World Socialist Web Site –
Earlier this month, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) formed an “Independent Political Organization” (IPO) that will support candidates in upcoming elections in the state of Illinois. The new formation has brought the CTU and other unions together with an array of liberal and pseudo-left organizations, from the International Socialist Organization (one of whose members is the vice president of the CTU), to Socialist Alternative, the Green Party, and Action Now (formerly ACORN).
Far from establishing “independence,” the aim of the new organization is to maintain the domination of the big business political establishment over the working class.
According to a resolution passed by the CTU leadership, the IPO “will enable a broad multitude of diverse organizations to establish a pipeline for candidate development to identify and train people who are part of our movements to become elected officials.” The resolution does not stipulate that these individuals be independent of the Democratic Party.
After emphasizing that the organization is not a political party, CTU President Karen Lewis declared, “We need to change the political landscape in this state. We need new voters.” The CTU has in recent weeks solicited teachers and other workers to devote time and effort and contribute large sums of money, in part through increased union dues.
The new formation has the support of the Progressive Democrats of America and several unions that are strong financial backers of the Democratic Party, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and UNITE HERE.
The IPO is being framed as a means of defending public education against attacks led by Chicago’s Democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff. In fact, the CTU has played a critical role in facilitating the attack on public education, most notably by betraying the 2012 Chicago teachers strike and suppressing opposition to school closures and attacks on teachers. The IPO is a continuation of this process.
In September 2012, the CTU ended a militant strike by teachers, broadly backed by working people in the city and region, after only one week. The union pushed through a contract along the lines demanded by Mayor Emanuel, who shortly afterward announced plans for the closure of scores of schools. Throughout the strike, the CTU did everything it could to prevent the work stoppage from developing into a political struggle against the Democratic Party establishment. (See: “Lessons of the Chicago Teachers Strike”).
In justifying its capitulation to Emanuel, the CTU leadership, in particular, Vice President Jesse Sharkey, a leading member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), argued that not everything could be won in a strike. School closures and the attack on teachers would be resolved, Sharkey said, in “a political struggle to come.”