With respect to Labor unions, I’ve seen all of the opinions, commonly encountered in America, here on FDL. Opinions that are formed occasionally by experience but are mostly informed by American Imperialist consensus making institutions like corporate, for profit News outlets, (TV and print), but also blogs, official history and the word of mouth opinion handed down by relatives, friends and coworkers. Hyperbolic opinions are common. Any post that has anything to do with labor unions will unfailingly attract a cadre of reactionary commenters with the general opinion that Unions “destroy civilization” or something like that. In tone and content they resemble the kinds of comments that were made by antebellum supporters of slavery about abolitionists, and for the same reason; the very existence of unions is a threat to the unchallenged power of the employer class, as the abolitionist was to the slaveholding class. Based on the amount of time effort and money they spend on crushing dissent, our capitalist class seem to live in fear of a general uprising just as slaveholders lived in fear, and also for the same reason; they know the system that upholds their wealth power and privilege is morally and also, probably, practically unsustainable.
On the other hand, most people here on FDL seem to recognize unions as an ( at least historically) important part of an American left coalition that was responsible for pushing the prosperity which Americans and Western Europeans enjoyed for a few decades after WW2. As the realization sets in that the left coalition was not inevitable after all and has all but disappeared, and after 30 years of neoliberal ascendancy, that time seems more like a lost golden age ( even though it wasn’t, of course). It was the failure of the American left to hold to its anticapitalist raison d’etre in face of a ferocious “counter reformation” by the right, that has dropped us off where we are today: our version of a “national choose your own adventure” story book (thanks IOZ whoever you are) on Election day 2010. I can’t help but notice the righteous anger of those among us who perceive that we are abandoned by media elites and a professional political class who are far more interested in maintaining their privileged position of power. So much for the traditional left. Or, maybe not. We are still here after all. Wealth distribution inequality is getting worse and not better. Our lives are becoming harder, not easier despite Jon Stewart, and Steven Colbert, and establishment democrats urging us to “calm down” and “quit whining” and “get real” by which they mean I guess, to accept our ignoble powerlessness in the face of their eminently sane and “realistic” pursual of riches and power through graft , corruption and corporate and political intransigence. Despite their pleas for meekness and cheek turning I perceive that many of my co nationals are seeking ways to fight back. Some hope to achieve this by reforming the Democratic Party.Some third partier’s talk of re-forming the Democratic Party.
Please consider another possibility for a moment. The American left really began (as Karl Marx said it would) as a workers movement and not a movement of political parties and factions. It was led by Factory workers, mine workers and agricultural workers,by people like Gene Debs, Emma Goldman , Dorothy Jacobs Bellanca, or William”Big Bill’ Haywood”. For decades the real work in civil rights, workers rights, the work of the Left, was done through strikes and locks out, marches and ‘direct” actions taken against employers. The Democratic and Republican Parties were more openly, in word and deed, the protectors of borgeouise capitalism. The expectation that the Democratic or Republican party would take up the cause of workers or womens rights was as absurd in 1889 as it would be, well as it would be to expect that of them now, I guess. I don’t believe America is a “center right” nation. American Media may be “center right” and Wal St. is way over there, foaming at the mouth-reactionary right, but ordinary Americans, if almost every single- issue pol ive ever seen can be believed, are an indiviualist-leftist people. Its no surprise then that the Left movement that was most popular and most developed in America is Anarcho Syndicalism a very democratic form of Anticapitalism, with its central form of organization and political expression the Labor Union. Perhaps what we need now is not more party activism. Political parties have a use but they tend to divide, not bring together. Divided is how the employer class, the capitalists want us. Divided we are useless to each other What the American left needs now is an organizing principle that can bring us together. I suggest that anyone interested in Anticapitalism work should consider joining a radical Labor Union, BEFORE joining an alternative political party, and or commiting to more Imperialist – electoral system machinations. In the US that really means the IWW.
Read more about the History of “Red” and Anarchist Labor Unions in America.Organize your workplace