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September 03, 2007



" it is generally true that organized labor in New York City tends to be more ossified and conservative than the best locals of SEIU, UNITE HERE, etc."

This is just not the case, speak to anyone doing any militant labor organizing, or even these "conservative" locals in NYC. Any IWW, CSWA, NMASS, or ROC-NY will tell you how UNITE-HERE doesn't do a thing. UNITE-HERE in every industry in NYC acts like a service agency at best, and what that is dying.

UNITE-HERE is not a model Union in any degree, unless you aspire to parasite off of garment factory and restaurant workers.


submarino said: "I'd like to see a deeper discussion of how revolutionary-minded organizers might help develop the exciting, progressive, militant section of the labor movement (which is growing, believe it or not) into a "a conscious and explitly revolutionary minded political movement."" The question that has been raised here is whether it can.

Marx was committed to labor organizing due to labor's strategic location in the relations of production. It is this location that gives labor its universalizing potential. However, as workers have won more and more gains over the years, socialists have subjected other non-economic relations in their lives to scrutiny and have struggled to develop a more complicated and non-reductive understanding of "class".

In practical terms, Mao raised the challenge by calling the mostly peasant-based Chinese Revolution a "proletarian" one. In the mechanical sense, one could call this substitutionism. After all, how can one have a working class revolution without the working class? But Mao wasn't referring to agency, but ideology. He did not assume that one automatically necessitated the other. Both Marx and Trotsky [not sure about Lenin] assumed that peasantry's political horizons were limited by their petty bourgeois material interests and paid little attention to them as a potential force for revolution. In Trotsky's case, he said that they would simply go with whomever won the struggle. On a spontaneous level, they were right. But Mao's extensive experience among the Chinese peasantry showed them to be more capable of ideological leaps than orthodox Marxism would give them credit for - if organized properly. Besides, the CCP already had a history of labor organizing before Mao's peasant strategy was adopted, so it's not like they were not familiar with working class life and ideas. It seems logical that if workers can take on capitalist ideology, peasants can take on working class ideology. Capitalists work on hegemony all the time because they realize workers' ideologies are not absolutely defined by production relations, and it's not all "false consciousness" - something labor-oriented revolutionaries still have a hard time understanding.

The challenge laid out by Mao is to understand that class can cannot be reduced to relations of production but must include the potential and limiting life experiences that go with that.

How does that play out in the US with our complicated mix of class, race, gender cultural issues? In the midst of the most militarily powerful, economically pervasive and ideologically dominating empire in the world?

In Marx's time, imperialism had not yet found ways to absorb unions into its functioning. In Lenin's it was already taking shape. Now unions in the US are in precarious shape despite outbursts here and there.

Even with renewed militancy, how can a labor struggle now become a universalizing force given that we must have a more complex view of different kinds of oppressions that are associated with class? Isn't this why we need a broader political revolutionary movement because labor is too fundamentally limiting?

One instructive historical example of the limitations of even the most powerful labor-based organizing is the German Social Democratic Labor Party during the Weimar years. Having over one million members in the Party, dominance in the trade unions and members in the government the GSDLP were a powerful organization. One of its last acts before the collapse of Weimar was to lead a massive strike making high, but seemingly reasonable demands. The problem was that German capital had fractured into competing arenas, the state was too weak to compel a unified politics, and could not meet such demands, but conceded anyway. The state was deadlocked. The GSDLP had paralyzed the state, but without a revolutionary politics could go no further, the state could not take the reins, allowing the one group with coherent politics to step up: the Nazi Party.

Now I am not laying the rise of Naziism at the door of the Social Democrats but pointing out that even if labor politics can grow huge and become militant, size and exuberance are not necessarily revolutionary and can only go so far.

So submarino, you've said that you don't know how to turn a labor politics into a revolutionary politics. Let's put aside practical tasks for a moment and reflect on the potentials of the work. What do you think a labor movement CAN turn into? How would it address the myriad of political oppressions differently than if you had come from some other type of struggle? Why is labor a faultline struggle against the empire anymore?

A central tenet among those committed to democratic centralism is to organize workers by ideology. First you mobilize the most "politically advanced" workers, have them organize the more intermediate, and have them reach out to the more backward. I hope I'm not being too schematic but that's how I always understood it. How do people feel about this?

I think it is important that workers fight back at the workplace, and everywhere they can. The question for revolutionaries is: how do we assess the historical weight of these struggles, so we can focus our energies where they can do the most good?


Shine, I won't argue with your position, but I'm wondering about causality. Are unions the way you describe them because they are run by hacks or is there a deeper structural imperative at work?


In reply to submarino:

I'm not really talking about salting for a union. I'm talking about revolutionary cadre making conscious decisions to get rank and file jobs and to fight within the union for a class struggle orientation. This means building up a core - a 'militant minority' as some of our predecessors called it in the 70s - of workers who will fight the boss, and who will also fight the union leadership if it gets in the way of the fight with the boss or refuses to fight the boss. This creates the basis to win advanced workers to Marxism-Leninism, through their own experience in the class struggle shoulder-to-shoulder with communists.

While some revolutionaries taking staff jobs is not particularly harmful, it is counterproductive when it's what most leftists in labor are doing. A rank and file strategy is really the only way to go if our goal is to both lead the class struggle and win advanced workers to communism; there are no shortcuts.

Also in reply to submarino, I would disagree with your putting primary emphasis on organizing the unorganized. I think for communists in the labor movement, the main priority is to fight to transform the unions into class struggle organizations and lead fights in the class. It is through organizing their members that are already there in important class struggles that unions will inspire non-organized workers to want to join unions. In the absence of leading bold class struggle, most unorganized workers will correctly view union organizing campaigns as simply efforts of the union bureaucracy to find new sources of dues to sustain themselves and to funnel to the Democratic Party machine. I mean, why join a union if after you join you are left to wither rather than organized to fight? Most unions have precious little internal organizing. Transforming the unions into class struggle organizations that actually fight for something will lead to more workers wanting to join them.


"The precise Marxian definition of the proletarian position is: substanceless subjectivity which emerges when a certain structural short-circuit occurs -- not only producers exchange their products on the market, but there are producers who are forced to sell on the market not the product of their labor but directly their working force as such. It is here, through this redoubled/reflected alienation, that the surplus-object emerges: surplus value is literally correlative to the emptied subject, it is the objectal counterpart of . This redoubled alienation means that not only "social relations appear as relations between things," as in every market economy, but that the very core of subjectivity itself is posited as equivalent to a thing. One should be attentive here to the paradox of universalization: market economy can only become universal when working force itself is also sold on the market as a commodity. There can be no universal market economy with the majority of producers selling their products."

"Of course, there is a crucial break between slumdwellers and the classic Marxist working class. While the latter is defined in the precise terms of economic "exploitation" (the appropriation of surplus-value generated by the situation of having to sell one's own labor power as a commodity on the market), the defining feature of slumdwellers is sociopolitical; it concerns their (non)integration into the legal space of citizenship with (most of) its incumbent rights. To put it in somewhat simplified terms, much more than a refugee, a slumdweller is a "homo sacer", the systematically generated "living dead" of global capitalism. He is a kind of negative of the refugee: a refugee from his own community, the one whom the power is not trying to control through concentration, where (to repeat the unforgettable pun from Ernst Lubicht's "To Be Or Not to Be") those in power do the concentrating while the refugees do the camping, but pushed into the space of the out-of-control; in contrast to the Foucaultian micropractices of discipline, a slumdweller is the one with regard to whom power renounces its right to exert full control and discipline , finding it more appropriate to let him dwell in the twilight zone of slums."

"What one finds in the "really existing slums" is, of course, a mixture of improvised modes of social life, from religious "fundamentalist" groups help together by a charismatic leader and criminal gangs up to germs of a new, "socialist" solidarity. Slumdwellers are the counterclass to the other newly emerging class, the so-called symbolic class (managers, journalists, and public relations people, academics, artists, etc.), which is also uprooted and percieves itself as directly universal (a New York academic has more in common with a Slovene academic than with blacks in Harlem half a mile from his campus). Is this the new axis of class struggle, or is the "symbolic class" inherently split so that one can make the emancipatory wager of a coalition between slumdwellers and the "progressive" part of the symbolic class? What we should be looking for are signs of the new forms of social awareness that will emerge from the slum collectives: they will be the germs of the future."


ShineThePath, I urge you to draw a line of distinction between union leaders and the unions they lead. The difference is as sharp as that between GW Bush and the American people. Which is to say, not sharp enough, but significant in ways that seem glossed over in multiple posts of yours on this thread.


Ok I have found a bit of time to write.

DW, firstly...where should I "draw" this line you speak of? And how could I possibly do so? Is not the line of the leadership of these Unions are the Unions. If you want me to say, there is a line between regular rank and file and their leadership, that seems to me to go without saying, but it also seems to say nothing at all. That is true of all organizational structures, what is important is the line that leads organizations. In the Labor Internationals of Change to Win, specifically UNITE-HERE and SEIU, there is a particular reactionary kind of Unionism that leads...and it thoroughout their Internationals.

Further the "rank and file" is not homogenous itself. I know many a reactionary worker in all Unions I have come across, some strong Trade Unionists in the rank and file, and few and far in between revolutionaries.

I don't doubt there is internal contradictions, and some rougues in the leadership of those Internationals...but they are surely the minority, and in a supposedly "militant" local like 1199, non-existent.

One of the problems our Movement has today is that we assume the line of the masses, we need a class analysis relevant to today. One which doesn't come from the practice of the 80s' (the RCPs') and one that doesn't virtually ignore the contradictions amongst the people and advocate a Movementist orientation.

I don't object to people doing Union work, but lets be keen in our analysis of the various Locals, their Internationals, and the state of the Labor movement in particular. UNITE-HERE and SEIU are reactionary top-down Unions that posture as militant 'bottom up' Unions, and that is why they're idealized by people like Submarino...but anyone who has ever had a working relationship with them and is honest can only tell you that you will be suffocated in your work with them. You won't put politics in command, you will merely become a Union hack working for the enslavement of workers(through Guest Worker Programs).

I think one must also accept that Trade Unions are in themselves institutionally put forward the pragmatic promise of the day-to-day, you can't do much else. Communist politics have little room to breath, and where they do, get funneled into the activity of immediate demands. Once again, I have to say despite this, the Labor movement is more dynamic than some have described it here. Things have changed a lot since the late 80s', and there is a lot more room for revolutionary communists to do work with labor. But workers are workers outside of their work place, the point of production is important, but a sole devoted focus to it is madness and economism.

Approach Union work cautiously, don't be a Union hack who treats the worker like a child who needs to be fostered into coming into revolutionary consciousness.


the problem, STP, is that when you say that revolutionaries are stuck in the 80s sometimes, I think it's the 1880s.

Unions can't necessarily challenge the system they once did due to imperialism's ability to integrate them. In order for them to be schools of class struggle, they would have to take on a broader political orientation, something for which a union is not suited - at least not beyond electoral politics.

The argument that "class" narrowly defined is a basis for revolutionary organizing is that regardless of ethnicity or gender, most of us are exploited. Subsequently we have an objective interest in working together to end exploitation.

But why should one hate exploitation?


I think Zerohour, you are correct when you speak about Imperialist intergration of the Trade Union movement, but I don't think in anyway this is specific to just Trade Unions. All existing struggles of oppressed and exploited peoples' can be intergrated into Bourgeois liberal politics in some form.

There is no magic struggle that is not reconciable by the Imperialist system, its liberalism and ability to revolutionize itself is key to its "staying power," in a sense.

While I do agree, there are people stuck in 1880, seeing in a very narrow sense Class as the point of production...only including the work place, there is simultaneously the just as mechanical analysis which doesn't account for the development and changes around the Labor movement for the past two decades. It isn't as simple as Trade Union=Economism, and specifically at this point I think that is really an incorrect formulation of the role of organized labor.

Communists need a relevant class analysis for today, one which understands the contradictions amongst the people and the immediate conditions they face, and arguing for this is not saying become a Union hack or set yourself up for the polarization work around Bob Avakian, it is arguing for a new a direction.

Christopher Teret

Unions are not monolithic organizations that are defined by the political positions of their leadership. A union is a terrain of struggle, with competing interests. My union has a history of being racist and anti-communist, not to mention economist and short-sighted. However, if you really believe that a revolution is possible and necessary in this country, at some point you're going to have to deal with a lot of people that you don't like, and that disagree with you. I feel like my position as a rank and file worker in a construction union opens a huge door to be able to talk to people about solidarity and anti-racism and capitalism, in a way that they normally would not be open to. Unions are important not for who's at the top, but for who's at the bottom, and the bottom is where I want to be, with the people who have been battered by reactionary ideology and generations of abuse, but who are capable of seeing a way out and of making a better world.


Here's a different question to help frame the role of labor organizing in a revolutionary strategy: why should we make a revolution?



If by "we" you mean the reds and/or the conscious element represented here at Red Flags, then "we" should not and could not make a revolution. Revolution (and not just "a" revolution) is necessary and desirable, but if we think "we" will make it, we're doomed to failure from the get-go.

We reds need to prepare for rev, which means both preparing ourselves and preparing the masses--who are the ones who will make rev if rev is to be made.

And that brings us back to the question Christopher Day raised (and you have been probing) about our underlying assumptions re. the role of labor in making rev.

My own relevant underlying assumption is not so much about the privileged role of labor or workers in this process. My assumption is a populist notion--i.e., power to the people. I tend to take it as a given that mass organization (as opposed to disorganization or non-organization) is a good thing even when the organizations and their leaders are leading in a reformist direction or even a worse direction. In "Settlers," J. Sakai argued otherwise, saying that the NRA and KKK exemplified that the problem isn't that white Americans aren't organized, but that they are too well organized. But me, I don't see white Americans and their backward ideological/political/organizational orientation as the (main) problem. The problem is bourgeois imperialist rule, and its main organizational reflection among the masses is the *lack* of mass organization.

Leading this back to labor: Even disregarding Marxist assumptions about the key role of labor, and just starting with my populist assumptions, one finds that the main ways in which the U.S. people are organized are through organized religion and organized labor. If we want the people to get organized, the workplace is a good starting place with a proven track record of being a basis for drawing people into organization.


Let's juxtapose two statements, by two very different posters, from this thread:

Zerohour: "I don't think in anyway this [imperialist integration] is specific to just Trade Unions. All existing struggles of oppressed and exploited peoples can be intergrated into Bourgeois liberal politics in some form. There is no magic struggle that is not reconciable by the Imperialist system, its liberalism and ability to revolutionize itself is key to its 'staying power,' in a sense."

DW: "Even disregarding Marxist assumptions about the key role of labor, and just starting with my populist assumptions, one finds that the main ways in which the U.S. people are organized are through organized religion and organized labor. If we want the people to get organized, the workplace is a good starting place with a proven track record of being a basis for drawing people into organization."

Yes and yes. The truly relevant question is not whether unions or workplace-based organizing are the only useful arenas for revolutionary organizing (clearly they are not) or completely useless for revolutionary organizing (again, clearly not). The question is: how can we start getting the masses organized, and once we succeed at that, how can we most effectively struggle against the tendency for fighting mass organizations to be absorbed into the capitalist power structure and thereby disarmed (the way, for example, the AFL-CIO was absorbed into Cold War imperialism)?

This is a complicated question that won't be solved by calling each other names.

TW: "Unions are not monolithic organizations that are defined by the political positions of their leadership. A union is a terrain of struggle, with competing interests. My union has a history of being racist and anti-communist, not to mention economist and short-sighted. However, if you really believe that a revolution is possible and necessary in this country, at some point you're going to have to deal with a lot of people that you don't like, and that disagree with you."

Exactly. HERE (one of the predecessor unions of UNITE HERE) has a history of corruption, conservatism, and general uselessness. But in the 60's and 70's, a "rogue" local leader in New Haven, CT, named Vincent Sirabella, with self-taught anarcho-sindicalist politics, recruited some New Left student activists to train as organizers with his local union, with an eye toward injecting the revolutionary fervor of the day's student activists into the largely moribund labor movement. (For more info, see a little book called "On Strike for Respect.")

In the 70's and 80's, radical union organizers who cut their teeth in the UFW (but were turned off by Cesar Chavez's growing conservatism and wackiness toward the end of his life) went to work in the historically strong (since the great General Strike) but at-the-time declining San Francisco local of HERE. And in the late 80's, a radical young organizer named Maria Elena Durazo led a rank-and-file insurgency against the conservative white, male leadership of the Los Angeles local.

Over time, these three tendencies led strikes, organized thousands of unorganized workers, re-made parts of HERE into militant, fighting unions, and eventually took over leadership of the IU. Along the way, they trained dozens of organizers, both from student-activist backgrounds and rank-and-file backgrounds, who have helped build militant organizing programs in many locals around the US and Canada.

During the same time period, another radical organizer took over the leadership UNITE (after getting himself immortalized in the movie "Norma Rae" in the meantime).

Similar stories could be told about SEIU.

The point is not that these unions are now perfect, it's that struggle on this terrain can pay off in a big way.

LS: "Transforming the unions into class struggle organizations that actually fight for something will lead to more workers wanting to join them."

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. I have briefly described the history of a determined group of radicals turning a small fraction of this country's unions into "class struggle organizations," but it's still fucking hard to organize workers into those unions, for the simple reason that people are afraid to stand up to the powerful. But fortunately, because of the work of the previous generation of radicals, a young revolutionary can now go to work with UNITE HERE or SEIU and spend 70 hours a week engaging in class struggle with the full institutional support of the unions they work for. Or said young revolutionary can go salt a non-union workplace and organize her co-workers into the movement with the same support.

This is not to say that there's no reason to salt already-unionized workplaces in order to help build rank-and-file insurgencies in more backward unions, but to do so is to limit oneself to a tiny portion of the battlefield (less than 10% of the private sector).

As for STP's sweeping characterizations of every UNITE HERE and SEIU local and their respective international unions, I'm afraid you have no idea what you're talking about. I'm very aware that sections of these unions are fucked up (because their is very sharp internal debate which I won't elaborate on here), but your comments sound like they're coming more from bitterness than from knowledge. To take one small example: you cited ROC-NY as an organization that would back up your negative view of UNITE HERE, but ROC-NY was founded with significant assistance from UNITE HERE Local 100, and continues to work closely with that local!

STP also refers to SEIU and UNITE HERE's alleged support of "guest worker programs." The question of how to fight for (and win) both legalization of existing undocumented immigrants, and legalization of future immigrants who are surely on their way, is a complicated one that deserves a thread of its own. Suffice it to say that my union (UNITE HERE) is explicitly opposed to bracero-style guest worker programs but sees the urgent need to open the door to legal future immigration. For that reason, we are in favor of work visas that do not tie workers to their employers, do offer a path to permanent residency and citizenship, and protect immigrant workers right to organize without the threat of deportation. That said, I believe my union's recent approach to the immigrant rights movement is far from perfect and urgently needs to get more militant.

Simple Challenge

Name me one local in SEIU and UNITE-HERE that doesn't support Guest Worker programs.


It pains me that I have to read such poorly muddled and blantantly apologistic piece of work for UNITE-HERE and SEIU.

First let me state the quote you attribute to Zerohour is mine.

Stating that, lets begin with the obvious, and that is the Guest Worker Programs....Submarino, as you have stated you're in UNITE-HERE, and I would guess you are in NYC, so I'll ask once...what is the position of your local's political committee on the question of Guest Worker programs?

What are these "guest visas" if not Guest Worker programs? I mean look at quite frankly what you are calling for in the concrete. Work visas which don't necessarily entitle people to being able to organize with other workers, being super-exploited, and then being shipped back when their lease on their labor in no longer in use. And those who don't have such visas, well they are fair game for ICE and are unable to organize in Unions because of employer sanction provisions.

Unlike AFL-CIO, which modestly calls for status adjustment and the repealing of employer sanctions, SEIU and UNITE-HERE are blatantly following the path of the worker programs which exist in Europe.

Now on what UNITE-HERE in NYC actually does, don't take little tid bits of history that are out of place. UNITE-HERE is of course doing something, but they are incredibly inept at any work they do, when they actually do it. And, further, when a number of times different worker centers' through NYC, from Manhattan to the Bronx, have called on them for support to do actual organizing...UNITE-HERE sends a phone call or letter of support, but does little to nothing.

I mean, here we have a union which doesn't even organize or protect its own laborers. You will find garment factory workers throughout NYC who work for minimum wage working 70 hour weeks, no OT. That just boggles the mind, they are IN the Union.

So what does this Union concretely do outside of providing Health Insurance? How is anyway these Sweatshop-Gulag managers something to aspire to?


A simple action one can take regarding SEIU support of guest-worker legislation is to visit and sign the petition. The casual observer will note that it is initiated by SEIU members and signed by a number of SEIU members, SEIU staffers, and other union activists. Signing this petition is quicker, easier, and more effective than waiting for a union local to burn so you can refuse to spit on it!


Workers, like other classes, want to live without race, gender or any other kind of oppression. We want a clean environment, good housing, a creative fulfilling life, nurturing relationships, access to good food, a life based on genuinely striving to understand reality and change it, guided by reason and compassion. Why, then is a working class focus some important? Because the proletariat, unlike other classes, have the strategic means and an objective interest in eliminating the class relations that make the above world impossible. Does it follow then, that we must begin a revolutionary politics with an appeal to labor? Or should we not appeal to the larger goal of revolution, to transform our lifeworld?

Rather than go into the concrete shortcomings and strengths of unions, I am more interested in how unionizing can be a catalyzing force for addressing the above question. If labor organizing in general is not adequate, where does it fit on the terrain? if it is, how would it be different than other such efforts in the past? For instance, why did general strikes in the US not lead to revolution? This is not a rhetorical point, I'd actually like to know.

The old strategy of "One Big Union" carried with it a lot of assumptions about workers' consciousness and the adequacy of its liberatory vision. Without properly situating labor on the larger terrain of popular struggles, some of which might have more breakthrough potential, we are in danger of reproducing some of those assumptions. The main one being that there is a sort of chain of experience and political mobilizing must follow it: material existence first, then desire and then consciousness. For immediate defensive struggles this might make sense, but for revolutionary strategy, it's a dead end. It traps us in the logic of the immediate, giving capital the upper hand in the longer term.

Submarino, you and others have brought up many of the labor struggles that reflect militancy and a desire for improved conditions, but what are some of the signs that these struggles have generated a leap in thinking? Have you been able to mobilize these workers to defend abortion, oppose the war, resist homophobia [not just in the workplace], take on global warming? I'm not being facetious, I think these are important touchstones in assessing class consciousness, as distinct from workers' consciousness. These questions can always come up when talking to workers, whether in unions or not. But can they take sustained, and expansive, organizational forms within the labor movement? If not, how do you explain the necessary relationship between labor and other movements?

I am struggling with the idea of labor as a privileged site of revolutionary struggle. I don't want to dismiss it because exploitation is a fundamental fact of our lives, but I don't want to romanticize it because the struggle against exploitation can still co-exist with the acceptance of other oppressions. WAR [White Aryan Resistance] advocated "socialism for white people". From a strictly economic perspective, it's not inconceivable. On the other hand "Black Power" can be advocated by Nixon because it did encompass "black capitalism" under its vague umbrella.


BTW, shine I agree with you that imperialism can recuperate any popular struggles. I was reacting to what I saw as a tendency of revolutionaries to fall back on labor as if there was still a unique kernel of purity there that was missing from every other struggle.


"Signing this petition is quicker, easier, and more effective than waiting for a union local to burn so you can refuse to spit on it!"

It is also largely a symbolic [and empty] gesture within an International dominated and rife with opportunist and Bourgeois leadership, within the mold of Andy Stern.


Zerohour, I am tending to agree with your broad analysis on these questions, but I also at the same time take a bit of reluctance to your position in that when all is said and done, any work amongst the broad masses of people can be treated as merely targeting pragmatic and selfish interest when left with no Communist politics.

Communists have to be Communists, but not in the isolation of libraries. This is of course not a particular tendency I am saying anyone here is committing, but we have to realize that without our actual engagement of the oppressed peoples, then what is it all for?

It seems to me all type of work, whether it is around questions of Women's liberation, Gentrification issues, or even in Sweatshops in Brooklyn needs us in some form to engage it. Whether that is actual work within or organizing around, or at the very least writing revolutionary literature and analysis on the issue. And whether we do this sort of mass work, it will require a 'staying power' on our part to be part of processes with others in struggle. It seems to me one of the problems of the history of the RCP was it started up mass work and dropped it continually, because it either became 'economist' or something more pressing was on hand and all their cadre dropped their work on these campaigns...isn't this apparent in WCW, at least in NYC?

On priviledging the Labor struggle, I can certainly agree, there is definately those as you have already stated, are stuck in 1880. I think this comes from a poor understanding of Hegelian (as opposed to Marxist) dialectics. The Simple Contradiction of Capitalism is between Capital and Labor, this is literally true; however the simple contradiction is not understood in its overdetermination as a contradiction. The contradiction between Capital and Labor, which is the fundamental defining character of Capitalism, is a general contradiction which we find the Trade-Union struggle only a particular within. Questions of Race, Gender, and Imperialism are a part of the very same fundamental contradiction in Capitalism.

What is at question at heart is what is the identity of our politics, the scope of its aim and direction? If one gives such a broad scope as the 'liberation of all of humanity' [which is quite admirable], it seems we have accepted Humanism. If we give it a bare and bone definition as Working Class power, we've got a boring workerist IWW slant.


The following are quotes from statements by Change to Win union leaders. This is not intended to be an apologetic for the entirety of these unions' immigrant rights positions or strategies, but merely to correct the misinformation that STP and others have been repeating on this site:

"[comprehensive immigration reform must] avoid the exploitation and abuses of flawed guestworker programs by creating a 'break-the-mold' worker visa program that will enable law-abiding employers access to needed workers, while protecting U.S. and immigrant workers from unfair competition and abuse." -- John Wilhelm, Andy Stern, and Terrence O'Sullivan

"We are especially pleased that Senator Kennedy (D-MA) and others were able to strengthen the worker protections under the 'future flow' worker visa program contained in the Senate Judiciary Committee bill. The bill now contains the following important protections for workers: a mechanism to ensure that jobs are first offered to American workers; an annual cap on the number of workers admitted; prevailing wage protections; a prohibition on treating those on three-year temporary visas as independent contractors; a prohibition on hiring temporary workers in the midst of a labor dispute; immediate visa portability so that workers can vote with their feet and change jobs; and a mechanism for immigrant workers to apply for permanent residence without having to rely on an employer. Such protections are essential if we are to substitute the current unregulated flow of easily exploitable undocumented workers with a regulated, legal flow of workers with equal labor rights and an eventual path to citizenship." -- John Wilhelm

"In this historic moment we have come together as the 'We are America' Coalition 2006 to combine our experiences, resources and constituencies to effectively fight against the draconian legislative proposal H.R. 4437 and in favor of humane and just immigration reform. Together our goals are to keep immigrant families together, protect our civil rights, pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, and mobilize mass public action and support to win such reforms.
* We believe in non-violence and in peaceful protests; as a symbol of peace & unity we encourage participants to wear white.
* We will rely on public relations and the strategic use of the mass media as a means of communication.
* We believe in building power through direct action (i.e., marches, rallies, strikes, etc.).
* We believe in local coalitions (i.e., building power and acting locally to build a strong and deep movement).
* While our action is local and comes from our grassroots leaders, we work in partnership with national organizations and participate in nationally coordinated actions & campaigns.
* We agree with the need to build a national movement that uplifts multi-ethnic communities, promotes cultural and racial unity and confronts racism and discrimination in all its forms.

Our Principles and Goals

* Legalization with path to citizenship for hard working immigrants and their families in America;
* An effective visa program for future immigrants that protects their rights and includes a path to citizenship;
* Keep families together;
* Protection of our Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and no criminalization of immigrants or their allies;
* No to a border wall and increased militarization of the borders." -- Statement by the Los Angeles "We Are America" Coalition, led by Maria Elena Durazo, President of UNITE HERE Local 11 and Executive Vice President of UNITE HERE IU. ("We Are America" is one of the umbrella groups that organized the massive May Day march last year.)

In other words, whatever its flaws, the hypothetical program supported by these unions would explicitly NOT be a bracero-style program that ties workers' visas and chances at citizenship to a particular employer.

It's important to point out that if "amnesty" for current immigrants goes into effect without a "visa program for future immigrants," people will keep on crossing the border, and everyone who comes after the date of the amnesty will be "illegal." We'll be left with what we've got now: a militarized border, dead bodies in the Arizona desert, and an ever-growing underclass of super-exploited undocumented workers.

(By the way, STP, I life in Los Angeles, not New York.)


All that speaks for itself. It just boggles my mind how you can logically defend the Kennedy bill which was rejected by scores of people, including the masses of undocumented immigrants.

What you are precisely enabling is the super-exploitation of labor and [b]LEGISLATING[/b] it. You are actively carrying forward the Neo-liberal trajectory. The logic is, we can't stop it, so lets give it a human face.

This is precisely what we should reject, this awful pragmatism that exists amongst 'Communists' in doing actual political work in Unions. Quite frankly as someone who supports actually working in Unions [And has come from a family of Union workers in LIUNA, TWU, and IBEW] I am quite disgusted by this terribly liberal position of yours to just submit to the political line of Andy Stern and Terrence O'Sullivan! Whatever happen to politics in command? Let me be frank about this...O'Sullivan and Stern are NOT our friends.

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