The Prestige of the Working Class

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue May 8 08:10:06 MDT 2001

>In any case the intent of my original post is to provoke some thought about
>the political level of the unionised working class.  They might be quite
>small in number but they are crucial are they not?  Or do we have to
>abandon an orientation to them and seek a new historical agent as Mao did
>with the Chinese peasantry?
>warm regards

One of the reasons I researched airline deregulation was to remind myself
of the kind of raw militancy that attacks on wages and working conditions

The Boston Globe, April 26, 1989, Wednesday, City Edition

Donning a pilot's cap and a machinist's jacket, the Rev. Jesse Jackson
yesterday joined picketing Eastern Airlines workers at Logan International
Airport, giving a momentary boost to spirits of flight attendants, pilots
and machinists who have been on strike for more than seven weeks.

His presence and ability to stir emotions were widely welcomed and, many
workers conceded, sorely needed. "It's a low time right now," said Robert
Turcotte, an Eastern machinist and Boston union representative.

The long strike, the almost-daily rumors of a new Eastern buyer, and Frank
Lorenzo's insistance this week that he will run a smaller airline without
unions if necessary have clearly dampened morale.

"I will stand with you until we win and fight one day longer than Lorenzo,"
Jackson told the Eastern workers before the march began.

Gary postulated a rise in working-class militancy flowing from full-scale
attacks. Just such attacks took place only 10 years ago. But the left was
not part of the trade union movement in general, and within the airline
industry particularly non-existent. The absence of a battle-tested,
class-struggle pole of attraction meant that strikes were easier to break
as mechanics crossed pilots' picket lines and vice versa. In the aftermath
of defeats across the board, the airline unions have lost a lot of their
militancy as one would expect.

In reality a "turn" to the working-class was not only feasible but
necessary after the decline of the 1960s social movements. However, no
"vanguard" group had a clue to how to do it. It was the loosely organized
state-capitalists who did figure it out eventually and their hard work paid
off in the Teamsters Union, which unfortunately has suffered a reversal due
to the criminal opportunism of the past president, Ron Carey. If anything,
Carey's missteps were a function of the weakness of the left. A more
powerful left would have convinced Carey not to use illegal methods in
running for union office.

In any case, a rise in the class struggle today dictates that we take a
careful look at the American economy and the trade unions. When a chance
comes along to have an effect on working class politics, it should not be
squandered again.

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list:

More information about the Marxism mailing list