[lbo-talk] Socialist modelling (Was: Louis Proyect...)

Marv Gandall marvgand at gmail.com
Tue Dec 27 03:52:26 PST 2011

On 2011-12-26, at 11:01 PM, Wojtek S wrote:

> Marv: "But they've never been regarded as a revenue source to fund
> organizing drives, which is what you are proposing. Your proposal is
> based on a faulty assumption."
> [WS:] Yes, this is what I suggested, because this is what corporations
> are doing. However you fail to demonstrate why it is based on a
> faulty assumption. You merely revert to explaining why union
> organizing drives at places like Walmart do not deliver results -
> which is not what I was arguing. I was arguing that unions should use
> their money to open a retail chain instead of trying to organize
> people working in one. And I did not imply that such a union owned
> retail chain should be some feel good joint where everyone loves
> everyone and nobody is anybody else's boss, but a profit-making
> business sans anti-labor practices that are typically found in many US
> businesses. They key difference is that proceeds from this business
> would not fund GOP and conservative lobbyists and think tanks but a
> labor or social democratic party and labor or social democratic
> lobbyists and think tanks.
> It may be that this idea will turn difficult or impossible to
> implement in practice, but it is at least more plausible than
> delusions about launching a revo in Etats Unis or Europe by mobilizing
> prisoners and other fringe elements. There has not been a successful
> socialist revolution in industrialized democracies even under more
> favorable conditions, so it is pretty certain that there will not be
> one in the foreseeable future. However, there have been effective
> reforms of the existing economic and political institutions that
> considerably improved the living standards and political
> representation of labor. As a matter of fact, EU cooperatives aka
> "social economy" do have a political representation in the European
> Commission http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sme/promoting-entrepreneurship/social-economy/
> so they are not such a miserable failure as you seem to suggest.

You know full well that I'm not counterposing "launching" a revolution - mainly unforseeable and unplanned events resulting from the inability of a system to reform itself - least of all "by mobilizing prisoners and other fringe elements".

I'm surprised anyone on our side needs reminding that the essential task facing the unions is to mobilize their members against the austerity drive in both the US and Europe rather than striving to become successful entrepreneurs. This is generally recognized at all levels of the labour movement, which is where attention and resources have been concentrated. Where they have not been or the response has been insufficient, there are trade unionists and their allies on the outside pushing strongly in this direction.

I would describe your scheme as a diversion, but it is so far removed from the present reality facing the unions, that it is nowhere a subject of discussion, and you'd be laughed out of any meeting where you proposed it. Even in less dire times, members would want to see their dues money directed towards improving their workplace and social conditions, which among other things requires trying to organize the unorganized. Few would entertain financing speculative retail ventures to increase the funding of social democratic parties and think tanks, in the process transforming the unions into profit-making enterprises and further weakening their attachment to working class interests.

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