By Matthew Rothschild on June 17, 2011

The mood in Wisconsin is dejected.

After a string of defeats, first losing the state supreme court race against David Prosser, then losing the decision at the state supreme court on the anti-collective bargaining law, and finally losing the vote on Walker’s hideous budget in the state legislature, people are down.

People see that Walker won everything big that he asked for, and despite all the great activism, we don’t have anything to show for it—at least not yet. As a result, lots of people are going to suffer.

The mass protests that I expected this week at the capitol in Madison did not materialize. On Tuesday, there were maybe 5,000 people there. On Thursday, barely 1,000. I’m sorry, but that was pathetic.

Part of the problem may have been poor organizing. One local labor leader said of the state AFL-CIO, “This is what happens when you call a protest and you don’t tell anybody about it.”

But a bigger part of the problem was the lack of an overall strategy that would have given people a sense of what use there was in protesting at this point anyway.

It seems to me that the state AFL never had a mass strategy, was surprised by the mass uprising, and was even a little afraid of it. The leadership never called for boycotts, never called for a general strike or any workplace actions whatsoever, never called for civil disobedience. (See “Dogging Walker,” in the June issue of The Progressive.))

Nor did it put an effective emergency response mechanism in place.

When the Walker administration virtually shut down access to the capitol, where were the calls to challenge it, en masse?

When the Waukesha County clerk, Kathy Nickolaus, mysteriously found 7,000 more votes for Prosser two days after the supreme court race ended, thus clinching his victory, where were the calls to occupy the clerk’s office?

When the state supreme court came down with its outrageous decision in the collective bargaining case, where were the calls to occupy the court?

Through it all, the state AFL-CIO charted a course of timidity.

It funneled everything into legal challenges and recalls.

The main legal challenge is now dead; the new one is doomed.

And maybe the recalls will succeed; maybe not.

But meantime, the people, as a mass force, have been demoralized and demobilized.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Congressional Progressive Caucus Starts Speakout Tour for Good Jobs."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.

On November 20 every year for the last fifteen years, transgender people gather for vigil ceremonies to acknowledge...

Yesterday the U.S. Senate narrowly defeated a bill that would approve construction on the Keystone XL pipeline.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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