The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Working to Build a Working Class Party in Michigan, 2016

Mar 14, 2016

Gary Walkowicz, who ran for Congress as an independent in 2014, recently addressed a meeting in Detroit explaining why it is necessary to create a working class party, and specifically, as one aspect of that, to put a working class party on the ballot in Michigan. The following is a transcript of his opening remarks.

First, let me state a political fact: in this country, the bosses have two political parties, the working class has none.

Many of us sitting in this room believe it is important to have working class candidates on the ballot, so that working people can at least express themselves by voting for candidates who speak from the standpoint of the working class. In 2014, with the support of others who believed the same thing, five of us ran for office in this area on that basis.

Tonight, I want to talk about why we believe it is important to try to put a working class party on the ballot in Michigan. We don’t say that by electing working class candidates to office could solve all the problems that working people face. But if we put a working class party on the ballot, we could at least give working people the chance, through their vote, to speak to the problems that working people face and speak to the answers to these problems from the standpoint of working people. By putting a working class party on the ballot in just one state, we could make it easier for workers elsewhere to do the same thing.

Working people are facing a crisis today. And the answers that workers would have to that crisis, no other party will even talk about.

The two existing big parties, Republicans and Democrats, they have no answers; they have no solutions for working people. In point of fact, these two parties are part of the problem.

Who Poisoned the People of Flint? Republicans and Democrats!

Just look at the crises in this state, and who caused them. The people of Flint have been poisoned. Thousands of children have been harmed, their lives and health at risk, many suffering permanent brain damage. Many adults in Flint have suffered health problems, too; some may have died due to the water.

People were poisoned because politicians made decisions to benefit those with money. They decided to get off the Detroit water system and build a new water system, when there was no need to. You better believe that some people benefitted financially in building this new system. Then they decided to take water out of the Flint River, when even GM refused to use this water because it corroded their parts. They ignored the complaints from Flint residents who complained about this water. They ridiculed the doctors and researchers who said there was high lead content in the water. And they did nothing to stop the poisoning until the public outcry became too great. The criminals directly responsible for this are mostly Republicans – Snyder, the state legislature, the emergency managers they appointed. But Democrats made the decisions, decades ago, to build the unneeded water tunnel that set this catastrophe in motion. And the federal Environmental Protection Agency, run by Democrats in Washington, ignored warning signs about the lead poisoning for two years.

Who Condemned Detroit School Children? Democrats and Republicans!

Then there’s the crisis in the Detroit schools. Crumbling school buildings, overcrowded classrooms, children wearing winter coats to stay warm in class, leaking ceilings and some that fall, rodents in the classrooms, schools without the books they need, or even enough toilet paper. Who could learn under these conditions? The lives and future of the children of Detroit are being destroyed, just like the children in Flint. These deplorable conditions came to light only because the Detroit teachers took to the streets, refused to be silenced, and protested day after day.

Who is responsible for the horrific conditions in the Detroit schools? The city of Detroit has been run by and led by Democrats for decades. Today, state funding for the schools is controlled by Republicans in Lansing. But the problem of the Detroit schools did not just start in the last few years. Funding for schools was cut when the Democrat Granholm was governor and when Democrats controlled the legislature. Both parties made decisions to use our tax money to pay the banks and start for-profit charter schools rather than adequately fund public education. The emergency financial managers in Detroit have rolled up big debts for the schools. And who was the first to appoint an emergency financial manager for the Detroit schools? Granholm, the Democrat.

Both parties made decisions to cheat the schools and public services, taking money that should have gone to them in order to give it to the banks, the corporations and the wealthy. Both parties are responsible for the horrors in Flint and Detroit.

Voting for These Two Parties Is a Vote for our Enemies

Now Snyder is saying he will fix Flint, and the Democrats like Duggan, Detroit’s mayor, are saying they will fix the Detroit schools. Why would anyone believe that the parties who caused these crises would fix them? Whatever fix they bring in, it won’t serve our interests!

Today there is no party that speaks for the interests of the working class. Some people tell us that we should vote for the Democrats because they are the lesser of two evils. Some would tell us that we should vote for Bernie Sanders because he is the lesser evil of the lesser of two evils.

Republicans ask for our vote by telling us to blame other exploited workers for our problems. They appeal to some people’s prejudices and hope that some workers are stupid enough to fall for their lies.

Both parties make decisions to benefit the bosses and the wealthy. They pretend that what is good for the corporations and the banks is good for us. But would working class representatives have ever made the decisions that led to the poisoning the people of Flint and the devastation of the schools in Detroit? Of course not! It’s absurd to even ask that question.

Working People Need Our Own Party! Period!

We want to start the work to build a working class party. We want to do it in Michigan this year.

Those of us who were candidates in 2014 and the others who campaigned with us are starting the work to put a Working Class Party on the ballot in Michigan in 2016.

The results we had in 2014 were not bad, even though we were running as independent candidates. Our one candidate for Dearborn school board (Mary Anne Hering) got votes from 20% of those who voted. With the top three elected, she finished 4th. Ken Jannot, our other candidate there, got more than 10%. David Roehrig, our candidate for Wayne Country Community College board, was elected when the other candidate dropped out. And our two candidates for Congress, Sam Johnson and myself, got more than 2% of the vote each, almost 10,000 votes together. The fact that we got 16,000 votes in total, running a campaign with not much money, only a few dozen people campaigning, showed that there are many workers out there who agree with what we say. Putting a party on the ballot would allow us to reach more people.

What would a working class party do? It would propose answers to the problems working people face. The lack of jobs and the low wages for those who do have a job? A working class party would say the truth – that the money is there to provide jobs with decent wages for all who want to work. But just saying those things is not enough. Electing some workers to political office is not enough, in a set up run by and controlled by the wealthy.

It will always take a fight for the working class to gain what it needs. But a working class party can be part of the fight and could help lead that fight. If we had a working class party in Michigan today, it could bring together the protesters in Flint and the teachers, parents and students in Detroit who are making a fight against the same bosses.

A working class party could encourage the fights that any group of workers is making and show how the fight of one group of workers is connected to the needs of all working people.

A working class party could show that workers are the majority in this society and that our interests are different from those of the bosses.

It will not be easy to put this new party on the ballot. It will take a lot of work. State law makes it hard. We will need about 45,000 petition signatures to get the Working Class Party on the ballot. But we have started the work and we are asking people who agree that the workers need their own party to join us in this work.

The bosses have two parties. It’s about time that the working class builds one!