GM and the UAW

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Thu Jun 18 19:07:37 PDT 1998

Hi Nathan,

>Of course. What I disagree with is a simple "the bastard moderates sold
>us out" version of history. It removes agency and a strategic view of
>what could have been done better by the Left. There will always be a
>reasonable pragmatic faction that will argue for sacrificing long-term
>power for short-term gains. THe question is how to strategically organize
>to make the leftwing long-term argument of worker power more attractive
>than the pragmatic moderate alternative.

I happen not to subscribe to the 'bastard moderates sold us out' version of history. The Left's failure (both in the USA and Japan), in my view, originated from (1) repression of the Left by capital (and in the case of Japan, by the army of occupation as well); and (2) a very real post-WW2 prosperity that allowed the moderates to deliver what you call 'generaltion-long' short-term gains, compounded by the Left's own internal problems.

Now that, however, the economic situations are such that in neither Japan nor the USA, the pragmatic moderates cannot deliver tangible short-term gains. Most of the battles that are being fought are clearly defensive ones. So one would think that (problems of the lack of class consciousness + unity aside), now is the time to make a left-wing argument.

>And of course, it is hard enough to get such privileged workers to exert
>their power on their own behalf. Expecting them on a constant basis to
>extend that power on behalf of others is a recipe for trying the patience
>of their own members and that of a public that can easily be alienated if
>such solidarity is implemented clumsily.

I'm not saying it's so easy. I just think that even for their own self-interest, relatively privileged workers for GM, Ford, etc. would have the reason (for both short-term and long-term gains) to strike on the basis of solidarity in order to help workers at subcontractors' plants organize.

>As for ignoring Taft-Hartley, I would be the first to agree that
>systematically breaking the law is a requirement for long-term union
>success. But to think that can be done casually is just wrong-headed
>given the very real sanctions the state can level against workers and
>their unions. Yes, if militancy can be taken to a high enough level, the
>state itself can be forced to back down, but that is a level of
>brinkmanship that has to be used sparingly (the Pittston coal strike was a
>wonderful and successful example of this in the late 80s). Promises to
>avoid such brinksmanship is exactly what kept folks like Reuther in power
>when they could deliver solid benefits within a more contained level of

I agree that it can't be done casually. I also agree that not just strikes but all available tactics--such as the ones used in Justice for Janitors--have to be used. But, short of a wide-spread defiance of Taft-Hartley, wouldn't we continue to see the erosion of union membership?


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list