Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lessons Learned

On Saturday I had a chance to meet with over two dozen leaders of progressive groups, mingle with hundreds of friends in our fight, and listen to some great people speak about the impact we need to have in our communities. This event was called Fighting Bob Fest.

To use a church analogy, I'd say it was more of a fellowship event for the existing congregation than an evangelical event to win new converts. Sometimes that's preferable. I will say I was exhausted at the end of the day- there's just so much to be done. It's great to meet people who are committed to the cause, though. We will take Wisconsin back!

Saturday's event was held at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Chippewa Falls. It was rainy most of the day, but attendance was great. I sat at the booth for a United Wisconsin to Recall Scott Walker ( - sign the pledge!). Throughout the day I met folks from the Sierra Club, Veterans for Peace, The Cornucopia Institute, and The Farmers Union. The Chippewa Workers Group put on a great breakout session. Joel Raney, teacher and blogger, came to the booth and we spoke for about a half an hour about what we can do in our local area. All in all it was so uplifting. The first step in organizing is actually shaking hands and meeting each other, and this event was perfect in that respect.

The one speech is got to see was Tony Schultz from the Farmers Union. Tony is fiery. I don't have a link from his speech on Saturday yet, but here's his speech from Madison.

Tony made a good point in Saturday's speech: Paul Ryan's staff members are required to read Ayn Rand. This fact is celebrated by many. Rand advocated for the superiority of the wealthy classes, and against the have-nots, deriding them as moochers and freeloaders. She felt no sympathy for poor people as they died in the streets - it was their own fault. I think most would agree that her ideas are pretty radical. In direct contrast, anyone on the left that even hints about a Marxist or Socialist policy is run out of town, considered un-serious at best, or dangerous at worst.

We shouldn't be afraid to say what we think. And you know what? I'm done mincing words. I have some "radical" ideas myself that I think need to be shared. Here's one:

Your time on the clock is a commodity, just like a ton of iron ore or a bushel of wheat. You have as much a right to negotiate the price of your commodity as anyone in industry has a right to negotiate for any other commodity. If you want to get together with your coworkers so that you've got greater leverage, that's your basic responsibility, just like it's any business owner's responsibility to get the greatest value for his commodity. You owe it to yourself, your family, and those who depend on you to earn full value for the commodity in your possession. This point is uncontroversial.

You know where I first understood this idea? I read Das Kapital, by Karl Marx. As a historical document it's fascinating, and as a critique of the free market, it's got a lot to offer. The problems he addressed were real. The scales were tilted against the powerless, as they are today. Solutions were Marx's real problem, and it's what we've got to guard ourselves against - the only thing worse than no solution is a bad one. While I don't share Marx's vision of abolishing capital, I like the idea of getting a fair price for my commodity. I also think we are all owed a fair share of the profits we create. I think we all deserve a chance to have our voices heard at the ballot box. Political power shouldn't be limited to rich people. I'm not going to hide from sharing these ideas. We need to be out for new solutions to mend this discrepancy.

Scott Walker is not providing us with new solutions. He's removing the solutions we created earlier - solutions that have turned Wisconsin into the great state you see before you today. We established the right to collective bargaining, easy access to the voting booth, BadgerCare for farmers and our poor, and excellent schools for our children. I don't think most of us ever thought we'd have to fight these fights again. But here we are. I'm so glad to know that there are so many others out there willing to fight.

Saturday was a wonderful time to hear from all kinds of people, from all stripes, about the solutions they are employing to right the balance of power. We're all in this together, farmers, teachers, cops, nurses, and yes, software salesmen! Keep fighting! Wisconsin will be ours!