UAW convention

Dennis R Redmond dredmond at OREGON.UOREGON.EDU
Thu Jul 9 15:52:19 PDT 1998

On Wed, 8 Jul 1998 MScoleman at wrote:

> If elections tend to perpetuate the status
> quo, and if occasional activist leadership persons tend to be co-opted, the
> how do unions become more the front line of defense for the working class?
> Do we need all new unions? Do we need a new movement? Is there some
> way to push existing unions into class action?

My own feeling about this is that the best way of fighting for union democracy and a revitalization of the American Left more generally is to study what the multinationals are doing very, very carefully, and to adopt/absorb/otherwise turn their own weapons against them. The multis are, as a rule, replacing human networks with technological ones: the old caste of white male WASPish engineers so dear to GM and Boeing is breaking down, and being replaced with a complex and differentiated workforce -- both a savagely barbaric and partly civilizing process, as places like Singapore and South Korea are cosmopolitanized, while Flint and Birmingham are left to rot.

That is, we need to think not just in terms of new movements (and the obvious examples of the TDU, IG Metall, and genuine Left parties like the Greens or the Labor Party) but in terms of a newly global proletariat, which has barely begun to organize itself and mostly lacks class consciousness, but which is employed in high-tech cleanrooms, works with state-of-the-art computers, and is probably one of the most skilled and educated workforces, in its own way (I include media awareness and cultural cosmopolitanism here), in world history. So what would an information socialism look like? I have no idea, but my guess is it'll have something to do with activist-minded unions and Left parties in Europe and the US sparking/solidarizing with multinational organizing drives in Eastern Europe and East Asia, just as much as the US South or American service-sector industries. The spread of community-based labor coalitions and cross-border initiatives, like the one currently being waged with the Han Young workers in Tijuana, or the ones starting to appear in the European Union itself, are powerful evidence that such things are at least possible, even in an era of the most ferocious political and social regression.

-- Dennis

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