Fascism, McCarthyism and Buchanan

Ryan at bitstream.mpls.mn.us Ryan at bitstream.mpls.mn.us
Mon Feb 26 09:09:34 MST 1996

Louis P:
>1) We are in a period of quiescence, not class confrontation.
>Comrades, this is the good news and the bad news. It is good news
>because there is no threat of a fascist movement coming to power. It is
>bad news because it reflects how depoliticized the US working-class


>There is another key difference from the 1930s that we must consider.
>Capital and labor battled over the rights of labor within the prevailing
>factory system. Capitalism has transformed that factory system.
>Workers who remain in basic industry are not fighting for union
>representation. They simply want to keep their jobs. Those who remain
>employed will not tend to enter into confrontations with capital as long
>as wages and benefits retain a modicum of acceptability. That is the
>main reason industrial workers tend to be quiescent and will remain so
>for some time to come.

This is true as long as there is a perception that wages and benefits have
retained a modicum of acceptability. There is not that perception in basic
industry today is there? Widely reported data reveals how these workers put
in more hours for less pay and benefits than they did twenty years ago.
Furthermore, workplace safety standards have deteriorated. Injuries and
incidents have risen, with less chance of workman's compensation benefits.
Meanwhile incomes of the capitalist class have risen as the working-class has
accepted concessions.

The 80's were a disaster for unions beginning with the 1981 PATCO strike.
When resentment led angry workers to resist with once effective strikes,
management backed by government--who did little more than provide the police
and the National Guard to get scabs in--hired replacement workers and other
strategies. By the 90's strikes as a labor strategy nearly disappeared.

Trade unions were not in a position to resist the corporate attack and
responded poorly. Though structurally vunerable to such an attack since the
30's, they were never fully challenged until the 80's.

>In the 1930s, workers occupied huge factories and battled the bosses
>over the right to a union. The bosses wanted to keep these factories
>open and strikes tended to take on a militant character in these
>showdowns. Strike actions tended to draw the working-class together
>and make it easier for socialists to get a hearing. This was because
>strikes were much more like mass actions and gave workers a sense of
>their power. The logical next step, according to the socialists, was
>trade union activity on a political level and, ultimately, rule by the
>workers themselves.

The opening paragraph of this report eluded to how the 30's witnessed a
transformation from the obsolete craft union structure to an industrial one.
This new structure effectively used strikes and workplace protests which gave
them direct responsibility over their own working conditions. Unions included
their families, communities, the unemployed and diverse populations in their
resistance and acted in solidarity with other strikers. There was very little
wage or other discrepancies between union rank and file members and their

The trade union's response to many changes in the economic and political
spheres led to the adoption of business union practices. Unions became more
vertically structured, grievances and collective bargaining replaced strikes
as protest, leaders became more intertwined with management and government
than their own members. The rash of strikes after WWII that led to
Taft-Hartley and other anti-labor actions weakened the power of organized
labor tremendously. They became less of a labor movement and more of a
special interest group.

Workers that have entered into confrontations have been faced with leadership
that has done little if anything to help them win struggles. I would say it
is partly worker quiescence, but mostly a failure of unions to understand how
to confront the challenge of its role in the changing economy. In a
Solidarity pamphlet, Kim Moody writes:

"So we have to ask why. These people now have millions of dollars, all the
staff in the world. I think the answer comes down to this: They don't know
how. They are caught in a contradictory ideology. These are people who are
negotiators. They are not leaders, they are not generals in the class
struggle. They are mediators. And now they are in a situation where there are
corporations who will not negotiate. And they don't know what to do."

>The brunt of the attack today has been downsizing and runaway
>capital. This means that working people have a fear of being
>unemployed more than anything else. This fear grips the nation. When
>a worker loses a job today, he or she tends to look for personal
>solutions: a move to another city, signing up for computer
>programming classes, etc. Michael Moore's "Roger and Me" vividly
>illustrated this type of personal approach Every unemployed auto
>worker in this film was trying to figure out a way to solve their
>problems on their own.

The structural changes in capitalism has led to dramatic changes and
polarization of the work force. There has been an increased divide between
the jobs requiring specialized advanced education and those unskilled jobs
that remain routinized, very controlled and with little security or promotion
potential. It is now commonly perceived that level of education is the
primary way to upward mobility. This reinforces the of importance of
individual effort in solving your own problems.

>In the face of the atomization of the US working class, it is no surprise
>that many workers seem to vote for Buchanan. He offers them a
>variant on the personal solution. A worker may say to himself or
>herself, "Ah, this Buchanan's a racist bigot, but he's the only one who
>seems to care about what's happening to me. I'll take a gamble and
>give him my vote." Voting is not politics. It is the opposite of politics.
>It is the capitalist system's mechanism for preventing political action.

It is no surprise that workers seem to support Buchanan, especially those
with less education, and the least opportunity of increasing their skills.
The changing structures of capitalism has left them in an increasingly
precarious situation. This group is very unlikely to organize and be able to
make any collective pressure themselves. Since there is no left alternative
and an unesponsive leadership in organized labor to worker attempts at
militancy, a window of opportunity is created for a populist like Buchanan.

Sally Ryan

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