The Wisconsin Recall

wisconsin recallThe June 5th recall election is one of the most important electoral moments I can remember. This is not due to its potential impact on the Presidential elections. The impact, one way or another, will be difficult to determine. The significance of the recall election is found in the willingness of thousands of Wisconsinites to fight back against the odds.

Recall elections are difficult to win. There are many people who simply do not believe in them. Even if they hate the incumbent they believe that the incumbent should finish his or her term. This is a major challenge. The second factor, very specific to Wisconsin, is the amazing amount of money that conservative, pro-Governor Walker forces from all over the country are putting into the election. It dwarfs anything that the anti-Walker forces can mount.

Progressive forces have to accept that there will be a fundamental resource imbalance between us and the other side. Actually, that is normally the way that it is when you are fighting a ruling elite. They hold most of the financial cards. As a result, many people are cowed into silence and fatalism, e.g., “…there is no point in fighting city hall…”

Something different took place in Wisconsin and that is what is amazing. In the aftermath – and inspired by – the courage displayed in the opening rounds of the Arab democratic uprisings, thousands of Wisconsinites took the streets in an active protest against the draconian, anti-worker policies of the infamous Governor Scott Walker. They did not have to do that. They could have had one big demonstration; expressed their outrage; and then gone home in despair. Instead, they built a resistance movement, one that influenced people around the country including in Ohio, and ultimately the Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Together movement.

The recall movement was the logical next step after the initial protests failed to stop the Governor. There are many people who called for a “general strike” — stopping all work in a given geographic location — in order to resist the Governor. While that was not a bad idea at all, to do a general strike you have to engage in a lot of preparatory work. One does not simply call a general strike. You see, if you make that call and no one shows up you cannot say “…oops…sorry…let’s try that one more time…” No, it is more like showing your cards and being trumped by the other side.

The US union movement has not engaged in a real general strike since the Oakland General Strike of 1946, after which general strikes were made illegal by the Taft-Hartley Act. As a result, we have a movement that is, to say the least, out of practice. As repression against workers gets worse, we will need to get back in practice but there is no point to counter-posing a general strike to a recall movement. The recall movement in Wisconsin has become a mass affair and progressive forces have been faced with the real challenge of organizing differently if they hope to win.

bill fletcher

Bill Fletcher

I do not want to predict the outcome of June 5th. What is important is that the fight is taking place and that representatives of the “99%” are resisting injustice. There are moments when you simply have to stand against evil even if it not under the most ideal circumstances. As my favorite starship captain said in Star Trek: First Contact, “…We’ve made too many compromises already, too many retreats…The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther.”

Victory on June 5th against Governor Walker and the 1%!

Bill Fletcher, Jr.
The BlackCommentator

Posted: Thursday, 31 May 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on May 31, 2012
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About Bill Fletcher Jr.

Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfricaForum and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA.