Flint GM workers' strike

Charles Brown CharlesB at CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Mon Jul 27 10:35:08 PDT 1998



"...General Motors has accomplished what generations of leftwing activists in the factories were never able to achieve. The company has provoked a political strike."

The conflict in Detroit is not directed against a government. In that way, it's still not the same as the political strikes now gripping South Korea, Russia, or even Puerto Rico. But this conflict is political nonetheless. GM strikers have been forced to confront the decision-making process governing the world economy -- determining where investment flows, which plants grow and which ones die."

Chas.B.:Are the proletariat within

the belly of the beast being forced to confront effectively the new shape of the perogatives of ownership of the basic means of production in neo-imperialism ? Are the contradictions so sharp that all the quieting of that mass of commodities, durable goods up the wazoo (commodity fetishism is the opiate of the mass consumers) no longer dull the pain ? Lets look for more evidence.

Bacon continues:

" GM has chosen to gradually abandon its U.S. factories, and concentrate on building new facilities elsewhere. A week after the strike started in Flint, a leaked company document detailed corporate plans to increase production in Mexico from 300,000 to 600,000 vehicles by 2006. GM's Delphi parts division, whose Delphi East plant struck along with the Flint Metal Center, is already Mexico's largest private employer, with 72,000 employees."

Chas.B.:I wonder if GM sees Mexico as more politically stable than the U.S. in the near future. This seems counter current facts when comparing Zapatistas Mexico City election vs. U.S. Clintonism/Gingrichsim. Then I wonder are transnational bourgeoisie just not able to run and hide anymore. Naw, that's too good to be true.

Also, I realize that GM must maximize its profits and chase the highest rates of exploitation, yet when do they cross that line where the political volatility becomes an economic question, for them.

On the other hand, they must proceed as if communism is dead. Can the bourgeoisie be that unrealistic and unpragmatic ? Wouldn't it be ironic if a major failure of the neo-imperialist bourgeoisie would to believe their own propaganda that the business cycle is over and there will be no more depressions (in America ? in Europe ?) and that communism is dead forever.

Dave Bacon: According to University of California Professor Harley Shaiken, "the productivity of workers in Mexican plants is on a par with plants in the U.S. Investors get first-world rates of productivity, and a workforce with a third-world standard of living."

David Bacon also says: " The strikers don't propose to prohibit GM investment in Mexico or other countries. They're not protectionists. They simply demand that the company invest enough in the U.S. to maintain the existing level of production, and a comparable level of technology.

But that simple demand has made the strike political, and very difficult to settle. GM will not have its workers participate in decisions over investment strategy -- to the company, this is a sacred right bequeathed by capitalism."

The legal form for challenging in general the perogatives of private ownership in the basic means of production is an Amendment (Lets make it the next one 28) to the U.S. Constitution. This would be a part of the Amendment for a Right to a decent job or income as in the current Labor Party campaign. This aspect of the Amendment would amend the 5th Amendment provision that Private Property shall not be taken except with just compensation. This is the fundamental law barrier to public regulation of GM's perogatives to move plants out of the country without regard for the impact on workers' livelihood. It's simple high school civics but cogent radical legal form.

Bacon continues:

"Workers outside the U.S., however, are looking at the GM strike, wondering what took U.S. workers so long to take up the issue.

Visiting the U.S. last spring, Yoon Youngmo, a leader of the militant South Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, chided his counterparts here for not fighting harder for their own jobs. "You make it more difficult," he said, "for us to defend our jobs in Korea, because the government and the chaebols constantly tell us to look at America. 'In America,' they say, 'unions don't try to stop layoffs or job elimination, and they're the most advanced unions in the world. Be more reasonable.'"

Chas.B.: And some Marxists don't want to talk about U.S. union leadership as labor lieutenants of capital or labor aristocracism. Where is the revolution in an "advanced" capitalist country that Leninism was premised upon, that left the Soviet workers high and dry ?

Dave Bacon:

" U.S. workers for decades viewed themselves as exceptions to all this -- not subject to the same class conflict which has radicalized workers elsewhere. But they're being taught a new reality. Capital flows where the profits are highest. All countries must compete to create the most favorable conditions for investment.

Union organizers have a saying -- "the boss is the best teacher."

General Motors is proving them right."

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---------Charles Brown

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