The Case for a Working People’s Bill of Rights and the Working People’s Union

Date: 2022-08-03T16:06:33+00:00

Location: cosmonautmag.com

Shuvu Bhattarai argues that a general petition of working class demands, the Working People’s Bill of Rights, is a necessary antecedent to the construction of the party, the Working People’s Union. 

We are in a moment of crisis. Inflation, gun violence, poverty, world war, a global pandemic, mass shootings, climate disaster, crumbling infrastructure, deaths of despair, declining life expectancy, the list goes on and on and on. For working people, life is becoming unbearable, yet the options available to us, to use our right to vote, to protest, to build unions in our workplace, by themselves, do far too little to get the changes that we need now.

Not only are the options insufficient but the government that we have been taught since childhood represents our interests has instead proven itself, repeatedly, every day, that it only serves to further enrich the billionaires and multi-millionaires who have no real need for their disgusting wealth, which is ever increasing at a time of ever growing generalized misery.

Instead of making health-care free, building renewable energy, controlling the prices of rents and basic necessities, building harmonious ties with our neighbor countries and working people, the government has continued to drag us along on its death march to nuclear world war and climate disaster. The government has proven that it is instead afraid of us and is far more willing to funnel trillions of dollars into the police and the military than provide for our most basic needs.

Under the ideological leadership of fascists like Steve Bannon and the puppet politician Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party has transformed into a Fascist Party, a party that bases its ideology in a mythological United States founded on the supposed virtues of “Judeo-Christian” values. Their goal is to “Make America Great Again,” to go back to a time of supposed peace and prosperity. Their method of bringing this about is to forcibly silence the cries and yells of the country’s majority, the working people, and to erase any means that the people have to voice their concerns.

The Republicans have brought into their ranks paramilitary forces, with delegations of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers invited to recent CPAC conferences. The most recent CPAC conference was held in Hungary, under the auspices of dictator Victor Orban, whose advice to the attendees was that the path to keeping power is the crushing of opposition within the media. 

The Republicans have adopted the Great Replacement Theory (GRT), with their members in the media, such as Tucker Carlson, popularizing it’s ideas to millions over primetime TV. The GRT is an old conspiracy theory, resurrected within the Republican Party, which alleges that there is a plot, by flooding countries with immigrant populations, to systematically replace the white-majority population.

The GRT is part of the ideological war that the Republican Party is deploying to divide and conquer the working people. Within the upper middle class white christian population, the billionaire owners of the Republican Party (Rupert Murdoch, Koch Brothers, etc) have found the useful idiots which will fight to the death to protect them  by pandering to their interests, creating a narrative that puts the blame of societal collapse on and has created a collective Satan made up of undocumented immigrants, trans and genderfluid people, Muslims, Atheists, and Socialists. By manufacturing this enemy, and through the activist support of its base, they have created a smokescreen which hides the plain fact that it is they, the billionaires of the world, that are driving us to destruction. As the crisis intensifies, they have increased their support by fueling their base’s bloodlust by, among many other horrors, denying critical healthcare protection through the overturning of Roe V. Wade. 

The Republicans have used their power to gerrymander districts, pass voter suppression laws, and other maneuvers, all protected by the legal system, to create the conditions for an electoral victory of the Senate, House, and the Presidency. Their aim is to then use their power to make the Presidency a theocratic dictatorship, based on deference to select parts of the Constitution and the Bible, the parts which protect the right of the country’s oligarchs to rob, starve, and murder the country’s working people as they wish.

For their victory, the Republicans have no greater ally than their supposed rivals, the Democratic Party. The Biden Administration and Congress, overseeing this country of desperation and fear, a country with a raging pandemic that has killed over a million and permanently maimed tens of millions more, where we can’t afford the gas to get to our soul-crushing jobs, has done nothing in its power to alleviate the suffering of working people. The Democratic Party has constantly de-legitimized itself with their inaction, with their figurehead Biden being nothing more than a drugged-up zombie, sleepwalking as the leader of a dying empire.

While the fascists can use the government to their own advantage, the working people are barred, by the very structure of the government created by the Constitution, from advancing their will.

The President is elected undemocratically through delegates, the Senate–a remnant of the country’s slaveholding and native peoples-massacring days–gives disproportionate representation to rural areas, a winner take all system instead of proportional representation prevents the true diversity of concerns from being represented, the Supreme Court with its nine Justices serving life sentences and appointed instead of elected has the power to overturn any law and destroy decades of progress.

This has led to a situation where, although the majority of the country supports things like abortion rights, free healthcare, expanded investment in climate change, tax increases on the rich, their support is not translated into passage of laws. The will of the working people is in conflict with the very structure of the US Government.

How then, can we, the working people, prevent a fascist movement from transforming this country into a dictatorship and impose our will for a safer, cleaner, and more just world?

We must gather power. Working people must quickly mobilize and organize themselves. The advantage that working people have over the capitalist oligarchy is that, although capitalists have control over the money, given organization, we have control over labor. If we are able to organize ourselves, we will be able to perform coordinated actions such as protests, strikes, blockades, and shutdowns as a mass, to impose our will on the capitalist oligarchy and force the change that we need.

The main barrier to this organization is the fact that in our current state, we, the working people, are scattered and unorganized. Union membership is close to an all-time low at roughly 10 percent, and the bulk of the existing unions are led by conservative leaders who continue to back corporate politicians, who once elected enforce the most brutal austerity measures on us. Our community organizations are small and localized, and we have various different sects operating in general isolation. What is needed is a United Front which can bring together all of the different working peoples’ groups in a common struggle.

Our lack of organization does not mean that we have not fought valiantly in recent years. After the brutal murder of George Floyd by the police, we were able to execute the largest protest movement in history, mobilize tens of millions, head into the streets, and even battle with the police, in our passionate pleas for an end to racist police brutality directed against our poor and our black and brown communities. We have protested with regard to various different issues, and we have even broken the law to engage in wildcat strikes by the tens of thousands, we have occupied the Wisconsin Capitol and Zuccotti park. The protests and strikes have been our sharp yells of indignation in response to the lashes of our oppressors. But all of our attempts have been isolated and we have not been able to create a broad front uniting and building a permanent organization, based on the combination of all of our grievances.

Thus far, anything approaching a United Front that we have been able to form has been short lived and temporary. Our political system encourages all of our general grievances to be tied to political candidates, particularly in the Presidential elections. If we are able to unite and get our candidates elected, as in the case of Obama, in which over 2 million volunteers built the grassroots support necessary to overcome the country’s racist heritage and get the first black man elected into the nation’s highest office, our candidate becomes divorced from us and is corrupted by moneyed interests, or is forced to operate within the undemocratic structure of our government and make choices which are the opposite of the values that they ran on.

Of course, Obama was always a safe candidate for the capitalist oligarchy, who had funneled millions into his campaign, but the example of Bernie Sanders shows that candidates who refuse to accept corporate donations and run on a platform that explicitly calls for reducing the power of the oligarchy and providing for the needs of the nation’s working people, are outmaneuvered within the undemocratic election process, and disband their campaigns, leading to our United Front dissipating almost overnight.

What has attracted the forces of working people to candidates like Obama and Sanders is that they express a generalized platform that unites our various grievances into a transformative vision of the future.

Under conditions of crisis where we need to rapidly increase our forces, the possibility has opened up for a leap. In order to form a permanent United Front, we will need to take the positives of our strike/protest movements and our electoral campaigns and combine them into a generalized transformative plan.

Rather than organizing around Presidential candidates, we must form our general plan and legitimize it through its introduction to Congress as a bill. Our most militant and farsighted sections must unite to draft a Working People’s Bill of Rights, which expresses the needs of the working people.

Just as the petition, which lays out issues facing workers and their demands, is a tool to rally and unionize a shop floor, what we must do is form a general petition which can rally and unite the entire country‘s working people. The Working People’s Bill of Rights will become the party platform that is able to form a generalized union expressing generalized demands which could be called the Working People’s Union.

Just as a shop floor is organized by a militant minority, the whole of the country must be organized by the militant minority of the working people, the radical unions, socialist organizations and protest movements, through the building of a convention where this militant minority can come together and decide on the content of the Working People’s Bill of Rights. Then, through the support of at least one Congressperson, this bill is introduced into the US Congress and legitimized.

Allow us to exercise what I believe to be our most fundamental right as human beings: the right to dream.

As campaigns for the 2024 Presidential election from the Democrats and the Republicans begin to launch, a convention is organized and held for the drafting of a Working People’s Bill of Rights bringing together various groups of the working people. The content of the Bill of Rights will be debated and could include:

  1. The Right to Peace: Revoking the power of the President to wage war without Congressional approval, negotiating peace with all countries and areas with which we are at war, auditing the military-intelligence apparatus and transforming it into a peace force which will use its funds to provide free educational and military training for the US population and will build the free infrastructure abroad needed for peace.   
  2. The Right to Fair Elections: Outlawing gerrymandering and Voter Suppression laws, corporate donations, and making election day a federal holiday.
  3. The Right to Organize: Imposing strict penalties for union busting activities and getting rid of Taft-Hartley.
  4. The Right to Fair Taxation and Representation: A yearly audit, sent to the mails of all voters, of the government’s expenditure. Increasing the tax rate on income earners above $250,000 to 90 percent while reducing taxes on the working class and poor. Anyone who pays taxes must be guaranteed full citizenship rights to affirm the ideal “no taxation without representation.”
  5. The Right to an Accountable Justice System and Safe Communities: Demilitarize and defund the police departments and establish democratic community control of policing.
  6. The Right to Good Health: Pass Universal Single Payer Health Insurance, invest in sustainable farming practices, end food deserts, and build public gyms and recreation facilities.
  7. The Right to Housing: Imposing strict limits on rents based on income guidelines, banning real-estate speculation, and converting empty lots into public housing units.
  8. The Right to a Fair Wage: Raising the minimum wage to $30/hr tied to inflation.
  9. The Right to Protect Nature: Investing trillions into renewable energy and initiating a massive public works program to clean our communities from trash and pollution, plant billions of trees, and rejuvenate Nature.
  10. The Right to Bodily Freedom: Abortion is decriminalized and made legal. LGBTQ and trans rights are protected.

A commitment will be made by all the groups in attendance to devote their forces to build support for the Working People’s Bill of Rights.

The purpose of the bill will be to fully expose the contradiction between the will of the working people and the opposition to this will by the US Government and the method of exposing this contradiction is by utilizing the bill as a petition. Our goal must be to get tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of signatures in support of the bill from the general population, more signatures than the votes cast for the President, the largest petition in history. In the age of the internet and enhanced means of communication this is not at all unfeasible.

This petition drive will serve a dual purpose, while it will prove to the vast majority the illegitimacy of the US Government, it will also count our forces and lead to the formation of an anti-government, the Working People’s Union. All those who have signed the petition, are in organizing terms, “1’s” and “2’s”, who can be recruited as organizers and activists within the Working People’s Union. Contrasted with the undemocratic and increasingly dictatorial Presidency, Congress, and Supreme Court, the Working People’s Union will operate as a true representative democracy, supported by the donations of its members, where its members will vote for their reps in open elections, where questions of strategy and tactics will not be kept secret but fiercely debated by the entire membership, and when decisions take place, will be followed through with discipline by all members. It will be an organization where members learn not just how to organize but how to think and act as a whole political being. It will be an organization which utilizes the talents and skills of each of its members and allows their creativity to foster and develop.

The momentum of this petition drive will begin to draw in various single issue protest groups, unions, and socialist groups just as the growth of the Sanders movement was able to momentarily unite the militant forces of the working people through a transformative vision of the future.

As the capitalist Presidential candidates begin the process of lying to the working people on the national stage about how they will improve their lives, they will have to contend with the bill of rights which will continue to grow in support, gaining signatures among Democratic and Republican voters. 

Every protest, every spontaneous indignation expressed for various issues plaguing the working people will become opportunities to build on this petition drive and to build on the Working People’s Union. Every union and tenant organizing drive, with members of the Working People’s Union, will be given a deeper content. Workers and tenants will move forward with increased confidence knowing that their organizing will be building power not just at their own workplace or residence but as a part of a great nationwide movement connected with millions of working people. The movement for the Working People’s Union will cut through the Republican/Democrat and the rural/urban divide that has been imposed on the working people. unite them into a single, mass political movement based on their needs.

The Working People’s Bill of Rights movement, like any independent working people’s movement, such as Occupy Wall Street and the George Floyd Protests, will be relentlessly attacked in the corporate media and attempts will be made to co-opt and subvert it into safer channels. To combat these lies, the Working People’s Union will need to develop its own media, which will be made possible as online content creators, independent journalists, news outlets, and rank and file workers within the corporate media begin to express their support and join the Union.

The movement will also be attacked by police and fascist paramilitary forces through the methods of infiltration and physical violence. The Working People’s Union will out of necessity have to develop methods of self-defense.

The growth of the Working People’s Union in differing states and locales will lead to unique circumstances that members will be able to utilize. Some states and locales, through the pressure of the Working People’s Union may even be able to enact part of the demands which will further embolden members and grow the strength of the union.

The Working People’s Bill of Rights, once in Congress, will reveal exactly who the friends and enemies of working people are. Opposed to the police agents of the capitalist oligarchy, the agents of the working people, members of the Working People’s Union elected into office, will operate with the most openness and honesty, exposing the backroom deals and the lies of their colleagues. The electeds will use their reach to build the power and legitimacy of the union.

As the movement grows in its size and scope, it will be able to amass power to force through the changes that it demands through coordinated strikes, shutdowns and actions which cut across different existing unions and worker organizations, culminating in a nationwide general strike, showcasing the superiority of the power of the working people. Through its mass membership, it will be able to immediately better life conditions by caring for communities, providing aid to the needy, initiating community clean up drives, and various forms of mutual aid. As its popularity among the whole of society, from the soldiers, to the farmers and scientists becomes dominant, it will gain more legitimacy in the eyes of the people than the US Congress, and we will arrive at the time when the slogan “All power to the Working People’s Union” can be raised and implemented with little counter-resistance, dissolving the dictatorial US government and creating a new Democratic-Socialist political order, which is able to turn into reality the whole of the Working People’s Bill of Rights, gaining the power to go far beyond the limits of the bill.

However, at this moment this is a dream for the future, a dream to be transformed into reality. At the present we need to gather the militant minority of the working people and its organizations and build towards the convention for a Working People’s Bill of Rights. At a time of crisis, a leap is necessary, and this is the leap the working people need to take. Let us get together and decide on a comprehensive bill of what the working people need now, let us ring a loud opening bell through its introduction into the halls of the US Congress, and launch the greatest petitioning and organizing drive in history.

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