Are you...

Outside & Against
21% (8 votes)
Outside & For
10% (4 votes)
Inside & Against
41% (16 votes)
Inside & For
28% (11 votes)
Total votes: 39

Posted By

Sep 15 2005 15:33



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Oct 11 2005 16:44

It's not a question of "handing out leaflets" to denounce the unions. Though, evidently, if you're against the unions it would be dishonest not to say so. But workers will come up against the problem of the unions every time they struggle and for a good while to come (up until a revolutionary situation I would say). There won't be any clean break from one day to the next and the bourgeoisie will make sure that the unions radicalise to keep any incipient automous struggle in check. That's the main job of the trade unions after all - they don't want it to get started in any shape or form. And if automous struggle or anything like it does threaten to get started they want to stifle it as soon as possible. If one is involved in a strike or whatever, then one should denounce the unions for the obstacles they are, by leaflet or whatever means are available. That doesn't mean waiting for a "pure" struggle because one would wait forever. The job of the unions is to stick to the workers like shit to a blanket.

It's incorrect to say that the "ruling class smashes unions when struggle is high". On the contrary. When the strikes in Poland were reaching insurrectionary proportions in 1980 there was unprecedented cooperation between (imperialist enemies) Britain, America, Poland and Russia to set up and strengthen the Solidarnosc trade union in order to stop, corral and defeat the workers' struggle (notably taken forwards by its MKS automous strike committees).

During the 1984 miners' strike I was in Wales, South Yorkshire and Lancashire and saw on the ground how the unions were used to defeat that strike. Thatcherism may have called for "smashing the unions" but this was nothing but the classic left/right split of the bourgeoisie - as though these were the only two options "Smash the union/Defend the unions". One part of the bourgeoisie attacks from a particular angle and drives you into the arms of another equally reactionary part of the state. And Thatcher did deals with the unions during the strike. The ISTC (steel) unions was promised strengthening in its plants if it kept its workers out of the strike (a promise kept). Steel workers agitating to join the strike in South Wales were threatened with union discipline (the boss sacks you and the union agree). Exactly the same thing happened with the power unions against power workers who wanted (voted to) join the strike in Lancashire. Deals were done by the Thatcher government with the power and railway unions. It was the left and the trade unions that defeated that strike. Instead of spreading and becoming stronger and deeper (which was its real potential at one stage), the bourgeosie kept it within the confines of "Defend the NUM". It was only a matter of time before they ground the workers down and defeated the strike.

Oct 11 2005 21:20


What is the cause of the decline of union membership over the past few decades? Here in the States, the percentage of workers in unions is down to 12% (8% of workers in the private sector), from a peak of 1 in 3 workers in the 50's. This basic trend is repeated all over the industrialised world. Could there be a surge in union strength if workers' struggles intensify?

Question # 3: What role did the unions play in the Revolutionary wave of 1917-1923. Trotsky's book suggests they were a part of the struggle.

As for the left/right split. You have tried to explain how both ends of the "spectrum" are equally reactionary. So why the animosity between left and right? FOr example, the same Mensheviks who spent years in exile and in the Tsar's jails, later plotted with the Tsarist general Kornilov to crush the soviets (around September 1917 I think).

So Question # 5: Why would the Tsar imprison leftists who are the last barrier against the proletarian menace?

Likewise, the same German social democrats who had just saved German capitalism in 1919 were massacred by the Nazi government. Why kill the very people who saved your ass not so long ago?

I think the right REALLY wants to destroy the unions. They don't differentiate between revolutionaries and pseudo-revolutionaries, they hate them both. You've got to explain that.

Oct 12 2005 13:55

Outside and For (what they have the potential to be).

red n black star

Oct 14 2005 11:39

Just to add a point on the creation of Solidarnosc in the 1980 strikes in Poland against the increasingly radicalised and politicised MKS the role of the Vatican and the Italian state should also be included along with Britain and America. Here is a classic example of different factions of the bourgeoisie seeing the need to create a ("radical") trade union to subvert the workers' struggle.

In response to Ald.

1) The decline in union membership reflects the balance of force between the classes since the 1980s tipping towards the bourgoisie. Not least by using the effects of the collapse of the old Russian bloc. But the unions in all the major industrial countries have remained intact and many of the important industries still require union membership as a prerequisite for a job. And union ideology is ready to spring into action when needed (recent strikes in France, Germany, India, Gate Gourmet).

2) Following on from this we can say with absolute certainty that when the class struggle intensifies the unions will come to the fore on behalf of the state. This is the be all and end all of their role in the 20th and 21st centuries.

3) The position of the ICC (one I agree with) is that the unions were progressive organisations for the working class while capital was capable of granting reforms. This period ended (was marked) by the WWI where the unions supported "their" capitalist state, their imperialist line up. In this "change over" period the unions in Russia were involved in the revolution. But the driving force of that revolution was the Soviets - a form of organisation and action that far exceeded the limited (and increasingly reactionary) role of the trade unions.

4) Why animosity between the left and right? We see - concretely - in Poland how different factions of the bourgeoisie (actually preparing for all out imperialist war against one another) can unite when faced with their mortal enemy - the working class as a force for itself. When the danger of the class is out of the way the bourgeoisie (a class which has no future) settles accounts with itself (it is a competitive and increasingly irrational class as befits a class with no future). It was the left and the unions in Germany that defeated the revolutionary wave there. Having carried out their task of eliminating the working class from the scene there's nothing to stop another rising faction of the bourgeoisie wiping out its previous saviours (along with any genuine remaining elements of the struggle).

5) Why would the Tsar imprison leftists? I wouldn't say that the Russian Tsar was the best example of the intelligence of the bourgeoisie. But also see no. 4.

If you want to see an intelligent bourgeoisie look at the British. See how over decades they have used the left/right trap. The miners' strike of 84 was particularly rich in lessons and we see the so-called anti-union Thatcher - taking a chance, but oh so intelligently, dealing with, using and strengthening different trade unions in order to defeat the miners and send a message to the whole working class (a message that resonated internationally).