Monday, March 28, 2016

In Honor Of The 145th Anniversary Of The Paris Commune-From The American Left History Blog Archives (2007) - On American Political Discourse

In Honor Of The 145th Anniversary Of The Paris Commune-From The American Left History Blog Archives (2007) - On American Political Discourse


Markin comment (Winter 2016):


In the period 2006-2008 I, in vain, attempted to put some energy into analyzing the blossoming American presidential campaign since it was to be, as advertised at least, a watershed election, for women, blacks, old white anglos, latinos, youth, etc. In the event I had to abandon the efforts in about May of 2008 when it became obvious, in my face obvious, that the election would be a watershed only for those who really believed that it would be a watershed election. The four years of the Obama presidency, the 2012 American presidential election campaign, and world politics have only confirmed in my eyes that that abandonment was essentially the right decision at the right time and my only fear is that now that Obama and his lame duck presidency are in full flower that as the machines are gearing up for the 2016 presidential campaign maw I will seeking another watershed election where there is none will be tempted, sorely tempted to put my foot in the waters of campaign commentary again. If I do so I deserve the fate that befell Theodore White in his endless campaign books every four years starting with the JFK-Nixon fistfight in 1960 which left his a blathering idiot before he was done. Or worse since he was (is) something of a muse for me what happened to the later Hunter Thompson, Doctor Gonzo when he got caught up in the avalanche of presidential campaigns which probably played no little part in his eventual suicide. I am forewarned.   


In short, let the well- paid bourgeois commentators go on and on with their twitter (literally now as that stunted social network operation replaces Facebook as the place to be). I, we, had (have) better things to do like fighting against the permanent wars, the permanent war economies, the struggle for more and better jobs, and for a workers’ party that fights for a workers government . That is where the link to the Paris Commune comes in which in its time was a beacon for the international working class, a first failed attempt for the fellahin to taek charge of their own lives, govern as they saw fit. So with the Paris Commune and its lessons as heady backdrop we have enough, more than enough to do, right? Still a look back at some of the stuff I wrote then as talking points to drown out the coming deluge does not have a bad feel to it. Read on.





The big labor news this fall has been the fight by the United Auto Workers (UAW) for new contracts with General Motors, Chrysler and now Ford. I have already discussed the GM and Chrysler settlement and now as of Friday, November 3, 2007 Ford and the UAW have reached a tentative agreement. That agreement is along the same lines as those ratified by GM and Chrysler (barely) - a new two- tier wage system for new hires who will get one half the average pay of senior autoworkers and union takeover of the health and pension funds. As I have lamented previously these contracts are a defeat for the autoworkers. Why? The historic position of labor has been to fight for equal pay for equal work. That apparently has gone by the boards here. Moreover the pension and health takeovers are an albatross around the neck of the union. No way is this an example of worker control not at least how any militant should view it. After all the givebacks its time to fight back even if this is a rearguard action in light of the previous votes. Any illusions that the give backs will by labor peace and or/avoid further layoffs, closedowns or outsourcing got a cruel comeuppance in the previous contract negotiations. No sooner had those contracts been ratified, and well before the new contracts were even printed, Chrysler announced layoffs of 8000 to 10, 000 and GM had previously announced about 1500 layoffs. FORD AUTOWORKERS VOTE NO ON THIS CONTRACT.


A Short Note On the Chrysler Autoworkers Contract Settlement


The Wal-Martization of the Once Proud UAW

Yes, I know that we are in the age of ‘globalization’. That is, however, merely the transformation of the same old characters like General Motors, Ford and Chrysler in the auto industry that we have come to know and love moving away from mainly nationally defined markets to international markets. In short, these companies allegedly are being forced to fight their way to the bottom of the international labor wage market along with everyone else. As least that was the position of these august companies in the on-going labor contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers (UAW). And the labor tops bought the argument. In the General Motors settlement GM was nicely absolved from having to administer its albatross health and pension funds. Now autoworkers are held responsible for deciding what autoworkers get what benefits. This is not my idea of workers control, not by a long shot. Based on those provisions alone that GM contract should have been soundly defeated. That it was not will come back to haunt the GM autoworkers in the future.

Now comes news that, as of October 27, 2007, the Chrysler workers have narrowly (56%) ratified their contract, although some major plants voted against it and the labor skates pulled out all stops to get an affirmative vote. If anything that contract is worse than the GM contract because it also contains a provision for permitting a two-wage system where ‘new hires’ will be paid approximately one half normal rates. So much for the old labor slogan of 'equal pay for equal work'. If the GM contract will come back to haunt this one already does today. Remember also that Chrysler was bought out by a private equity company that has a history of selling off unprofitable operations, driving productivity up and then selling the profitable parts for huge profits. That, my friends, is what the global race to the bottom looks like in the American auto industry. This contract should have been voted down with both hands. Ford is up next and based on the foregoing that contract should also be voted down.

Look, every militant knows that negotiations over union contracts represent a sort of ‘truce’ in the class struggle. Until there is worker control of production under a workers government the value of any negotiations with the capitalists is determined by the terms. Sometimes, especially in hard times, just holding your own is a ‘victory’. Other times, like here, there is only one word for these contracts-defeat. Moreover, this did not need to happen. Although both strike efforts at GM and Chrysler were short-lived (intentionally so on the part of the leadership) the rank and file was ready to do battle. The vote at Chrysler further bolsters that argument. So what is up?

What is up is that the leadership of the autoworkers is not worthy of the membership. These people are so mired in class collaborationist non-aggression pacts and cozy arrangements (for themselves) that they were easy pickings for the vultures leading management. The epitome of this is the ‘apache’ strategy of negotiating with one company at a time. If in the era of Walter Reuther at a time when there were upwards of a million union autoworkers that might have made some sense today with reduced numbers it makes no sense at all. Labor’s power is in solidarity and solidarity means, in this case, ‘one out, all out’. Beyond that it is clear a new class struggle leadership is needed, just to keep even, and it is needed pronto. Those rank and filers and, in some cases, local union leaders who called for a no vote at Chrysler are the starting point for such efforts.

No comments:

Post a Comment