Roger’s Democrats Come Out Against Transit Workers

Revolutionary Transit Worker has emphasized that workers cannot afford to look to Republicans or Democrats for allies. Both parties serve the capitalist ruling class and not workers.

The Democrats in particular make a living by posing as friends of labor and the oppressed, only to attack us whenever the capitalists need them to. In fact when the Republicans’ more nakedly anti-working class and racist policies stir up too much struggle, the capitalists always turn to the Democrats, hoping that their more populist image can be used to restrain the masses, and the Democrats always do their best to satisfy them.

We immediately criticized the Toussaint leadership of Local 100 for its turn toward the Democrats. We warned that this would be used as a way to avoid mobilizing the power of workers in struggle against the bosses, and would only encourage the Democrats to continue with their anti-worker policies. Our warnings have been completely confirmed.

The Private Lines Struggle

We have already seen in the accompanying article how the Toussaint leadership is stalling the Private Lines struggle by lobbying Democratic Party politicians to pass an ordinance guaranteeing job, wage, seniority and benefit protections to employees if the Private Lines sell their franchises to other capitalists. While the legislation would be a victory, Pres. Toussaint is refusing to mobilize the kind of mass struggle necessary to pressure Vallone and the other Democrats to enact the ordinance. He says that because they are running for office, we shouldn’t do anything to anger them.

This is exactly what we warned would happen when we saw the first sign of Pres. Toussaint’s alliance with the Democrats. As we explained in RTW No. 2:

Participants in the February 13 Private Lines rally saw another important part of the new leaders’ strategy, in the nauseating sight of Toussaint and right-wing, pro-capitalist City Council President Peter Vallone warmly embracing. This strategy, presented primarily by Pres. Toussaint and Secretary-Treasurer Ed Watt, calls for continual “political action,” meaning support to Democratic Party politicians. Sucking up to the Democrats, like the Republicans, always involves holding back mass struggle – our only means to effectively defend our interests against the bosses.

The fact is that unless they’re made to fear the consequences of not conceding our demands, the Democrats will betray us every time. This was made starkly clear after our March 28 mass rally.

Toussaint Parades Democrats On March 28

At Pres. Toussaint’s invitation, four mayoral candidates and Jesse Jackson spoke at our March 28 mass rally. It also received greetings from Senator Hillary Clinton. This made many workers feel even stronger in their struggle — not only did they feel the power of being with thousands of their fellow workers, but, it seemed, the Democrats are on our side!

But our power comes from the fact that the system depends on us to run it, and we can shut it down to win our demands. The Democrats, on the other hand, will always oppose or at least seek to end our struggles. So we warned:

During our strike movement, none of the candidates defended us against the Giuliani-MTA-Wall Street onslaught. Hillary Clinton came out in support of Giuliani’s injunctions against our strike movement at the time! When they want our votes, the Democrats speechify against hard-hearted bosses and for poor, suffering workers. But their message is “Don’t fight, vote!“ When we wage mass struggle in the future, they’ll turn on us again. (RTW No. 3)

As it turned out, only the thought of transit workers struggling was enough to panic the Democrats into turning on us.

Roger’s Democrats Come Out Against Us

Democrats in particular love to pose as “friends of labor” when they’re looking to get workers’ votes. But sometimes in their posing they give the impression that they favor workers in some real way, and then all hell breaks loose. Such was the case when mayoral candidate Alan Hevesi mentioned that while he thought some “workers” that deal with public health and safety such as cops should not be allowed to strike, other public workers should be permitted to strike.

Democratic opponent (and friend of Pres. Toussaint) Peter Vallone rushed to join Mayor Giuliani in condemning Hevesi for suggesting that any public sector workers should be allowed to strike. The Taylor law that makes it illegal for us to strike, should remain unchanged, they insisted. The other Democratic Party candidates, Mark Green and Fernando Ferrer, rushed to join the clamor against allowing public sector workers to strike. Finally, Hevesi clarified his position, saying that while he thinks public sector clerks should have the right to strike, all others, including transit workers, absolutely should not.

In spite of this, there is no evidence that Pres. Toussaint has learned his lesson, but workers must. The only power workers can trust is their own power in struggle. Workers need a leadership that’s prepared to mobilize the full power of the working class against the capitalists. The only leadership that can be relied on to do that is one that is committed to the system’s overthrow – a revolutionary socialist leadership.