Quote of the day: Bernie, the S-word, & unions


From labor lawyer and union negotiator Joe Burns, writing in Jacobin:

The Bernie Sanders campaign has injected socialism into the mainstream discourse for the first time in decades. Young Sanderistas have rallied behind social-democratic demands that fly in the face of forty years of neoliberal policy, and polls show that millennials are surprisingly receptive to socialist ideas.

The positive response to Sanders’s avowed democratic socialism — and to his call for a political revolution — opens the door for a discussion all but absent from today’s labor movement: the importance of socialist ideas to a successful trade union movement.

For most of the labor movement’s history, a broad socialist-minded wing fused its vision of society with a practical program for labor’s future. Whether it was the industrial unionism of the early 1900s, the CIO unions of the 1930s, or the rank-and-file anti-concession movement of the 1970s and 1980s, labor’s left offered an alternative to union decline and stagnation.

Today, however, labor unions rarely discuss class issues. Disputes are particularized, transformed into individual battles between an employer and its workers rather than a larger struggle between opposing classes.

Typically, only bitter and prolonged strikes expose workers to the class bias of the corporate media, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the courts. With industrial action at historic lows, class consciousness has been blocked from spreading throughout labor as a whole.

What’s been remarkable about Sanders has been his ability to use a presidential campaign to bring class front and center. Like Occupy’s targeting of the 1 percent, his campaign has spotlighted and lambasted those who are the true enemies of working people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s