The Labor Movement and the Geography of Class Struggle

LeoCasey at LeoCasey at
Tue Aug 1 09:48:14 MDT 1995

I have just returned from a week at an AFT educational issues conference in
Washington DC to discover that Scott (with a little assist from his admirers
among the Harvard Trotskyists) decided to wake up the "sleeping dogs" and
reopen this issue. I have no desire to go back and forth on these matters,
for reasons clear enough in what I have already written and what will be
written below. However, since positions that make no sense are being imputed
to me, a few comments seem unavoidable.

No one in the labor movement could be anything but pleased that the UAW, the
IAM and the Steelworkers are planning to merge into a single federation. (A
word of caution, however: this is an agreement in principle, and the
practical melding of separate organizational apparatuses is never easy.) It
is a cause for celebration precisely because each of these unions have
suffered considerable decline in the last 15 years, losing both members and
political punch. If they are to have any hope of reversing even part of these
trends, and to mount a more effective defense of the members that remain,
much less to organize new members, a new organizational structure in which
their resources are focused and used cooperatively, rather than in
competition, are essential. Thus, the need for the merger was created
precisely by the decline in the traditional industrial working class which I
had discussed in my original postings. To argue that it is a sign that such a
decline has not taken place, or that it has been reversed, is willful

This debate is really fruitless because there is no argument or evidence that
will shake a dogmatist's faith that nothing has changed. One example will
suffice here: Scott made a big point in his rebuttal that the size of the
laborforce in steel has remained constant in the last decade. The only
problem with this view is that most of the massive hemorrhaging in heavy
steel has taken place before the decade began. Between 1977 and 1982, for
example, a net of 150,000 jobs were lost in heavy steel (without going into
related industries. (Bluestone and Harrison, _The Deindustrialization of
America_.) In 1982 alone, over a million and a quarter jobs were lost in
heavy industry in general due to plant closings and layoffs.

One can ignore these developments, and whistle dixie to one's political
grave, or one can try to understand it and develop new political strategies
capable of building solidarity and resistance in a new order. The virtue of
Aronomwitz's and DiFazio's new book, _The Jobless Future_, is that it
addresses this new situation, and so even when one disagrees with it, one is
thinking about the real issues we face.

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