Verizon: union win

John Gulick jlgulick at
Tue Aug 22 18:17:34 PDT 2000

Nathan Newman sez:

>There is no doubt that a lot of the energy of Seattle/DC/Philly/LA will
>spill back into those day-to-day struggles, but part of the pragmatism of
>UPS, Boeing, the LA Janitors, and Verizon struggles also have to spill
>over into the globalization mass action movements if they are to become a
>real mass struggle for change.

I say:

One subtext running throughout this debate and many others like it is this: Anarchists (white, middle-class, marginal) impatiently demand an immediate transformation in everyday life. Leftists working within the organized labor movement may identify with this aspiration to some degree or another, but the "socially necessary needs" of the working class -- the constituency that has to be at the forefront of any major social change -- have to be secured first, and militant bread-and-butter trade unionism is a key part of the struggle.

Conducting the debate on these terms (I realize it is a bit of a caricature) misses the following possibility, however. There _are_ currently existing dynamic social movements rooted in the working class latent with the possibility of transforming everyday life, movements which neither limit themselves to the issue of securing more of the surplus value workers produce, nor to the issue of participatory, meaningful work. I'm thinking of the environmental justice movement and the linkages it has made in various times and places between the absence of workers' control over investment decisions and the labor process and the uneven distribution of environmental risks and hazards (exacerbated by lack of popular authority in the various and sundry bureaucratic organs of waste management and pollution control). For my armchair radical tastes the movement is neither red nor green enough, but there's an implicit critique of capitalist domination of all facets of social life (not just paychecks, sick leave, and paid vacations), and it's a movement firmly rooted in (mainly people of color) working-class communities. Anarchists don't have a monopoly on the critique of everyday life, and the working class doesn't restrict its sights to issues of employment, compensation, and pensions.

John Gulick

P.S. Nathan, it seems that I keep on responding to your posts. By no means am I singling you out -- you have such a keen way of framing the issues, that I find myself most often replying to your missives ...

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