Superficially, the legal battle to compel the Nevada Democratic Party to move nine of its January 19th caucuses from the Vegas casino-hotels where they’d been scheduled to maximize hotel-employee participation is simply a ploy by Clinton supporters to diminish the Obama vote, now that 60,000-member hotel employees union, Local 226 of the Culinary Workers, has endorsed the Illinois senator. As maneuvers go, this last-minute cry of alarm from the Clintonistas is more than a little cynical, since, to make caucus-going easier, they had supported locating the caucuses in the hotels until the union backed Obama.
But there’s a more profound issue at stake here, as students of the 1905 and 1917 Russian Revolutions should recognize. During those revolutions, workers and, in 1917, soldiers organized themselves in political assemblages, called “soviets,” within their factories and regiments. A wide range of leftwing parties, from the Bolsheviks to the Mensheviks to the Social Revolutionaries, were represented in the soviets, and it was only in the weeks immediately preceding the Bolsheviks’ coup that Lenin’s legions came to represent the majority in the key soviets in Petrograd and Moscow. Having taken power, they then proclaimed that soviets represented a higher form of democracy than such bourgeois forms of democracy as delegate assemblies; they invoked this argument when they forcibly disbanded the democratically-elected National Assembly (in which they represented around a quarter of the delegates) early in 1918. “All power to the soviets!” was their battle-cry -- and, over the next couple years, they ensured that no parties but the Bolsheviks could be represented in those soviets.
In Nevada today, there are no great steel factories or rail works or Kronstadt garrisons, but the organized proletariat thrives in perhaps the single most successful local union in the nation today, Local 226 in the giant Vegas hotel casinos. I profiled that local in the January 2004 issue of the Prospect, and anyone wondering how a union can earn the loyalty of its members should take a look at the piece. And at the democratic (and Democratic), non/anti-Bolshevik soviets that, lawsuit notwithstanding, will likely be convened at the Luxor, Paris, Flamingo, Bellagio, Mirage, Caesar’s Palace and other homes of soviet and cocktail-waitress democracy on January 19th.