Misunderstanding Labor politics on the Rail Issue
by Leo Casey.
1. This argument from @CarpenterLauraG illustrates a lot of what is wrong in @BreadRosesDSA's and @DemSocialists' approach to labor organizing & politics. It begins by asserting what it must prove – that the Squad stance on rail worker fight was neither principled nor strategic.
Laura Gabby @CarpenterLauraG A few weeks on from Biden’s forced rail worker TA, and I stand by criticizing the Squad for their vote on this one. It was neither principled nor strategic (failed to distinguish them from the capitalists’ politicians, gave a few Republicans cover to act pro-worker). https://twitter.com/CarpenterLauraG/status/1605205532704444417
2. But the first principle of labor solidarity is that the workers and their unions get to make the key strategic decisions in their struggle. The Squad – @AOC, @JamaalBowmanNY, @CoriBush, etc. – did what the unions and the cross-union rank & file group wanted & asked them to do.
3. Certainly we who espouse democratic – let alone democratic socialist – politics must embrace this principle: those with direct stake in struggle, who have to live with its outcome, get to make the key decisions. Others must respect their choices.
4. For all of their rhetorical advocacy of the rank & file, what we see in Gabby and Bread & Roses is a vanguardist approach, where they decide that they know better than the railway workers & unions what should be done. That is not true labor solidarity.
5. But strikes are tactics – high leverage tactics that can bring wins otherwise out of reach and build power, but also high risk tactics that can result in devastating losses and lose power. They require great sacrifices on the part of workers who strike. https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-teacher-strike-conditions-for-success
6. Successful strikes are thoroughly organized and prepared, with the strong support of the great majority of workers and a solidarity that will survive severe testing. Community support and support from other unions is key.
7. Decisions to undertake a strike should be free of romance, based on an unsentimental assessment of the balance of forces and the likelihood of success. Most importantly, they should be the province of the workers and their unions, not outsiders, however well-meaning.
8. Having failed on the key question of principle in labor solidarity (which the Squad got right), Gabby and Bread & Roses demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of political strategy, substituting a performative notion of politics for it.
9. According to Gabby, the Squad's actions were not strategic because they failed to distinguish themselves from capitalist politicians and gave cover to GOP senators to appear pro-worker. This is a criticism based entirely on appearances, a 'politics' of posing and posturing.
10. The mistaken idea here is that politics is about winning propaganda victories which demonstrate your righteousness and your foes perfidy. It is a philosophically idealist conception of politics, of the same order as pure – and utterly futile – third party electoral efforts.
11. The strategic goal of the Squad was not to propagandize and pose, but to win the workers' & union's key objective: real sick days. There was a narrow but realistic legislative path to that objective, which was what the unions asked the Squad to pursue. https://twitter.com/ryangrim/status/1598357234102288385
12. A serious democratic socialist politics does not build power through empty rhetorical appeals to the rank & file, or a performative politics of posturing. It builds power by winning struggles that attain objectives which better the lives of working people.
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