What Wrong With The Labor Unions

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					tion.” It is both “the battering ram with      why today’s unions hate and misrepresent     A Socialist Labor Party Statement—
which to pound down the fortress of capital-   what the SLP stands for. However, what
ism, and the successor of the capitalist so-
cial structure itself.”
                                               the unions think about the SLP and the
                                               SIU program is not important because it
                                               does not change the facts. What is impor-
                                                                                                   What’s Wrong With
What You Can Do
  Now you know why the SLP criticizes
                                               tant is that you learn more about the SLP
                                               and the SIU program for yourself. Start by          The Labor Unions?
today’s unions, and you may now suspect        mailing the coupon today.                       What’s wrong with the unions? Why are        day’s unions and on the correct principles
                                                                                            they in retreat when the need for labor soli-   of union organization.
                                                                                            darity is so clear and so great? Why can’t         The Socialist Labor Party is vitally con-
                                                                                            they bring workers together to resist the       cerned with every aspect of the union
                                                                                            ravages of job-killing technology, falling      question. That’s because the SLP (founded
                                                                                            wages, increased exploitation and spread-       1890) has been America’s strongest advo-
                                                                                            ing poverty?                                    cate of genuine working-class unionism for
                                                                                               These questions need answers—the             more than a century. However, the SLP
                                                                                            right answers—because they are of vital         also maintains that the present unions—all
                                                                                            importance to every worker in America.          of them—are not working-class unions.
                                                                                            Yet, discussions on unions and unionism
                                                                                            often produce more heat and acrimony than       Why Unions Fail
                                                                                            fact and logic. This shows how much con-           The SLP maintains that today’s unions
                                                                                            fusion there is on the union question. It       are dedicated to principles that run counter
                                                                                            also shows that the unions have failed to       to the best interests of the workers. That’s
                                                                                            prove to workers that they have what it         why they fail to unite the workers and why
                                                                                            takes to defend their interests.                they become obstacles to workers’ efforts
                                                                                                                                            to defend themselves against ruthless
                                                                                            The Principle of Unionism                       exploitation. They call themselves unions,
                                                                                               Every schoolchild knows that there is        but they are not based on the principle of
SOCIALIST LABOR PARTY, P.O. Box 218, Mtn. View, CA 94042-0218                               strength in unity and that disunity brings      working-class unity. They divide workers
           Web site: • e-mail:                               only weakness and confusion, demoraliza-        instead of uniting them.
                                                                                            tion and defeat. The union principle is            These SLP charges against the unions
❑ Please send me free literature on socialism.                                              sound, yet the unions fail to unite the         are based on sound and logical reasons. If
                                                                                            workers. They fail even to protect the          you understand why the union question is
❑ I enclose $2.00 for a six-month subscription to The People, official                       small and shrinking numbers who belong          important, it is also important for you to
  monthly journal of the Socialist Labor Party.                                             to them and pay their dues. It should be        know what these SLP charges are. And it
❑ I enclose $1.00. Please send me a copy of the 48-page pamphlet,                           obvious to everyone that something is           is equally important for you to know how
  The Burning Question of Trades Unionism, by Daniel De Leon.                               wrong. What may not be obvious, howev-          workers can build a real union.
                                                                                            er, is what that something is.
                                                                                               That’s why workers need to give se-          What History Shows
Name (please print)
                                                                                            rious thought to the union question. In-           It is a historic fact that the unions were
                                                                                            deed, it is supremely important that they       born out of a hard, bitter and often violent
Address                                                              Apt.                   do so because the future welfare of the         struggle between capital and labor. The
                                                                                            workers of America (and ultimately the          focal point of this struggle was the divi-
City                                             State           Zip                        workers of the world) depends upon              sion of labor’s product into wages and
                                                                                            workers having clear and accurate infor-        profits. As long as the capitalists could
Phone                                                                         WWWLU-98      mation on the nature and character of to-       deal directly with individual workers, the
workers were virtually helpless. That’s          Yet, the AFL-CIO and all kindred unions          als—upholds the present unions.                    in the SIU will be in the only safe place for
why workers united into unions.                  accept capitalism as a permanent system.            The SLP takes a different stand on to-          power to be—with the rank and file of the
   Capitalist exploitation of workers did not    Instead of concentrating on building a           day’s unions. It shows that they have cor-         classconscious workers.
stop when some workers formed unions.            classless society in which exploitation, un-     rupted the purpose of unionism, and that               Socialist Industrial Unionism will end
The struggle over the division of labor’s        employment and poverty would be abol-            their leaders are nothing more than lieu-          the shameful practice, so prevalent today,
product continues to this day. The unions        ished, they limit their aspirations to a vague   tenants of the capitalist class who run the        of “unions” scabbing on, and breaking the
only made it possible for workers to resist      “fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”         unions in the interests of the capitalist class.   strikes of, other unions. By organizing all
in groups. At first, the capitalist owners of        The rest has followed logically. Under           By contrast, the SLP emphasizes the fact        workers, the SIU will live up to the motto
the means of production—the factories,           capitalism, labor—or labor power—is a            of the class struggle. Consequently, it holds      that “an injury to one is an injury to all”
mills, mines, railroads, and the tools and       commodity, a mere “means” of production          that workers need a new kind of union, a           and give real meaning to worker solidarity.
machines needed to run them—tried to de-         that capitalists buy in the labor market the     union that accepts the fact and implications       The SIU will enable workers to fully use
stroy the unions. Compelled by the profit         same as they buy raw materials in the raw        of the class struggle and aims to unite the        their organized strength in waging the day-
motive and competition from their capitalist     materials market. By accepting the capi-         whole working class. We have a name for            to-day struggle.
rivals, they tried to keep wages low and to      talist system as a finality, today’s unions       this new type of unionism. We call it So-              However, while waging the day-to-day
get ever more production out of the work-        also accept the idea that workers must ac-       cialist Industrial Unionism.                       struggle with unity and militant vigor, the
ers. The workers, on the other hand, driven      cept this commodity status forever.                                                                 SIU will never lose sight of the real goal,
both by sheer necessity and by normal am-                                                         What Real Unions Would Do                          namely, a reconstruction of society that
bition to rise above a state of constant want,   Union Corruption                                   Socialist Industrial Unionism aims to            will socialize the industries, give the peo-
resisted and sought to force wages up. It was       Corruption has followed inevitably.           achieve solidarity of labor. However, before       ple who do the work a democratic mastery
like dividing an apple in two parts. If one      Most union leaders started out as sincere        workers can achieve genuine solidarity they        of their tools and products, and guarantee
part was larger the other had to be small-       and honest people, but the harsh realities       must rise above job consciousness and be-          that every individual will have the oppor-
er—and this was the case whether the capi-       of capitalism quickly disillusioned them.        come classconscious. They must learn that          tunity to develop their talents and exercise
talist “apple” was big, as in boom times, or     The more hopeless the plight of the rank         their own interests as individuals are linked      their skills. To this end, the SIU will pro-
small, as in periods of depression. Accord-      and file appeared, the more the union lead-       together with those of every other worker.         claim the need for the organization of a po-
ingly, the struggle over labor’s product is      ers turned to feathering their own nests.        Then and not until then can they organize          litical party of the working class.
not simply a struggle between individual         Careerists and opportunists rose to the top,     themselves as a class, employed and unem-              This program for the political and eco-
workers and their employers. It is a struggle    exploiting the workers’ instinct for soli-       ployed, skilled and unskilled, office worker        nomic organization of the working class pro-
between the working class and the capitalist     darity to promote their own bureaucratic         and factory worker. Divided, they are ex-          vides the best chance for a peaceful change
class—a class struggle that is inherent in       interests as labor merchants of the capital-     ploited, abused and deprived of the potential      from capitalism to socialism. Through their
and inseparable from the capital-labor           ist class of labor exploiters. In strike after   for using their collective strength. United,       overwhelming majority, the workers will as-
relationship.                                    strike, the unions have sacrificed and bar-       they will no longer be an easy class to rule.      sert their right to own and operate collective-
   Many of today’s unions, when first or-         tered away the workers’ interests in ex-         On the contrary, the exploiters and their la-      ly the means of social production. The next
ganized, paid lip service to the class strug-    change for such things as the “union shop”       bor lieutenants will learn that their ruling       step will be to abolish the political state of
gle. The American Federation of Labor,           and the dues “checkoff” that practically         days are numbered.                                 class rule. Through their union, workers will
which today as the AFL-CIO functions as          make the capitalist employer a union offi-          In form or structure the SIU will conform        have the requisite might for backing up their
an unabashed prop of capitalism, once said       cial and dues collector. And they seal these     to the structure of industry. Each industry        action and assuming control of the socialized
in its constitution: “A struggle is going on     deals with labor contracts that tie workers’     and service will have an industrial union,         industries. The reins of administration will
in all the nations of the civilized world, a     hands and that capitalists often break.          and all these industrial unions will be inte-      then be assumed by a new Congress, a
struggle between the capitalist and laborer,        This is corruption of the worst kind. It      grally united into one big union, with a           Congress of workers’ representatives, elected
which grows in intensity from year to year,      perverts the historic mission of unionism.       common purpose and a common goal.                  from the industries and services.
and will work disastrous results to the toil-    Yet, despite their betrayals of the workers’       All officers of these genuine working-                As Daniel De Leon, the great American
ing millions if they are not combined for        interests, virtually everyone who pretends       class unions will be elected by the rank           Marxist, summed it up: “Industrial union-
mutual protection....”                           to have the workers’ interests at heart—in-      and file, and all will be subject to immedi-        ism is the Socialist Republic in the making;
   This was a clear recognition of the con-      cluding the “Communists,” the “Socialist”        ate recall whenever a simple majority of           and the goal once reached, the industrial
flict of interests between labor and capital.    reformers, and the “friend of labor” liber-      the members so decide. In short, all power         union is the Socialist Republic in opera-

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