[Marxism] Once again, spring in Wisconsin

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Mar 12 13:31:12 MDT 2012

Once Again, Spring in Wisconsin
Paul Buhle - March 12, 2012 12:05 pm

A crowd of forty to sixty thousand, according to different 
estimates, circled the Wisconsin Capitol on the windy Saturday 
afternoon of March 10. This was the largest rally here in many 
months, no doubt because of the splendid weather, hovering around 
sixty degrees, but also because of the pent-up desire to gather. 
We wanted to see and be with each other again.

There weren’t so many students, of any age. This was, in sharp 
contrast to the Madison movements of forty-some years ago, a 
metaphorical Union City, somewhat proportionately middle-aged, 
accompanied by family members, from small children to teens, 
standing with mom, dad, or the grandparents: Teamsters from up 
north, SEIU mostly from Milwaukee, AFSCME (a union notably born in 
Madison) from all over the place, LIUNA members actually from 
Chicago, and of course teachers (mostly NEA) and health workers 
(assorted unions, mainly AFSCME). Firefighters, “Cops for Labor” 
(Dane County Deputy Sheriff’s Office, mostly). And that’s not 
mentioning the building trades, IBEW, IATSE (Madison’s theater 
workers), and (the student contingent) TAA from the UW just down 
State Street.

It was also the most racially diverse crowd in a year of events 
stretching back to the protests of last February. Occupy, mainly 
from Milwaukee, had something to do with that. So did Voces de la 
Frontera, the group of undocumented young people growing up in 
Wisconsin, now struggling for college scholarships and 
authenticated identity generally.

The fresh signs and buttons were interesting, as always. There’s a 
new art print appearing in local windows and on t-shirts of 
demonstrators who braved chilly winds: Ma Badger and the kiddies, 
with the slogan, “Don’t Let Your Badgers Grow Up to Be Weasels.” A 
popular joke, but one with a bit of emphasis on what kids need to 
learn, and how important teachers are. A few signs read, “Meet 
John Doe,” a double-reference to the 1940s film (in which Gary 
Cooper’s character realizes that fascism is about to take over) 
and the FBI probes into election finance irregularities that are 
apparently moving ever-closer to the governor’s office. A button, 
perhaps created during the previous week in response to the 
political assault on women: “You Can Cut Off My Reproductive 
Rights If I Can Cut Off Yours.” A baby buggy with a sign on it: 
“UNION THUG STARTER KIT.” (Dad, lounging on the grass nearby, was 
wearing an Elvis cardboard toupee.) And there were lots of 
humorous references to the governor’s time being up (presuming 
elections happen in June, and he is beaten), including gags about 
this weekend’s time change removing one more hour from his 
misrule. Other signs, more bitter, remarked on a Voter ID law that 
may or may not pass judicial muster.

The high point of speech-making was no doubt Lori Compas, a 
wedding photographer from Fort Atkinson, a town that has become 
something of a bedroom community for UW-Whitewater with a pinch of 
bohemia, along the picturesque Rock River. Compas is determined to 
challenge Scott Fitzgerald, state senate majority leader, in a 
recall. Democratic Party and union officials alike advised her not 
to bother. Organizing a small group in her kitchen (as John 
Nichols, following her on the podium, related), she defied the 
odds and the institutions. A few days ago the signatures were 
certified: there will be a recall election, in one of the more 
conservative districts in the state. Win or lose, the diminutive 
Lori Compas is a radical giant.

As the crowd filtered away, there was much waving, shaking hands, 
calling relatives and friends on cell phones, and keeping the 
children moving. It was a good Saturday, the best Saturday that 
anyone could remember for what seemed like a long time.

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