Saturday, October 2, 2010

Labor militancy in Europe, and the conspicuous lack of such in the USA

An essay at Commondreams:

The greater challenge looming over the One Nation campaign isn't just the optics—it's defining a weakened movement in an increasingly unstable political arena. And it's tapping into the public outrage that the right has shrewdly exploited in galvanizing new constituencies. So the groups carrying the “One Nation” banner might want to focus a bit less on projecting an aura of middle-class liberal harmony, and instead learn from the mass appeal of European union militancy.

We're running into one of the most dangerous aspects of the myth of American Exceptionalism: the concept that American workers somehow operate outside historical class antagoisms. Folks are lulled into the belief that deep social crisis can and should be resolved by individual upward mobility and by negotiating within establishment institutions (like Election Day or corporate-controlled collective bargaining).

But as the ITUC's new report starkly reveals, America's labor crises often put its people in the same quagmire as their peers in other economies. So when workers around the world are roused to action—organized, passionate, and not afraid to get a little dirty—why should American labor be any exception?

To be fair, comparing American labor to European labor is analogous to comparing apples to oranges. There's a sense of both history and class consciousness embedded in the collective psyche of European labor, which is conspicuous by its absence in the more heterogenous USA. And because of the way the US neo-feudal and plantation economy has evolved, the dice -- legal, political, cultural -- are loaded against American labor in a way not to be seen in most West European countries.

It's a disheartening state of affairs in the USA and arguably comparisons should really not be made since the terrain differs so much. American labor will have to make its own individual destiny.


AA said...

A pertinent article:

"America sits on it's hands. We might get a few personal stories or faux paus empathetic comments from reporters on the never ending poverty, increasing homelessness, suicides and economic mayhem. In terms of any real action, we get diversion, such as wading into issues which have nothing to do with getting people back to work, which is a national crisis.

"In the midst of a damning set of statistics from the Census Bureau, which goes by America with a yawn, Europe raises hell and takes to the streets in protest over austerity. Austerity is code speak to screw the middle classes and poor by dismantling social safety nets and job security."

Anonymous said...

check out Richard Wolff's comments on the demonstrations in Europe.

AA said...

QUOTE If only Trumka had pointed overseas to France or Spain where they are fighting the cutbacks with general strikes of millions of workers, where they reject “One Nation” crap and understand that the exploiters and workers are engaged in class war, where they actually talk about doing away with the capitalist sweatshop casino.UNQUOTE

Red Frog said...

Let me know when you can import the European working class and left to the United States, will ya?

AA said...

A piece by Rick Wolff contrasting French labor activism with American labor passivism:

"One key lesson of this crisis's different evolution in the US and France is this: the basic economic welfare of the working majority inside a modern industrial capitalism depends on maintaining a strong, militant trade union movement and a strong anti-capitalist movement and tradition. In France, labor and the left always included socially significant groups and movements, theoretical and practical, who were critical of capitalism and committed to basic social change beyond capitalism. That organized radicalism kept alive the notion of a real alternative to the present system. It also sustained many complex connections among militants. Those connections are now being effectively mobilized to forge an historic resistance inside capitalism to its costly crises and the ruling class's response to them. Moreover, because of its anti-capitalist components, that resistance may mature into a social movement for basic social change."

AA said...

This is what causes ruling-class policy to change -- not the farce of placing an X mark on a ballot paper:

QUOTE In the fourth such protest in a little over a month, unions estimated that 3.5 million people had taken to the streets against President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension bill – a 20 per cent rise from previous marches and what they called an "exceptional" figure.

"Sarko, you're screwed, the young are on the streets," chanted students in the southwestern town of Toulouse, as they joined protests en masse for the first time. Secondary school pupils also took part with classes disrupted in around 400 schools. UNQUOTE

Red Frog said...

Actually, Lenin believed in the 'farce' of the ballot box - when it was suitable.