[Marxism] Lund, Sheppard and Miah call on workers to leave AFL-CIO

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Mar 31 12:54:26 MST 2005

Andy Pollack wrote:
As for his mention of Cannon's opposition to dual unionism -- which is
correct -- Cannon was also a critic of Foster's "AFL fetishism,"
believing it overlooked situations when an independent union was the
only viable option, even if only as a temporary measure.

On balance he certainly would not have supported the broad-brush
independent approach Lund et al. are supposedly advocating. I say
supposedly because we need to see the Links article; if they're really
saying what OzLeft claims this is very significant, given not only its
idiocy but the fact that it comes from people prominent in a socialist
group which devotes so much attention to reforming existing unions.

Fred Feldman comments: 

Andy Pollack is right to comment that James P. Cannon and the SWP were
not AFL fetishsts, or union unity fetishits. Cannon was actively
involved in supporting the Progressive Miners of America.  

The SWP suppported, as far as I can recall, all genuinely mass=based
union efforts, whether they were inside the AFL, cio, or AFL-CIO or not.
An example of this, even in the later Barnes era that I generally
condemn, was the support to the Austin Hormel meaptackers, even when
they decided to create the North American Meat-Packers Unuion  in
opposition to the AFL union, even though their battle was clearly uphill
(inspired by the union's refusal to support their just struggle against
Hormel). These all seem like correct stands to me.

In addition, I supported the move by the machinists in a number of IAM
plants to move toward AMFA,  a pre-existing craft union, that allowed
them to have some say over their conditions, even though it hardly
solved the general problem facing airline workers or IAM members. This
was an action of a mass of workers to seek a better union, to seek a
bettter, more  democratic union representatio, even thought AMFA solves
no fundamental problem facing the union movement.

I have only read drafts of the Miah-Lund article in Links but where I
disagree with it, as they know, is not that it rejects the existing
unions, which seem pretty burned out to me. In my opinion, overcoming
the existing union organizations (and, I might add, the existing labor
parties including in Britain and Australia, though I don't urge votes
for thenm at the present time)has to come from the ranks. 

Will a radicalizing working classs seek to utilize the existing unions.
I don't exclude, given the small size of the uions today that they will
be rejected or bypassed by new formations, but I cannot assume this as
my starting point and demand that the pre-radicalized working clss
proceed accordingly.

Of course, the actual SWP in the United States (in contrast to Lund,
Sheppard, and Miah) are embedded in the unions that exist, and reject
dual unionist schemes as unconditionally as Foster (not Cannon) would

Leaving aside my own position, which I have stated above:

I think it is very odd that people who denounce the existence of
revolutionary organizations of 1,000 or a few hundred or even a few
dozen under today's conditions, can denounce Lund and Miah for rejecting
unions that involve substantially less than 10 percent of the US
workforce today, and show no sign of the capacity to grow much beyond
this.  To understand the real scope of the problem, you have to imagine
the factories staffed by illegal immigrants and other, uncounted
workers, the revival of home work, etc.

I want to state here that I played an important role in editing
(including politically) Barry Sheppard's first volume of his history of
the SWP, which really ends in 1973.  and never discusses the split of or
from (I think the latter is more accurate) the "Internationalist
Tendency Party".  Like Barry, I was very conscientious about facts as I
knew them, as was Barry. Whenever I raised an issue of factuality,
indluding about James P. Cannon's views on the 1985 resolution on the
organizational question, Barry was completely open to assuring an honest
presentation of Cannon's views, although he did not consider them
appropriate when written. I disagree. I think Cannon was on to
something. But as editor, I did not feel obliged to change his opinions,
which I agree with in some respects and not in others. 

I think this is an indispensable book that list members should take the
trouble to read before they criticize at length.  I am glad that Bob
Gould, despite his differences, appreciated the value of the book and I
hope others will also. Frankly, somebody needed to write this.  Barry
has. Good for him.
Fred Feldman

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