Date: Thu, 10 Oct 1996 15:44:24 -0500
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>>> Item number 9958, dated 96/10/06 01:43:38 -- ALL
Date: Sun, 6 Oct 1996 01:43:38 GMT
Reply-To: Rich Winkel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: Rich Winkel <email@example.com>
Subject: 'New' AFL-CIO Looks Like Old
/** headlines: 140.0 **/
** Topic: 'New' AFL-CIO Looks Like Old **
** Written 8:08 AM Oct 3, 1996 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
The 'New' AFL-CIO still looks like the old
By B.B., in The People, Vol. 6, no. 7
"Craft autonomy, plus acceptance of the wages system, produced
the monstrosity of the job trust, and the job trust turned the
arms of the working class against itself."
--CRAFT UNIONISM VS. INDUSTRIAL UNIONISM*
*CRAFT UNIONISM VS. INDUSTRIAL UNIONISM was a pamphlet published
by the Socialist Labor Party of Great Britain in the 1910s. It
has been out of print for many years.
With the triumphant coronation of John Sweeney, and his ticket of
"New Voices," to the ruling hierarchy of the AFL-CIO, a sweeping
transformation from complacency, stagnation, decline and
restoration of militancy to the labor movement was to have been
launched. To update workers on the progress of this effort
reveals simultaneously that capitalist unionism is still the same
old perambulating mass of contradictions hell-bent on knocking
itself to pieces. It is unfit to serve in either defense of
workers' interests or as an instrument of emancipation from wage
slavery--much less as the framework for the governing structure
of a new society. In short, the AFL-CIO is nothing of what
unionism must be to protect and advance workers' interests.
Three major strikes have occurred since the ascent of the "New
Voices." One was the UAW strike at Caterpillar, where 80 percent
of the membership rejected the proposed contract while the union
hierarchy capitulated. Called "the most crushing defeat in
decades" by labor reporter John Lippert, THE PEOPLE summarized
the debacle accordingly: "The precedent set by the outcome of the
strike--capitulation on all fronts by one of the nation's largest
unions--bodes ill for workers in every industry."
In Decatur, Ill., the lockout at the A.E. Staley plant was
another bouquet tossed to the capitalist class by Brother
Sweeney. Feeble company concessions rejected by the local union
were gleefully accepted by the International, which strong-armed
a ratification vote and obsequiously delivered the sellout to
Staley. Three hundred ninety workers out of a previous force of
740 were tossed into the streets.
Likewise, the Detroit newspaper strike went from bad to worse, as
local union bureaucrats piously refrained from interfering with
scab labor, while dutifully bowing to the courts and the cops.
Staughton Lynd, writing in the summer issue of NEW POLITICS,
referred to Sweeney's "class-collaborationist rhetoric" when the
AFL-CIO chieftain announced to the National Press Club that, "We
can no longer afford the luxury of pretending that productivity,
quality and competitiveness are not our business." The fact is
that capitulation to labor-saving technology has always been the
practice of the job-trust "labor union." The practice has a long
and ignoble line of labor fakers behind it, including, among
others, such labor "icons" as John L. Lewis, who built a career
on red baiting and swapping labor-displacing coal-boring
mechanization for "organizing rights" with coal capitalists.
This has always been the "game plan," and the AFL-CIO's "New
Voices" general council made it plain that it still is the plan
when it echoed Sweeney's press club statement by chiming in that
"unions and employers, through collective bargaining, are forging
strong labor-management partnerships dedicated to achieving
world-class standards of productivity and efficiency." Union
hierarch Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president,
confirmed, "We want to negotiate better. Sometimes the emphasis
has been on money when it should have been on training. If there
is new technology we shouldn't dig our heels in." This tends to
confirm again the role of capitalist unionism as the agency of
wholesale submission of labor to the ever more intense
exploitation and job loss. "New Voices"? Baloney!
With their ears to the ground, corporate fops and retainers
monitor the labor merchandisers and carefully report the
slightest indication of militancy. Thus Ed Lawler, a management
professor at University of Southern California's business school,
announced that the unions "seem to be working the same old
issues, just with new vigor. To have significant growth and a
turnaround they have to come up with a new definition of what the
union movement is all about." For Lawler, this means bald-faced
class collaboration, such as in the case of General Motors'
Saturn plant. He wants unadorned company unions.
Andy Kramer, an attorney for Bridgestone-Firestone, declared,
"Clearly, the leadership of the federation, as well as some of
the individual unions, is much more aggressive." Yes, indeed,
rhetorical flourishes are thick around federation headquarters as
union hierarchs parry and thrust at phantom opponents. Thus, Mr.
Kramer admits, "I'm not sure any of this gets them new members.
It gets them publicity, but they still have to prove themselves
relevant to those they want to organize." Bravo! Bravo!
Relevance to the working class is just the rub, but not on terms
that Lawler, Kramer, Chavez-Thompson or fakerdom perceive as
being "relevant." Indeed, they all occupy the same squalid
perspective: denial of the class struggle; denial of the
exploitation of labor at the point of production; total ignorance
of capitalist economics, and a careerist view that embodies the
rapacious individualism pervasive in capitalist society.
Unlike the corporate lawyers and academic flunkies, the labor
fakers must posture as militant champions of the exploited and
oppressed working class. Organizationally, they must preserve and
extend the "strategy" of splitting the union movement by craft
divisions, by ethnic divisions and within each productively
integrated industry, while singing "Solidarity Forever." With
increasing rank-and-file anger over job cuts, benefit
curtailments, intensified exploitation and longer work for less
pay, posturing militancy while capitulating to the inevitable
tendencies of capitalism for greater profits is fakerdom's only
rationale, and its total commitment.
Relevance to the working class can only mean one thing: Socialist
Industrial Unionism--one big union--organized as an integral body
across entire industries. Relevance to working-class interests
can only mean a union organized to take, hold and operate the
nation's industries and to dispossess the plundering capitalist
class. It can only mean a union that is prepared to claim the
stolen wealth of a hundred generations past for the benefit of
all of society and for all future generations. Any other union
formation is consigned to deceit and contradiction and must be