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 Post subject: Re: The Hoax of Business Unionism
PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2016 5:59 pm 
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And that brings us to the question of how racism manifests in the working-class and specifically in trade unions: that there is a 'them' who will work longer for less than 'us' (a pillar of capitalist society), though this is not always racial but also manifests based on nationality ('native' vs immigrant), gender, age (child labor), religion (WASP vs Catholic), skilled vs unskilled etc. and both categories ('them' and 'us') change in definition/composition over time. I think that the way this has been defeated is when the realization is made that 'us' has to help 'them' improve conditions to protect what 'us' already has. It's on this basis that I think the line of beating them into shape is important and forms a big part of what successful socialist practice has looked like, that there is always a practical reason and a practical solution, unifying the class programme--the proletariat has no country--with the real-existing class struggle as we find it. It's a question as to whether winning hearts and minds is how reactionary ideologies and prejudices are combated in the working-class and its organs.


Here's where the issue is joined. The history of racism in the US working class is NOT a history that there is a "them" who will work longer for less than us. The history is a history of exclusion by the so-called "native working class," a turning away from attacking the sub-ordination of workers into different categories, which leaves entire sectors no option but to work longer for less because they are excluded from the prospects of working equally as equals and for equal.

In an example from the mid-20th century-- you get the Southern Farmers Tenants Union when organizing in California, arresting workers in the bracero programs that were trucked in as strikebreakers, and providing locations of such workers to the INS and police forces for arrest and deportation.

Part of class struggle you think? Sure thing, particularly when undertaken by a union whose leadership, very rank and file that it was, worked in quasi-official government capacities for FDR's New Deal, etc.

Let me know how you would beat that one into shape.


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 Post subject: Re: The Hoax of Business Unionism
PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 12:28 pm 
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Here's where the issue is joined. The history of racism in the US working class is NOT a history that there is a "them" who will work longer for less than us. The history is a history of exclusion by the so-called "native working class," a turning away from attacking the sub-ordination of workers into different categories, which leaves entire sectors no option but to work longer for less because they are excluded from the prospects of working equally as equals and for equal.


You're making it sound as though the working-class is the creator of the divisions within the class instead of capital, capitalists, capitalism and capitalist society. The exclusion of any specific group within the working-class from 'working equally as equals' predates the labor movement re: immigrants, child labor, divide between male and female wages, slavery co-existing with wage labor, etc. I truly do not understand the argument that these divisions are not just reflected in the trade unions but that they themselves created them.

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In an example from the mid-20th century-- you get the Southern Farmers Tenants Union when organizing in California, arresting workers in the bracero programs that were trucked in as strikebreakers, and providing locations of such workers to the INS and police forces for arrest and deportation.

Part of class struggle you think? Sure thing, particularly when undertaken by a union whose leadership, very rank and file that it was, worked in quasi-official government capacities for FDR's New Deal, etc.

Let me know how you would beat that one into shape.


United Farm Workers?

This is an expectation that there is some kind of means to quarantine the working-class from the ideologies, prejudices, habits and co. of capitalist society outside of socialist practice and vigilance and is to say: 'see--here the unions are acting against the class, there they are led by those who take up posts in the capitalist state, everywhere they are impure, therefore the union-form is reactionary'. Chavez, the Salt of the Earth, the darling of the liberals and California Democrats--at the time, what was the United Farm Workers to the socialist movement? I'm sure I don't have to mine old socialist papers from that period to demonstrate that it was a cheerleader for Chavez, the UFW and its grand social justice movement; particularly as it relates to the Teamsters-UFW raiding/jurisdictional disputes.

Whether or not a leadership or organization itself is rank-and-filist, democratic, progressive, etc. is irrelevant (the quote from Class, Bureaucracy and the Union-Form earlier), it has no bearing on the fundamental content of trade unionism. But you say that reaction is expressed in this fundamental content, that it's a cornerstone of trade unionism. I think you're reversing cause and effect.


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 Post subject: Re: The Hoax of Business Unionism
PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 12:42 pm 
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I'll come back to the idea you expressed earlier (and I've seen this elsewhere) that an organization which defines itself on any basis (by craft, trade and/or industry) is therefore exclusionary and by extension is not a 'class organization' because it is not open to the entire working-class.


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 Post subject: Re: The Hoax of Business Unionism
PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 8:07 pm 
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mhou wrote:
I'll come back to the idea you expressed earlier (and I've seen this elsewhere) that an organization which defines itself on any basis (by craft, trade and/or industry) is therefore exclusionary and by extension is not a 'class organization' because it is not open to the entire working-class.



OK, but when you come back to the idea I expressed earlier which is not that an organization which defines itself on any basis (by craft, trade and or/industry) is therefore exclusionary and by extension is not a 'class organization' because it is not open to the entire working class.

My idea is that trade unions spring up from the general social environment surrounding the working class, and invariably reproduce those conditions-- discrimination, categorization, fractionalization of the class-- to the degree that they do not consciously, explicitly embrace a revolutionary practice.

FWIW, I would like it if you could come back to the idea that Gompers and the AFL represented the legacy, and a continuum with the IMWA-- a "true" offspring, and socialists were represented anything but that continuity in Marx's practice.


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 Post subject: Re: The Hoax of Business Unionism
PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 10:02 am 
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This is an expectation that there is some kind of means to quarantine the working-class from the ideologies, prejudices, habits and co. of capitalist society outside of socialist practice and vigilance and is to say: 'see--here the unions are acting against the class, there they are led by those who take up posts in the capitalist state, everywhere they are impure, therefore the union-form is reactionary'. Chavez, the Salt of the Earth, the darling of the liberals and California Democrats--at the time, what was the United Farm Workers to the socialist movement? I'm sure I don't have to mine old socialist papers from that period to demonstrate that it was a cheerleader for Chavez, the UFW and its grand social justice movement; particularly as it relates to the Teamsters-UFW raiding/jurisdictional disputes.


Uhh.......no. There is no expectation that there is any means to quarantine the working class from ideologies, prejudices, etc. of capitalism. Your expectation and assertion is that trade unions represent the class-struggle organization of the working class and that the union-form is adequate to the struggle against those prejudices, ideologies, fragmentations, segmenting of the working class. That is a the continuous thread you carry through your arguments from Gompers and the AFL being the embodiment of the IMWA, to your criticism of the SWP supporting a "no-strike" union official.

Clearly, the trade union form is not adequate, is not even capable of sustaining the struggle against those not "ideologies" but real material conditions of production and reproduction that produce the actual conflicts within the class.

That's the issue. This isn't about "good" trade unionists, [like Gompers?] vs. "bad" trade unionists like Debs or Chavez. This isn't about the good SFTU vs. the bad UFW.

Nobody's arguing for purity. Your argument, on the other hand, really does reduce itself to the mirrror-image of the Trotskyist arguments-- that if only we get rid of those trade union bureaucrats, if only we get a real revolutionary leadership, the unions will once again be "real" trade unions, in the spirit of the IMWA, Marx...and I suppose Gompers.


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 Post subject: Re: The Hoax of Business Unionism
PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 11:15 am 
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My idea is that trade unions spring up from the general social environment surrounding the working class, and invariably reproduce those conditions-- discrimination, categorization, fractionalization of the class-- to the degree that they do not consciously, explicitly embrace a revolutionary practice.


Outside of the caveat that class interests born from material circumstances have the potential to break through the prevailing social conditions in the course of the class struggle, that is basically what I've been arguing here. That the union-form isn't an idea but the content of labor's class struggles.

Quote:
Your expectation and assertion is that trade unions represent the class-struggle organization of the working class and that the union-form is adequate to the struggle against those prejudices, ideologies, fragmentations, segmenting of the working class.


My assertion is that trade unionism is the content of labor's class struggles under the capitalist social relation and the fundamental essence of organization which can, has, does, and will develop beyond the union-form. Here you're moving back from your statement quoted above.

If the working-class is only capable of breaking through the ideologies, prejudices, habits from the other (and particularly the ruling) classes on the basis of revolutionary intervention, the socialist movement is reduced to an idea rather than a constituent element of the real movement. The characteristics of the proletariat which make it a revolutionary agent and from which the socialist programme is derived have to be consistently nurtured, cultivated, defended. If the working-class did not have the potential to break free from the dominant social influences of capitalism on the basis of its lived experience of the class struggle, the socialist movement is just a matter of winning hearts and minds with no material basis.

If anything I was anticipating a charge of supporting party substitutionism, not anarcho-syndicalism--that was unexpected.

Quote:
Your argument, on the other hand, really does reduce itself to the mirrror-image of the Trotskyist arguments-- that if only we get rid of those trade union bureaucrats, if only we get a real revolutionary leadership, the unions will once again be "real" trade unions, in the spirit of the IMWA, Marx...and I suppose Gompers.


Not at all, and where exactly is there a presumption that 'the unions will once again be 'real' trade unions'? Again, I was anticipating the opposite charge--if anything, the takeaway on that point should've been that the trade unions now are as 'real' as they were 125 years ago, that there has been no qualitative change.

From the last lines of Class, Bureaucracy and the Union-Form:

Quote:
The line running through Marx, Engels and Lenin finds expression in the lived experience of trade unionism as the content of labor’s class struggles—their characterizations remaining literal and contemporary as the fixed, determinant elements of capitalism remain unchanged. Jimmy Hoffa as much as Samuel Gompers, the International Association of Machinists as much as the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, represents a social force, a necessary and integral dynamic to the emancipation of labor as elaborated over two centuries of class struggle—a subterranean force, forgotten or abandoned, that every day affirms:

“There is no ‘new method’ in this struggle.” (Second Congress of the Third International, Ninth Session on the Trade Union Question)


'Revolutionary leadership of the trade unions' is the proletarian revolution itself. I'll leave it to the Trotskyists (like the International Socialist Organization and the Chicago Teachers Union) to make a fetish of sitting in the corner office of the union hall and become stockbrokers in the class struggle, which is just as legitimate as the other facets of the political cul-de-sac that passes for The Trade Union Question: 'win the unions, outside and against the unions, build new unions' aka 'maneuver for union office, tell workers to abandon and smash the unions, form ideal-on-paper organizations that call themselves unions'.

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FWIW, I would like it if you could come back to the idea that Gompers and the AFL represented the legacy, and a continuum with the IMWA-- a "true" offspring, and socialists were represented anything but that continuity in Marx's practice


Can you narrow this down?


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 Post subject: Re: The Hoax of Business Unionism
PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:33 pm 
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mhou wrote:
fractionalization of the class-- to the degree that they do not consciously, explicitly embrace a revolutionary practice.

Outside of the caveat that class interests born from material circumstances have the potential to break through the prevailing social conditions in the course of the class struggle, that is basically what I've been arguing here. That the union-form isn't an idea but the content of labor's class struggles.


No, it's not the "content" of class struggle. It's a form. The content is the emancipation of labor. The issue is the form adequate to this struggle. Clearly it is not.


Quote:
My assertion is that trade unionism is the content of labor's class struggles under the capitalist social relation and the fundamental essence of organization which can, has, does, and will develop beyond the union-form.


Can, has, does? Can you point out where it has, and did, since 1973? Chile? The US strike wave of 1974? Poland 1980-1981? South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle (really-- look at COSATU)? Bolivia? El Alto? Venezuela? Argentina in the crisis of 2001 and after? Mexico, at any point between 1982 and today? Britain, with the miners' strike in 1985? Brazil? Greece, 1980? Greece 2010-2016? Spain 1975? Portugal 1974? Ireland 2008?

No? If not, then why not. If "yes" in any specific incident, why do you think that specific transformation was not able to "reproduce" itself in class struggles in general?

Quote:
If the working-class is only capable of breaking through the ideologies, prejudices, habits from the other (and particularly the ruling) classes on the basis of revolutionary intervention, the socialist movement is reduced to an idea rather than a constituent element of the real movement. The characteristics of the proletariat which make it a revolutionary agent and from which the socialist programme is derived have to be consistently nurtured, cultivated, defended. If the working-class did not have the potential to break free from the dominant social influences of capitalism on the basis of its lived experience of the class struggle, the socialist movement is just a matter of winning hearts and minds with no material basis.


Little bit of sleight of hand there comrade, I never said the working class is only capable on the basis of revolutionary intervention. I said it is only capable on the basis of revolutionary struggle. And in that moment, or process, trade unions are organically resistant to revolutionary struggle, at their very best. At less than their best, which is probably all the time, the unions will oppose any struggle that slips the bonds and the boundaries of a "trade union struggle." Like, for example, the events in Wisconsin

Quote:
Again, I was anticipating the opposite charge--if anything, the takeaway on that point should've been that the trade unions now are as 'real' as they were 125 years ago, that there has been no qualitative change.
:

Really? The precipitous decline in membership, the overwhelming silence of the unions in the face of a sustained 40 year assault on the part of the bourgeoisie upon living standards, work standards, the distribution of wealth doesn't carry any deeper meaning to you about the "reality" of trade unions and the prospects of the class organizing itself through the union-form? All righty then. Sure, the glass may be half full or half empty, but in this case its half-filled and half-empty by broken glass.

Quote:
The line running through Marx, Engels and Lenin finds expression in the lived experience of trade unionism as the content of labor’s class struggles—their characterizations remaining literal and contemporary as the fixed, determinant elements of capitalism remain unchanged. Jimmy Hoffa as much as Samuel Gompers, the International Association of Machinists as much as the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, represents a social force, a necessary and integral dynamic to the emancipation of labor as elaborated over two centuries of class struggle—a subterranean force, forgotten or abandoned, that every day affirms:


You can make all the offerings you want to the totems of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Don't mean a thing That "line" you think exists includes the destruction of every single proletarian revolutionary struggle at the hands of those tied to the strings of the Third International. I'm not talking Kronstadt or about Mahkno. I'm talking about workers' struggles in Turkey, Germany, China, the UK, Italy.


Quote:
FWIW, I would like it if you could come back to the idea that Gompers and the AFL represented the legacy, and a continuum with the IMWA-- a "true" offspring, and socialists were represented anything but that continuity in Marx's practice


Quote:
Can you narrow this down?


Nope. You're the one who holds a trade union or trade unionist to different standards than those you hold for socialists; yet you claim Gompers represents the practice of the IWMA in the US.

You explain it.


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 Post subject: Re: The Hoax of Business Unionism
PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2016 9:01 pm 
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No, it's not the "content" of class struggle. It's a form. The content is the emancipation of labor. The issue is the form adequate to this struggle. Clearly it is not


And that is the substantive difference: I'm arguing specifically that trade unionism is a process, not a form--that the trade union is a form, but not the sole form produced by the process of trade unionism.

You're arguing that the emancipation of labor is the content of labor's class struggles? Can you elaborate on this?

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Can, has, does? Can you point out where it has, and did, since 1973? Chile? The US strike wave of 1974? Poland 1980-1981? South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle (really-- look at COSATU)? Bolivia? El Alto? Venezuela? Argentina in the crisis of 2001 and after? Mexico, at any point between 1982 and today? Britain, with the miners' strike in 1985? Brazil? Greece, 1980? Greece 2010-2016? Spain 1975? Portugal 1974? Ireland 2008?

No? If not, then why not. If "yes" in any specific incident, why do you think that specific transformation was not able to "reproduce" itself in class struggles in general?


For the episodes I'm familiar with on that list 'all of the above' on the basis of the reply at the start of this post.

Where exactly do you think organizational forms other than the trade union come from? Who creates them, in what circumstances, on what basis?

My answer to your question is that there is but one class struggle which does 'reproduce' what you're calling 'transformations'. I completely disagree with this conceptual separation of a 'class struggle in general' vs some kind of other [special, advanced, extraordinary, somehow uniquely different?] class struggle.

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You can make all the offerings you want to the totems of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Don't mean a thing That "line" you think exists includes the destruction of every single proletarian revolutionary struggle at the hands of those tied to the strings of the Third International. I'm not talking Kronstadt or about Mahkno. I'm talking about workers' struggles in Turkey, Germany, China, the UK, Italy.


You misunderstood why I added that quote to the response.

Your example about the union sanctioned vigilantes rounding up suspected migrant workers at the border was described as the work of the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, which I assumed was a mistake since I thought that that specific episode is attributed to the United Farm Workers-- so I responded as though you wrote 'Southern Tenant Farmers' instead of 'United Farm Workers' by mistake. If the STF were responsible for doing that, then that bit about the UFW in my reply wasn't directly relevant.

But, then you wrote this:

Quote:
This isn't about "good" trade unionists, [like Gompers?] vs. "bad" trade unionists like Debs or Chavez. This isn't about the good SFTU vs. the bad UFW.


Again, you're accusing me of differentiating between or playing retroactive favorites when all along (before THOBU was written), I'm making no distinctions between historically 'progressive' or 'reactionary' trade unions and trade union leaders-- which is why Hoffa and Gompers, the BSCP and IAM were chosen: the archetypal trade union bureaucrats of their eras, a trade union founded by and for an oppressed minority within the US working-class that was extremely active in the wider struggle for civil rights and another founded with explicit whites-only racial requirements which, even when they were removed, were perpetuated through racially segregated locals into the 1960's.

The point is that this cul-de-sac of who to retroactively support and who to retroactively oppose was irrelevant to the purpose of the text(s).

What do you get when you cherrypick historical actors, events, organizations, combine them all helter skelter (not often that I get to use that in a sentence so I'm taking the opportunity) into an apparently coherent political lineage? An Ideological Narrative. THOBU itself, as an attack on the theory of 'business unionism', is an attack on that entire "on the one hand... and on the other" mode of thinking on these subjects, on constructing a parallel class struggle based on retroactive support or condemnation of particular organizations, leaders, ideologies; as though you can simply define the working-class as its most progressive, radical, revolutionary side and merely discard the rest and build political practice on that basis.

I'll come back with another post to respond to the rest. Though on this:

Quote:
Nope. You're the one who holds a trade union or trade unionist to different standards than those you hold for socialists; yet you claim Gompers represents the practice of the IWMA in the US.

You explain it.


I thought you had a specific question in mind, if not that's fine. In that case I'll pick up with the distinctive standard for revolutionaries, the FOTLU as an application of the experience of the First International and the inherently racist support for Chinese exclusion from the US beginning with its origin in 1881.


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 Post subject: Re: The Hoax of Business Unionism
PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2016 10:49 pm 
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First, no I didn't make a mistake, it was the SFTU renamed the National Farm Labor Union, in 1950 organizing agricultural workers in the Imperial Valley in California, arresting braceros and patrolling border crossing points with baseball bats, handing over the braceros to the INS. See HL Mitchell (one of the founders of the SFTU) Mean Things Happening In This Land.

Secondly, as Marx makes clear, the class struggle of the proletariat is about emancipation of labor; it may express itself as a struggle over wages, or working conditions, but that is only because surplus value is what it is-- the expropriation of social labor time for private accumulation. The conflict is between the conditions of labor, i.e. organized as a commodity for exchange, and labor-- the power to satisfy, deepen, expand, and create anew social human beings. That's how Marx makes it clear that in emancipating itself, the proletariat emancipates all others, as there is no longer the expropriation of labor; no longer the expression of labor-power as a commodity. And that's why to emancipate itself, the proletariat has to do away with the conditions that create it.

Finally, we can argue about the trade union being a form or process or a condition and it doesn't make any difference. The issue is if the organization of trade unions makes, impels them, to seek accommodation with the bourgeoisie, or if in fact trade unions become "combat organizations" of the workers in the class struggle.

Think the evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of the compulsion to seek accommodation rather than act as combat organizations. In Chile, it was the cordones, taken over by the workers after the Unidad Popular initiated them that became the combat organizations.

In Bolivia, the "lost decade" in Latin America, and the decline of tin prices took a devastating toll on the unions and they were unable to recover and counter Morales' retread of "Goni-ism."

In the UK-- we have the example of the miners' strike in 85-- and while the bourgeoisie knew it was all about "who rules?" and acted accordingly, the unions would not, because they could not.

Are trade unions the organs by which class struggle will be articulated, advanced, and made "real"? That's the issue. And the answers are "possibly" or "in some cases" and "up to a point" and "at that point the unions reveal their intrinsic limitations and inabilities." Everything else is just a dog, or dogs, chasing its, or their, tail. or tails.

So what does this mean practically? Particularly since union memberships have declined so precipitously? Concretely, look at the events in Madison, Wisconsin-- the battle was lost when it was maintained as a struggle to defend the unions-- when it was contained within the "union form." In Madison, what was required were general councils, not controlled by the unions, not meeting according to union classification. But that was anathema to the unions, not to mention the Michael Moore types who wanted to tie the struggle to the electoral fortunes of the Democratic party.

You say you are not "choosing" good vs. the bad, but of course you are. You bestow the legacly of the IMWA on Gompers and Strasser and the AFL. You take issue with Farrell Dobbs leaving the Teamsters for the SWP, as if that were somehow "betraying" the legacy of Marx and the IMWA. You blame Debs for the WFM throwing in with the IWW, and dismiss the IWW altogether although the IWW opposed entry into the war, and the IWW organizations actively combated racism in Louisiana among other states.

As I stated before, dual unionism is rarely a revolutionary strategy, but that doesn't make every "dual union" an exercise in reaction and "anti-working class struggle" politics.

Nor does it mean that trade unions are to be ignored, pilloried, or should be made targets of government intervention to "clean them up." Why did Willie Sutton rob banks? Because, as he put it, that's where the money is. Why are class struggles circumscribed by trade unions important? Because that's where [some of] the workers are.


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 Post subject: Re: The Hoax of Business Unionism
PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2016 10:12 pm 
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Little bit of sleight of hand there comrade, I never said the working class is only capable on the basis of revolutionary intervention. I said it is only capable on the basis of revolutionary struggle. And in that moment, or process, trade unions are organically resistant to revolutionary struggle, at their very best. At less than their best, which is probably all the time, the unions will oppose any struggle that slips the bonds and the boundaries of a "trade union struggle." Like, for example, the events in Wisconsin


I think you're vastly understating the capacity of the working-class, outside of the acute class struggles characteristic of revolution and certainly outside revolutionary intervention, to cast off the dominant ideologies, prejudices, habits, influences of the other classes on the basis of its experience of you've called "the class struggle in general".

Yes, the trade unions are resistant to revolutionary struggle, even when they wind up contributing to or anticipating it. They are inherently conservative. English and French trade unionists in the IWMA during the revolutionary uprising that established the Paris Commune exemplify this, particularly Henry Tolain. But this is just as irrelevant to the essence of trade unionism as retroactively categorizing trade union leaders and the wrap sheets of the most egregiously reactionary conduct by particular organizations as indicative of something essential, fundamental about the union-form and the content of trade unionism beyond the inherent contradiction displayed in the very existence of trade unions in capitalist society.

Quote:
Really? The precipitous decline in membership, the overwhelming silence of the unions in the face of a sustained 40 year assault on the part of the bourgeoisie upon living standards, work standards, the distribution of wealth doesn't carry any deeper meaning to you about the "reality" of trade unions and the prospects of the class organizing itself through the union-form? All righty then. Sure, the glass may be half full or half empty, but in this case its half-filled and half-empty by broken glass.


The trade unions have been declared dead and buried dozens if not hundreds of times in the past. Trade unions exhibit similar long wave trends when evaluating metrics like total membership and more recently union density over time as those founds in segments of the capitalist economy. Freeman's Spurts in Union Growth is very good on this:

http://www.nber.org/chapters/c6896.pdf

I used a quote from Swabeck on this topic as a footnote:

“A cursory glance at labor’s history from the beginning of trades unionism in the [1830’s], through the various periods of cyclic crises, shows with almost unfailing regularity the same phenomenon. During times of ‘prosperity’, with its labor shortage and the cost of living invariably out leaping raises in wages, aggressive strike offensives and expansion of trade unions were on the order of the day. These just as surely changed when a new crisis set in. While these were often accompanied with desperate and violent revolts, the character and often repeated defeats of the defensive strikes turned the workers’ attention toward struggle for political reforms which were often expressed through various forms of labor or middle class parties. This may be said to have been particularly marked up until the ‘great upheaval’ in [1885 and 1886]; but a similar recurrence of developments of more recent date can be noticed.” Arne Swabeck, Next Steps of the American Workers (1930).

So no, no deeper meaning.

Quote:
You can make all the offerings you want to the totems of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Don't mean a thing That "line" you think exists includes the destruction of every single proletarian revolutionary struggle at the hands of those tied to the strings of the Third International. I'm not talking Kronstadt or about Mahkno. I'm talking about workers' struggles in Turkey, Germany, China, the UK, Italy.


To pick up on the rest of this part (fair enough about the STF, mea culpa):

Continuity of that variety may not be important to you, but it and being able to document the kernels from which the core text and its supplements were derived was important to me.

You could include Kronstadt and Mahkno, because I'm certain we don't agree on those episodes either for the same reasons as the rest. But that's another massive topic, I'll leave it up to you if we upend that particular cart here.

I'll leave this post for now with brief thoughts on the subject of the IWMA-FOTLU and Chinese exclusion and pick up again with your latest reply, which will give me a chance to get specifically at the distinctive standard for revolutionaries.

“To counteract the intrigues of capitalists always ready, in cases of strikes and lockouts, to misuse the foreign workman as a tool against the native workman, is one of the particular functions which our Society has hitherto performed with success. It is one of the great purposes of the Association to make the workmen of different countries not only feel but act as brethren and comrades in the army of emancipation.”—Marx, Instructions to the Delegates of the Provisional General Council (1866)

“The conditions of the daily struggle (especially in such comparatively advanced countries as England and France) suggested to the workers the need of forming an international union of proletarian forces for a number of purposes. Among these may be mentioned: the sharing of experience and knowledge; conjoint efforts on behalf of social reform and improvements in the condition of the working class; the prevention of the import of foreign workers to break strikes; etc. Thus the needs of the industrial struggle gave an impetus towards the formation of the workers’ international.” –Steklov's history of the First International

The genesis of working-class solidarity begins when wage laborers ceased competing against each other as sellers of commodified labor-power; realizing that to improve their lot they couldn't do so as individuals. Solidarity was not a choice but a practical necessity. Such was the case at the formation of the International. The idea of solidarity is preceded by the material need to defend existing conditions (past gains).

But it's obvious that this fundamental element of the class struggle isn't inherently revolutionary. It could serve as a major plank and motivating impetus for the formation of the first Workers' International, and in the American labor movement, become an expression of and translated into the racist, xenophobic hysteria evident in the new legislation of period, the "Yellow Peril" mythology and the pogroms and lynchings beginning a decade before the FOTLU was formed and reaching a fever pitch in the decades after. It's an understatement to say this was a failure of those who formed and led FOTLU and then the AFL, which included many first and second generation immigrants itself from its formation in 1881. From the few sources I can find on the subject, the American socialist movement itself was no better.

I don't find anything instructive or revealing about the union-form because of this. That their racist position in support of Chinese exclusion from the United States was articulated in the same way as the IWMA's formative opposition for the importation of foreign workers to serve as strikebreakers is instructive and revealing to me.


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