[Marxism] WSWS: Auto workers reject UAW at Tennessee VW plant

jeremy at infowells.com jeremy at infowells.com
Mon Feb 17 17:10:38 MST 2014

FYI: The excellent WSWS article "Auto workers reject UAW at Tennessee 
VW plant" provides a critical Marxist analysis

without the Marxist jargon. 


Introductory paragraphs of this article were also posted as a comment 
on the AFL-CIO NOW Blog article:

The Final Countdown: Snow Doesn't Stop Volkswagen Workers from Voting 
Union 'Yes' with UAW


Jeremy Wells

On Mon, 17 Feb 2014 12:00:01 -0700, 
marxism-request at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu wrote:
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> Today's Topics:
>    1.  UAW Vote at VW in Tennessee (shaun may)
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> Message: 1
> Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2014 18:33:44 +0000
> From: shaun may To: "marxism at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu"
>  Subject: [Marxism] UAW Vote at VW in Tennessee
> Message-ID: Content-Type: text/plain; charset="Windows-1252"
> This vote amongst the car workers in Tennessee, in my opinion, 
> expresses the contradictory forces which the proletariat is now 
> facing globally. The result of the vote itself bears a contradictory 
> character. 
> As the structural crisis of capital deepens, for millions of workers 
> across the globe, the question for many is very simple : do I have a 
> job or don't I? Will I be able to pay the rent, the mortgage, feed 
> and clothe my family, etc? Will I have the money to survive and live?
> They look down the road into the next neighbourhood and they see many 
> in structural unemployment and all the social manifestations and 
> problems of decay associated with that. And then they look at their 
> homes and families and think "a job at any cost". They look at their 
> kids - think about their schooling, well-being and future - and do 
> not automatically start skipping to slogans of "class solidarity" or 
> the "workers united will never be defeated", etc. They sense the 
> gravity of the situation they are facing, it provokes anxiety and 
> stress, worry and they seek, initially, salvation 'within', so to 
> speak. They witness their fellow workers in the same predicament and 
> try to do what they can within the limits of this 'solidarity' but 
> they always turn back to their homes and families for that sense of 
> belonging and security. 
>  This is what they are working for. This is what they get out of bed 
> at 6 am every morning for. This is the raison d'etre of their sweat 
> and toil in a car plant for 50 hours a week. They don't do it for 
> Karl Marx or for a well-pensioned trade union official (even though 
> they do take a cut in the union subscriptions). In a certain sense, 
> they do not do it for capital. Labour is FOR life and is not an 
> unalienable and intrinsically meaningful and enjoyable part of it. 
> Life begins where work ends : at home, at table, in the pub or bar, 
> on holiday, with family, at weekends, in bed with partner. This is 
> man alienated from his own essential human power (labour) and its 
> product; from his fellow men in production and from himself as a 
> producer. This is man creating an alien hostile power, of his own 
> making yet confronting and dominating him, which takes the form of 
> capital, which turns the worker into 'an appendage of the machine', 
> which dehumanises him and enslaves him. And subjects him to all the 
> power of mind-warping ideological forces and constraints which this 
> alien power can muster and throw at him. The revolution to come will 
> be the most bitter and tenacious of struggles. It is not simply a 
> transition from the rule of capital to its negation. It is a 
> transition from a long, enduring period (millenia) of a whole series 
> of epochs of the different forms of rule of private property to the 
> complete transcendence of private property in communism. It will 
> involve the historicisation of a whole gamut of transhistorical forms 
> which have carried over from one era of private property into the 
> succeeding ones. It will be more revolutionary - and more of an 
> upheaval - than the very first human revolution that brought human 
> culture itself into being out of its pre-human, pre-conditions. To 
> carry this revolution through, it will require men and women of a 
> qualitatively higher order than those who have carried through 
> previous revolutions. 
>    In a deep crisis, people only start to move away from the 'line of 
> least resistance' when there is no other alternative. The American 
> bourgeoisie of the 18th century did everything it possibly could to 
> accommodate itself to the colonial authority. "Do not tread on me". 
> Only when conditions had irredeemably passed beyond a certain stage, 
> did it become radicalised and was it compelled to move forward to war 
> against that power. 
>  Initially, people turn inwards to their own resources, to friends 
> and family. Hackneyed as it is, they think about 'Number 1' first. 
> Only when conditions deteriorate to such a degree that this is no 
> longer possible, do they step out onto the road of mass struggle, war 
> and revolution. They start to organise and mobilise as a class for 
> struggle against the capital order and its state power. The American 
> bourgeoisie, in its anti-colonial struggle, organised as a class. 
> They left the question of black slavery unaddressed for another 
> century. And only addressed it when it suited the needs of the 
> growing capitalist system as a whole in opposition to the interests 
> of landed property as expressed by the political and military 
> mobilisation of the Confederacy. Slavery itself had become a fetter 
> on the development of capital and had to be replaced with 
> wage-labour. In the final three centuries of the Roman Empire, the 
> institution of slavery had become unsustainable. The crisis of the 
> third century was a direct expression of this and was only resolved 
> with the establishment and institutionalisation of the colonate under 
> the reforms of Diocletian. The direct labour of the chattel became 
> replaced with the labour of the sharecropping, bonded colonus who 
> became established as a forerunner of the feudal serf of the middle 
> ages. 
>   Under conditions of crisis, where capital is still currently 
> 'holding all the aces', global capital stands in relation to the 
> trade union bureaucracy (both its national and international forms) 
> as the organ grinder does to the monkey. The whole structure and 
> organisation of official trade unionism is now completely integrated 
> into the capitalist order. The financial portfolios and pension funds 
> of trade unions are managed as capital on the world market so that 
> any increments accruing to these funds are as likely to have their 
> origins in the uncompensated labour of sweatshops in Asia or Latin 
> America as they do in the parasitism of money capital in the US, 
> Japan or Europe. 
> The privileges of the trade union official now rests on two footings 
> : the relation to the fee-paying membership and the relation to the 
> global circulation of money capital. In the link given, UAW President 
> Bob King said.... 
> ?Our philosophy is, we want to work in partnership with companies to 
> succeed. Nobody has more at stake in the long-term success of the 
> company than the workers on the shop floor, both blue collar and 
> white collar. With every company that we work with, we're concerned 
> about competitiveness.?
> This statement is like declaring your intention to commit a crime 
> before you actually commit it. With this sort of union leadership, 
> who needs capitalist management? Simply outsource it to the UAW 
> executive. With statements like this, who could doubt the possibility 
> of dirty deals between the UAW and VW?
> Why have Nosferatu in charge of the blood donation service when you 
> can have his affable assistant Igor at a fraction of the cost?
> Many workers now see trade unions in their currently bureaucratised 
> forms as part of the whole problem which they are now facing. They 
> are certainly not part of the solution. They see them as another 
> 'corporation' who want to take a slice of their cake and are offering 
> them nothing in exchange for it except bluster, obfuscation, excuses, 
> betrayal and dirty deals with capital in which everyone is happy 
> except the worker. They do not think of the trade unions as 'their' 
> unions but as alien bodies (which, like capital, they themselves have 
> created) which belong to men in suits sitting in comfortable chairs 
> in pleasantly furnished offices. The offices of the AFL-CIO in 
> Washington wouldn't look out of place with a corporation tag stuck on 
> its frontage. They see this bureaucracy as hostile to their 
> interests. In other words, they feel alienated from the very 
> organisations which should be there to represent and articulate their 
> class interests in the struggle against capital. The dual basis of 
> the existence of the bureaucracy now turns them into adjuncts and 
> proxies of capital. 'Business Unionism' is the inevitable corollary 
> of these relations. 
>  If the whole structure of your life - in conditions of crisis when 
> losing your job means a lifetime of unemployment - depends on whether 
> or not you keep your job, you will form an alliance with whoever you 
> so think is the best bet for guaranteeing you that job. A case of 
> better the devil you know. You would make a Faustian deal with the 
> Devil himself if you thought that it would save your job and 
> therefore your whole life, family, home, children ,etc. But you would 
> only make such a deal if you thought that the class organisations 
> (trade unions) which had traditionally represented your interests had 
> utterly failed and had even abandoned you and gone over to the side 
> and ways of the enemy. This is what has happened at VW in Tennessee. 
> The vote of the car workers in Tennessee may appear to be a vote 
> against trade unionism and for capital. It is not. It is a vote 
> against Business Unionism. It is a vote against this form of 
> unionism, its corruption, its integration into the whole capitalist 
> order, its constant refusal to mobilise the class in struggle, it is 
> a vote for the organ grinder rather than for his monkey. Not because 
> the class has any confidence in capital to deliver full and lasting 
> employment but because it has lost confidence in its trade union 
> structures to do so. And because in time of crisis when trade 
> unionism is sinking fast and totally corrupted by capital itself, it 
> sees the false promises which capital offers as the only straws which 
> are worth grasping. A vote of dissatisfaction with official trade 
> unionism. Not a vote of satisfaction with capital. 
>  Car workers - all over the world - are not so easily swayed by right 
> wing propaganda. A majority vote against unionisation is not 
> necessarily a vote against trade unionism per se or for capital. But 
> rather an expression of dissatisfaction of workers with trade unions 
> in their current form. Millions who do not turn out to vote in 
> national elections are not necessarily voting for their own 
> disenfranchisement. Rather their abstention is often an unconscious 
> political expression (taking the form of cynicism sometimes) of their 
> dissatisfaction with the whole current system of capitalist 
> governance. They simply cannot 'see the point' of voting because 'it 
> will change nothing'. Actually, this worries the ideologues of 
> capital because contained implicitly within this 'no vote' 
> disaffection is the potential for something greater, something which 
> is hostile to the whole system of their governance and state power. 
> Cynicism taking to extremes can turn into or flip over into action. 
> Finally, I noticed something in the 'In These Times' article which I 
> quote below in full... 
> "Also, pro-union community activists, who spoke with 'In These Times' 
> on condition of anonymity out of fear of hurting their relationships 
> with the UAW, spoke about difficulties in getting the UAW to help 
> them engage the broader Chattanooga community. Many activists I spoke 
> with during my two trips to Chattanooga said that when they saw the 
> UAW being continually blasted on local talk radio, newspapers and 
> billboards, they wanted to get involved to help build community 
> support." "However, they say that the UAW was lukewarm in partnering 
> with them. Indeed, when I attended a forum in December organized by 
> Chattanooga for Workers, a community group designed to build local 
> support for the organizing drive, more than 150 community activists 
> attended?many from different area unions?but I encountered only three 
> UAW members. Community activists said they had a hard time finding 
> ways to coordinate solidarity efforts with the UAW, whose campaign 
> they saw as insular rather than community-based."
> ?There?s no way to win in the South without everyone that supports 
> you fighting with you,? said one Chattanooga community organizer, who 
> preferred to remain anonymous. ?Because the South is one giant 
> anti-union campaign.?
> In other words, rather than reaching out to the broad layers of the 
> proletariat in Tennessee, the UAW bureaucracy opted to maintain the 
> car workers in isolation from this broad potential support of their 
> brothers and sisters. UAW officials are not as stupid as we may 
> think. They do not want others interfering and upsetting their own 
> caste interests. The trade union bureaucrat is schooled in control. 
> We cannot go on with these trade unions as they stand. They are 
> useless. Unfit for purpose. Historically outmoded. We need to move 
> forward to a fundamentally new type of unionism which is based in the 
> whole class and not simply in the workplace. And such a new type of 
> unionism will indeed be more capable of representing the class 
> interests of workers in and outside the workplace. Moreover, the old 
> bureaucratised structures are outmoded and in the pockets of capital. 
> We cannot go forward with these. They must go as well. We need to 
> make the 'fatcats' of trade unionism a thing of the past. 
>  Shaun May
> February   2014
> http://shaunpmay.wordpress.com
>  http://spmay.wordpress.com
>  Take it easy  (favourite motto of Engels)
>  Doubt everything (favourite motto of Marx)
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