Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Wed Jan 26 08:44:56 PST 2000

At 05:35 PM 1/24/00 -0500, Charles Brown wrote, not necessarily in that order:

>CB: More recent than McCarthyism there is a lot of political repression of
the U.S. working class and labor movement. The violent and imprisonment repression of the Black Panthers, was a repression of the working class. The busting of the PATCO union was political repression. The federal government takeover of the Teamsters. Right to work for less laws in many states are government repression of labor. If this thread continues , I will come up with a lot more examples of U.S. government repression of labor. The Simpson-Mazzoli bill against migrant labor is a repression of labor.

WS: I did not say that labor does not get the short end of the stick anyomore - I said that criminal justice system is not used to that end today as it was in the past. That is to say, federal troops are not dispatched to shoot striking workers, labor organizers are not jailed on trumped up criminal charges, etc. The fedral takeover of the Teamsters you mentioned was ostensibly done in the name of protecting workers interests from the criminal element - and in some sense that was the truth.

That is indicative of the strategy the capitalist government uses today to deal with labor - it presents itself as the "protector" of working class people from criminal elements - be it the mob or petty criminals. That claim is not without a factual basis - so mere appeal for being soft on crime is a losing strategy, because working class people ARE victimized by various criminal elements.

>CB: If the Left does not make historical arguments and train the masses
and working classes to think historically, we cannot win the class struggle. So, your disdain of connecting historical events to the present is against the interests of the working class. Presentism is a bourgeois psychology.

WS: There are historical arguments and historical arguments. In the _18 Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte_ Marx wrote about "conjur[ing] up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle cries and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed language." That is a "misuse" of historical analysis. That was also the essence of my argument about left's position on crime.

>CB: Confining your analysis of the present to the present is a
methodological error. The present must be analyzed in historical context. What I described was some of the historical context for the misimpression that the bourgeoisie of the U.S. have not viciously repressed the working class and trade union movement in the U.S. , today's more hidden and lessened repression notwithstanding to the contrary. Dare I say the repression of labor today is more Gramscian hegemonic, though it has a necessary state apparatus/violent premise. Also, the police show up at every significant labor picket, so the steel fist is not fully covered up by the velvet glove.

WS: Again, I never argued that labor is not screwed by the corporate capital and its lackeys in the gov't. However, today's treatment of labor is much more subtle than brute repression. In fact, corporate capitalism operates remarkably free of crude coercion - metaphorically speaking, it manages to make working class dig its grave voluntarily. That is an amazing change from disptaching federal troops against striking workers - which the radical left for the most part missed.

Unless we understand how corporate capitalism rules essentially without overt repression - we cannot effectively oppose it or even get our message to the people.


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