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March 20, 2006


the burningman

I don't think the issue is "torpedoing organized labor" so much as recognizing the material reality of the labor aristocracy: that section of the working class whose "middle class" standard of living is deeply tied to the economics of imperialism.

This class is getting devestated -- but has been, all and all, a loyal bulwark of white supremacy and the imperial chauvinist order.

The labor bureaucracy is their management mechanism, and has served its purpose well.

Does this mean that all ecnomic organizing is "wrong?"


The argument is that communists should be communists -- and not just "shop stewards."

While this begs the question of what communist shop stewards should do -- the bureaucracy has effectively digested basically everyone who enters that morass and sticks around.

There are exceptions -- and these are important. But Lenin's argument that the proletariat needs "tribunes," not shop stewards is at the very least food for thought.

Why should we duplicate the same failed structures, to the same dead ends?

There's nothing wrong with organizing workers as such, and indeed it is a "school for class struggle."

But we have a century of experience, and changed material realities, since socialists first began building unions -- trade and otherwise. If we fail to even pay attention to what different choices have yielded -- and equate economism (openly or naively) with "organic" connections to the proletariat -- then we have learned nothing.

Is point of production organizing the place to dig in?

I agree essentially with the Avakian (Lenin) analysis about communists and ecnomic work. But the begging questions continue.

What of the thousands of honest militants caught up in the trade union morass and the circular networks of "community organizers?"

What do communists have to say to them, NOW, besides "that's not enough?"


You raise very good questions here, burningman. I just want to pick your brain on one thing you raise. You raise the issue of the labor aristocracy, which you define this way: "that section of the working class whose 'middle class' standard of living is deeply tied to the economics of imperialism." Can you point to a class analysis of the U.S. that lays out more precisely who you think is labor aristocracy in the US and who isn't?

You seem to be referring to more than just the top union leaders who are allied with a section of the bourgeoisie via the Democratic Party and steer the labor movement into pro-bourgeois politics. Are you talking about relatively high-paid union workers, for example some unionized auto workers or airplane mechanics? Or are you talking about semi-professional white collar workers who make high-5 or 6-figure salaries but who aren't 'bosses'? In other words who would you consider the labor aristocracy and what is your basis for thinking so?

the burningman

In terms of older analysis -- I'd check out Lenin on Imperialism. The idea that the "labor aristocracy" is just the bureaucracy is confusing corruption of unions with the section of the working class itself that has attained middle-class standards of living.

Historically, the place to start this discussion would be with the "race and craft" guilds... racist unions that live on today, where "union cards" stand in for anything like labor solidarity and exist to control crucial sectors of the labor market with barriers of privilege.

To be an Iron Worker, for example, you need a union card. To get a union card, you need a reference. To get a reference, you need to be from the same social base as the workforce already was.

Unions then exist to keep people out, not to bring them together... and increasingly, the unions themselves are discarded.

Just because someone is a member of the labor aristocracy doesn't make them an enemy. That would be mechanical in the extreme...

But to subordinate the working class movement, time and again, to the needs and demands of its most privileged sectors is a gross mistake. It denies the connections of this relative affluence with the system that generates super-profits from the third world -- and all the reasons that the labor aristocracy AS A CLASS again and again choses fascims (LePen in France, Reagan in America) over what is supposed to be in their "class" interests.

The labor contracts signed in the aftermath of WW2 are in shambles. See the UAW, see the collapse of heavy industry.

This is an old issue that is becoming new again -- and worth a rigorous discussion.

This definitely makes perfect sense to anyone!!

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