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“Reports from the coalfront” January 2, 2012

Posted by yourcousin in Unions, United States, US Politics, Workers Rights.
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This post started as a response to CMK’s question on the Sean Garland thread, but as the response got bigger and bigger I thought that a new post might be more appropriate than a response to a dead thread.  On a personal note, I appreciate the support, I am working and doing well.

I do think that the traditional relationship with Labor serving as the foot soldiers for the Democratic Party is fraying.  Obviously the Wisconsin protests were huge, but when the Democrats tried to channel that energy, it fizzled for them.  The grassroots campaigns in Ohio trying to get a referendum to over turn the anti-union legislation is seems to indicate that support for unions surpasses the support for Dems (obviously).  There were calls for a general strike in Wisconsin, but it fizzled as labor leaders were anxious that things “not get out of hand” and promised relief through the Dem’s tactics, which included the recall campaigns and (off hand) a state supreme court election (which Republicans won btw).  One of the interesting things is that the Firefighters stopped contributing to the national Dems and said that they would selectively target local/state elections.  I believe they just recently reversed that decision within the last month or so.

The Occupy movement was also a catalyst of sorts, at least in the beginning.  The sight of hundreds of uniformed pilots marching in protest, was impressive even to my cynical eyes. 

 

Or maybe I just never got over seeing people in uniform stick it to the man.  The point there was that these were everyday people venting their rage at the system that controls both political parties.  When “normal” people take to the streets, not so much to protest abstract concepts so much as to protest for it means its touching a chord.  It is also happening at a time that no one within the established political movement will actually doing anything in support of the marchers other than try to pander for a few votes.  I predict that after 2012 you’ll see Dem hopefuls listing their involvement in say a human microphone on their resumes once it is “safe” for them to do so.  “Progressive” city councils and mayors coordinated the removal of encampments like the ones in Oakland and Denver.  So to me the chances of the occupy movement having an impact in that sphere aside from possibly staying home on election day or being more cynical of the dems is slim for right now.  But with the coming of election season Obama is definitely polishing up his populist (and I mean this in the good sense of the word) credentials.  So he and the Dems will have to walk a very fine line of trying to motivate folks to vote for him but not ask too many questions about the economic system.  But in his favor he’s got the current batch of Republicans to go against so that may help.  I mean the House had their run and I think that the debacle with the pay roll tax cut may be the beginning of their decline. 

Something else that may work in his favor is people’s sheer desperation.  A lot of people are living on the edge of disaster.  So while many folks may not be enthusiastic about him like they were two years ago the idea of people who would hang pictures of Ayn Rand in their offices totally running the place is too much to even think about.  And that’s pragmatics not “change we can believe in”.  My brother is just as militant as me, but since he doesn’t have a union job, no insurance and has an injury from a work accident (third degree burns on the inside of right elbow and arm leaving him with some substantial nerve damage) he is on the very edge of destitution due to so much of his meagre pay check going to pay for medical bills and medication.  It’s because of him that I support Obama care.  He said flat out that he will vote for Obama because he has no choice.  I hope my dad will remember that when polling day comes because I could see him falling for Romney’s bullshit.   I don’t thinkthat our story is that unique either. 

If I were try to predict where the labor movement is going (something which I’m loathe to do) I would simply highlight two trends.  The first is the traditional role of labor as booster of the the Dems, but in a more frenzied fashion and dropping things like the Employee Free Choice Act which might upset the apple cart.  I view this kind of like Dev’s “labor must wait”.  Or like a popular front action where it’s all hands on deck in defense of basic civil society.  And I agree with this branch in as much I think government ought to defend civic society from capital. 

The other branch which exists and is growing however slowly with fits and starts is the old school unionism which existed in the shadows until the late seventies.  While it might take full advantage labor law it relied upon traditional solidarity and direct action.  The thing that I think alot of people don’t understand about this current is that these folks in many facets appear reactionary.  A prime example of this is a guy I currently work with.  He’s a straight up conservative/reactionary.  We almost came to blows over his justification of the Iraq war and Saddam’s WMD being the gassing of the Kurds.  I about came out of my seat and folks came out of the trailers due to the yelling.  But he is as steadfast a union man as one could want.  Once during a wobbled job (ie during an unofficial work stoppage) he happened to show off a new M-14 to a co worker in view of the superintendent.  Of course the police were called and came guns drawn but as he hadn’t threatened anyone with it and it isn’t illegal to have a rifle in your trunk he was left alone and the pay dispute was resolved quickly there after.  He was also part of a “clearing crew” during an official strike.  The “clearing crew” were guys who would wait until work started and any scabs who crossed the line were at work.  At this point the “clearing crew” would enter the site with baseball bats and clear the job out.  The guy who trained me to do doors and hardware saw his first strike in the army during his tour of Vietnam.  He knew of a carpenter’s strike in the mountains where the scabs spent the entire day pinned down by a sniper who promptly wrapped up his sport shooting at the end of shift.  It isn’t all violence but these examples told to me by first person participants and witnesses highlights labor’s untold story of declared Republicans and decorated vets (my guy came back from ‘nam with a bronze star which is a whole other story) who are “upstanding Americans” who are also part of the army of labor. 

This back story of sorts is simply used to highlight the legacy of direct action up through the Reagan years as a connection the actions which took place in the Pacific Northwest where back in Sept. hundreds of longshoremen stormed a grain terminal, dumped grain on the tracks, cut brake lines and walked off the jobs in other ports after the president of their local was arrested for blocking the tracks during a dispute with the operator of the terminal.  They were accused of holding six security guards hostage though it was later revealed that the guards simply hid out for a number of hours in their shack rather than face hundreds of angry longshoremen.  Even the police backed down and retreated when called out.  The sherriff although largely hostile made a unique comment as to why no arrests were made during and after the terminal storming after which the longshoremen simply returned to their hall unmolested with threats of further action.  He pointed out the fact that the longshoremen were members of the local community and that he could understand their anger at their liviehoods being threatened during these difficult economic times and while condemning their actions refused to condemn them.  The irony is that while the ILWU (west coast longshoreman’s union) has a known history and reputation for militance and political actions this was a new front and one which was done with absolutely no fanfare or rhetoric, indeed even members who I know personally and who have stayed in my home were extremely tight lipped about the action and others that might happen.  I can of course understand because as Jimmy Diamond once told me, “whatever you say, say nothing” (circa 2007).

As I see it as the “respectable” wing of labor continues to lose ground I see more and more workers turning to the more direct approach.  Obviously my examples highlight a very specific demographic that is unfortunately a shrinking part of the American workforce.  That being said solidarity unionism, direct unionism or whatever you want to call it remains a viable form of resistance to capital, indeed it is, I would argue one of the fundamental pieces of resistance to capital.  Far outweighing any Political adventurism that may be put forward.  It should also be noted that union bosses vhemently oppose direct unionism and as was the case in Wisconsin rather see their unions destroyed than give up control to “irresponsible” forces.  The largest challenge for the labor movement (note the lower case “l” denoting an all encompassing movement rather Organized Labor) is to bridge the chasm from the shrinking demographics of the trade union movement (though as Wisconsin demonstrated can still be impressive) to the growing working poor and private sector who never really thought about the class war until it arrived on their doorstep.

__________________________________________________________

As for mortgages and what not.  I’m sure there are groups out there that do help people, but the sad reality is that many, many people stopped viewing their home as a place to live and viewed homes as commodities.  Many like my friend took out lines of credit on their homes and second mortgages.  Indeed I bought my home as a foreclosure learning only after closing that the house in question was previously owned by my uncle’s girlfriend who took out a second mortgage to pay for heart surgery to repair a defect.  The surgery wasn’t successful and she lost the house.  I just don’t see any grouping with the political will let alone the knowledge and finances to challenge many of the foreclosures.  Also the fact that at best the challenges would be addressing some of the foreclosures for errors, not challenging the idea of throwing people out of their houses due to their inability to pay is another major shortcoming in my eyes.  So no, I have no hope of outflanking capital on that front and I foresee the rise and return of the landlord class as a new enemy for the working class to face off against in the foreseeable future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments»

1. Dan - January 2, 2012

” Indeed I bought my home as a foreclosure learning only after closing that the house in question was previously owned by my uncle’s girlfriend who took out a second mortgage to pay for heart surgery to repair a defect.”

I’m sure you gave the house back, cousin – or at least compensated her for your little “killing”. So you have nothing to reproach yourself with!

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WorldbyStorm - January 2, 2012

But that’s precisely the problem Dan. The structural aspects bind everyone into a system whereby only a minority in the society has anything like the ability/capital to be able to get themselves through with comfort and ease and have enough to materially assist others in the same or worse situations.

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yourcousin - January 2, 2012

And by “killing” you mean I bought a home which was unhabitable in a decent neighorhood. By that point the woman and her son had left and my uncle was unable to locate them. The reason I “got it” was precisely because it was largely destroyed inside and someone who would have to hire professionals would be looking at tacking on another twentythousand or so onto the price tag. I spent a portion of my savings getting it livable (indeed we are still the white trash house on the block) during a twenty day construction blitz.

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2. EWI - January 2, 2012

Never saw a strike in the Army here (apart from the action of wives & family that led to PDFORRA being recognised).

I did see a sit-down strike on the filming of ‘Braveheart’ in the Curragh, which brought out the Army brass as we were under military discipline at the time (we ‘won’, in that we gained recognition of our grievances. A small part of what was afoot got out in the Irish press, but not the full story).

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3. CMK - January 3, 2012

Cheers, yourcousin, for this informative piece. And glad to hear you’re doing well.

Despite the obvious differences between the US and Ireland I think attacks on unions in the former influence and give ideas to those itching to break the unions here. And much of the general batshit crazy libertarianism that seems to be burning the brains of the Republicans and the Tea Party crowd will, no doubt, percolate to and contaminate discourse here. Indeed it probably already has if the Sindo and parts of the Sunday Business Post are anything to go by. Certainly there is a certain consonance in the rhetoric and downright lies deployed both here and in the US, in the campaign to pit private sector workers against public sector workers; something that was evident in the Wisconsin episode and a trend which appears, sad to say, to have largely succeeded.

While reading I was intrigued by your reference to the ‘M-14′ which I thought initially refer to some document or rule book but realised almost immediately that it referred instead to a type of rifle. Which leads me to wonder why there have never been in the US, from what I can see, any type of organised explicitly left wing militia to defend workers rights? Particularly given the violence that surrounded union organising from 1880-1930 – for instance the Battle of Matewan.

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yourcousin - January 5, 2012

CMK,
I couldn’t tell you off hand as to why there no “left wing militias” in American history. I can think of populist groupings throughout American history that have resorted to armed resistance and popular pressure in certain instances. From the liberty men who fought the great proprietors in post revolutionary Maine to the land wars in the run up to Kansas becoming a state. In post war (civil war) America labor did in many instances arm to defend the rights of their class. Off the top of my head I can think of the Homestead strike where striking steelworkers fended off attacks by Pinkerton detectives, the Western Federation of Miners here in Colorado fighting off goons and scabs with explosives and rifles. Right up to the Ludlow massacre here where in the aftermath of the attack on the tent town (in which women and children were killed in their tents) an army of 5000 unionists armed by their respective locals marched from Denver to confront the state militia who had committed the massacre. You of course have the labor wars in the coal mining regions where even into the eighties there were massive acts of sabotage and displays of arms in defense of worker’s rights. Also the difference in the American experience with the military ensured that there were usually many veterans in labor’s ranks at any given time such as at the battle of Blair mountain where the union miners were led by WWI vets or even the Centrailia massacre where WWI vets turned wobblies fought off members of members of the American Legion who attempted to raid their union hall.

I guess that the fact that there’s no explicit “left wing militia” in America may be a reflection of our realities on the ground obviously something I reference in my post about the army of labor being larger than the modern or even historical net of left wing label is something which we would do well to reflect on. The fact that more often than not the union fighters came out the worse for it but kept coming back says something to the potential power of organized labor. Whether or not we as the modern standard bearers of that movement can rise to today’s challenges remains to be seen.

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Joe - January 5, 2012

The Ludlow Massacre. A song about that by Woody Guthrie (?) is on one of Christy Moore’s very early albums (Prosperous?). Starts with “It was early springtime, the strike was on…”. Tells the story and finishes at the end of the funerals with “I thanked God for the mineworkers’ union, then I hung my head and cried.”
I know most of it. New Year’s Resolution is now to learn it all and sing it some night, somewhere.

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maddurdu - January 5, 2012

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Joe - January 5, 2012

Thanks, maddurdu.

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4. CL - January 5, 2012

Why has there been no left-wing militia to defend workers rights? Any such movement would be eliminated before it got off the ground. Besides the other side,-the capitalist state,- has a monopoly on weapons.
So the main form of worker defense is the union movement which is hemmed in by anti-organizing legislation. Obama and the democrats are better than the republicans, needing union support but really being on the other side.
‘The Democratic National Convention, scheduled for next August in Charlotte, is in a city without a single union hotel, “somewhat of an insult,” says Joseph McCartin, who directs an initiative on labor and the working poor at Georgetown University. “Simply reelecting Obama is no guarantee there will be any more pro-labor policies.”‘-

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/09/07/obama-faces-labor-union-ire-as-he-gears-up-for-2012-reelection-campaign.html

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LeftAtTheCross - January 5, 2012

“Besides the other side,-the capitalist state,- has a monopoly on weapons.”

CL, but was/is that factually correct in the US case? Second ammendment to the constitution etc.

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yourcousin - January 5, 2012

LATC,
the answer to your question is no.

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CL - January 5, 2012

There is some controversy as to the appropriate interpretation of the second amendment. The state is certainly much better armed than the citizens. But it would be more correct if I had stated that the ‘other side,-the capitalist state-has a monopoly on violence’.
And it has never hesitated to use that violence in support of privilege and power.
The most successful movement for change in the U.S in the 20th century, the civil rights movement, succeeded because of its militant non-violence.

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yourcousin - January 6, 2012

CL,
And by “some controversy” you mean “no controversy” because to my knowledge you are the only one arguing about the correct interpretation on the 2nd amendment. I have no doubt about the state’s ability to come into my home whenever and however they want, regardless of what guns I have in my home. That being said I still feel that an armed population is the last line of defense against tyranny. Remember, better Austria 1934 than Germany 1938.

I guess I would take issue with two of your assertions, first that the main impediment to organized labor is the current batch of legislation and second that the civil rights movement was successful.

The idea of paramilitary formations along explicitly ideological lines is practically unheard of in America. Even most right wing groupings took a more covert approach and hid behind “benevolent associations” or civic titles. That at various times these groupings obviously acted as a paramilitary groupings, or in my opinion more like vigilantes and mobs rather militias. The only folks that might resemble militias on the right would be the hired detective agencies which were of course privates enterprises rather ideological endeavors on the part of the employees (obviously ideology played a large part for the owners). The largest grouping that come to mind that might come close would be the American Legion, but even they have a veneer of simply being a patriotic benevolent association.

Again the fact that working class resistance was often channelled through unions would incline me to argue that the closest thing to working class/left wing militias America has ever seen would lie within the ranks of organized labor.

As for the success of the civil rights movement, I would disagree. Did it lead to some gains for ethnic minorities? Yes. The most glaring examples of discrimination were corrected, but seeing as how in the end Dr. King was focussing more and more on economic issues and that by any and all yard sticks minorities are still worse off than their white counter parts I would argue that realistically the civil rights movement lasting contribution is the formation of minority middle classes, be they black or Latino. Now there’s nothing wrong that per se but to claim that as the greatest achievement of progressive change in the 20th century is misguided in my opinion.

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5. CL - January 6, 2012

I don’t think I’m the only one arguing about the correct interpretation of the second amendment; legal scholars, politicians and ordinary citizens disagree on whether the ‘right to bear arms’ applies to a well-regulated militia or to private individuals. And this disagreement will continue because of the ambiguity in the phrasing of the second amendment.
Where have I said that the main impediment to organized labor is the current batch of legislation?
The civil rights movement was successful: Jim Crow remains dead. (Although Republicans, some allege are trying to resurrect him)

“Again the fact that working class resistance was often channelled through unions would incline me to argue that the closest thing to working class/left wing militias America has ever seen would lie within the ranks of organized labor.”
A labor union is not a militia, it is not an armed group. The civil rights movement adopted many of the non-violent militant tactics and strategy of the labor movement.

The question to which I responded was why has there never been a left-wing militia in the U.S to defend workers rights? Because any such attempt would be doomed to failure because of the capitalist state’s monopoly on violence and because any such militia could not match the state’s fire power.
If the civil rights movement was not the greatest movement for political and social change in the U.S. in the 20th century then what was?
It is true that King was moving towards a demand for human rights, such as the right to a job and to a livable income which is why he began the Poor People’s Campaign. But this too he envisaged as a mass non-violent movement in association with the labor movement. He was assassinated while engaged in that struggle.

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6. yourcousin - January 7, 2012

CL,
But being that that private individuals can equip themselves with as many small arms as the national guard the line is certainly blurred. But I think if we continue to pursue this argument we’ll lose track of the other points which are of far more interest to me.

Where have I said that the main impediment to organized labor is the current batch of legislation?

“the capitalist state,- has a monopoly on weapons.
So the main form of worker defense is the union movement which is hemmed in by anti-organizing legislation

If I inferrred too much, I apologize.

The civil rights movement was successful: Jim Crow remains dead

Yes, they took the signs off of the water fountains. By almost any and all standards minorities are still are still lagging far behind national norms. Indeed they always did. The economic side of the equation that kept minorities in vicious cyles of poverty was never addressed so while the glass ceiling was broken for some and you now have rich assholes like Herman Cain the vast majority of working class minorities are still fucked. It seems like a fairly simplistic reading of the situation to declare the civil rights movement successful solely by the fact that Jim Crow retreated from public view. It’s almost like capitalists saying, “well we got rid of the kids on the machines and the chains on the doors that locked you in here, what do you need a union for?”.

I think we forget how very unpopular King was at the time of his death and that he felt that civil rights was tied up with poverty and militarism. That poverty is still rampant and growing, so how can we declare him successful?

A couple articles that argue against the Civil Rights stereotype

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/01/21/6519

http://www.historytoday.com/peter-ling/martin-luther-king%E2%80%99s-half-forgotten-dream

I also look at the current crisis in bankrupt Jefferson County with horror. I mean working class people are having their fucking water shut off on a mssive scale. Coming from a family where living members remember when things like running water came into their lives I am horrified to watch these roll backs that can have such an impact on basic health, life expectancy, and sanitation.

http://forcechange.com/10366/corruption-scandal-makes-water-access-unaffordable-for-alabama-residents/

I don’t view this crisis as a seperate one from the challenges of the civil rights movement. These are some of the exact same issues happening to the exact same people within the same generation.

I don’t mean to denegrate those who fought and continue to fight for civil rights, but to declare the fight won and over flys in the face of reality.

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7. yourcousin - January 7, 2012

As for labor and militias. If you’ll notice I spent most of my comments noting that the very concept of a militia doesn’t really translate well in America period. Either in terms of something like the Irish Volunteers or any other number of militias that were in existence all over Europe that time period. Because the flip side to the question would then almost assume that there was a right wing militia attacking worker’s rights and interests. And while I noted some possible examples I kept/keep emphasizing that looking for a direct correllation is trying to square a circle.

I then looked at instances when labor came under attack either from the state or private security forces. In those instances it was paramilitary forces, made up of, led by, and fighting for organized labor and the working classes that fought back. That’s the historical reality, which is why I made the comment,

“Again the fact that working class resistance was often channelled through unions would incline me to argue that the closest thing to working class/left wing militias America has ever seen would lie within the ranks of organized labor.”

I did not say my union local is a militia. And for the record I would also argue that right now especially, union locals and union members who can afford to ought to be stocking their local’s food bank instead of stocking ammunition.

But the realities I pointed out exist, and it is non-sensical to try and write out our history, especially the living memories of those engaged in the every day struggles of labor because you may not agree with it.

_________________________________

As for the most successful progressive movement of the 20th century? Hands down labor. Because despite it’s many failings the movement raised the living standards and set new bench marks for millions upon millions of working people, not just a relative few. Some of those achievements like the relatively good pay, benefits etc are in decline, but the basic safety regulations, banning child labor, and a semblance of recourse under the law are still there. But it should be noted that being “the most successful” does not inherently make the movement successful, just less of a failure.

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CL - January 7, 2012

Jim Crow,-the legal enforcement of segregation-was destroyed by the civil rights movement. The achievement of full citizenship
for blacks overthrew the caste system which had debased them since the end of reconstruction.
This success does not mean that other rights,-such as the right to a job or a livable income were achieved. Which is why King, in association with the labor movement was organizing for economic justice towards the end of his life. King frequently cited the labor movement, and its achievement, as a model for the movement that he led. Indeed he very often, in his frequent addressed to labor movements asserted that the aims of both movements were the same, and also the tactics-the boycott, the strike, the sit-in, and the sit-down, non-violent mass mobilization.

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8. CL - January 7, 2012

That large segments remain impoverished does not negate the achievement of citizenship rights for blacks; it merely shows that the work King had begun before he died remains incomplete.
The labor movement is well aware of the repressive, violent power of the state; it knows what happened to David Koresh and the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Black Panthers etc.

“In those instances it was paramilitary forces, made up of, led by, and fighting for organized labor and the working classes that fought back. That’s the historical reality, which is why I made the comment,”

Please give instances from U.S. history where a paramilitary force of organized labor fought for the working class.

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yourcousin - January 7, 2012

OTTOMH,
Minneapolis Teamster’s strike of 1934.

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yourcousin - January 8, 2012

And obviously the examples I cited in prior comments, The Battle of Blair mountain, Ludlow, the WFM wars etc.

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9. CL - January 8, 2012

The defensive actions of the workers during the Minneapolis general strike can hardly be described as being undertaken by a paramilitary militia.
Both at Ludlow and Blair mountain federal armed forces suppressed the workers uprising. At Ludlow the strikers, many of whom were massacred, failed to win union recognition.
The Blair mountain defeat proved disastrous for the UMW, with many workers imprisoned and union membership drastically decreased.
With the arrival of FDR in the White House a much more favorable legal and political climate for labor developed. Using tactics of militant non-violence the labor movement made substantial gains.
Martin Luther King frequently referred to these advances made by labor in the 1930s.
The success of the Civil Rights Movement was embodied in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Legalized segregation and discrimination were abolished and blacks achieved the right to vote.
King himself was acutely aware of the limitations of the civil rights victories. He had stressed the importance of economic rights from the beginning of his public life. The famous march on Washington where King delivered his best known speech was a march for ‘Jobs and Freedom’ and was organized by labor unions. But it wasn’t until civil rights had been attained that he focused his energies on a struggle for economic rights. He died in that struggle
A failure? fail, fail again, fail better.

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10. yourcousin - January 21, 2012

Sorry for the delay in posting this response.
CL,
I believe your last post would be called moving goal posts. You asked for examples, I gave them to you. I think you need to start acknowledging what I’m writing, not what you think I’m writing. You’ll note that during this entire exchange I’ve used words like,

“Again the fact that working class resistance was often channelled through unions would incline me to argue that the closest thing to working class/left wing militias America has ever seen would lie within the ranks of organized labor”

the very concept of a militia doesn’t really translate well in America period…I kept/keep emphasizing that looking for a direct correllation is trying to square a circle”

“I did not say my union local is a militia. And for the record I would also argue that right now especially, union locals and union members who can afford to ought to be stocking their local’s food bank instead of stocking ammunition”

Seriously I don’t know what else I can say to convince you that I’m not advocating for military action from labor unions. But what happened happened. Those who fought and died defending their families, their union, and their class shouldn’t be forgotten, but remembered with reverence. You’ll also note that I addressed the relative failure of the armed experiences,

“The fact that more often than not the union fighters came out the worse for it…”

Maybe it’s semantics. I don’t have either of my dictionaries handy so I’ll have to go with Webster online,

“: of, relating to, being, or characteristic of a force formed on a military pattern especially as a potential auxiliary military force”

or

“Of, relating to, or being a group of civilians organized in a military fashion, especially to operate in place of or assist regular army troops”

So when you have instances of armed unionists acting in a concerted manner over a period of time especially when using arms tactically and strategically I don’t think it’s a stretch to liken them and their actions to a military formation. That’s me, and I’m not the only who uses that sort of language. One of my favorite Woodie Gutherie songs has a line in it, “I’m union man in a union war, and it’s a union world I’m fighting for”. That’s the language of our movement, again you don’t have to like it, but it’s not your right to deny that it ever happened.

___________________________________________________

The fact that King’s I have a dream speech was a jobs march shows that the line between pure voting rights and economic rights was never a clear cut one which would undermine your arguments that the civil rights campaign was a seperate entity from one which strove for economic justice. Again you are conflating my critique of the civil rights movement with say, a disrespect for it. Nothing could be further from the truth. But it’s like the James Connolly or Larkin statues in Dublin, no amount of official adoration will change their history. Best thing I saw written on the Connolly statue was a small piece of graffitti on the top of the base which said simply, “I wish he had won”. That’s how I feel about the civil rights movement.

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11. CL - January 21, 2012

My input was prompted by CMK’s query, above:
“Which leads me to wonder why there have never been in the US, from what I can see, any type of organised explicitly left wing militia to defend workers rights? Particularly given the violence that surrounded union organising from 1880-1930 – for instance the Battle of Matewan.”
Certainly when workers were forced to defend themselves by taking arms that should be remembered. I merely pointed out that such efforts met with defeat.
The Knights of Labor, the Western Federation of Miners, the IWW were all destroyed by violence from the capitalist state, both capitalist and federal.
So i suggested that the militant non-violence of the Civil Right Movement might prove a better alternative strategy-the movement that killed Jim Crow, surely a significant, historical achievement.
I cited King referring frequently to the strikes, boycotts, sit-downs, and sit-ins of the labor movement in the 1930s as a source of his inspiration.
There is a distinction between civil rights and civil rights. As King put it: its all very well to have the right to sit at a lunch counter but if you can’t afford the lunch how real is it?
The current dismal state of the U.S. labor movement is evidence of defeat despite some real gains and important protections given to the 7% of the private sector labor force who are lucky enough to be members of labor unions.
The night before King was assassinated he called for a general strike in Memphis.
I tried to draw attention to King’s relationship to the union movement here.

http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/martin-luther-king-day/

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12. CL - January 21, 2012

‘There is a distinction between civil rights and civil rights’. That should be, of course, ‘there is a distinction between civil rights and economic rights’

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