Dec 2, 2016
The following are excerpts of speeches from a Working Class Party rally in Detroit on October 23. More information and interviews can be seen and heard on the following website:
How are you all doing? On Nov. 8, many people in Michigan will again be going to the polls to vote. But this year, something is different in Michigan. This year, working people, instead of having only a choice between the lesser of two evils, this year people can vote for something that we agree with. We can vote for the candidates of the Working Class Party.
Now the Working Class Party in Michigan is not a real party of the working class. A real party of the working class would be a mass party with tens or hundreds of thousands of working people. And the changes we need will come about, not through elections, but when the working class makes a fight. But the fact that the Working Class Party is on the ballot means that this year workers can say, with their vote, what they think. We can say that we want to see the working class build its own party....
The fact that the Working Class Party is on the ballot in Michigan is a victory. Yes, it’s a small victory, but it’s a victory. 50,000 people in Michigan were willing to put their names on a petition to the State to say that the working class needs its own political voice; that the working class needs its own party.
Working people are facing a crisis situation – crises that have been aided and caused by the two main political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. Both parties support policies that led to an economy where many people are not able to find a job, or are only able only to find a part-time job; an economy where even many full-time jobs don’t pay enough to be able to have a decent standard of living. Both parties in Michigan made decisions that led to poisoned drinking water for the people of Flint. Both parties are responsible for the destruction of public schools in Detroit and other working class communities.
Both parties say there is not enough money to deal with these problems. They are lying. The money is there.
The Working Class Party says that there is enough wealth in this society to provide clean water, good schools, and full-time jobs at decent wages for all who want them. We say that the wealth and the hoarded profits should be taken out of the hands of the corporations and the billionaires and the Donald Trumps, and that this money should used to benefit the working people who produce those profits and that wealth....
Our campaign does not have the money that the two parties have. We don’t have the Koch brothers or Wall Street billionaires giving us money. Our campaign does not have the major media reporting about us 24/7. They don’t even mention us. That’s no surprise since most newspapers and TV stations are owned by millionaires and media corporations. But we have reached people, not nearly everyone in the state, but we have reached people.
Our campaign is being made by ordinary working people, like those of us in this room. Our campaign is one person talking to their neighbor. Our campaign is one person selling a button to their family member. Our campaign is one person giving a leaflet to their co-worker, who then passes it on to someone else. Our campaign is people donating money, $5 or $10 or $20 at a time.
And we are going to keep going until Election Day, November 8. And all the days after.
Welcome, everybody. For three decades, politicians – from both parties, at every level of government – have pushed one plan after another that were sold as ways to “improve” the schools. But the schools for children of working people only got worse.
The Bush administration pushed No Child Left Behind; the Obama administration replaced it with Race to the Top, which was the same thing in a different package. The politicians pushed testing. They graded teachers, and graded schools and school districts, and punished the teachers. They removed funding from and closed schools that scored low. The state took over the Detroit Public Schools (and other districts in the state – like Highland Park, Flint) and ran them into the ground. Detroit got five emergency managers – dictators – one after the other. Half the schools disappeared.
Democrats and Republicans introduced so- called “choice” into the school systems – with charter schools, and “school of choice” districts. Instead of giving every district what it needed to provide an excellent education, they told parents, it’s up to you. Don’t like it where your children are? It’s up to you to shop around for somewhere else to take them. Find a charter school or find another district. It’s up to you to get your kids into a good school, or keep shopping until you can. It’s up to you to get your kids to that school, no matter how far away it is.
So now, if your children are receiving a poor education, they say you have no one to blame but yourself. Because you had the right to choose and didn’t use it ...
If charters and school choice are supposed to be so great, if competition between schools is supposed to improve all the schools, why do the wealthy communities fight tooth and nail to make sure that nothing like that is imposed on their districts? Because they know.
They know exactly what it TRULY takes to provide an excellent education for children – it’s what THEY have, and what they insist on having: NEIGHBORHOOD public schools that have remained well-protected and well-funded. No school-choice revolving door. A stable school budget with a per-pupil funding that is nearly TWICE that of districts like Detroit....
And why shouldn’t working class students have the same excellent education, with the same excellent resources and opportunities and teacher-to-student ratios as the wealthy communities have?
Is that a pipe dream? Absolutely not. The wealth, the resources are there. The problem is who controls the wealth. In the capitalist system wealth and public money has been lodged in the huge profit margins of the banks and the corporations.
The money IS there. But the federal, state and local governments have been using it to bail out banks and corporations, to give huge tax breaks and grants to these banks and corporations. The State of Michigan is giving more away to corporations than it is taking in in taxes this year! THAT is why they can’t fix our schools, or our roads, or our WATER SYSTEMS. They’ve given the money to the corporations and the banks. They put profit first.
Working class people have different priorities. We put our lives, and our children’s and grandchildren’s lives and futures first. Put the kids BEFORE the banks and corporations. TAKE that money from the banks, and fund schools for our children! If the capitalists can’t make their profits, oh well! Not on the backs of our children!
THAT is what it means to have working class politics.
Hello everybody. Well I’m running in the Working Class Party in District 13 because I think we do need a working class party on the ballot. And then another thing that I think, just getting on the ballot is not going to be able to change things. But we will be able to speak for the workers and what the workers want and what they need. That’s not being dealt with today. We’re going backwards and backwards you know....
Look what they are doing to the next generation. Going to pay them half, that’s what they’re doing right now, the cost of living is skyrocketing and they are going to pay them half and less than half and don’t even have the same health care and other benefits. You know it ain’t right, and the bosses know it ain’t right. But they only care about their profits, that’s why they do that. They put their profits before our life.
We need to get the bigger picture and understand what it’s going to take. It’s going to take us, working people to fix this. I’ve said this over and over again: we’re the ones that make this country run. Once we get that understanding, then we know we’ll be able to deal with it. And if there’s a problem for us, once we understand that, we can make it stop.
All the problems that we are having are coming from the way the capitalists run this country, their policy. We are the force that makes this country run, creates all the wealth – and yet and still we are going to have a problem? That’s because we don’t see that we can stop them and take back what they took from us. Once we do that, we all can live a decent life. All human beings on this planet, if it spreads, can have a decent life....
They talk about crime, the capitalists do. What they do is cut jobs. They create crime. That’s why the crime rate is going up. What are young people going to do? A lot of time their parents can’t take care of them no more. They’re grown now, they’re on their own now, and they got kids. And they can’t get a job to deal with it. That’s why they take to the streets and do what they can do to get some money. And most of the time they come at the same working people when they do that because that’s who’s around.
When we fight, those young people in the street have to be brought together with us. We have to let them know who they really got to go after, when they fight, to make a change so we can have what we need and what we want. It’s there, but someone has stolen it from us and is still taking more from us.
They bring up immigration, the capitalists do – that’s one of their number one divisions, the capitalists dividing the workers now. But immigration ain’t the problem. That’s how they keep us fighting among ourselves when we should be fighting together, all the working people against the bosses. And that’s always been a problem, them dividing the working class in this country, white and black and immigrant. And that’s still going on....
So we need to get a bigger picture. It’s like that upper class – OK they’re that upper class because they took and stole from us. That’s why. And we are the ones that should be the upper class because we are the ones that create all the wealth.
Once you get to that, and most of the workers get to that, then we can change it. Once we start to stop certain things that happen, then we will know that we have the power to do that. And that’s what it takes, you know, power.
The working class – we are the ones that make everything run in this country, we are the forces that protect them, go to other countries and fight for them, killing other workers and losing our life for what they want. And then we won’t stand up and fight for the things that we need? No. They cause us a problem, we have to cause them a problem.
We are the force that can change everything here. That’s just one reason why I’m running, not just getting on the ballot, getting in the position, but to understand and talk to workers and bring them together and let them know what we are going to have to do to stop all of this.
All this that they have taken from us – bring our forces together, and we can take it all back.
We needed 31,566 signatures to get on the ballot this year. We aimed for 50,000 to be sure – and that’s what we got. Now we need 16,491 votes this year, so we can stay on the ballot for future elections. We’re aiming for 30,000 – just to be sure. And we can do that, all of us sitting in this room, with the help of our friends and family, and other people who have helped during this campaign.
If we can stay on the ballot, it would be a big advantage for the future. All the time we spent petitioning this year could instead be used to campaign and raise these issues in other parts of the state with more candidates.
So we need votes. Sam Johnson is running in the 13thcongressional district. People in part of the west side of Detroit and western Wayne County can vote for Sam Johnson and for Mary Anne Hering. I, Gary Walkowicz, am running in the 12thcongressional district. People in southern Wayne County going downriver and people in far western Wayne County and part of Washtenaw County out to Ann Arbor can vote for me and for Mary Anne Hering. But everybody in the state can vote for Mary Anne Hering. It will be people voting for Mary Anne for the State Board of Education that will allow us to get the votes we need to stay on the ballot. We have to make sure that everyone understands that voting for Sam or myself is not enough. We have to ask everyone to vote for Mary Anne Hering.
Vote totals are in for the Working Class Party. It’s not a spectacular vote, but it shows that a part of the working class responded to the main axis of our campaign: that the working class needs its own party.
Mary Anne Hering, candidate for State Board of Education, had 224,122 votes statewide, the highest vote of any minor party candidate for a state-wide position. Mary Anne’s votes gave her 2.67% of the vote. And her votes enabled our new party to keep ballot status for future elections. (Her total was almost 14 times the legal requirement of 16,491 votes.)
Gary Walkowicz, candidate for U.S. Congress, Michigan District 12, had 9,183 votes, with 3.81% of the vote in Wayne County’s part of the district, and 1.21% in Washtenaw County.
Sam Johnson, candidate for U.S. Congress, District 13, which covers part of Detroit and part of Wayne County, had 8,778 votes, or 3.43% of the vote.
The largest number of our votes came from the big working class cities in the state. But Mary Anne had even higher percentages in some semi-rural districts – with more than 4% in Ontonagon, Arenac, Iosco, Lake, Oscoda, Presque Isle and Schoolcraft counties, as well as in St. Clair County.
Finally, very incomplete records show that more than 14,000 people voted a straight party ticket for the Working Class Party, a new party that had never been on the ballot before.
The results include votes in a number of counties where we were not able to campaign. Some people might have heard one interview on Michigan’s public radio system. A few might have seen an article picked up by small local papers. But probably the name itself, Working Class Party, was enough to pull some votes.
These results mean that a part of the working class – even if a small one – is conscious of their own class interests and of the urgent necessity to create a party of their own.
The absence of a working class party helped open the road for a racist and misogynist billionaire demagogue like Trump to pretend to be a “populist,” to tap the anger of at least part of the working class, and to carry out a campaign that can only be divisive and dangerous for working people everywhere.
The lack of a working class party is the major issue of our day, the one that the organizers of the Working Class Party set out to address.
We know that a real party will be built only through the struggles of the working class to defend itself and impose its answers to the problems of society. But some of those thousands who voted for Working Class Party today can be the impetus for struggles tomorrow.
The work done to put the party on the ballot and let it be heard was important, but it was only a start. The work continues.
Final Results Candidates [PDF]
David Harding for City Council, District 14
Total: 1,249 votes, 8.3%
Gary Walkowicz for Congress, Michigan #12
Total: 9183 votes, 2.80%
Sam Johnson for Congress, Michigan #13
Total: 8,778 votes, 3.47%
Mary Anne Hering for State Board of Education
Total, state wide: 224,124 votes, 2.67%