Wednesday April 16th, 2014, 8:58 pm (EDT)

Labor

Labor

A Radical Vision for Today’s Labor Movement

The Importance of Internationalism and Civil Rights

During the Cold War, many of the people with a radical vision of the world were driven out of our labor movement. Today, as unions search for answers about how to begin growing again, and regain the power workers need to defend themselves, the question of social vision has become very important. What is our vision in labor? What are the issues that we confront today that form a more radical vision for our era.… | more |

Proper Disposal of Hazardous Ideas: An EPA–Isador Nabi Bulletin

(For authorized persons only. If you do not know whether you are an authorized person then you are probably not, and should stop reading right here.)… | more |

The office of Occupational Safety and Health has ruled that the proper disposal of hazardous materials is required under regulation 1.848 section b of the Clean Minds Act. Our lawyers have ruled that in academic settings hazardous ideas can be included under these regulations because although they are not obviously materials, as Marx wrote, ideas become a material force when they grip the masses. When they haven’t gripped the masses they may still be regarded as hazardous materials under the talmudic principle of building a wall around the Torah: something already is what it may potentially become in the wrong hands and may be treated as such. Thus a centrifuge might concentrate uranium and therefore is practically a nuclear weapon, or teaching geography in a Bad Country may train children to pick targets.… | more |

The Injuries of Class

We live in a complex, divided society. We are divided by wealth, income, education, housing, race, gender, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. These divisions are much discussed; in the last two years, there have been entire series in our major newspapers devoted to the growing income divide. The wealth-flaunting of today’s rich was even the subject of a recent Sunday New York Times Magazine article (“City Life in the New Gilded Age,” October 14, 2007).… | more |

Labor Market ‘Reform’ in Australia: The New Industrial Relations Law and the Elections

For the first time in decades, the role of the state in industrial relations became a central issue in an election in an English-speaking first-world nation-state. The Australian election of November 24, 2007, resulted in an emphatic win for the Labor Party opposition led by Kevin Rudd. It was the second largest winning margin since the Second World War.… | more |

Workplace Democracy and Collective Consciousness: An Empirical Study of Venezuelan Cooperatives

Liberal ideology insists that a society in which conscious solidarity is the dominating attitude/approach is impossible, because humans are primarily and perpetually motivated by individual material incentives. But the revolutionary process that Venezuela embarked upon in 1999, known as the “Bolivarian Revolution,” is challenging the core liberal tenet that narrow self-interest is the immutable human condition… | more |

The State of Official Marxism in China Today

During November 13–14, 2006, I participated in an “International Conference on Ownership & Property Rights: Theory & Practice,” in Beijing. This was not just an academic conference, it was related to a sharp debate taking place in China at that time over a proposed new law on property rights.1 Although none of the presentations at the conference made any direct reference to the proposed new law, everyone knew that it was the subtext of the conference debate… | more |

Conditions of the Working Classes in China

This article is based primarily on a series of meetings with workers, peasants, organizers, and leftist activists that I participated in during the summer of 2004, together with Alex Day and another student of Chinese affairs. It is part of a longer paper that is being published as a special report by the Oakland Institute. The meetings took place mainly in and around Beijing, as well as in Jilin province in the northeast, and in the cities of Zhengzhou and Kaifeng in the central province of Henan. What we heard reveals in stark fashion the effects of the massive transformations that have occurred in the three decades following the death of Mao Zedong, with the dismantling of the revolutionary socialist policies carried out under his leadership, and a return to the “capitalist road,” leaving the working classes in an increasingly precarious position. A rapidly widening polarization-in a society that was among the most egalitarian-is occurring between extremes of wealth at the top and growing ranks of workers and peasants at the bottom whose conditions of life are daily worsening. Exemplifying this, the 2006 Fortune list of global billionaires includes seven in mainland China and one in Hong Kong. Though their holdings are small compared to those in the United States and elsewhere, they represent the emergence of a full-blown Chinese capitalism. Rampant corruption unites party and state authorities and enterprise managers with the new private entrepreneurs in a web of alliances that are enriching a burgeoning capitalist class, while the working classes are exploited in ways that have not been seen for over half a century… | more |

Fixed, Footloose, or Fractured: Work, Identity, and the Spatial Division of Labor in the Twenty–First Century City

The combination of technological change and globalization is bringing about fundamental changes in who does what work where, when, and how. This has implications which are profoundly contradictory for the nature of jobs, for the people who carry them out, and hence for the nature of cities… | more |

Heroes & Villains in the Cold War Battle for the United Electrical Workers

John Hoerr, Harry, Tom, and Father Rice: Accusation and Betrayal in America’s Cold War (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), 344 pages, cloth $29.95.

The image still haunts me: a man in his thirties, eyes glassy, blood streaming from a head wound. A foot soldier in the domestic Cold War, this union stalwart had been beaten by anticommunist thugs who imagined that changing unions in the Westinghouse Electric plant in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania would be a blow against Stalin. Mistaking assault on a volunteer organizer for damage to a Soviet leader is just the kind of tragically stupid error one might expect in a period generally befuddled by fear. Fifty-five years later, confusion as to the meaning of these events continues to hang over the era like an early-morning fog… | more |

Lost and Found: The Italian-American Radical Experience

Philip V. Cannistraro and Gerald Meyer, eds., The Lost World of Italian-American Radicalism: Politics, Labor, and Culture (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2003), 346 pages, cloth $79.95, paper $29.95.

When, almost ten years ago, I came from Italy to study in New York I was shocked by the discrepancy between Italian-American and Italian politics. To my amazement, I discovered that the left, which has always played, and still plays, an important role in Italian politics, occupies a marginal, if not nonexistent, place in Italian-American political culture. Even worse, I learned that Italian Americans are perceived as a basically conservative group, whose only ties to Italy appear to be the Mafia and food. How did Italian Americans end up identifying themselves, and being identified, with such conservative values and reactionary political forces? Why did their political consciousness diverge so markedly from their Italian counterparts?… | more |

Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe

When Zimbabwe attained its first independent government in 1980, led by President Robert Mugabe and liberation fighters of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), there were reasons to hope for a bright future. The new country inherited significant infrastructure from the prior Rhodesian settler regime, including relatively modern transportation and communications systems and an impressive set of import substitution industries. The economy had been built with extensive state support and planning (along with capital controls) to evade UN sanctions. By way of reconciliation, Mugabe sought good relations with local and regional capital, while establishing economic ties to China and East Bloc countries that had supported the liberation struggle. Roughly 100,000 white settlers remained in the country, operating the commanding heights of commerce, finance, industry, mining, and large-scale agriculture, as well as domestic small businesses. The 1980s witnessed rapid growth at first, then droughts, with 5 percent GDP growth when rainy seasons were average or better. Thanks to the construction of thousands of new clinics and schools, indices of health and education showed marked improvement… | more |

October 2005, Volume57, Number 5

October 2005, Volume57, Number 5

» Notes from the Editors

The much-anticipated split in the AFL-CIO, the labor federation in the United States, took place in Chicago, at the federation’s annual convention. Three unions—the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Teamsters, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW)—left the federation, and more will likely follow. The dissident unions call themselves the Change to Win Coalition, and they have suggested that what they have done parallels the formation of the CIO in 1935, which resulted in the organization of the nation’s mass production industries. They will be holding their inaugural convention in late September… | more |

Can Germany’s Corporatist Labor Movement Survive?

For seven years Germany has been governed by a center-left coalition. This government was elected in 1998 because a majority of the electorate was tired of conservatives promising that fiscal austerity, lower unemployment benefits and social security, and restrained wage growth would bring prosperity and full employment. However, the new government’s program has made that of its predecessor look like neoliberalism with a human face. The new government, led by the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), has launched the most severe attacks on labor and social standards since the establishment of a welfare state after the Second World War. Since, for most of its history, the SPD has presented itself as the main force pushing for expansion of the welfare state, its anti-worker actions have deeply disappointed its followers and surprised its opponents… | more |

Debate Over the Future of the AFL-CIO

More Heat than Light

A debate over the future of the AFL-CIO, the federation of most unions in the USA, has been underway for some months and, for the life of me, while the debate becomes more intense, the differences seem to blur. Yet, the feeling that one gets is that we are headed for a train wreck … | more |

Labor Movements: Is There Hope?

For the past thirty years, the class struggle has been a pretty one-sided affair, with capital delivering a severe beating to labor around the globe. When economic stagnation struck most of the world’s advanced capitalist economies, beginning in the mid-1970s, capital went on the offensive, quickly understanding that the best way to maintain and increase profit margins in a period of slow and sporadic economic growth was to cut labor costs. Governments and global lending agencies such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund began to implement policies that made workers increasingly insecure… | more |

The Legacy of the IWW

This year marks the centenary of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), American labor’s unique visionaries. It also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the AFL-CIO, the result of the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organization. Remarkably it is also the tenth anniversary of the change of the guard at the AFL-CIO. In 1995, John Sweeney and his “New Voice” team, expressing the rumblings of disillusionment with then-president and prominent Cold Warrior Lane Kirkland sweeping through the middle and upper ranks of the organization, drove the old guard from the highest offices. The concurrence of the three anniversaries may be more than a coincidence. To see why, let us go back and examine some recent labor history… | more |

Crisis in the U.S. Labor Movement: The Roads Not Taken

There is no disputing that these are tough times for the working class and its allies (all those oppressed by capitalism). The working class lacks a political party; social services to assist us with the inevitable problems we face have been eroded; and even our few precious institutions, especially unions, seem overwhelmed by the relentless attacks… | more |

Labor Needs a Radical Vision

For forty years, AFL-CIO leaders George Meany and Lane Kirkland saw unorganized workers as a threat when they saw them at all. They drove left-wing activists out of unions and threw the message of solidarity on the scrapheap. Labor’s dinosaurs treated unions as a business, representing members in exchange for dues, while ignoring the needs of workers as a whole. A decade ago new leaders were thrust into office in the AFL-CIO, a product of the crisis of falling union density, weakened political power, and a generation of angry labor activists demanding a change in direction. Those ten years have yielded important gains for unions. Big efforts were made to organize strawberry workers in Watsonville, California, asbestos workers in New York and New Jersey, poultry and meatpacking workers in the South, and health care workers throughout the country. Yet in only one year was the pace of organizing fast enough to keep union density from falling… | more |

Canadian Labor Today: Partial Successes, Real Challenges

It is undeniably true that the Canadian labor movement has been healthier than our neighbors to the south in the past twenty years. In many ways, Canadian unions represent a positive counterpoint to the crisis of labor in the United States.… Unions in key sectors such as auto led a two-decade-long struggle against concession bargaining and have so far prevented multi-tiered wage agreements. Public sector unions have linked the defense of public sector workers with relatively effective strategies of maintaining strong popular support for public medicine and social services.… But if you look below the surface today, all is not so rosy. The long-term effects of neoliberal inspired restructuring that began in the late 1970s have reshaped the environment of today’s Canadian economy. This has given new power to employers to demand concessions. Whether the threatened outcome is takeover by a U.S. corporation, the movement of investment out of the country, enhanced dependence upon transnational investment decisions, outsourcing, or bankruptcy protection, the logic of capitalist restructuring weighs heavily on the minds of workers.… | more |

Mexico’s Labor Movement in Transition

The Mexican labor movement has been undergoing a profound transformation in the last ten years, the result of twenty years of neoliberal economic policies and the transformation of the Mexican one-party state. A new independent labor movement has emerged which has not only broken with the old state-controlled labor-relations system, but has also put itself forward as the leader of the social movements, and, at the moment, appears as a real political force that can challenge the government.… | more |