Now that both the protests have long since come and gone and the official historians have written down the histories of the protests in Wisconsin, it is important to take stock of how those very individuals and organizations that were key in roping workers into the failed electoral recall effort against Governor Walker now lay blame for the failure squarely on the shoulders of the Democratic Party. Some speak of the need for unions to be free from the political dominance of the ruling bourgeois Democratic Party. The factions of bourgeois reformism now speak of the Democratic Party as though it were a foreign entity rather than the very party they were supporting through the height of the protests.
The mood in the union local offices was one of panic, and frenzied activity to catch up with the working class while the class reacted by shutting down and walking out of schools and state workplaces across the state. They were literally rushing off to the State Capitol building to catch up to the workers that had taken it over. Shortly after this came the “assistance” provided by the Democratic Party apparatus, in the form of celebrities, portable toilets and electoral politics. The unions were playing their role as “transmission belts” [Lenin] only to more capitalist class dominance and the destruction of a workers' movement.
The breakdown in the old social compact came when the outgoing state Democratic Party governor allowed the American Federation of State Clerical and Municipal Employees/Wisconsin State Employees Union contract to expire, effectively handing the contract over to the new incoming governor in full knowledge that he would kill it. The very leftists who claimed to believe in “revolutionary leadership” and rank-and-file radicalism tail-ended the leadership of the Democratic Party faction of the bourgeoisie. The consciousness of workers was not articulated enough to break from the Democratic Party. It was the loudest voices on the left that had supported this party and its institutions of defeat.
If it were not for the tireless efforts of the Democratic Party and the unions, things would've spun out of control very quickly. The left, that is the dominant strands of bourgeois reformism on the ground, today blame the Democratic Party and whitewash their own role in the defeat. Socialist Action called for a statewide strike with their direct model being the public sector workers strike in Ontario in 1993.
Of course, the Ontario strike in 1993 lasted five weeks and was sold out in the end by the unions leading it. For most bourgeois reformists, the problem is one of union bureaucrats and bad leadership. On the very highest level, the bourgeoisie runs the unions. They can't just be reformed out of power; otherwise such a thing would've been accomplished long before now.
The AFSCME and the AFT at the national level committed themselves to silencing all talk of strikes. This was the command from the top of the union down to the local shop stewards and no amount of rank-and-file radicalism at the local level would've changed that. In the end the best answer AFSCME had to the pay cuts was to distribute a pamphlet to members on financial management in tough times. The decertification votes threatened by the Walker regime were answered by AFSCME's own voluntary decertification.
The local Occupy movement never got many people as the electoral activity had consumed everything. Eventually the Occupy encampment was shunted off into the empty car dealership lot on the east side of Madison. In the end they were unceremoniously removed once the local authorities decided on what they wanted to do with that particular piece of real estate.
Now that the protests are a distant memory, those who had sown illusions in electoral politics and unions are faced with the ruins of their own political program that was based on unions and electoral politics. For workers the ballot box was a political coffin and the unions were their gravediggers.
Once the next round of state government elections is over, there will probably be attempts to lower the financial burden associated with a state pension system that is still solvent for now. Thus future struggles are already set to arise so the challenge goes out to all revolutionaries to better coordinate our mutual efforts and make ourselves heard.