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"Industrial Unionism Now!" and "Green Unionism Too!"

By x372712 - July 2, 2013

Industrial Unionism Now!

Capitalism has never been kind to us. The machines of industry have unleashed both great productive capacity and great social change, abolishing all classes but holders of the means of production and those who work those means. While the inevitable conflict of social classes has been at turns sidetracked by nationalism, concessions, and the endless attempt to turn working people against their own interests, we know well enough: there is one primary struggle in our time- the struggle of the disenfranchised, the exploited, and the disempowered against the privileged and the powerful; the struggle of labor, and the disenfranchised of every hierarchy built into the class system, against capital and whole of the establishment that enshrines it. Never since the dawn of the industrial revolution has this been more clear- in the age of globalized corporate capitalism, the velvet glove of progressive reform has been stripped away to reveal the iron fist that is the profoundly undemocratic system of capital property. Since the age of neoliberalism and 'trickle down' economics, the cut-throat dictatorial corporate rule that has been exported to the third world for decades has come back to cast its sick sights on the workers of the West, and each new crisis brings newer cuts, more austerity measures, and a further stripping of those programs and reforms that created the middle class- all the while accumulating previously unheard-of wealth in the hands of the megarich while the wages of the American laborer stagnate, the small business holders are driven into the ranks of the workers.

Let's not kid ourselves and think that ethical consumption or other indulgences is going to change the situation; fair trade and organic create a niche market selling to the sort of people who buy fair trade and organic (and, all too often, figure that this means they've 'done their part' in changing the world), but does not meaningfully challenge the paradigm of corporate capitalism. Something more is needed. Not mere consumers, we can act as producers, and exercise our power at the nexus of our own exploitation. We need the labor movement.

Unions have acquired a bad reputation, mostly unjustified, but there are legitimate reasons. Union bureaucracy and hierarchy can be a disempowering and work at odds with the interest of the union rank and file. Many unions are all too willing to sign no-strike clauses and compete with other unions. American unions worked during the second Red Scare to purge the anti-capitalists from their ranks and remake themselves as a reformist, pro-business force and have since spent a huge amount of their funds campaigning for the lesser of two evils and the anti-labor Democratic Party while ignoring the need to organize unrepresented workers and carry out the real work of the union.

Yet labor is needed, whatever the problems of modern business unions; and so, a better model must be found, and organized. A model for real effective labor must be based in grassroots union democracy (decentralized power, federated organization, and recallable, accountable delegates), industrial solidarity (meaning that the industry is not split among multiple unions, but acts as one union), and an unapologetic pro-labor agenda (no no-strike clauses, no abandoning change for moderate reformism- the goal of the union has to be workplace democracy, not just collective bargaining). We need to organize that sort of labor, and a place to organize is right here in central Minnesota.

Unionizing will not be easy. In the globalized neoliberal age, the dominant players of both our productive and consumptive forces are often controlled, not by workers, not by local petit bourgeois, but by multinational chains- chains of stores that make chains on the hands of labor. Such chains make it so any unionizing effort that has real effect on the lives of the people of this city needs to be not local, but regional, national, or international, and for this reason, this dilemma that faces every worker, the labor movement itself must be international. It is most important to note that in an age of global capital, no one community can become revolutionary. Globalization creates a race to the bottom- any attempt by a nation to institute progressive policies, or, even 'worse' (in the eyes of capital), real democracy will be met with the movement of business and capital from that nation to another, more desperate or more oppressed. As long as capitalists have people desperate enough or afraid enough not to demand change, they can always just move to the lowest bidder and make sure the labor market in the commodity of human lives works for them. Not to mention the IMF, the World Bank, and of rest of international monetary and exchange institutions set up by and for the wealthiest people in the world. Just look at what happened in South Africa or Poland after their revolutions; their entire economic reform program torn to pieces by these institutions, serving not the interest or the will of the people, but the interest and will of the capitalist class. Just look at America- you think closing the border will bring jobs? It's not immigration that's taking your job; it's globalization done capitalist style.

That's why labor movement doesn't only need to be democratic- it needs to international. It must be a labor movement that can fight capitalism on every front, can make sure that every stage of the production and industrial process is beset by the forces of labor, can, as labor movements have historically done, prove a dynamic force against totalitarian regimes, and can maintain itself as a genuinely democratic engine of popular power.

The IWW is the ideal union for the modern age- based in worker's democracy, industrial organization, international solidarity, and an unabashed yet inclusive revolutionary agenda. The IWW also is one of the few unions that really thinks outside of the box- recently, the Wobblies have lead the way in unionizing the food and service industries (for example, Starbucks and Jimmy John's), showing a drive to take up the cause of workers other unions are all too willing to ignore.  Ten IWW members in a community are all it takes to form a General Membership Branch, the basic organization from which further labor action, both local and, in solidarity with other communities, regional and international action can be taken. I urge readers, activists, and workers to join the IWW and building genuine labor resistance, across the world!

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