[Marxism] An emerging labor-led left in the DP?

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at rogers.com
Tue Jul 27 11:29:36 MDT 2004


Louis Proyect wrote:.

> Unfortunately, knowing that Kerry is inimical to the interests of
> working people does not stop the bureaucracy from backing the DP.
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This raises the question of the relationship between the labour base and the
labour bureaucracy. The conventional wisdom on the left, expressed by
Proyect, is that there is a sharp separation between the two, with the
bureacracy seen as an alien force which has imposed an alien program on the
unions.

In fact, the local and national labour full-timers I've met have seemed a
lot less alien to the working class than left-wing intellectuals who
regularly denounce them. For the most part, with the exception perhaps of
the research, legal, and communications departments, they've risen
organically from within the working class -- elected or appointed to union
positions after having been rank-and-file activists and strike leaders.
Sure, some have been corrupted and have literally sold out their members in
exchange for a few perks from management and many betray the same social
prejudices as their base, but in most cases the conservatism of union
leaders usually stems from an often quite realistic assessment of the
balance of forces between their organizations and the employers, rather than
any inherent venality or spinelessness. Their compromises and retreats are
not infrequently reluctant and in contradiction to their original intent to
engage in confrontation. In most cases, they are able to win the support of
their members at ratification and other meetings because they reflect the
cautious mood and instincts of their base, and they often do this in debate
with more militant oppositionists who are present in every major local.

Kerry and the DP and labour leaderships are "inimical to the interests of
working people", if you solely define their interests, as Proyect and other
disaffected intellectuals seem to, in terms of the overthrow of capitalism,
and see the workers'  continued support for the system and the
pro-capitalist parties as a product of "false consciousness" rather than the
(historically unexpected) material improvement in their working and living
conditions. Within this context, the workers, especially those in trade
unions, perceive the Democrats, with some reason, as more sympathetic to the
Republicans in terms of  collective bargaining rights, minimum wage and
employment standards, unemployment relief, social programs, and other
economic and social issues of concern to them. Left intellectuals, whose
living conditions and interests may be very different, may not think this
counts for much and that the Democrats are only only marginally better than
the Republicans in terms of the big picture, but to workers struggling to
maintain their living standards, these issues are of more than marginal
importance, and it is their own experience of the two parties -- as much as
the exhortations of the union leaders -- which explains their stubborn
refusal to buy the argument that the Democrats are "inimical to the
interests of working people." I think there will first have to be a major
change in the way most people, especially in the cities, experience the
system and the two parties for them to even begin to entertain that notion.

Marv Gandall






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