Union Leaders and the Left (RE: Laying Bets: W Will Win

John Madziarczyk madziarczyk at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 17 11:25:17 PDT 2000

You must not know very much about union history to suggest that there's always been a split between intellectual leftists and union members. Just to give you an idea of how off the track this is, it would be useful to consider that the socialist party,leaded by Deb's organized strikes and helped union drives. He also helped found the IWW which of course combined the intellectual and the practical, unionizing people the AFL woundn't touch. William Z. Foster of the CP organized the Great Steel Strike and and actively recruited unions for TUEL and TUUL, the CP backed orgs. Earl Browder and the CP basicly put the muscle in to found the CIO among other union orgs during the great depression. The Socialist Workers Party attempted to organize and infiltrate for the Needle Trades Union. The furriers union was CP affiliated. I think that these attempts and successes really show that the left was not disconnected, as you say, but instead was in many cases chosen by the workers themselves. The disconnect your talking about has more to do with the cold war and the AFL CIO merging and adopting cold war tactics than any supposed break. As for DSA being more radical than socialist groups on the continent, have you ever actually looked at the SPD's platform?Codetermination, workers self management, decentralizatoin, planning, nationalization, immensely strong unions. Have you ever heard of the Jusos,the youth arm of the SPD?Their radicalism puts DSA to shame. I think that the disconnect your talking about was also a product of sixties radicalism alienating the working class, vietnam is invoked again and again on talk shows as a sort of line in the sand. Ultimately, the question of supporting labor leaders comes down not to elitism but to how large the scope of public debate is. Currently, workers don't have a full set of options, since they've been curtailed by cold war anti union justifications. I'd be more inclined to agree with you if it were possible in many unions even to raise the spectre of radicalism without being ostracized.

John Madziarczyk

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