Det 121: More on the trade union question

Jos. Green 73532.1325 at compuserve.com
Sun Aug 11 21:18:05 MDT 1996


To:   All
From: Joseph Green
Detroit #121
Aug. 11, 1996


            BEHIND THE "LEFT COMMUNIST" STANCE ON THE TRADE UNIONS

     A week and a half ago I circulated on e-mail Mark's article from
Communist Voice #9 (August 1, 1996) which criticized Neil's "left communist"
theories on the trade unions. Below is a previous article by Mark, from
Communist Voice #7 (March 15, 1996), which discussed how Neil's views on the
trade unions have worked out in practice, and which also criticized some
Trotskyist stands that Neil had praised. Neil and his Los Angeles Workers'
Voice have for some time had illusions first in one and then the next
grouping which had a weak stand with respect to the AFL-CIO officialdom. There
is a big gulf between Neil and the LAWV when they present themselves before
others as great revolutionaries, and Neil and the LAWV in practice.
     Neil's theorizing on the unions has become more explicit since the
following article was written. It nevertheless retains its interest both with
respect to LAWV's practical stance towards the unions and as a critique of
some Trotskyist theories.
     --J. Green

      ------------------------------------------------------------------
           THE TRADE UNIONS, THE TROTSKYIST "TRANSITIONAL PROGRAM",
              AND THE ZIGZAGS OF THE LOS ANGELES WORKERS' VOICE
                               by Mark, Detroit
      ------------------------------------------------------------------

     In recent months, Neil C. of the Los Angeles Workers' Voice (LAWV) group
has been tossing around a lot of very "left"-sounding phrases against the
trade unions.  He hurls a few curses at the union bureaucracy that strives to
keep the rank-and-file struggle in check, but the tough talk is mainly aimed
at myself and others supporters of the Communist Voice Organization (CVO) who
work to thoroughly break the workers from the stranglehold of the bureaucracy
and encourage their independent motion and class consciousness.  Two things
are notable about Neil's efforts.  First, his "left" phrases cover over his
promotion of trends that have a soft, reformist attitude toward the union
bureaucracy.  Secondly, Neil has not bothered to explain what his supposedly
superior stand on the trade unions is, nor put forward a single coherent idea
that would "improve" the allegedly dreadful stand of the CVO.

                         Neil lies about my position

     Neil levels many accusations against myself on the question on the trade
unions.  He implies that I am hiding the class nature of the present trade
unions, that I have no materialist analysis of them, that I have not made
clear that the present trade unions accept the rule of capital, and that I
deny that the unions are integrated into the capitalist state.  Neil charges
the CVO and myself with believing that
           "it's not the unions' class nature -- you just need some
            communist leaders, probably elitist saviors a la Mark maybe?"
     As honesty and Neil are not on speaking terms these days, let me begin by
giving an example of my stand which Neil feels obscures the nature of the
trade unions:
           "One of the hallmarks of opportunism in the U.S. left is promoting
       the trade union bureaucracy as the true defenders of the workers'
       interests.  Some trends with this view go so far as to portray the
       present leaders of the AFL-CIO as great class heroes.  Others have any
       number of criticisms of the way the present leaders behave, but hold
       that with some tinkering, the pro-capitalist union hierarchy will
       function as the genuine class organization of the workers.  Both views
       glamorize the real situation with the present trade unions, however.
       Workers go into the unions because they want to defend their immediate
       interest against the onslaught of the employers.  But the unions today
       are not under the control of the workers.  They have long been under
       the thumb of a solidly-entrenched bureaucracy that defends capitalism
       and constantly undermines the workers' struggle.  As well, the union
       officialdom has come to terms with the tons of regulations of the
       capitalist government to greatly restrict the worker' movement.  Thus,
       the rank-and-file must be made clear that the workers' struggle is
       bound to encounter obstacles from the trade union leadership.  Creating
       illusions in the present union administration means downplaying the
       need for workers to develop their own independent class policy and
       organization."  (Communist Voice, vol.1, #5, Nov. 15, 1995, p.11)
     Such views, according to Neil mean I "want a more `militant' form of the
semi-company unionism that exists."  Neil seems a bit confused here.  He
evidently thinks denouncing the union bureaucracy as pro-capitalist and
calling on the workers to organize independently and in their own class
interest is the heart of company unionism!  And my warnings against the idea
that the unions will become the genuine class organization of the workers with
some tinkering?  Why this clearly means that I believe that if only I am
elected to the union leadership than the unions will have changed their
nature!

                       Neil's accusations are hypocrisy

     Now let's see what Neil's stand on the unions has been.  His most
systematic public presentation of the question was his article on John
Sweeney, the new head of the AFL-CIO.  (Neil's article appears in Communist
Voice, vol. 1, #5, Nov. 15, 1995, pp. 14-16.) Here we learn a lot of bad
things about Donahue, the old leader and Sweeney.  The history of Sweeney's
treachery as head of Service Employees International Union Local 99 in Los
Angeles and the anti-worker machinations of some other union leaders are
useful to educate the workers.  This is why the "CV" carried the article,
despite other disagreements with its approach.  But these are exposures of
individuals, not an assessment of the AFL-CIO as a whole.  So what is the
article's assessment of the AFL-CIO as a whole?  We learn:
             1) they have "pro-capitalist politics and tactics";
             2) the AFL-CIO is "decaying";
             3) the AFL-CIO opposes "solidarity" among workers and are
         "official scab herders always at the beck and call of the Democratic
         Party -- and the capitalist status quo.";
             4) the union apparatus "polices the workers"; and
             5) workers must sweep the union bureaucracy aside and "find
        forms of organization and revolutionary politics and tactics that can
        move the class struggle to the fore once again."
     Thus, in terms of a general description of the unions, Neil says nothing
that I have not said in the paragraph quoted from myself.  So, by the
criterion Neil uses to judge me, we must agree that Neil himself thinks the
basic class nature of the unions will change merely because a leftist gets
elected to a union post.  Neil chides me for allegedly hiding that the unions
are integrated into the capitalist state machine.  But Neil's article makes no
mention of this.  Meanwhile my article calls attention to the fact that the
AFL-CIO leadership has subordinated the unions to the anti-worker rules and
regulations of the capitalist state.  Neil is consistent in one regard -- he
is consistently hypocritical.

     How Neil glorifies those who merely criticize the worst bureaucrats

     But the hypocrisy of Neil extends well beyond this.  While we may share
some general phrases in common on the question of the trade unions, in fact
there are important differences.  In the quote from myself, I call attention
to the opportunist left-wing trends who think the unions can be transformed
with some tinkering.  And in my articles on the Detroit newspaper strike I
have gone into great detail about the various ways such views have manifested
themselves.   Now let's look at Neil's article on the new AFL-CIO leadership.
Neil promotes Members for Union Democracy (MFUD),a group of activists in SEIU
Local 99, as organizers of a "class struggle alternative" and a "new militant
rebel union".  But from the description Neil gives of this group, all one can
tell is that it is opposed to some particularly corrupt union bosses.  In
fact, if one examines the leaflets of the dissidents that were offered by
Neil, it is striking that the opposition is, at best, of a very limited type.
The leaflets are against individual bad bureaucrats but don't even raise the
question of mass mobilization of the rank and file or present any particular
picture of what attitude to adopt to the union bureaucracy as a whole.  (It
does appear, however, that their main concern is making a few reforms in the
union to make it a bit more democratic, the very thing Neil claims to be so
against!)  The members of MFUD may be honest workers just awakening to
political activity as opposed to case-hardened opportunists.  And this would
be important to evaluate in terms of what attitude to adopt toward this group.
But Neil doesn't explain what the expectations of the workers in this group
are nor what political trends exist in it.  He simply describes criticism of
certain corrupt bureaucrats (and maybe a few minor reforms in union structure)
in the most glorified terms.
     Maybe Neil thinks the mere fact that the dissidents have spent several
years appealing to the California state authorities to have the bus driver
section of SEIU Local 99 severed off from that union is itself indicative of a
really sound policy.  But can the new union really be a "class struggle
alternative" if it presents no class struggle policy?   Neil evidently thinks
so.  Meanwhile, it is far from obvious that splitting the Local 99 workers
into two unions would be helpful to developing the class struggle.  For
instance, how would it affect the ability of the militant workers to carry out
work among the workers who would remain in Local 99 under the thumb of the
worst bureaucrats?  Such an action cannot be judged without considering such
matters.  In-and-of itself, splitting off to another union can represent just
about any policy, good or bad.  Even the bureaucrats themselves have been
known to engineer raids upon each others' unions, often taking advantage of
the real grievances felt by workers against their own bureaucrats.
     When the CVO clearly exposes the class nature of the AFL-CIO, Neil goes
into hysterics against us.  But when, according to all the evidence offered by
Neil, some dissidents are merely opposed to the most sold-out elements in the
unions, Neil labels this as the "class struggle alternative".  But that's
typical for Neon Neil -- his principles flash on and off at convenience.

     Neil paints the Trotskyists as staunch opponents of the labor fakers

     One's attitude toward the trade unions is not determined merely by having
the general statements that the trade union bureaucracy is rotten and clamps
down on the workers' struggle.  Any number of left opportunist trends may
recognize this in general form.  And any number of trends will talk about the
great revolutionary organizations that they would like to see exist.  One
thing that distinguishes real revolutionary work however is a consistent stand
IN PRACTICE against the trade union bureaucrats.  Without this there can be no
talk of the workers having their own independent stand and forms of
organization.  It is here where Neil fails, not because Neil loves the
bureaucrats, but because he can't tell the difference between trends that
phrasemonger against the bureaucrats and those that resolutely oppose them.
     In this regard, it's quite revealing that Neil can't tell the difference
between the "left"-phrasemongering Trotskyite-Cliffite milieu and a Marxist-
Leninist stand on the unions, as enunciated by the CVO and before that by the
MLP (whose attitude was well spelled out in the documents of its Second
Congress).  For instance, Neil says the stand of the International Socialist
Organization (ISO) and the Spartacist League (SL) is no different than mine
because they too are for a "telling the workers to be more militant" and
encouraging them to "break from the treacherous leaders." (Neal's e-mail
message of February 1, 1996)  But Neil doesn't seem to notice, or care, that
ISO does NOT have a consistent stand against the union bureaucrats.  When they
came into being in the late 1970s as a split off of IS, they never made a
clean break with IS policy of trailing behind various dissident union
bureaucrats.  Then they began to retreat from the industrial working class
altogether, advancing the thesis that the problems of IS politics were in
large part due to the idea of organizing among the industrial proletariat.
But according to Neil, the ISO is really organizing workers to break with the
union bureaucrats!   As for SL, they criticize the bureaucrats to some extent.
But their "super-militant" calls for the unions are not based on the level of
motion or independent organization developing among the rank and file, but on
wishful thinking about what unions under the thumb of the labor bureaucrats
will do.  Moreover, SL's notorious sectarianism against the mass movements
only discredits the left and plays into the hands of the labor traitors and
assorted reformists.
     Another example.  When I criticized Oleg of the Chicago Workers' Voice
group for touting certain stock phrases of Labor Notes, a group heavily
influenced by IS, and for his fascination with the "Spark" group, another
trotskyite outfit that bows before the bureaucrats, Neil was very offended.
(Oleg's note and my reply appear in Communist Voice, vol. 1, #1, April 15,
1995, pp. 11-13) He offered no criticism of Oleg's infatuation with "Labor
Notes". Instead he tried to bury the real issues with the hysterical
accusations that my lack of urgency in attending a particular Labor Notes
meeting (at $75 admittance fee) was equivalent to refusal to ever attend any
events called by other groups!  Of course, Oleg's learned friends at Labor
Notes are greatly influenced by the IS trend, craven supporters of the trade
union bureaucrats.  (One local Labor Notes supporter, who edits a Detroit area
postal union paper, just wrote against the idea of a strike when the new
contract expires four years hence.  This was in reply to some union stewards
who wrote in the union paper in favor of a strike.)

             Neil hails the LRP's stand on the union bureaucrats

     In addition to Neil's portraying the ISO and the Spartacist League as
consistent opponents of the union bureaucracy, Neil's Los Angeles Workers'
Voice recently wrote to the trotskyite League for a Revolutionary Party where,
among other things, he complimented them not only on their exposure of the
union bureaucrats but on their ideas for building up the workers' movement.
(The LRP's journal Proletarian Revolution, Fall 1995 issue, carries a letter
>from Neil on page 5 which begins: "Our LAWV group is studying your PR #49 and
we agree with very much of what you say about building up a real mass movement
based on the working class, exposing labor fakers, poverty pimp charlatans,
bourgeois political influence, etc.") But if LRP's stand on the Hormel strike
struggle in the mid-80s is indicative, they are prone to glorifying various
union bureaucrats.  They noted how Local P-9 of the UFCW (United Food and
Commercial Workers) leaders "never wanted to openly challenge the
International's strategy" which was to sabotage the meatpackers' struggle
against concessions.  However, this did not prevent the LRP from relying on
the P-9 leadership instead of adopting a really independent strategy.  Despite
misgivings about the local union leaders, LRP created the impression they
would lead a powerful movement.  For example, they wrote: "the Guyette
leadership" [P-9's leaders] "face the real job of mobilizing workers for mass
action in Austin, in Minnesota and throughout the country."  Then there is
LRP's stand on the present Detroit newspaper strike which consists of mocking
rank-and-file militance while calling on the timid bureaucrats to lead the
struggle. Yet LRP, which creates illusions in the dissident bureaucrats is, in
Neil's view, worthy of compliments for their stand on the bureaucrats.
     LRP will criticize the weakness of the bureaucrats in the struggle for
the immediate demands of the workers.  But they themselves believe the fight
for improvements in wages and working conditions is a futile venture.  Thus
their criticism of the bureaucrats becomes a justification of the sabotage of
the bureaucrats.  LRP writes: "the union leaders know how dubious such reforms
are -- that is why they work overtime to avoid fighting for even their own
absolutely minimal demands".  And they add that in contrast to militant rank-
and-file workers, "the bureaucrats have already learned the futility of
fighting for a minimal program."  (Proletarian Revolution, Winter 85-86, p.23)

                  LRP, the `transitional program', and Neil

     When Neil praised LRP's stand on the labor bureaucrats he did offer the
criticism of LRP that they should not oppose reforms that help the workers'
immediate situation like the demand for "taxing the rich" in certain budget
battles.  On this particular point, Neil was right.  But to Neil, this LRP
stand is an incidental oversight that in no way contradicts his overall
evaluation that "agrees with very much of what you [LRP -- ed.] say about
building up a real mass movement on the working class, exposing labor
fakers...". (See above.)  But in fact such views reflect a basically wrong
orientation for the workers' movement and the trade union officialdom.  In
fact, the LRP stand is no incidental oversight, but arises from LRP's version
of the trotskyite Transitional Program that, among other things, considers
demands for reforms suspect.  In particular, the LRP considers the
Transitional Program a central feature of their union strategy.  Thus LRP
writes:
             "A central axis of communist work in the unions is the
              Transitional Program written by Leon Trotsky in the
              late 1930s."  (Proletarian Revolution,
              Winter 1985-86, p.21)
     The Transitional Program, according to LRP, is a
           "substitute for the reform program" because
           it means "doing away with the old division between
           the minimal (reform) program and the maximal
           (socialist) program." (p.22)
According to trotskyite dogma, this supposedly helps the workers see the need
for socialist revolution.  But blurring the distinction between a struggle for
some immediate demand and a revolutionary onslaught blurs the ACTUAL
distinction that exists, a distinction the worker must be made aware of.  It
is AWARENESS OF THIS DISTINCTION that is necessary for the development of
revolutionary consciousness.  Contrary to what LRP presents, it is not the
fight for some partial demand that dooms the workers to reformism, but the
idea that any partial demands can abolish the root cause of their suffering.
LRP thinks that by declaring an end to the minimal demands, they have
transformed the day-to-day struggles into something else; into a struggle
approaching the socialist revolution.  Thus they help create the very
illusions in the present-day struggles they claim to be overcoming.
     Let's look at this in a bit more detail.  LRP says that the Transitional
Program
        "challenges the unions and their misleaders to fight for
        what the workers need even though they accept capitalism.
        But these demands -- the sliding scale of wages to combat
        inflation, dividing the necessary work among the available
        workers to end unemployment, expropriation of industry
        without compensation to maintain vital production during crises,
        etc. -- would undermine the capitalist system." ("Proletarian
        Revolution", Winter/85-86, p.27)
     First of all, it's notable that the pro-capitalist union bureaucracy is
supposed to carry out the demands that will lead to socialism!  Secondly, the
question isn't what LRP thinks these demands mean, but how they will actually
be understood by the mass of workers in the present situation when the
question of a socialist revolution is not around the corner, i.e., when we are
not in a transitional period to socialism.  Whatever LRP means by it, the
"sliding scale of wages to combat inflation" in the present situation can only
mean such things as COLA or government wage-indexation while "dividing the
necessary work" can only mean various corporate or government work-sharing
plans.  But it's just not true that wage-indexation or some form of work-
sharing is "incompatible with capitalism," and for LRP to claim such a thing
is reformism.  It's true that all reforms under capitalism tend to be limited,
are subject to being reversed, etc.  But in that case, it is absurd to single
out some reforms as implying the overthrow of capitalism and others not.
     Take a demand for a wage increase.  Can any Marxist believe, or anyone
with some sense, believe that a wage increase is impossible under capitalism
and thereby implies socialism?  No. But it is certainly true that wage
increases under capitalism are limited, are subject to being gutted, usually
require hard struggles and do not alter the basic relationship between capital
and labor.  Consistent and lasting increases for all workers' living standards
is only possible under socialism.  By LRP's logic, "higher wages" equally
deserves to be a demand which implies a struggle for socialism.  When all is
said and done, the Transitional Program of Trotsky and the LRP simply amounts
to arbitrarily dividing various reforms into some which are "reformist" and
some which themselves imply the end of capitalism.  This is essentially
reformism covered over with a lot of left-sounding mumbo-jumbo.  This is the
sort of nonsense that Neil and the LAWV announce is a good stand on the labor
fakers as compared to the alleged "company unionism" of the CVO!
     But what of the demand for "expropriation of industry without
compensation"?  Without the mass movement on the verge of revolution, a
revolution that would expropriate the capitalists, such a slogan is just a
idealized way of describing some sort of bourgeois nationalization.
Nationalization by no means implies socialism as LRP pretends.  It means that
certain enterprises are no longer run for the benefit of a particular owner,
but for the interests of the capitalist class as a whole.  If, on the other
hand, LRP is talking about a situation where industry is really being
expropriated by the workers, than it is talking about a revolution.  Or are we
to believe that the capitalists will just peacefully watch their factories,
production plants, and banks taken over by the workers?   But to pretend
something that can only be accomplished by revolution is about to happen in
normal circumstances perpetuates reformist illusions among the workers.
     Indeed, it's even sheer fantasy to think that a Clinton-Gingrich
government that is excited about privatization of present government functions
is going to be forced to undertake a general nationalization of industry
without a national upheaval rocking the country.  But the actual conditions
and level of the mass movement don't figure into LRP's choice of slogans to
advance the mass struggle.  For example, LRP argues that slogans like "Tax the
rich!" are no good to deal with a particular budget crisis today but must be
replaced by the "transitional" slogan "Expropriate the banks and corporations
and repudiate the public debt!" (See the reply to LAWV in Proletarian
Revolution, Fall 1993 issue.)  So at a time when developing mass motion on the
budget crisis is difficult even behind limited demands like shifting the tax
burden for a budget crisis onto the rich, LRP proposes that the mass demand
should be tantamount to revolution!  LRP thus bounces between dressing up some
reform, like wage-indexing, as implying the downfall of capitalism, and
pretending that demands that can only be won at the onset of a revolution,
like widespread expropriation of industry, might be won at any time by an
ordinary strike, like those waged all the time over working conditions.
     It is beneath the dignity of LRP to try to find the slogans and methods
of struggle that can begin to get the masses in motion in this time of a
relative lull.  For them, it is just a matter of imposing a few cut-and-dried
demands in any situation, regardless of the level of struggle and
consciousness of the masses.  This is a parody of revolutionary work. To
advocate that every partial struggle must be based on demands far beyond what
the masses are now willing to fight for just means artificially narrowing down
the movement and isolating the class conscious workers from the less conscious
mass.
     Rather than scoff at reforms, real revolutionary work in this relatively
quiet period includes viewing the partial struggles as opportunities to bring
revolutionary clarity and strengthen class organization among the workers and
poor.  These struggles are not going to soon give birth to the revolution, but
they keep the masses from being ground down and prepare it for the big
struggles of the future.  Does this mean hiding the broader goals from the
masses, then?  Not at all.  Revolutionary work also means explaining that
there is no salvation within the capitalist system, promoting communist
society as distinct from revisionist state-capitalism, encouraging study of
Marxist theory and support for a proletarian party, and directing the workers
attention to all the important political questions of the day.  But to advance
slogans that essentially require that workers take up the ultimate goals of
communism as a condition of participating in their immediate struggles,
artificially walls them off from taking their first steps on the path of class
struggle.
     Of particular importance at present is the building of a trend
consciously opposed to opportunism.  The LRP is not building a trend of this
type, but banks on a section of the bureaucrats and excuses itself with talk
about the alleged automatic exposure of the bureaucrats if they don't live up
to LRP's demands.  Meanwhile, from Neil's still unexplained vantage point, the
work of CVO to build a trend opposed to the bureaucrats is of little
significance.

       Should revolutionaries participate in reactionary trade unions?

     Neil mocks me for allegedly suggesting that if only a few communist
leaders like myself got elected to a union post, the unions would immediately
undergo a revolutionary transformation.  Nothing I have ever said even
remotely implies this, but Neil swears it must be so.  What I do think is that
it is a mistake for revolutionary-minded workers not to participate in the
present AFL-CIO unions despite their domination by a reactionary trade union
bureaucracy.  I also think such trade union work should be subordinated to
building direct ties between the workers in the unions and the party of the
class-conscious workers (or, where no such party exists, groups oriented
towards re-establishing such a party).  The purpose of a revolutionary running
in a trade union election is not to get a cushy post and reconcile with the
bureaucrats, but to fight against them and foster the independent motion of
the workers.
     Neil, as usual, fumes about my views, but so far has refused to tell us
what he thinks about about these matters.  We do know he promotes as Marxist
the International Communist Current (ICC) group which believes trade unions of
any kind are no good in the present epoch.  Does Neil fancy that since I do
not agree with boycotting the unions, or agree with his friends at ICC that
the very form of trade unions is out of date, I must necessarily harbor
illusions in them?  Is this why he invents tales about me believing acquiring
a few union posts will solve everything?

                   Neil's great discovery about the unions

     The only other clue from Neil as to why he imagines I have illusions in
the present trade unions is that he goes into a big song and dance about my
alleged failure to acknowledge that there is a material base to the class
collaborationist policy of the present unions.  And what is this great key to
really understanding the trade unions according to Neil?  It's that the trade
union bureaucrats invest union funds in capitalist institutions.  Wow, Neil,
what a fantastic discovery!  Everyone vaguely familiar with the trade unions
knows this, of course.  But I must confess I never thought a materialist
analysis of the trade unions could revolve around the fact that union
officials invest in capitalist institutions.  This analysis is worthy of a
reformist do-gooder who imagines that a few restrictions on union fund
investments will clean up corruption in the unions.  And I have also seen
similar ideas bandied about by semi-anarchists scrambling for any reason to
boycott the unions.  Or maybe Neil is saying that if a union sticks its funds
in a bank, it is guilty of investing in capitalism, and is thus condemned by
that mere fact to be a reactionary agent of capitalism.  Of course, in that
case, all workers with bank accounts or IRAs must stand similarly accused!
     But in fact the corruption of the trade union bureaucracy in the U.S.
involves an ENTIRE SYSTEM OF PRIVILEGE.  Not only are there shady investment
schemes with union funds like those of the Teamsters over the years, but also
high salaries for officials, access to soft jobs and all manner of direct
bribery by employers, lavish union junkets, straight pocketing of dues money,
etc., etc.  A Marxist materialist analysis would not arbitrarily single out
one aspect of this SYSTEM, i.e., how union funds are invested.  Moreover, the
mere fact that union officers have access to union funds does not explain WHY
these funds are misused.  Both reactionary and militant unions need funds to
function.  So in and of itself, access to funds can't explain corruption.
     The material basis of the union bureaucracy is the vast profits that
accrue to our own capitalists from their position as a giant imperialist power
exploiting the masses across the globe.  This allows the capitalists to
placate a top crust of the workers, the labor aristocracy, by providing them
with conditions of life that separate them from the bulk of workers.  The
sold-out labor officials are part of this stratum.  The practical importance
of this is that it means there are no grounds for thinking that the trade
union bureaucrats are just misguided and can be reformed.
     But what does Neil think follows from the fact that there can be no hope
that the union bureaucrats will become class warriors?  He shrieks about this
issue as if it were the key to everything and then goes quiet as to what the
implications are.  If Neil thinks the unions should be boycotted, he should at
least have the guts to say so.  If not, he should take back the crap he has
thrown at myself and the CVO who have not created illusions in the bureaucrats
or an easy path to the revolutionary trade unions of the future, but don't
believe boycotting the unions will solve anything.

            The trade unions and the revolutionary workers' party

     Neil has taken to being as hazy as possible about what sort of
organizations he thinks the workers need.  He announces they should be "new"
organizations, both "political" and "industrial".  And they should be
"decisively hostile to the interests of capital."  Does this include a party
of the class conscious workers and activists based on Marxism-Leninism?  If
so, it is odd that Neil indiscriminately lumps all organizations together as
"mass organizations." (Neil's description of new mass organizations can be
found in leaflets of the LAWV such as their leaflet of Jan. 1996.) Even if a
communist party grows large, its goals and principles, the level of
consciousness and activity of its members, etc., distinguish it from broader
class organizations.  However, the main issue isn't that Neil is having
trouble uttering the word "party," but that in his views and actions, he
belittles working in the direction of establishing one.
     For several years, Neil belonged to a revolutionary communist party, the
Marxist-Leninist Party, which dissolved in November 1993.  This party actually
represented a distinct trend from the opportunists trends parading around with
Marxist or communist labels and it vigorously fought these trends to defend
Marxist-Leninist principle.  But since the MLP dissolved Neil and the LAWV
have grown more and more skeptical about the re-establishment of a communist
political party.  When attempts were made to unite remnants of the former MLP
in various cities into a Marxist-Leninist trend that was oriented toward the
rebuilding of a genuine communist party, LAWV rejected this in solidarity with
the Chicago Workers' Voice group which had begun to take up semi-anarchist
"anti-hierarchy" theories against the party concept.  These days, LAWV's own
theorizing has become critical of the role of the party, counterposing the
party to the workers' initiative.
     The LAWV no longer sees the need to build up a genuine Marxist-Leninist
trend, but has discarded Marxist theory.  The mocking of Leninism is open
while there is some pretense of still upholding Marx and Engels.  But in fact
Neil's "disagreements" with Lenin are from anti-Marxist positions.  And they
have turned basic Marxist theories to hash, such as Neil's stand that
everything from the abolition of money and commodity production, to the
abolition of the state and distribution of social production along the
principle "to each according to their needs," can occur immediately after the
workers take power.
     Today, the LAWV finds "Marxism" in the semi-anarchist theories of the
"infantile leftists" whose views Lenin fought against in his day.  And they
heap praise on bankrupt trotskyite theories on building the workers' struggle.
In short, instead of taking up the task of anti-revisionist communism of
rebuilding a true Marxist trend, the LAWV thinks that the problems of
revolutionary theory will be solved by gathering together a hodgepodge of
ideas borrowed from the more "left"-phrasemongering opportunists.
     But if the LAWV is not taking up the tasks needed to re-establish an
anti-revisionist communist trend, than all its talk about the great
revolutionary mass organizations of the future is empty.  For if the most
class conscious activists cannot form a party with a revolutionary class
policy, then what are the chances that the broader mass of workers, whose
class consciousness is only beginning to develop, will find their way to a
sound revolutionary policy?  Not very good.  Those who want to see the mass
organizations of the future take up a resolute stand against the capitalist
system, must today work to build up a Marxist-Leninist trend that can provide
guidance to the wider masses today, so that when future upsurges come, the new
mass organizations that are created by them are influenced by communism. <>



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