- AFSCME Local 444 negotiations assesment 1997
- Preparing for Revolution: A discussion document
- The Internal lives of Revolutionary Organizations
- Socialist Alternative members: Questions and Answers
- Sanders: Our Alternative
- The Nature of the New European Left
- Catastrophic Climate Change: Caused by Capitalism
- University of California workers and Unions
- An Invitation to Our Readers
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Fascists gain confidence as AFL-CIO leadership is MIA
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
Well, despite criticism from some leftists that we are overly critical of the heads of organized labor on this blog, that we are wasting our time because they will never do anything, I have to disappoint our critics once again.
The confidence of the KKK, Nazi’s and other white supremacist groups to come out in to the open has been increased by the Trump regime. After all, if the president of the US can say WTF he likes, why can’t we?
The fascists turned out in Charlottesville Va, to protest the removal of statues honoring Confederates and in this case, the statue honoring Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
The mayor of Charlottesville condemned the protest saying that “Either way, as mayor of this city, I want everyone to know this: “We reject this intimidation. We are a welcoming city, but such intolerance is not welcome here.” According to the Daily Progress, a local paper, the cops arrived and the 150 or so fascists withdrew.
But workers cannot rely on some Democrat or the police to defend us from fascists and racists like these people. Prior to the civil rights movement the police defended racists laws. The neo Nazi, Richard Spencer was among the crowd. In fact, I am against the state banning these people from speaking. Instead, I am for the mass movement of workers and youth from all walks of life, European, African American, Asia, from every country on Earth turning up whenever these racists show themselves.
Gay workers, disabled workers, transgender workers, no matter what our religious beliefs, we all have a stake in making sure the fascists dare not show themselves. We collectively, not the state, can ensure they cannot use the First Amendment to deny the rest of us First Amendment rights.
And let’s not fool ourselves. These people use the First Amendment not to defend it for society, but to build a movement, a fascist, racist white supremacist movement, that will deny society free speech rights.
All this talk of Southern Heritage is nonsense. Of course there is Southern Heritage that is worth defending. The vast majority of whites were poor. There is music and culture and other aspects of Southern life that has its origins in Europe and that is worth defending.
But that is not the Southern Heritage that these people are defending. These people, much like that idiot Charlie Daniels, are defending the brutal racist institution of slavery. A social system, that had it won the civil war, would have opposed unions, democratic rights, all the great gains workers have made over a couple of centuries. No class conscious white/European worker should defend this heritage.
But here is where I disappoint some of my leftists friends. The voice of the liberal democrat and the whining liberal should be drowned out by the voice of organized labor. The leaders atop the AFL-CIO and of all organized labor are a disgrace. They have the resources of a 14 million member organization at their command. They have given billions of dollars over the past 30 years or so to the Democratic Party whose candidates have cooperated in the driving back of the living standards of American workers to those that existed prior to the rise of the CIO.
They have kept their collective mouths shut through defeated strike after defeated strike and racist attack after racist attack. Where has this potential power been through Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, and even Rodney King? They have presided over defeat after defeat in labor disputes. They have left workers abandoned on picket lines for months with nothing to show for it as they offer concession after concession to the bosses and force concessionary contracts on their own members---contracts that they don't have to work under.
At the time of the Rodney King assault there was a strike in Peoria IL of UAW members at a Caterpillar factory. This strike, like all of them, went down in defeat through no other reason than the failure of the union leadership to fight.
I think that strike went on for 7 months. That is a long time for a worker to be on strike. Believe me, through all these defeats the rank and file union member has shown heroism and courage enough. I am old enough to remember many of them: Hormel, Eastern Airlines, two Greyhound strikes, PATCO, Detroit Newspaper Teamster battle, The War Zone in Decatur, the Pittson strike when the workers occupied the mines and many more. Don’t blame the fu*%ing dues payer when you want to talk about our defeats.
It’s not rocket science to realize that the same forces that led to the uprising around Rodney King are the same forces that were crushing the UAW members at Caterpillar in Peoria. Those two sets of very different workers facing the same enemy could have been brought together. Strikers from Peoria could have been linked up with the black and Latino workers in LA whose economic conditions were dire.
Rodney King was just the spark that set it all off. The condition on the ground, the unemployment, the poverty, the racism, the lack of opportunity was the cause. These youth and disenfranchised, (specially oppressed we sometimes call it) could have been taken to Peoria and walked the picket lines, visited the mostly white workers homes, fought their fight with them, walked the picket lines with them. This is how we unite the working class against our enemies and how we can defeat them and racism.
But the labor officialdom will not do this. In the wake of the most severe attacks we have faced in a long time as workers. As we have two million in prison, as resident in city after city discovers they are being served poison water and our beautiful environment is being destroyed. As living standards and the life expectancy of a “privileged” sector of the working class declines as the country has more billionaires then ever. In the face of the rise of racists, white nationalists and fascists, in the face of all this, the silence from the labor hierarchy is downright deafening.
The heads of organized labor are criminally responsible for the crises we are in and for the rise of Trump. When fascists turn up like they did in Charlotte, the trade union leadership has the ability to turn out thousands more. This is what they should be doing in all the examples I have raised here. They have the money, the time, the structure, the resources. Although unions are weaker in the South due to racism, they do exist. This paltry protest by fascists in Charlottesville Va should have been met with thousand of workers organized by labor and all supporting groups.
I accept the leaders won’t do it. I do not accept they won’t do anything. And what’s more important is that the rank and file of the unions cannot ignore them. The left in the unions ignore them and use the excuse that they won’t do anything or that they themselves are building a revolutionary alternative that will lead us all to the promised land, that the workers will all turn to those with the right book.
The labor movement is made up of many small locals and dues paying members. We have to build an alternative to this present clique that controls our organizations. We can’t do that if we stay silent. We can’t do that if we don’t study our history, learn from the past, learn from mistakes and build form the ground up. We can build in the workplace, outside it in the community, and at the union hall.
Anti-worker forces will try to divide us. In this country, the color question and the invention of the white race idea has been the most successful. In Northern Ireland it was religion because we all looked the same on the outside. But these white supremacists are no friend of the white worker and we must condemn them in the most aggressive terms.
I will end on this note. I wrote a response to Charlie Daniels some time ago who talked of Southern Heritage, and I have explained why I don’t agree with that term if left without an explanation. I don’t like the term White Supremacy if it is devoid of class content. Daniels and many whites like him might openly condemn slavery and Jim Crow and the brutal racist history of the South in the abstract. But if one does not make clear what they support and what they don’t when they are talking about heritage, they are defending slavery and racism—black folks are not stupid. They are defending the Confederacy and what it stood for.
And, if there is any doubt, I will leave the reader with these comments from Alexander Stephens, VP of Confederacy in March1861:
The new Constitution has put to rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution-----African slavery as it exists among us-----the proper status of the Negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and the present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as “The rock upon which the Old Union would split.”……The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically…. These ideas however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error….
Our new government is founded on exactly the opposite ideas; it’s foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon, the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that Slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. (Applause.) This, our new Government, is the first in the history of the world, based upon this great physical philosophical and moral truth.
The Emancipation Proclamation, George Novack, America’s Revolutionary Heritage, p. 264.
The right side won the US Civil War. If it has to be fought again so be it.