class struggle in the US

Adam Rose adam at
Wed Aug 28 09:47:46 MDT 1996

This is my summary of Sharon Smith's talk this year at Marxism 96.

Apologies for lack of concreteness about the actual examples.
I believe this is an accurate outline of her argument. I have
the tape, which I may listen to again.



1. The level of class struggle in the US is at a historically low level,
despite a recent "bounce" off the statistical low point, although the
strike statistics overexaggerate the trend ( for instance, by ignoring
the Staley strike since it involved fewer than 1,000 workers ).

2. The naked greed of the bosses, the huge and growing disparity between rich and
poor, the continuous drive to back fewer workers work longer and harder for
less money, and even their personnal cruelty to their employees, has created a
level of class consciousness amongst US workers not seen since the 1930's.

3. The tactics and politics of the trade union bureaucracy form the principle
barrier to the development of the workers movement in the US today. [ The
bureaucrats declare strikes over, even when their members want to stay out.
They refuse to call strikes when the locals want to take action. They refuse
to organise the neccessary solidarity action . . . etc etc ].

4. The rise in class consciousness is accompanied by a gradual process of workers
drawing political generalisations from their defeats and their occasional victories.
For instance, from the defeats, workers have learnt the importance of physically
stopping the scabs getting in. The GM workers recently realised their power, not
just to stop their own plant, but also to stop GM internationally. Some sections
of the Boeing workers in Seattle refused the deal their union leaders negotiated
and stayed out on strike for a while.

5. In these circumstances, revolutionary socialists have the obligation and
opportunity to build an organisation independent of the trade union bureaucracy
and their politics, the politics of reformism. The prospects for such an
organisation, given the inevitability of a rise ( whether it be in one, two, or
five years time ) in the confidence and ability of workers to take actio
independently of the trade union bureaucracy, are better now than they have
been for many years.

6. The bosses offensive is political ( eg abortion rights, attacks on welfare,
positive action, immigrants ) as well as strictly economic. Revolutionary
socialists need a high level of Marxist politics in order to take advantage
of the generally favourable political situation.


Adam Rose


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