirements for electing Delegates, which may be more essential in the future if the Party grows, and the ratio of members to Delegates increases.
Article Eight: Party Press
25. The Party will establish a weekly newspaper, to be published each Saturday.
26. The newspaper will maintain independence from any and all official organizations of unions, from any and all entities of government, and from any and all other individuals and organizations.
27. The newspaper shall solicit articles and letters from individuals, Chapters, unionists, labor scholars, social theorists, etc.
28. A mandate from a Chapter will guarantee the printing of any new and previously unpublished work by a Chapter member that is relevant to the Party or to the labor movement, all other submissions by members to be printed at the option of the Editors.
29. The Editorial Board will be composed of a minimum of three nationally elected Officers with no maximum, to be selected among themselves. A diversity of views will be encouraged, with none of the Editors having veto power over the original writings of any of the other National Officers, or of any of the other Editors.
30. The Press will encourage advertisements and classified ads from all segments of the world of commerce, government and labor, etc., policy on advertising to be determined by the Editors, or a Subcommittee thereof, which policy shall be published, modified and debated in the Press as circumstances dictate.
31. The section on Letters to the Editor shall comprise up to half of the information content of the journal. Editors will more categorize issues than edit them out, and will make an effort to set facts straight in various issues.
32. All internal Party business, summaries of all national level meetings, salaries and benefits of everyone employed and elected by the Party, statements of all candidates for internal Party Office, and items and debates of importance to the Party or the labor movement shall be printed in the Party Press.
Article Nine: Miscellaneous
33. ALP national funds shall be placed on deposit in a national bank or other federally insured financial institution. Funds shall be paid out only by check bearing the signatures of the Treasurer, and of one other designated Officer. The Treasurer will file an abridged weekly report to be printed in the Party journal, and will file an annual complete report, also to be published in the Party journal. An outside accounting firm will be engaged annually for an audit of ALP finances. (Upon conclusion of the Founding Convention, LPA will bring its affairs to a close, and will transfer all of its assets to the ALP.)
34. Decisions to run ALP candidates for local Offices shall be made by the Chapters concerned.
More rules may need to be established for the relations of other sub-units to the rest of the Party, and there are other important things that have yet to be considered. Help!
July 05, 1996
Congratulations on the birth of your new baby. I happen to be one of the cells of the new critter, was elected to go to Cleveland to aid in its delivery, and want to bring up a few matters of concern.
I really worry about us. Through some bureaucratic snafus in my own Chapter, my suggestions for our structure never got argued in my Pre-Convention Discussion Committee, for the Committee never even got off the ground until the beginning of this year. Then, at the Convention, there was little time to do much more than to get entertained, and to rubber-stamp approve a pre-determined agenda riddled with flaws.
One of the biggest flaws includes calling for both a 32-hour week and a double time overtime premium at the same time, people not realizing how fundamental to an economy is meddling with hours of labor. In the short run, if we just work on encouraging workers to walk off at the end of 40 hours in solidarity with the unemployed, underemployed, homeless and hungry (unless double time over 40 is paid), many of the problems of the lower classes could be ameliorated. Calling for a 32-hour week at the outset is senseless, given so many people working 50, 60, 70 hours and beyond, because time and a half has ceased to be a disincentive strong enough to prevent overwork, given the low level of wages caused by competition for scarce jobs, a fact of life newspapers now fearlessly report on, for failure of any party willing to say or do anything serious about it.
In order to work out this and so many other issues in the interests of labor, we will need to be fearless in our will to debate them, no matter whose ideologies get stepped on. Only an open Party Press will be up to the demands of the age for such a debate. Unfortunately, I doubt if the bureaucratic structure we just adopted will be very conducive to the kind of debate we will need, but I hope that you and the others at the helm will prove me wrong.
Let me know if you need help putting together a Party Press.
On the weekend of June 6-9, 1996, after a near decade of painstaking organizing work, mostly among unions, a Labor Party for the USA took on its first semblance of form and function at its Founding Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, where a Platform and a Constitution were adopted. Many in the AFL-CIO were of the opinion that labor already had its own party, and that its name was COPE (Committee on Political Education), but too many others apparently felt differently and went off on their own, but only time will tell if they went off half-cocked.
An indication of that possibility includes the fact that the Platform that the 1400 convening Delegates were asked to rubber-stamp with insufficient (or sometimes non-existent) pre-Convention discussion was all of 16 pages long, and contained something for almost everyone on the left. The Platform delighted at least one self-admitted Trotskyist, a political persuasion that happened to be well represented among the abundance of ideologies and radical tendencies both inside and outside of the Convention hall.
Another possible indication of the LP rushing off with insufficient circumspection was the adoption of a rather bureaucratic structure that differs little from many other allegedly progressive organizations whose constituents send representatives to a national body which selects one head cheese who gets to appoint his or her own staff, which staff usually ends up fulfilling the agenda of the head cheese, or else. Our repeated adoption of bureaucratic structures obedient to the wills of single individuals reflects the despair of labor and the left of discarding upper-class models of organization. We seem to fear the freedom of multitudinous tendencies campaigning for what they want within the same organization, perhaps because such freedoms may have always led to cacophonies of dissonant voices summing to zero.
But, in order to achieve the clarity required to overcome the hegemony of the bosses, the debate must go on. Anything less than the excitement of a full and fair debate will indicate the predetermined hegemony of a tendency, which will ensure stasis and disintegration for this latest of society's hopes for the triumph of social, economic and political justice for the lower classes. A real Labor Party will have a Press that encourages a rather complete debate, even among ideologues, but few signs of interest in a Labor Party Press have yet to turn up.
A free and fair debate will enable labor to choose which tactic makes more sense: Taking time, money or property from the upper classes. Labor has traditionally wanted little more than a decent wage, and some spare time with which to enjoy life, while social-democrats have wanted tax money with which to build a 'benevolent' state, while more radical elements have wanted to divest the upper classes of their property, as in the Russian Revolution.
Severe ideological differences were manifested in the many debates that went on during the Convention, including whether to adopt explicit abortion language in the health care portion of the Platform (voted down), whether to engage in electoral politics right away (voted down), and even whether to eliminate Chapters and only organize among unions (voted down). All in all, extremism of any variety lost out at the Convention, moderation in all areas winning the day, except for where the Platform blames the rich, the government and politicians for labor's failure to do much more than lose so many of its battles. Labor may not be as innocent as the victim it is portrayed as being in the Labor Party Platform.
During the Convention, most of the 1400 Delegates supported a local demonstration against Cleveland's Mayor White for his attempt to eliminate collective bargaining rights for municipal employees. Our boisterous demonstration outside of City Hall, and our march to the hotel where we thought the mayor was staying, were yet more indications of the inextinguishable solidarity felt between workers. Because their collective bargaining rights were as at risk as those of other municipal employees, the police were inspired to behave admirably and blocked city traffic for us, smiling all the while. An injury to one is an injury to all!
July 12, 1996
A few more observations on the new Labor Party:
In my own community, rife with leftists as it is, there doesn't seem to be much support for the notion of putting everyone to work, for everyone seems to be doing their own thing. What no one seems to bring up is that, while racing to the bottom, old methods of conducting our business remain unchanged, old strategies are upheld as immutable and timeless in their application to labor and progressive movements in general, people seem content with winning small victories for their side, while letting the devil take the hindmost. I liken the present circumstances to a feeding frenzy in a shark pool, and 'may the strongest shark win', though eventually he may find himself quite alone, later to starve for want of another shark to feed on. Pretty bleak picture.
Labor seems content to fight its struggles piecemeal, with no guidance or sincere debate on the strategy. Far more than what I originally suspected, labor seems infected with bankrupt notions, such as: some form of property redistribution or taxing the upper classes will solve its problems. A lot of our rhetoric indicates that the Labor Party would be happy in the future to take over the reigns of government, and run it like the Dems and Reps presently do. You and I know that Delegates are champing at the bit to get themselves or other 'friends of labor' elected to office.
Labor rebels at the thought of so much overtime, but doesn't know enough to walk out at the end of 40 hours unless the bosses pay them double time, which would help redistribute labor and the product of labor.
So, come on, Tony, when do we get a labor Press with free access? We have lots of things to talk about. We can't make bigger fools of ourselves than what we already are. Silence among ourselves at times like these is a sin.
Whereas, politicians have not delivered on their promise of full employment, unemployment figures have been rigged in order to make them look better than what they actually are, so as to avoid embarrassment to politicians,
Whereas, the march of science and technology have the capability of putting people out of work faster than what new industries can employ them, and the outlook for the working class is one of being phased out, downsized, outsourced, laid off, and forgotten about, unless we protest against inhumane treatment at the hands of both the government and their bosses,
Whereas, our Labor Party is based on the principle of unifying tactics for the entire class of workers, struggles of individual unions has not put the brakes on the slide of the entire working class to the bottom, union membership has taken a precipitous fall since the fifties, and a means of rebuilding unions of the entire working class must be found,
Whereas, the labor market is glutted with job-seekers, competition for scarce jobs drives wages down, time and a half has ceased to be a disincentive to working people far beyond 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week,
Whereas, we are selling our ability to work overtime too cheaply, and that overtime bestowed on some prevents many others from finding work at all, which further drives wages down,
Whereas, the economy of the country and the world should and can be made to work for the people instead of just the rich,
Let it be resolved that the East Bay Chapter of the Labor Party recommends that the Party adopt a resolution to recommend to Congress persons, Senators and politicians that the Fair Labor Standards Act be amended to provide for a double time overtime premium beyond 8 hours per day, and beyond 40 hours per week, in order to encourage fuller employment.
Let it further be resolved that the East Bay Chapter of the Labor Party recommends that the Party adopt a resolution to encourage all unions to adopt the double time overtime premium for their own, and to walk out at the end of 8 hours per day, and 40 hours per week in solidarity with the unemployed, the underemployed, the homeless and the hungry.
August 3, 1996
Congratulations (or condolences) on your selection as Chair of the new Action Committee. It was done very quickly, and you weren't present at the time to object (if you wanted to).
I've been working on language for a leaflet I'm proposing for general LP distribution. Most of the remains of our old committee received copies of the proposed text at the end of our July 27 meeting. I enclose three copies, more of which will be available at our committee meeting, which hopefully will be announced soon.
I can also imagine that, if we are to be an Action committee, we need to discuss what kind of action our Party and Chapter should engage in, and that this topic may take up a good portion of our first agenda.
The story is often repeated: competition for scarce jobs in a glutted labor market drives wages down, and bosses profit by squeezing as great an amount of work out of as few people as possible. In spite of the 14 million unemployed and underemployed who certainly could use work, those with regular work often put in 50, 60, 70 and more hours per week. Back in the early 40's, after the Fair Labor Standards Act was adopted, the new time and a half overtime premium economically penalized bosses who kept people working beyond forty hours per week, a penalty that put the actual teeth in the Forty-Hour law. A handful of states also adopted laws to penalize work beyond eight hours a day, which allowed workers more rest on a day to day basis.
Time and a half may have been an effective disincentive to overtime then, but what with the dramatic increases in productivity since the early 40's, less time than ever is required to produce necessities of life, and real wages have fallen as a result. Time and a half multiplied by falling wages became more affordable than hiring new workers, and workers have gone on to produce new values at an unprecedented rate, very little of which wealth workers actually see. Of all new wealth created, 98% goes to the upper 20% of the population, while only 2% goes to the lower 80%, figures that hardly look believable, but similar figures from another source show that 90% of all new wealth goes to the upper 10% of the population, while the lower 90% get only 10% of new wealth.
Because not all of the increasing productivity gets converted into new industries employing more workers, demand for workers in the labor market has been falling off, a scarcity of jobs enables bosses to attract workers to lower wages and worse working conditions, and discouraged workers who have given up looking for work are no longer even counted in official unemployment figures. Desperation for any pay at all forces workers to accept unsustainable wages, and the standard of living of the lower classes has fallen off to where the minimum wage is insufficient to keep people and families afloat, forcing some working families to apply for various forms of public assistance. The new welfare reform bill is designed to make competition for already scarce jobs even more intense, with bosses already counting on the predicted lower wage rates that will result if labor fails to fight back effectively. Will we do so?
Our country is one of the many in which the product of labor is badly distributed because work itself is badly distributed. People should be able to make a decent living without having to work all day and all night for next to nothing. The overwork of one segment of society robs work from those who don't have enough. The only prescription that will cure overwork and underwork is a more even distribution of work to everyone who could use it. Time and a half has ceased to be the disincentive to overwork that the Act originally intended it to be, so the overtime premium should be increased to a minimum of double time. This higher cost of working people overtime would discourage bosses from overworking people, and would promote the hiring and training of workers from the reserve army of the unemployed.
Workers and unionists should organize to walk out at the end of forty hours per week until Congress is sufficiently motivated to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act. An amendment to boost the present overtime premium to double time would enable those who have jobs to spend more time at home and in their communities, and will simultaneously encourage bosses to hire and train new workers. Selling overtime services too cheaply overheats competition for scarce jobs, lowers the general rate of wages, and prevents many workers from finding enough work to make a living.
Labor united could make double time a reality this year. Divided on this issue, overwork, underwork and unemployment will just keep getting worse. Underemployed workers will be glad to permanently replace unionists who dare to strike. Scabbing could be eliminated by forcing bosses to hire others - not in our place - but alongside of us, where all of the unemployed and underemployed belong. United to bring everyone up to full employment, workers and unions will prosper; until we unite to put everyone to work, the race to the bottom can only pick up speed.
Double time or no overtime at all!
The motion is for the committee to approve the intent of the language, and for the committee to recommend the language to the Chapter or to the E-Board. Later on, the Chapter or E-Board may refer the language back to our committee, or recommend the language to the National Office for preparation as a leaflet, eventually to be advertised in the Party Press as ready for mass distribution, with the text printed in the Press so that members may determine whether they want to distribute it or not.
1 Membership in Labor Party should guarantee printing of viewpoints, as long as submitted material addresses labor issues.
2 Everyone involved with production shall have a guaranteed voice in the newsletter. Those who work on the paper and have something to say should be allowed to say it, and expect to be rebutted, if the community so desires.
3 Editorial duties shall not be concerned with censoring unpopular voices, but rather shall be to set the record straight as best as can be done, and to comment on pressing labor issues.
4 In effect, there should be as many Editors as there are producers of the paper. The guarantee that everyone's voice will be heard will assure cooperation in putting out the newsletter. Those who think they should monopolize the newsletter, and turn it into their own mouthpiece, shall enjoy short careers at the newsletter, but will be able to air their grievances from the outside, as will be guaranteed to any other Labor Party member.
5 A name to consider for newsletter is "The Labor Experience".
6 Paid advertisements and classified ads should be solicited to raise money for newsletter.
7 We should abide by the principles of workers' control, and should consider start-up money for the operation as a loan, to be repaid when we start to make a profit.
8 We could be like any other small paper and operate in internal secrecy, but where has secrecy and bureaucracy gotten the others? While few efforts of the lower classes has failed to prosper, must we follow the same path to oblivion as every other effort?
Who selects the Editor, and how?
Who is the Editor?
December 15, 1996
In the interests of promoting dialogue at our January 25 meeting about 'how to get to full employment', I would like to propose a little more structure than what has already been suggested. Or, if present plans are irreversible, this proposal could put be off to the future, if desired.
The enclosed pages, hopefully enough to provide one for each of you, contain both suspected and time-proven methods of cutting unemployment. First, we would add methods that anyone may ever have suspected would get us to the goal of full employment. After adding to the list, combining some of the listed methods into smaller categories may be desired.
At our February meeting, we would weed out some of the more obvious klunkers, and then begin to discuss the relative merits of what's left in the order of increasing popularity. The discussion could generate some heat, but I hope that the research I have done will also help generate some compensating light. I have written about my ongoing research in this field since 1992, and have broadcast weekly on the subject on Free Radio Berkeley, 104.1 FM, for over a year. I remain optimistic that we will be able to achieve greater clarity on this issue.
Many of the proposed ways of arriving at our goal of full employment are as old as the labor movement itself. In order to be more effective in getting to our goal, it might help if we invest some time to narrow down the methods we choose to give our hearts and souls to.
The following time schedule is suggested:
January 25: During this meeting, we will add to the list on the back of this sheet as many other plausible methods of getting to full employment as we can think of. To prevent some listed methods from being mere repeats of others with different names, we will refine the list and streamline it as necessary, perhaps lumping some methods together, but only by consensus.
After reworking the list, we will take a few minutes break to privately prioritize the various methods according to the degree of perceived effectiveness. For example, if you think Legislation is the most effective way to put everyone to work, followed by Social-Democracy as a second choice, then write a '1' between 9 and Legislation, and write a '2' between 14 and Social-Democracy, and so on, up and down the list, as in this partial example:
9 1 Legislation
14 2 Social-Democracy
You don't have to be too precise about it. If you think that all other methods absolutely pale before 'Workfare', put a "1" before 'Workfare', and then assign to all the rest of the methods whatever value you think they deserve. You will not be graded, and the ballots are anonymous. A committee will be elected to count up the ballots before the next meeting, and will distribute the results in February. If you would like to take your ballot home to complete it, you could mail it by Feb. 3.
February: The poll results will be distributed, and we will try to give good reasons for eliminating methods that appear to be least favored by the Chapter. We will proceed up the list as far as time allotted will allow. If we fail to get to the top of the list at this meeting, we will continue on in March, at which time we may also assess our process and suggest new directions.
Add your suggestions to this alphabetized preliminary list of methods of 'How to get to full employment'.
1 Affirmative Action
4 Constitutional Amendment
5 Eliminate Scabbing
6 Government-Provided Jobs
7 Higher Overtime Premiums
8 Laissez-Faire Capitalism
10 Military Spending
12 Shorter Hours
13 Shorter Hours With No Loss in Pay
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