Sam Gindin comments…
The excellent Sam Gindin, who spent many years with the Canadian Auto Workers as an economist/advisor (and who cannot be dismissed as some armchair pointy-head), writes in response to my recent stuff on Wisconsin:
Very good response; I think you are right on re labour. The one thing I’d add, and I think it is very significant, is that this crisis in labour overlaps with the crisis on the left. I’m convinced that any renewal in labour won’t happen until there is an organized left with feet inside and outside labour—and even then it would have to be a left of a particularly creative kind. Which raises the unavoidable question of what we do to create such a left if neither the unions nor the democratic party are sites to make this happen and the notion of this happening through the old Leninist structures seems no less of a dead-end. THIS is the challenge that needs taking on….
I like this very much, and I don’t think it’s just because I’m flattered. I love the bit about an organized left that’s both inside and outside labor.
I suppose you’ve seen Corey Robin’s most recent blog post then:
Doug, for a model, take a look at what the Chicago Teachers Union is up to. A left caucus was elected last year. They have done excellent work organizing in the community in preparation for a showdown with Rahm.
A true labor party rather than a bunch of labor unions is what we need to get out of this box. I think the analysis of unions being seen as insular from other members of the poor and working class is a valid one, at least for a lot of unions. When I was a member of the Univ. of Hawaii Professional Assembly a decade ago (and a member of our board of directors, may I add) there were many who saw us and the teacher’s union as individual fiefdoms rather than organizations working for the greater good. It was easy to sell that and use the divide and conquer, and much of our strategy revolved around convincing the public we had their best interests at heart. Of course, a union has to have its member’s, and not the public’s interests central. Having said that, a public sector union especially depends on public Aloha. The politics is key. You have to be one of them (the public) as well as one of us (the union).
Its time we took a lot of those Tea Party members back where they belong–voting for their own interests rather than being conned into supporting the interests of the 1%. How that is done is a big question. I don’t think traditional union stuff will work in a global economy. With a global economy, we need a global labor movement and it will have to be flexible to represent real world conditions in each country.
This is a great web site. Glad I found it, by way of my old friend Sandra Hinson’s blog (Grassroots Policy Project).
Our social training runs 24/7 against notions of solidarity, the collective good, or a rising tide raises all boats. It’s just a very different society than the time of large scale union organizing.
…the notion of this happening through the old Leninist structures seems no less of a dead-end.
Anyone who still has Leninist dreams may be of help in particular tactical questions but is well worth consigning to the dustbin of history for the struggles that lie ahead which require more originality of mind.
Incidentally, Kolko who will turn 80 soon is a great person to interview for your radio program, especially about his ideas from ‘After Socialism’ (http://www.amazon.com/After-Socialism-Reconstructing-Critical-Thought/dp/0415395917). Surprisingly, nobody seems to have interviewed him on that particular book which seemed like the product of decades of thought, although podcasts of more free-ranging interviews of Kolko are available (http://www.electricpolitics.com/podcast/2007/01/bleak_expectations.html)