[Marxism] good article by Gregg Shotwell

Marv Gandall marvgand2 at gmail.com
Tue Apr 15 09:32:37 MDT 2014

On 2014-04-14, at 4:19 PM, michael yates wrote:

> I would be interested to know what people think of Gregg's article.
> http://monthlyreview.org/2014/04/01/practical-solution-urgent-need 		 	   		  

It's well written and Shotwell is clearly a good militant trade unionist with a wealth of experience behind him, but I would hesitate to say the following constitutes a "practical solution to an urgent need" rather than another left-winger's longing for a revival of working class political and industrial action and a simple formula to provide it.

"We need somewhere to go and something to do and something to join besides a study group, the occupation of a park, or passive participation in a Roberts Ruled bureaucracy. We need to organize a union that unifies rather than alienates the rank and file; a union with a fist connected to an arm connected to a shoulder connected to a body of people who are willing to fight for economic justice, fight for the integrity of labor, fight for the dignity of all working people in that place where effective class struggle inevitably begins: the workplace."

Shotwell believes the solution in this case is for committed young radicals to implant themselves in unions. But unions are rarely organized nor turned in a new direction in this way, or at least haven't been since the 30's. The current condition of the labour market militates against militancy, or for that matter of even getting jobs in unionized enterprises or sectors ripe for unionization. To the extent the strategy diverts people from other possibilities which present themselves outside the workplace, this isn't particularly a good thing. 

That said, this form of sustained contact with the working class and its organizations will almost always contribute more to the political education and skills of young radicals than if their political activity is limited to study groups of like-minded individuals and irregular campaigning in support of causes at home and abroad. So for this reason alone, whatever my reservations about its effectiveness as a "strategy" in present circumstances, I certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from trying to find work in a unionized firm or public institution or from participating in a union organizing drive. Few who have done so have regretted it even if the results have fallen far short of their expectations.

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