Solidarity -- and a couple of other thoughts

Mike Friedman mikedf at
Sat Nov 16 23:55:53 MST 2002

Hmmm... What we have in common. Do you mean that the only thing workers
have in common is exploitation, i.e. what we used to call the economic
base? This sounds a little like business unionism to me. Most business
unionists that have represented me have argued that the union's role is
just to defend the workers' rights on the job -- except during election
time, when they support democrats. I remember when I was in the SWP, we
used to counterpose "social unionism" to this, i.e., that for unions to
begin to move forward as independent organizations of class unity  -- even
on the job -- they would have to champion the demands and needs of the most
oppressed sectors. As a teacher, I was also favorably impressed by the
Rethinking Schools people, with their concept of "social justice teacher
unionism," which promoted teacher unions as leaders, champions and unifiers
of the education community around broader issues of social justice.
I  would argue that we do indeed have a common interest in opposing
imperialist war, racism, sexism and homophobia, and unions -- whether the
UAW or the IWW ignore these needs and interests at their own peril -- the
peril being reduction to bastions of white, male privilege and
reinforcement of the bureaucrats who benefit from it. The IWW, which claims
to represent the "interests of the whole working class," has far less
justification for the omissions indicated by Jose. It's not enough that
"Wobs" do these things. These things ARE at the "roots of the tree."


At 11:22 PM 11/16/2002 -0500, you wrote:
> > There is no reference,
> > not even an oblique one, to imperialism and war, nor
> > to the many forms of
> > oppression engendered by the capitalist system. The
> > focus is exclusively on
> > the economic exploitation aspect of capitalism.
>The focus of the IWW is on what we have in common.
>The point is to organize as a class to have the power
>to change the way we live.
> > the same token, the
> > strategic solution offered, "By organizing
> > industrially we are forming the
> > structure of the new society within the shell of the
> > old," is very narrow,
> > inadequately so.
>As I've said before on this list Jose, nothing is
>stopping Wobblies from expanding their horizons beyond
>what they hold in common.  Wobblies are not barred
>from acts of solidarity with others.  Some Wobs are
>assisting the indigeneous in their struggle for more
>democratic rights in Mexico.  You'll find other Wobs
>on the lines of defense around women's clinics.  Wobs
>everywhere are holding up signs in the anti-Iraq war
>demonstrations proclaiming, "Workers!  Don't kill
>other workers."  The list goes on.  Of course, Wobs
>have also been active helping the ILWU in its struggle
>for continued existence.

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