GM and the UAW

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Wed Jun 17 17:57:44 PDT 1998

Nathan replies to Charles:
>And why was Reuther able to take control of the union away from the
>Because the CPUSA had promoted absolutely class-collaborationist policies
>during World War II, supporting no-strike pledges when Reuther's faction
>promoted militant rank-and-file strikes to defend wages being eroded by
>wartime wage controls.
>If the CPUSA had not so discredited itself among the much of the militant
>rank-and-file during those years of collaboration, the postWar history of
>unionism might have been quite different.

I read Nelson Lichtenstein's _Labor's War at Home_, and he quite persuasively argues the case Nathan made above.

Nonetheless, red purges did cause not only major losses of experienced organizers and expulsion of left-led unions but also a chilling ideological effect on the entire labor movement and politics beyond it. Mike Davis says that the failure to organize the South is an effect of the repression of the entire Left (not just the CPUSA). Wouldn't you agree?

>But I also think it is simplistic to reduce Reutherism just to
>collaboration since Reuther led many tough militant strikes, including the
>1946 strike that set a pattern for one of the strongest union strike waves
>of the 20th century. The limits of the success of that strike wave, along
>with the passage of Taft-Hartley in response, set severe limits on what
>unions could accomplish.
>Unfortunately, those limits created a pathological spiral of abandonment
>of new organizing, especially in the South, which just further reduced the
>options for many labor struggles. The failure to consistently expand new
>organizing, especially into new industries, fatally undermined union power
>over the years.
>>The new AFL-CIO leadership has given lipservice to a return to militant
>>trade unionism (though they are still anti-communist enough not to
>mention >class struggle).
>The reality is that Sweeney et al mostly don't believe in class struggle
>but in strong basic unionism in defense of workers rights. It is not
>enough but it is also not lip service; the AFL-CIO has supported a range
>of new organizing initiatives that are making a significant difference,
>but the other reality is that it is damn hard to organize in the context
>of runaway multinational corporations and labor policies that allow
>companies to fire pro-union activists in unorganized shops with only a
>slap on the wrist.

My original post (to which Charles replied) was about a quite impressive potential power that organized labor still possesses if it is willing to use strikes at strategic plants in order to affect the issues beyond the immediate working conditions of the plants. In other words, if unions were to use strikes and boycotts prohibited by Taft-Hartley, they could help pro-union activists in unorganized shops.


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