The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Lightfoot out as Chicago Mayor

Mar 6, 2023

Lori Lightfoot is on her way out as Chicago’s mayor, after only one term. She failed to even make the April run-off in her re-election bid.

Lightfoot was Chicago’s second black mayor, second woman, and first openly gay mayor. But in class terms, she made it clear from day one that she was on the same side as her predecessors: that of the capitalists.

Even as she was taking office in 2019, Lightfoot maneuvered to approve controversial tax subsidies worth about 1.6 billion dollars for two giant developments. This signaled that she would keep the spigot of public money open for business.

But for the working class, not so much.

Lightfoot refused to put a nurse and social worker in each school, until school workers struck against her.

Even as developers continue to get handouts, there is an ever-growing shortage of affordable housing. The result is plain for all to see as homeless people huddle in trains or buses to stay warm and dry.

Lightfoot bragged about channeling 750 million dollars in investment into some of the poorest neighborhoods. But most of this amounted to minor projects like chin-up bars in a park, or to projects begun before she took office, or to more subsidies for business.

Lightfoot may have given representation to groups who have been historically shut out of power in Chicago. But she took the side of the powerful every time. Chicago’s working class has lost nothing with her defeat.

With Lightfoot out, Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson will face off in the April run off.

Vallas was CEO of Chicago Public Schools under Mayor Daly in the 1990s. He initiated the “turnaround” program of firing all the teachers in “failing” schools and other policies that undermined neighborhood schools, especially in the poorest, majority black neighborhoods. The undermining of the schools contributed to driving 200,000 black people out of the city over the last few decades.

This year, Vallas has told crowds his campaign was about “taking our city back.” He promises to hire more cops and take “the handcuffs off” the police—telling the same old lie that crime is going up because the Chicago Police are too restrained. It should be no surprise that Vallas, the only white candidate out of nine, won most of the majority-white neighborhoods, and not one black neighborhood.

Brandon Johnson presents himself as the most progressive Democrat possible. He promises to impose a new tax on the “ultra rich” in order make sure "our schools are fully supported and funded," and the city’s residents have "reliable transportation, good-paying jobs, affordable housing."

We have heard promises like these before, including from Lightfoot herself. But Chicago’s “ultra rich” are not about to just hand over the money. And the mayor’s office does not really have the power to force them—even if Johnson actually tried. By saying he can do it for us, Johnson is setting up those who believe him to be disappointed once again.

No matter who the mayor is, working class people will only be able to defend themselves by organizing and fighting in their own interests. An election campaign that says anything else can only lead Chicago’s working class majority into another dead end.