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The Radical Power Behind the Democrats By: William R. Hawkins
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 06, 2004


On the first day of the Democratic national convention, Andrew Stern, the head of the 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), dropped a bombshell in an interview with The Washington Post. He said that both organized labor and the Democratic Party might be better off in the long run if Sen. John Kerry lost the presidential election this fall. Stern's remarks were quickly rebuked by AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, who renewed his pledge to Kerry. However, the SEIU is the largest and fastest growing union in the AFL-CIO and has banded together with other expanding factions of the labor movement to push for a more far-Left agenda than the Democratic Party is presenting this time around. The SEIU also claims to be the nation's largest immigrant union and owes much of its growth to the recruiting of illegal aliens.

Stern sees a "deep crisis" in a party devoid of new ideas. The Kerry-Edwards ticket is trying to identify itself with the moderate-liberal legacy of the Clinton administration, which Stern also criticized as having been harmful to left-wing "reform." The SEIU had been
an early supporter of Howard Dean, especially when he was the darling of the antiwar movement. Dean re-ignited the mythology of the New Left of the 1960s, but the Democratic establishment rallied around Kerry to head off another McGovernite debacle.

The SEIU's involvement in the antiwar movement was independent of the Dean bubble. At its national convention this June in San Francisco, the SEIU adopted foreign policy resolutions which included calls for "An end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq" and "The redirecting of the nation's resources from inflated military spending to meeting the needs of working families for health care, education, a clean environment, housing and a decent standard of living." And to put meaning into its claim as an "international union" the SEIU platform repeated a statement made in the letter Stern sent to President Bush in January, 2003 opposing a war with Iraq. That statement claimed "the goal of our foreign policy must be to promote a safer and more just world - promoting peaceful, multilateral solutions for disputes" and "must give high priority to improving the lives of people around the world." The SEIU believes that forcefully removing Saddam Hussein from power violated these principles.

The Democratic platform takes a very different approach. It attacks the Bush administration for "badly exaggerated its case [for war], particularly with respect to weapons of mass destruction and the connection between Saddam's government and al-Qaeda." However, now that the U.S. has overthrown the Saddam regime, it "cannot allow a failed state in Iraq that inevitably would become a haven for terrorists and a destabilizing force in the Middle East."

The Democratic platform also calls for adding 40,000 troops to the U.S. military, and doubling the strength pf special operations units, which are used in conventional warfare and anti-terrorism actions. In his acceptance speech for the vice-presidential nomination, Sen. John Edwards cited the need to "strengthen and modernize our military" and said, "(W)e'll win this war (in Iraq) because of the strength and courage of our own people."

However, it was clear that delegates felt more at home when other speakers echoed the more traditional leftist oratory against foreign wars; if not on the main floor of the convention where Kerry's staff has toned down the rhetoric, then in satellite gatherings. Democratic pollsters know that the American people are not in a defeatist mood. But Democratic activists are, which is what calls into question the actual policies Kerry will promulgate once in office.

The SEIU is a member of the New Unity Partnership, which also includes the Laborers' International Union of North America, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. That wing of the union movement which represents the most unskilled and lowest paid workers has always been the most radical in its demands. Before their merger, the AFL, which represented skilled craft workers, and the CIO, which represented the unskilled, were often bitter political rivals.

During the rise of the United States to world economic leadership, the bulk of the "working class" in industry was elevated to middle class living standards. This was a great success story and a key reason why American politics have been more stable, moderate and realistic compared to what other countries have had to suffer with: cycles of demagogues, suicidal policies, and mob violence. Workers who could afford their own homes and send their kids to college where not vulnerable to calls for a Marxist proletarian revolution.

Unfortunately, industrial decline has eliminated millions of middle-class blue collar jobs as America's "labor aristocracy" has been undermined by cheaper foreign production. The balance of power within the labor movement has shifted away from the "hard hats" who wave the U.S. flag from their pickup trucks, confronted the New Left in the streets in the 1960s and emerged as Reagan Democrats in the 1980s. To replace them, the labor movement has recruited service workers and government employees whose interests and ideologies are much further to the Left.

A key feature of the New Unity Partnership is the high percentage of immigrant workers they represent, including large numbers who are in the United States illegally. The SEIU has stressed the need "to build a powerful, new immigrant electorate." The SEIU strategy is to win a complete amnesty for illegal aliens to pave the way for their recruitment as left-wing voters. They have rejected President George W. Bush's plan for an "earned" legal status through employment because it does not clear a path to full and immediate political rights. The SEIU urges its members to participate in politics even if they are not citizens or even legal residents. Its website states, "While we may not all be able to vote, we can all participate. If you can't vote, you still have a voice. You can make phone calls, walk precincts, and pass out literature to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote can." The union itself has raised about $65 million for use in this year's political campaigns.

The other unions in the New Unity Partnership coalition are also heavily involved in protecting the massive illegal immigration which has provided them with so many members. LIU resolutions "call for effective and far reaching reform legalizing undocumented workers and oppose current guest worker programs," sentiments shared by all groups on the far-Left.

Those who want to radically transform the United States need to create a new proletariat, one that is as alienated from American society on class, ethnic and cultural grounds as leftist intellectuals are alienated on ideological grounds. Drawing more illegal aliens into the country is the strategy for creating such a movement. In a evenly divided electorate, the influx of millions of foreign-born voters skewed towards the political Left could be decisive. Thus, behind the unionization of more janitors, kitchen helpers, and day laborers lurks the far more ambitious project of importing revolution.

William Hawkins is a consultant on international economics and national security issues.


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