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Wed Jan 30, 2013, 04:39 AM


I laughed when I read this paragraph from the History of the Communist Party

Foster's comments below showed what he thought of "business unionists". I would have agreed with him, I think.

To this end, the conservative union leaders were ready to go far in the direction of company unionism, and they did. William Green, who succeeded Gompers as the head of the A.F. of L. in 1924, made this willingness very clear in a number of the most servile speeches ever delivered by a labor leader in the United States. He placed the unions of the workers at the disposal of the bosses in the latter's speed-up plans. The Executive Council's report to the A.F. of L. convention of 1927 showed how far the labor bureaucrats were going toward company-unionizing the trade unions. It declared that "there is nothing that the company union can do within the single company that the trade union cannot develop the machinery for doing and accomplish more effectively. Union-management co-operation ... is much more fundamental and effective than employee representation plans for co-operation with management."

From: History of the Communist Party of the United States by William Z. Foster
Chapter Seventeen: A.F. of L. Class Collaboration During the Coolidge "Prosperity" (1923-1929)

I have been on a course of reading all these dusty old labor books, stacks of them in the college library, about organizing and dying from 1870 to 1932 or so. Thinking about efforts today and what is happening, comparing. It's personally interesting because none of this was in that 60's white bread public school curriculum, so I kinda eat this stuff up.

The industrial unionists seemed to have the most sustainable plan for worker ownership, but their enemies mostly got rid of them, so here we are. The more I read of this the more I think our train went off the track by the 20's. Not that others did so much better, obviously, but much of what was done cemented the capitalists into their seats and brought us to today. But some of the ideas of the industrial unionists were and still are very good.

Amazing the spirit they brought to that fight.

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Reply I laughed when I read this paragraph from the History of the Communist Party (Original post)
jtuck004 Jan 2013 OP
MrYikes Jan 2013 #1
jtuck004 Jan 2013 #5
MrYikes Jan 2013 #7
Laelth Jan 2013 #2
jtuck004 Jan 2013 #6
reteachinwi Jan 2013 #3
socialist_n_TN Jan 2013 #4
limpyhobbler Jan 2013 #8

Response to jtuck004 (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 07:49 AM

1. I feel a little like "Oliver" asking for more but,

if you would please. I would be more than interested in an expanded post on your thoughts. Or maybe a few of the book titles that impressed you.

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Response to MrYikes (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 31, 2013, 03:24 PM

5. Sure, I'll try


Sorry for the delay - my wife and her mom are both sick with colds, so I am nursing them

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country....corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong it's reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the republic is destroyed." Abraham Lincoln - Nov. 21, 1864 in his letter to Col. Williams F. Elkins

Talk about good vision...

1870 to about 1932 (slavery and earlier labor is part of this but in a different way) saw the exploitation of millions by the industrialists as immigrants began to pour in for work and opportunity. At least two major labor organizing philosophies seemed to come out of this. One, the Industrial Union (IU) organized to unite all of labor, skilled or unskilled, to quit giving all their labor to the Capitalist and put the workers in charge. Lots of variations of this, differing organizations but at the last major point in that history I am interested in it was the International Workers of the World, or IWW.

Roughly in the same time the second philosophical position, Business Unionists (BU) formed. Sam Gompers, collaborating with business got a little more of the pie, but saw the worker as subservient to the needs of the Capitalists. And, frankly, most workers subservient to the needs of the highly-skilled white craftsman. The BU focused on more skilled, not miners, not the millions of other laborers, whites only, no women. Virulently anti-IU, anti-communist, anti-unemployment, not exactly a big tent. But the bosses liked him. Because the IU was repressed, and because of their alliance with the industrialists, the AFofL survived, the CIO struggled but eventually joined them.

IU-type organizers included Mother Jones, William Haywood, E. Debs (Debs was a socialist, and believed in ownership at another level than Haywood was clear about, I think), William Foster (communist), so lots of subtleties and differences, but they shared the goals of freedom for the workers from the exploitation of the greedy capitalists, that freedom one has when in control of the assets and profits shared as workers. They also more or less shared the view that their opponent was the the corporation, the capitalist, the tyrant.

Around 1919 (I think someone mentioned it below) the "Red Scare" fever was whipped up, the Sedition Act was passed, and the IU adherents were further decimated with lynchings, shootings, (sometimes both), other murders, beatings (tied to a tree, beat with a whip, hot tar poured into the wounds, feathers on top, kicked down the road), prison, government persecution (note: They are still around.). Business linked them with the communists, who they linked with the Nazi's after the Russians declared peace with them in WWI, pushed the communist scare stories of the late 20's, which carried through for some time. (For example, an organizer was hauled out of jail and lynched 3 times, then shot in Centralia, WA, by the good folks at the American Legion. The Coroner declared it a suicide).

The IU won some battles but faced with the might of business who invested in spies, finks, killers, politicians, government, soldiers, bullets, guns, prisons, newspapers, propaganda and Business Unions, they were repressed to a large extent. (At the La Follette Committee hearings an NLRB member estimated business was spending $80 million a year in union-busting, or about $1 billion in today's dollars). Gompers and the AFofL, on the side of business, helped bust the steelworkers strike in 1919 against the IU folks. The IWW can still be found.

Both Mother Jones and William Haywood came out of the coal fields and mining areas.

Here is Mother Jones autobiography - http://www.angelfire.com/nj3/RonMBaseman/mojones.htm
- other subjects here http://www.angelfire.com/nj3/RonMBaseman/

William Haywood wrote "Bill Haywood's Book: The autobiography of William Haywood" published after he skipped bail (wisely) on the Sedition Charge and, facing 20 useless years in prison, was offered safe harbor in Russia.

The book you can find in a decent college library or through inter-library loan, though there is something to be said for walking through the stacks surrounded by the words of all those people.

Here is a link where Lenin mentions Haywood in a report on an experimental industrial colony. Funny, here are communists talking about investing, and we can't get our own so-called capitalists today to let go of their own rubles.


Here is a line from that report denoting the difference between IWW and AFL:
"The "Industrial Workers of the World" (IWW) arose in the USA in 1905 as a counter-balance to the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which was conducting a policy of class collaboration. "

Of course, that was before a hundred years of teaching us communist-socialist-nazi-industrial union organizer-archist-IWW member-scary traitor-all-the-same-thing. We even have people screaming about communists today. Sigh. (Today they are trying to link animal rights folks, Occupiers, etc to terrorists. I hope those people are reading these histories - it might save them from a lynching. One could ask the two Middle-Eastern men who were beaten in the aftermath of the OKC bombing how scary that can be).

You can google the wiki pages for these folks, and the references will lead you to volumes of info.

Sometime in the early 1900's the communists (I use that word knowing it means wildly different things in time and to different people), got the idea of creating Unemployed Councils in this country to further their revolutionary aims. They started something in 1921, but in 1930 they spread these across the country and started teaching class consciousness to hungry people, organizing them in marches for relief, both unemployment and food.

There were lines of hungry people marching across the country for a couple of years, past the White House in 1931 (communist organized, they came from all over the country, self-policing against violence all along the way, very well planned,) between lines of police and soldiers with machine guns stuck in people's minds. They couldn't talk to Congress, then went past AFL HQ, and the Mr Green from the earlier post chastised these hungry people.

(My wife's mom, born 1921 on a farm in Oklahoma, said Hoover was the worst President ever. "Oh, he was terrible".)

I think the labor struggles taught people when withholding their labor and public protest could push public opinion, and there are a lot of lessons to be learned from their successes and failures. The people involved in those struggles were the ones that helped organize public pressure for the New Deal programs.

Given where tens of millions of people are today economically, after watching what compromise and collaboration with the wealthy got us for the past hundred years or so, maybe this is a good time to revive some of those IU philosophies, and learn from the communists (probably will need a marketing makeover on that one). I can't imagine that workers owning the production of capital could do any worse, eh? Probably won't sell their jobs overseas, or their souls to a private equity junk bond firm. That might even be more important than concentrating on regulation that might be written to fight income inequality.

We are going into an uncertain future where labor is going to mean something far different. (Maybe a neighborhood owning the robot factory?).

Regardless, we will do better organized than not, and those who determine our future will be those who own the means of production.

Does that help?

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Response to jtuck004 (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 31, 2013, 05:14 PM

7. Yes, I am most honored by your response and your time invested, thank you.

My involvement in studying history was focused on New Harmony in Indiana from 1809 to 1826. The years of Rappittes and then Robert Owen, each group trying for their type of communism. Of course each came to naught but for different reasons: the Rappittes were forbidden and took a pledge against having children so they eventually died out (the last descendant passed in 1944 I believe). Owens group was torn apart from within. He had loudly proclaimed in speeches in the East that any one could come and work 4 hours daily and enjoy a luxurious lifestyle with opera, dancing and spirited conversations. Within 6 months it was a shambles as food rotted in the fields because no one felt it their duty to go pick the food. It has not been brought out that industrialists sent disruptors, but I believe that to be the case.

You mentioned Eugene Debs. I have read some of his life story of hopping on trains while trying to unionize the train workers. Of his being beaten and imprisoned for his efforts of helping people. Rand's Dagney Taggart pops in my head thinking about Debs' work. Silly, I know.

I also remember TV public service commercials advising us to be on the look-out for communist cells in our neighborhood (they're everywhere, ya know). They talked about cell meetings in someones basement and the worst part was that we don't know what they were talking about. I was supposed to infer that was Un-American. And then there was the tv show "I led 3 lives" about a double spy, which of course meant that we should be afraid of anyone we met, cause they just might be that spy. And then came McCarthy. By that time I just knew that communism was bad. But my beliefs kept telling me otherwise.

I have belonged to many unions which were all unpleasant experiences and remember the vile comments about the union from the members. It just seemed so wrong to be against something that was in place to help people, but the union leaders seemed always able to create hatred among the membership toward the union but also towards the other members. The leaders used words that left members feeling unworthy and unwelcome and certainly not in a position to question anything done at the local level (if you knew what was good for you, ya know). And yet I remember how happy I was when I got a raise to $2.35 an hour while an IBEW member (electrical workers union).

Anyway, thank you again for responding.

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Response to jtuck004 (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 07:56 AM

2. Very interesting.

If you're interested, I covered that period briefly in an essay on 20th century American politics. It's not exactly relevant to your current area of study, but you may find it useful.



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Response to Laelth (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 31, 2013, 03:45 PM

6. I am interested.


I liked that essay a lot, and I will read it again. I do agree, much of the Progressive and New Deal legislation was to co-opt those who sought to build power among the masses so they could take the means of production over. I learned from my readings something you pointed out, that after people were made aware that they could, and then organized and demanded, things began to roll.

Having gone through 1960's public and private schools, I remember skipping from the Civil War to Hoover/FDR, (when we weren't under our desks) but virtually none of this was in there. A little Haymarket, bad anarchists, yada, yada, yada, but nothing that would teach people that perhaps Mr. Charlie really doesn't have your best interests at heart, even if he does let you sleep in the house. Living in Spokane now, I have been asking around, and have found no one, not one, that heard about the Free Speech fights here, though I have googled an enactment or two. Doesn't appear to be part of any curriculum here I can find. Wonder why they don't teach that employers might screw people over if they don't organize and stand up for themselves? Ok, I kid.

Thank you for the link.

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Response to jtuck004 (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 02:26 PM

3. The Great War and Leningrad 1917


scared the capitalists into extreme acts. Many good people were lost or broken.

The Espionage Act of 1917 was amended by Congress the following year to not only target those who interfered with the draft, but also those individuals guilty of sedition, in other words, those who publicly criticized the government including negative comments about the flag, military or Constitution (text)

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Response to jtuck004 (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 09:46 PM

4. That's pretty basic Marxism. Trotsky was ALWAYS suspicious........

of the bourgeois trade unions and especially the leadership. In some cases (like now), they're all we have, but the leaders always have to be watched. They are, after all, ultimately on the side of the capitalists because the capitalist system is what funds their perks as "leaders".

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Response to jtuck004 (Original post)

Thu Jan 31, 2013, 10:32 PM

8. Ya know it's true there was a real turning point somewhere, and we went

down the wrong path. Like you say the train maybe went of the tracks by the 1920s.

Makes sense. There were a few big battles later on of course, during the 30's and the Flint sit down strike, stuff like that. But it seems like the (first) Red Scare was when the capitalists really decided to stomp out the radical element once and for all. They took the propaganda machine and ideology police that were developed to keep the public in line for World War I, and they turned those tools against the labor movement and the Communists and socialists in general. They saw what happened in Russia and it scared them.

And to a large degree they were successful in stamping out real resistance of the kind that really questioned the system. Everything after that has been sort of an epilogue of what happens after a nascent radical movement is crushed. All these past decades we've been living in the burnt ruins of a failed revolution. Or something along those lines. And the taming of the unions was clearly a big part of it.

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