unions vs. the class struggle

zodiac zodiac at interlog.com
Sat Apr 6 11:06:55 MST 1996


Hi Neil --

(I don't know what text editor you use, but your posts are oddly formatted,
which makes for a tough read.)

Your Subject line -- "unions vs. the class struggle" -- suggests, to me,
confusion. Unions are part of the class struggle. Period. They aren't
something apart from it, or against which the class struggle can be
extracted and analyzed in isolation. As you point out, they arise from the
economic realities of society. If you mean "union leaders vs. the class
struggle" then please say so. (But I think you picked that subject line
purposefully.)

That labor organizations produce a layer of leaders who, so elevated, become
part of a "social democratic cabal", is a problem that does not invalidate
the union as a direct part of the class struggle.

I have often had reason to interact with union tops. As you know, many labor
leaders simply love the idea that they are able to "get the premier/governor
on the phone" -- and other such "perks". As these perks mount up, these
people are soon divorced from the culture that that got them there to begin
with. Class, after all, is not someting like race or gender, it is ephemeral
and can change over the course of one's life.

I sometimes use the analogy of modern rock bands. Most bands produce their
quality work when they are struggling, living day-to-day, working hard.
During that period, they build up this enormous backlog of material. Then
they hit it big, start living in hotels and jetsetting around. They survive
a few years on the backlog of quality work they produced and stuffed under
their mattresses. One day, that supply runs dry. Then these over-fed,
over-coddled, socially-retarded prize cattle realize they don't have
anything left to write about anymore. They don't live the life they are
famous for singing about. So they become caricatures of themselves and try
to fake it.

I contend this is exactly what happens to many labor bosses.

(And I don't trust them for a second.)

But I do trust the proles. Sure, the rank-and-file in western unions still
harbor false impressions and expectations about the economy. Real wages have
been declining since around 1973. We work more. My father could raise a
family of two kids, own a car, buy a house, have two dogs, and let my mother
stay at home for long periods of time -- all on a 40-hour (unionized)
workweek. No way I can do that today. Not even close. But their interests
are my interests. I have a daughter. How is some fancy little
SUPER-REVOLUTIONARY group supposed to help me -- or any other prole --
assure she gets proper schooling, or daycare, or whatever? Answer: It can't.

As turgid and often demoralizing as the Canadian Labor Congress is, I have
absolutely no interest in smashing it and atomizing its 2.2 million members.
Nor do I want to let it wither on the vine. There are very sharp divisions
within that body, but they are capable of united force that would simply
rock the country. Breaking that up into a whole bunch of little
International Socialist squabbling 30-person groups with ill-defined
"communist utopian" notions and eternal micro-splits is indescribably more
demoralizing.

(And I wouldn't trust them for a second.)

The interests of the two main classes are crystal clear to me. Destroying
unions is the most backward action I could possibly conceive of for the
working class.

Ken.



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