A major problem for the left, before, during and after, “the Wisconsin Uprising” is sectarianism, I am convinced. It undermines a basic strength. As I concluded in the past “heat and light” post: “After the fall of Communism, the strength of the left is its diversity, its turn away from dogmatism. Understanding what different actions, movements and institutions contribute is crucial.” It was with this view in mind that I read the discussions here and on my Facebook page on Chad Goldberg’s recent post. Here is a dialogue blending the two discussions.
I appreciated Vince Carducci’s Deliberately Considered comment, even though I wondered how he decided what is radical:
“This discussion is really getting to some good ideas, helping to move beyond the knee-jerk facile reactions to the recall. I think there’s value in both positions, though Henwood is more radical (which I have sympathy with) and perhaps as a result more reductive (which I don’t like so much). Chad Goldberg brings important firsthand experience into the discussion. I do think there’s another aspect to Fox Piven and Cloward’s book that he overlooks. It’s true that the legislative process was crucial to the success of poor people’s movement in the end, but the central thesis of the book is that the substantial gains are usually made *before* legislation not really in tandem. The legislative process, Fox Piven and Cloward assert, is the way in which the grassroots movements were mainstreamed and thus brought under control. So in this regard, I side with Henwood to a certain extent. However, even as a strategy of containment by the so-called powers that be, the fact that the legislative process embedded progressive ideals into the mainstream is important. Examples include: the creation of the Food and Drug Administration, fair labor laws, the Civil Rights Voting Act, and in fact the provisions of labor into what Daniel Bell termed “the Treaty of Detroit.” I’d like to suggest a framework within which both perspectives might be brought, specifically Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato’s work in Civil Society and Democratic Theory. I modify . . .
Read more: Heat and Light over the Wisconsin Uprising: Cooptation?
Chad Goldberg’s “Lessons of the Wisconsin Uprising” ignited a great deal of discussion here and on my Facebook page. There was a lot of heat. I am posting some excerpts of the high points of the debate today centered on the question of labor unions, with some additional commentary. In upcoming posts the question of electoral politics, the Democratic Party and Barack Obama will be considered. The exchanges were sharp. I hope to illuminate some key issues in hopes of moving the debate forward, inviting deliberate discussion.
On Facebook, the most heat was generated over appraisals of the union movement. Chad wrote his piece with a post Doug Henwood published in his Left Business Observer in mind, quite critical of his attack on labor.
“I have never come across such a bunch of thin-skinned, paranoid, defensive people as those in & around the labor movement, except maybe the hedge funders who were offended when Obama slipped and called them fat cats. If you criticize, you’re embracing the right. Not all are like this – I’ve gotten a lot of support for what I’ve written from rank & file teachers, laborers, Teamsters, and even one SEIU VP. They at least know that telling comforting tales would be suicidal at this point.
Also, how is the fact that 38% of union HHs voted for Walker not an indicator of union failure to educate and mobilize the membership?”
Goldberg in turn replied:
“I do not object to all criticism of labor but criticism that (1) adopts and starts from the assumptions of the right and (2) is too sweeping. To conclude that unions are an ineffective means to mobilize popular support for social justice because Walker survived a recall election is to set the bar absurdly high. He was only the third governor in U.S. history to even face a recall election. Yes, thirty-eight percent of voters in union households (not 38% of union households) voted for Walker. I’m open to constructive . . .
Read more: Heat and Light over the Wisconsin Uprising: On Unions
Today is Labor Day in the U.S. In practice, for most Americans, the primary significance of the day is as the unofficial last day of summer. I just went for a long swim in my outdoor pool, which closes today.
There are also political and union activities on the labor theme, marking the official reason for the holiday. Thus, President Obama gave a speech today in Detroit to a union gathering, previewing the themes of his long awaited address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, addressing the concerns of organized labor.
This September date as a workers holiday was originally chosen by the Central Union of New York in 1882. It is strange that the rest of the world celebrates May 1st as the international day of labor, marking the Haymarket Affair of 1886, a scandalous labor conflict in Chicago. During the cold war, the U.S. even officially designated May 1st as “loyalty day.” The contrast with the practice of the Soviet Union and its allies was essential. The American Labor Day, though, has an equally serious origin. It became a national holiday after the violent events surrounding the Pullman Strike of 1894. American indeed has an important and rich labor history.
I think it is unfortunate that American labor’s celebration is out of sync with the rest of the world. We commemorate alone, which weakens the power of the ritual. Nonetheless, especially now, when labor issues are so central, as President Obama indicated in his speech, it is important to take notice. I recall some previous Deliberately Considered posts.
Rachel Sherman’s “Domestic Workers Gain Visibility, Legitimacy” noted an advance in labor legislation in the state of New York. She highlighted the achievements of the Domestic Workers Union to agitate and achieve some fundamental rights in the new legislation, concerning overtime, vacation leave and protections against sexual and racial harassment. As she also observed the place of American domestic workers in the global economy and the connection between class and . . .
Read more: In Review: On Labor Day