By REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALIST NETWORK
The following document on the labor movement was adopted by the Revolutionary Socialist Network on May 4, 2021. Socialist Resurgence is an affiliate of the RSN and helped draft this document. You can find more documents like this at RevolutionarySocialist.org
Today socialists and militant workers are discussing the urgent need to mobilize the working class to fight for our immediate needs but also a long term vision of a society that puts the human need above the profits of a few individuals. The COVID-19, climate, and economic crises are bringing a new sense of urgency to our movement to end the horrors of capitalism.
While there are differences of opinions in the Revolutionary Socialist Network (RSN), we share a basic Marxist lens of lessons learned in the class struggle for more than 150 years. Marx said that the capitalists first of all produce their own gravediggers, the working class. The class that survives by selling its labor power produces surplus value, the basis of profit, rent, and interest. Without the labor of the working class, capitalists would have no income and capitalism would collapse. The working class is the class that can bring about socialism for three reasons:
- It is exploited and oppressed by the capitalists and therefore has an interest in overthrowing capitalism.
- It has the potential power to bring the system to a halt.
- Due to the nature of capitalist production bringing workers together in ever more centralized systems of production, struggle against the capitalist system by its own workings takes on a cooperative nature based on the collectivization of their workplaces.
The potential economic and social power of workers can be used for revolution and for winning reforms short of revolution. The strike weapon is the most important in the arsenal of the workers. They can back up economic, social, and political demands by striking. By going on strike they can prevent capitalists from making a profit. Workers have other means to disrupt capitalist profit and power but the strike is the most important. This is the basis for the Marxist orientation to the working class. Marx said that since the workers have “radical chains,” the rising of the workers would upend all of society. This understanding by Marx led him to say that “Socialism is the self-emancipation of the working class.” It led later Marxists to define Marxism as “ the theory and practice of the international proletarian revolution.”
For these reasons, a labor perspective on how Marxists engage in workers’ struggles is absolutely central. The goal of Marxists in labor organizing is to build a revolutionary workers party that can lead a working-class revolution. Our labor perspectives are keyed toward this goal and toward making workers as effective as possible in defending their economic, social and political interests while capitalism still exists.
In any given period, Marxists may differ on exactly how to build toward a working-class party, what emphasis to put on broad education, social movements and workplace organizing. However, the goals remain the same and clarity on workplace intervention is vital.
An effective labor strategy for the RSN is based on over 150 years of intervention by Marxists in working-class struggle and specifically involvement in unions and other working-class organizations. The theoretical basis of our intervention is well-known among revolutionary socialists:
- Capitalism is founded on the exploitation by the owners of the means of production of the working class—those who sell their labor power to survive. This means that differences between the two classes cannot be reconciled. Higher profit comes from lower wages and vice versa.
- To obtain a decent living and better working conditions workers need to cut off the flow of surplus value to the bosses. The strike weapon is crucial to the advancement of the position of workers under capitalism
- Unions are the basic organizations of the class struggle, including strikes. Marxists are pro-union. Union struggles and other strikes are the building blocks of workers’ self-organization. They are “schools of war” which can prepare workers to emancipate themselves.
- Unions and other workplace organizations can further the social and political goals of the working class as well as immediate issues of wages and conditions at work. Marxists seek to harness this workplace power to the broader interests of the whole class.
- Working-class consciousness is mixed. The “dominant ideas of any age are the ideas of the ruling class.” Yet capitalism also compels workers to struggle. Resistance to oppression and exploitation develops oppositional consciousness. Marxists seek to develop oppositional consciousness, class consciousness as opposed to sectional and individual consciousness. This means among other things, opposing racism, sexism, and other divisive ideologies. This means we need to have clear policies and mechanisms that reject any kind of oppressive behaviors or attitudes between workers, and clear processes to deal with such behaviors. We must also provide the material conditions to ensure the participation of all workers in union meetings and activities regardless of gender-identity, sexual orientation, race, or nationality and integrate in our contract campaigns the demands of oppressed groups that combat oppression in the workplace.
- Though unions are progressive they tend to develop a bureaucracy based on the function of mediating class differences between workers and capitalists. They develop their own separate interests from those of the workers they represent. They need to sell the compromise they reach with the bosses to the workers. They need to protect the organization to maintain their position. They often exert a dampening and conservative influence on the class struggle.
- To use the unions most effectively and to counter the conservative influence of union bureaucrats, workers within unions need to organize in the workplace through existing union structures or independently when necessary. Running for particular union positions is a tactical question. Will running in an election advance the cause of workplace rank and file organization? The goal is not official positions, but enhanced militant organization of the workers. The fight for democracy within the union is essential to the fight for a more militant strategy based on workers’ self-organization.
- Marxists reject two extreme positions taken by some leftists: a) Outright rejection of unions as merely bosses’ instruments and b) Uncritical support of union leaders. We adopt the motto of militants from Britain “We support the union leaders when they rightly defend the interests of the workers, and oppose them when they don’t.” This means – as the Minneapolis Trotskyist Teamsters said in the early 30s – “firing at the bosses first, but catching the bureaucrats in the crossfire.” The aim is to end exploitation which is perpetrated by the bosses. Our approach to the union is entirely based on how to facilitate our opposition to exploitation.
- The class struggle is political as well as economic. The movement around issues such as police brutality and racism, fighting climate change, social provision of public housing and medical care, decent public education, opposition to imperialism, etc., is part of the class struggle. Marxists try to convince workers of their broader class interests and to fight around broader social and political issues. The work place is the most important strategic source of working-class power, but it is not the only source. Marxists seek to harness the strike power to broader political goals.
- The mixed consciousness of workers necessitates the self-organization of revolutionary workers to influence the rest of the working class. A revolutionary party will be needed to lead the working-class struggle in a revolutionary crisis. It is also needed to most effectively organize for the Marxist position in the class struggle even long before the revolutionary crisis. Part of the position we want to convince workers of is the need for independent working-class political organization.
The working class today
A 40+ year nearly one sided class war has left the working class in a weakened position. The level of strikes, though picking up in the last couple years – and especially since Covid – is still at a historical low. Unionization rates are as low as they were in the 1920s. Private sector unionization is about 7% and overall it is at 11%. The concentration of wealth is also as high as in the 1920s. Working-class wages have stagnated and declined since the early 70s. The massive productivity gains in the U.S. economy have gone almost totally to the rich.
Why has this happened? Over the course of the 1950s the union leadership succeeded in further bureaucratizing the unions that came out of a period of great struggle in the 30s and 40s. At first the grand bargain between bosses and bureaucrats was union recognition and wage increases reflecting productivity increases in return for total capitalist control of the labor process and an end to wildcat strikes. Another side of this was an attack on union democracy, resulting in all the power going to union officials. All of this was made possible by the purge of radicals from the unions during the McCarthy period.
The policy of class collaboration seemed to work. Real wages increased steadily over the course of the 50s and 60s, though of course the specially oppressed were left out of this, or at most were only partly included. Average real wages doubled from 1945 to 1970. This class collaboration was based on the U.S. ruling class’s dominance of the world economy.
Two factors ended this “golden age”. The U.S. came under increased competitive pressure from Germany, Japan, and other advanced countries. U.S. profit rates were under threat. On the labor side, the memory of intense class struggle began to recede from the minds of capitalists. The U.S. ruling class decided it had to adopt a different strategy due to competition and that it could due to the weakened union movement.
This resulted in a strategy of neo-liberalism foretold by the Powell Memorandum, the Trilateral Commission’s rejection of the “excess of democracy” of the 60s and Business Week’s demand for cutting workers’ real wages. Neoliberalism included de-regulation, privatization of government services, tax cuts on the rich, a slashing of the social wage, austerity/budget cuts, and – crucially – a direct attack on unions.
The ruling class developed this strategy over the course of the 70s, consolidating it under Jimmy Carter and employing it with a vengeance under Ronald Reagan. That this began under Jimmy Carter is an example that it was a bipartisan ruling class strategy. The Democrats openly accepted the neo-liberal strategy. This was made organizationally clear by the dominance of the Democratic Leadership Council which elected its candidates Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Obama later followed in their footsteps.
THE UNION RESPONSE
The bosses made it clear: the grand bargain was over. They would no longer casually accept unionization. Though they continued to negotiate when they felt it necessary, they would put obstacles in the way of unionization. Though they would still grant nominal wage increases, they would keep these below productivity gains and usually below inflation. They wanted continuation of the union leaders’ concessions – total capitalist control of production, the banning of wildcat strikes, and weakened bureaucratized unions – but were no longer willing to agree to the concessions they made under pressure in the 40s and 50s.
The union leaders either didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand the new situation. They tried to continue the class collaborationist mode of operation. They appealed to the bosses to return to the accord of the 50s. They continued to support the soft-cop party of Capital, the Democrats. They would sometimes organize strikes, the goal of which was to return to the grand bargain, not militantly engage in the class struggle. Especially during economic downturns, concession bargaining became dominant.
An extension of this was union leaders’ opposition to rank and file democracy. Militants were
fired and blacklisted often with little union defense. The legalistic grievance procedure was
used as an excuse. The fight for rank and file democracy and militancy has developed in
various industries especially since the late 60s. On the rare occasions when these have
broken through, the new union leaders usually soon adopted the mold of class collaboration.
Our attitude toward unions
SCHOOLS OF CLASS WAR
We need to study the examples of effective rank and file organizing even those that were short lived. Members who are in unionized workplaces should attempt to organize rank and file workers on the shop floor. Those who are in non-unionized places should attempt to build shop floor committees to engage in class struggle and – where possible – become part of the union movement. The aim of these is to fight for working-class interests including against direct exploitation as well as around broader social/political issues.
Part of our continuing strategy at work is to fight for leadership in the unions, be the champions of workers’ struggles, and in the course of our intervention, find those open to Marxist ideas and organization. Two revolutionary militants in a workplace can do far more than twice what one can do. Building revolutionary organization is complementary to building wider struggle at work.
We must be champions of the everyday struggles of workers in order to have any political base and the moral credibility to bring in other political campaigns and put forward elements of our program for union reform. The fact that the party does not have a separate agenda, but that it is there to promote and assist workers’ struggles must be proven in action.
LIMITATIONS OF UNIONS
Only a minority of the working class in the U.S. is organized in unions. We may engage in organizing a union in a workplace where we have activity if there isn’t one. The low level of union membership, which is under attack in many states, adds to the general fragmentation of the working class. Where unions exist, given their nature, there is a very low level of activity and involvement of most workers. In addition, workers face divisions of every sort in the workplace and in society at large – based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, immigration status, skill, etc.
The unions, as they are today, often impose real limits on workers’ activity as they are bound by the pacts they have accepted with the bosses, contractually and otherwise. They are often so embedded within the framework of bourgeois society that even when they carry out strikes or what some might view as militant activity, they are usually limited within the framework of one company or at most one industry or economic sector. And even if they do address broader questions confronting the working class, the decisions are still made by those in the union structure – not open to the workers.
That means we don’t limit or direct our activity primarily within or through the existing union structure, if there is one. Our goal as Marxists is the self-activity of the working class – to engage workers in activities that correspond with their readiness to act. We want workers to take action for themselves, but we also understand that when people don’t have the experience or the perspective of how to even take the first step, we may have to help initiate these activities.
Our attitude toward the union bureaucracy
Though unions are progressive they tend to develop a bureaucracy based on the function of mediating class differences between workers and capitalists. They develop their own separate interests from those of the workers they represent. They need to sell the compromise they reach with the bosses to the workers. They need to protect the organization to maintain their position. They often exert a dampening and conservative influence on the class struggle.
To use the unions most effectively and to counter the conservative influence of union bureaucrats, workers within unions need to organize independently in rank and file caucuses where possible and useful. The goal of these caucuses is to fight for militancy within the struggle, to promote the interests of the workers as opposed to the union leaders who first of all want stability. Running for particular union positions is a tactical question. Will running in an election advance the cause of workplace rank and file organization? The goal is not official positions, but enhanced militant organization of the workers. The fight for democracy, and
class struggle unionism within the union is essential to the fight for a more militant strategy based on workers’ self-organization.
In all unions we need to oppose the class-collaborationist ideology of business or service unionism, and instead defend class-struggle unionism. This means concretely:
- Agitating for collective action as the first and best way to solve workers’ problems: this is an ideological and political fight, we should not rely on what the bosses say is “reasonable.” We should always start from what we need and fight for it.
- Organizing the struggle of rank-and-file workers by creating, activating, and growing action committees, and creating caucuses of core organizers geared towards action.
- Leading up to a strike, advocating for building collective actions in all contract negotiations, instead of relying on “table bargaining.”
- Campaigning within the union to remove “no-strike clauses” from our contracts, and for the inclusion of clauses that allow us to do solidarity strikes with other workers. We fight to repeal the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act.
Teamster Rebellion by Farrell Dobbs includes key lessons from the 1934 Minneapolis strikes and presents a useful guidepost for building a class-struggle left wing in the U.S. labor movement today.
The tactic of outflanking the union bureaucracy, outlined by Dobbs in his book, is central to our strategy for building a left wing inside the unions. For each new challenge facing the union, we seek to mobilize the ranks in their own defense if the opening presents itself—encouraging them to direct all of their power against the bosses.
We believe that this tactic will help pressure the union bureaucracy to act in the interests of the workers much more effectively than a campaign to expose their misleadership would do. By this means, in the course of the struggle, the workers can understand more clearly how far the union officialdom is willing to move. As workers are recruited into a class-struggle left wing, episodes in which the bureaucracy holds back or fails to use all the strength at the union’s disposal will be part of their own concrete experience.
This is our method for dealing with bureaucratic and class-collaborationist labor leaderships:
- We must be patient, and remember that the key factor in changing workers’ views about leadership is through the experience of struggle, not long-winded angry speeches of denunciation or snarky comments that make us look like splitters or extremists who are more interested in pursuing our personal agendas than winning victories for our class.
- We must, as a principle, always frame our organizing to mobilize workers against the boss and focus primarily on that struggle. The struggle against the labor leadership should always be a secondary one, and it should spring from the bureaucracy’s failure to actually fight the boss, i.e., fight for workers’ needs.
- We must be flexible and wise in our tactics: denouncing the labor leadership is not always the right thing to do. Sometimes we need to make public demands to them, or join their efforts, making their campaigns work despite their own meager contributions. Many times the labor bureaucracy will make combative rhetorical statements, establish shell committees, or pretend to authorize actions and campaigns. In those cases, we can champion those campaigns, try to take ownership of them, and develop them in a way that increases workers’ participation and their consciousness of the confrontation with management.
Working-class independence from the bosses and the state
We reject the idea that workers have anything to gain by collaborating with management. We need independent unions, independent from the bosses and managers at the workplace, but also from those who advocate and receive money from corporations at the state and national level.
We need to raise the need to stop giving money and support to Democratic Party candidates, no matter how “progressive” they profess to be, especially for state and national elections in which there is no way to hold them accountable. We should advocate instead for using the union’s resources for internal organizing and broad class solidarity. When conditions emerge, we need to see if it is possible to support independent or socialist candidates running for office who have a pro-union and pro-workers’ platform. We see that as a possibility at the local level.
In our propaganda, we urge the unions to take steps to organize a working-class party, or “labor party,” built on a fighting and democratic labor movement. Such a party could fight in day-to-day struggles for the interests of the working class and the oppressed as well as competing in elections. At a future point, when class consciousness has increased, we may see the need to move to agitation and even action for building a labor party.
The failure of the union bureaucracy to take up the demand for a labor party provides an opening for socialists to show the true class-collaborationist nature of the union bureaucracy. Alternatively, if a union bureaucracy takes up the demand for a labor party, it would provide socialists with an opportunity to drive a wedge between the union and the Democratic Party and give us space to more concretely agitate for class independence.
We need to oppose state intervention in our unions. If there is an internal conflict in the union, workers should solve it among themselves as much as possible. We should privilege the independent organization of workers over state intervention – including reliance on NLRB/PERB rulings.
The need to combat the bureaucratization of unions
Unions are not bureaucratic and top down by accident. Their shape today is the result of a concrete historical process of degeneration and bureaucratization, and we need to have concrete measures to defeat the bureaucratic tendencies and reform the structures of unions.
- We need to limit the remuneration of union officials to the average pay of the workers they represent, and eliminate all perks.
- Whenever possible we need to hire staff coming from the ranks, have the staff be accountable to the workers they organize with at the local level, and have a rotation of staff positions.
- We need to establish the principle of collective – not individual – organizing, forming teams and making clear divisions of labor so that many people have concrete tasks, instead of a few people doing everything.
- We need to actively combat any two-tier formations or forms of structural material inequality in our workforce. We know that the social base of the union bureaucracy is always the most privileged sector of the workers they represent in the local.
The need for democracy in unions
A key difference between us and some other political currents, and both capitalist parties, is that our political tradition is fully committed to workers’ democracy in our class organizations. As Marxists we need to be committed to fully democratize the union at all levels and to enforce the autonomous character of the decision-making structures of the union in relation to the state and political parties.
We have the right to make proposals at all levels of decision-making in the union (membership meeting, stewards council, department meetings, joint council and executive board); we also have the right to campaign for our proposals (talk to other people in advance, reach agreements, etc). However, once the vote happens in the structure of the union, we need to apply it unless the union decisions clearly violate basic political principles of Marxism. We will not participate in actions or distribute literature, etc. that compromises our commitment to anti-oppression struggles, or that breaks basic solidarity between workers or our class independence. In most of these exceptional cases we just abstain from participating. In extremely exceptional cases, we reserve the right to actively organize against decisions that we think will irreparably hurt a sector of the working class, such as openly racist, sexist, nationalist, Islamophobic, or homophobic actions or statements, or collaboration with acts of state repression against workers.
However, the general rule is that we apply the decisions voted in the union despite having tactical or programmatic differences with them, because we want to have a joint experience with the workers and win trust. Not only will we apply these decisions but we ask everyone to do so. We believe that decisions, in particular those which have to do with united action against our class enemies (strikes, boycott, demonstrations, etc.) need to be enforced by everyone in the union, and that means sometimes having physical pickets to prevent scabs and other forms of direct action to prevent the active or passive sabotage of our tactics.
Our fight for the democratization of unions is linked to our fight to develop a truly class-struggle action-oriented unionism. Our priority is to revolutionize the political culture of the local unions.
- We need to develop the decision-making power of the ranks, by making sure major decisions are not made by the leadership alone, but mainly by the members through membership meetings and rep councils, etc. This means setting agendas and publicizing motions in advance, doing wide outreach for these meetings, clarifying how workers can participate and make proposals, and conducting meetings in a democratic manner by distributing speaking time with equity, as well as conducting votes at meetings.
- The first layers of bureaucracy that workers encounter are the union stewards and building reps. We fight to make those layers a reflection of the interests of the ranks on the shop floor and NOT act as an appendage of the bureaucratic leadership. It is necessary to fight for democratically elected stewards and reps as an initial step toward building networks that can act as democratic and militant organizing bodies. In situations where the steward system is hopelessly compromised by its relationship to the bureaucracy, revolutionaries map networks of the actual rank-and-file leadership and proceed to activate and grow that leadership grouping.
- We need to advocate for open and transparent bargaining in which the organized membership can participate, and elect the bargaining committees with clear mandates as well as rank-and- file mechanisms of communication and control.
- Whenever necessary, we need to reform bylaws to ensure the democratic functioning of locals, such as limiting the terms of presidents, formalizing the functions of committees, etc.
Strategies at union workplaces
The labor discussion in the RSN put forward a broad range of strategies in union workplaces that included shop floor committees, worker defense guards to confront fascist threats, leafleting outside workplaces, steward committees, the purpose and function of caucuses, social gatherings, outflanking the union bureaucracy, running for union office, and of course strikes.
There are valid reasons to employ many of these tactics depending on the situation in a given shop. In this current period of pandemic, economic crisis, police brutality, and the increase in far-right activity, revolutionary socialists have two main responsibilities in union shops.
First, socialists must be deeply engaged at all times in the fight for economic demands to improve the conditions of workers. Through these shop floor struggles with the boss, socialists prove themselves as some of the best builders of the union. To do this we don’t make a principle out of winning union leadership or even becoming a shop steward. We understand that real leadership comes from building a base of rank and file workers who trust your decision making. Revolutionaries have to build trust among rank and file workers that they are not going to lead into reckless fights that get everyone fired or isolated by the bureaucracy. Similarly when the time does come for bold and decisive action that can sway the course of events revolutionary socialists are there to build confidence and give guidance in hectic moments.
How does this apply in a union shop or union that shows little or no militancy or is conservative? As Trotsky says in Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay, “We cannot select the arena and the conditions for our activity to suit our own likes and dislikes.”
Of course Trotsky is talking about the extreme version of this in a totalitarian fascist regime. We arrive at the same conclusion. Revolutionaries understand that even if a union shop is not ripe for militant action or we find ourselves in a conservative union we find a way to the masses of workers. The unions after all should be one of our main areas of revolutionary activity.
Part of our task on the shop floor includes the revival of strike actions like we saw in 2018 but that eventually reflect the depth and scope of strikes from the 1930s and 40s. The embryo of that type of movement can begin on the shop floor by breaking coworkers illusions in the bureaucracies endless negotiations with bosses, reliance on the NLRB, and legislative initiatives through the Democratic Party. This means opening up political education in your shop.
Therefore the second point includes waging an uncompromising process of politicization of our coworkers on the shop floor. We use our unionized workplaces to organize solidarity actions, strikes, fundraisers, and social events to connect our struggles not just in our own communities but internationally as well.
For example when French postal workers go on strike we take photos of our co-workers holding signs in support and raise money for their strike fund. When Amazon workers launch an organizing drive in Bessemer, Alabama in the “Right to Work” South, we gather our coworkers in the break room to discuss bringing a resolution to the union leadership to support that effort. When fascists are gathering in state capitols and Washington D.C. we patiently explain in the shop and our social networks that these forces will ultimately come to attack our union and workers’ living conditions. From that political starting point, we can urgently discuss with our coworkers the need to build worker defense guards to protect workers from racist and far-right attacks. When the Democrats make empty promises and don’t deliver, when they refuse essential workers COVID vaccines and safe working conditions, when they send cops to break our strikes, or terrorize oppressed communities, revolutionary socialists point out the very urgent need for working class independence. The conclusion we draw from the fight for working-class independence is the need to recruit workers to a revolutionary socialist perspective and to build a party of our own, an independent working-class party.
Having a broadly correct strategic and political vision is not sufficient to build real leadership within the class. Socialists must also take seriously the much more mundane task of being a cooperative and efficient worker in the shop. While it might seem out of the scope of a discussion on socialist union strategy, militants have a role to play in cutting down, or at least understanding, the petty gossip and personal divisions within a workplace. Making ourselves known as both serious workers and above the fray of workplace drama are essential prerequisites to establish ourselves as leaders of the struggle.
For revolutionary socialists, the question of new organizing can be raised today in relation to the meaning of the union drive at Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama. The current organizing drive coupled with the swelling of Amazon by an additional 400,000 workers during the pandemic sparks the imagination of many in the socialist and workers movement.
Simultaneously, in the US the development of industry from Japanese and German automakers to Tawainese semiconductor factories to Chinese manufacturing companies have also highlighted the potential of new organizing in the South and Midwest. Though significant, industry isn’t the only area that may yield new organizing opportunities. We cannot discount workers in the service sector. For example, there are nearly 500,000 fast food workers in the US who have been mobilized again and again since 2012 for legislative and shop floor demands by SEIU’s Fight for $15. Why has there not been a serious push to form an actual union. It’s clear that if labor mobilizes its full potential the unions can organize fast food workers overnight. In the airports and college cafeterias fast food outlets are organized. Why not elsewhere? This should be a priority for the labor movement. A militant and fighting force in the service sector could bolster the efforts to organize larger industrial shops.
In general the possibility of Bessemer leading to broader organizing drives, especially in the South and in Black, Latino, and immigrant communities, will open new opportunities for socialists to learn, develop slogans, and also play a leading role in rebuilding the labor movement. Our role may take the form of actions from the outside with solidarity actions like the ones for Amazon workers on February 20 or it may mean interventions in actual workplaces.
In an organizing drive socialists can push for the democratic and militant participation of rank and file workers. Too often union drives are top down and make the union seem more like a 3rd party negotiating on behalf of workers. As stated in earlier parts of this document we aim to develop a layer of militants in the unions capable of their abilities to lead. Socialists have historically played this role most effectively by direct intervention through agitation and propaganda.
Socialist propaganda that drives forward the narrative of unions as vehicles for class struggle will find a receptive ear in a working class that sees union membership as a path toward economic stability in a period of pandemic and economic crisis. Polls suggest that 65% of workers favor unions yet only 10.3% actually belong to unions. The unions also represent a direct link to the broader layers of the working class in which socialists can get a hearing.
The role of socialists in new organizing can also go beyond building a presence in labor and recruitment. For example, the collective experience of socialists from different tendencies building the labor movement, both in the context of existing unions and new organizing, also has the potential to shape the relationships between those organizations. More explicitly the common practical work done in organized labor can open the possibilities to regroupment and fusions like it did in 1934 between the Communist League of America and the American Workers Party.
Today the working class is confronted with many challenges. One of those great challenges is the lack of a mass revolutionary leadership rooted in the working class. As the RSN continues to explore and develop our collective perspectives in the labor movement, we also look at putting those strategies and tactics into action. These experiences in action will provide the basis for a deeper political intervention in the working class and provide part of the foundation for the future regroupment of the revolutionary left.
Image: Jacob Lawerence, “The Builders,” 1947