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Radical Worker Unions,
the Key
to Social Change

By Punkerslut

Photograph by Wouter Hagens
Image: Photograph by Wouter Hagens,
Edited by Punkerslut,
Released Under Creative Commons
"Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported" License

Start Date: February 19, 2010
Finish Date: February 19, 2010

Deciding on a Tactic for Creating the Social Revolution

"The urge for social justice can only develop properly and be effective when it grows out of man's sense of freedom and responsibility, and is based upon it."
          --Victoria C. Woodhull, with Stephen Pearl Andrews, 1871
          "And the Truth Shall Make You Free: A Speech on the Principles of Social Freedom"
          Delivered in Steinway Hall, Monday, Nov. 20, 1871

     Tyranny has only been found where there are governments and privilege. Poverty only comes from isolation of privileges and powers in the hands of the few, and wars have been fought because someone had a chance to benefit from them. The threat to our freedom is established by just a few people, whether they call themselves kings or presidents, noblemen or capitalists, senators or governors. Through organization and preparation, they have been able to take the liberty and property of their people. And similarly, if we expect to have true justice, we also need to use organization -- except it will be among the poor and exploited.

     Every form of social injustice and cruelty has come with its various forms of resistance. For instance, the African-American, Civil Rights movement in the United States, used non-violent, illegal demonstrations to bring attention to the oppression -- to make people realize the abuses that were being perpetrated by their governments. Similar tactics were adopted by the Indian, Independence movement. One led by Martin Luther King, the other led by Mahatma Gandhi. The working class of the Ancient Roman empire would have General Strikes in the form of a mass-walkout. And the French used sabotage and guerrilla tactics in fighting the Nazis, just like the Native Americans in resisting white Europeans.

     The form and method of a revolutionary organization is about responding to the social conditions. If a newspaper is as illegal as a bomb, then an activist will not make a distinction between distributing literature and blowing up a building. And where the people genuinely feel repressed and want to act, then encouraging violence is the surest way to make them disperse. The type of resistance chosen is based on what is most effective in bringing about the Social Revolution -- a world where there are no exploitive, oppressive, or dominating relationships.

     When deciding how we are going to resist, we need to understand the weaknesses of our opponent. We must become aware and conscious of their prejudices and the bigotries, their design and law. Knowing how governments and systems of privilege work is essential. It will tell us where to strike. It will tell us how to do it so we can put an overload of stress on the whole structure and tear it to the ground.

     These revolutionary organizations are made up of the people. Where they have been successful, they represented wide sections of society. The effective, social movement is pushed and advanced by the efforts and struggles of the common people. When looking for methods and forms of resistance, we must always keep in mind that we are organizing something we intend for people to do. To simply say that citizens simply must become dedicated to the revolution for it to happen is naive thinking; it does not take into account our passions and our frailties.

     All of this thinking and discussion is necessary for those who are truly interested in overthrowing governments and privileged classes -- for those who want a world without governors and business owners, without oppressors and exploiters.

Strikes and Boycotts Will Shake the System

"If the workers can organize so that they can stand idle they will then be strong enough so that they can take the factories."
          --Big Bill Haywood, 1911
          "The General Strike,"
          Speech at Meeting Held for the Benefit of the Buccafori Defense,
          at Progress Assembly Rooms, New York, March 16, 1911

     Work: the common obligation of all who are under slavery or exploitation. There cannot be a tyrant without there also being servants and slaves. It is natural, then, that the organization of the oppressed must necessarily mean the organization of the workers; whether they are called wage-earners or feudal-serfs.

     The success or failure of the revolution will lie in this point. Will it be able to organize the toilers and the laborers so that they can reclaim the land, and throw the exploiters off their backs? Will it be able to bring the laboring people to point where they rip off their chains and burn down the palaces? For its triumph over iniquity and injustice, the Social Revolution must be based on the organization of the class of all workers.

     The wealthy supporters of the state have always depended on labor. It is with the work of others that they intend to feed themselves, with century-old wines, caviar, and other luxuries. It is with their money that they're going to send their children to Ivy League universities, to build their mansions and vacation homes.

     Work, for the workers, has never been a choice, since we have never owned land, and there are no fair options for each and all being allowed to work for themselves. For us, labor has always been a curse, the most notable attribute of existence. But it is unfree. And there can be no surer sign of this, than the condition of the worker. The situation of an individual who has never been improved by their labors -- today's worker fills their lungs with smog and their belly with mercury, working more than their ancestors and not even eating as much.

     But for those on top, work is their source of power, control, domination, and a freedom from both labor and poverty. For those who live by owning factories, mines, and farms, it is our work that brings all the things they need and want. This is their weakness. They need and depend upon something, without which their livelihood is threatened. They need our work. And it is by all of us, together and collectively, refusing to work that will shatter the strength and power of Capitalism and the state.

     If we want the best organization for preparing the people to suddenly withdraw their labor, then we should look to the worker's union and the strike. It directly cuts off the one thing that governments and aristocracies depend upon: wealth, or economic authority.

     Unlike guerrilla fighting, or demonstrations attacked by violent police, the strike is far more inviting to the average person. The ceasing of work, itself, must naturally be considered peaceful and just. After all, we are all laboring under the presumed law that we are free workers, and nobody can make us work by force. But even in the United States, police officers are regularly excused after firing on unarmed crowds of picketers and strikers.

     By the strike, the boycott, and the union, you are approaching the most common person with ideas that are about freedom and social harmony. You are not dispersing them with ideas of a violent insurrection, or making them apathetic with a political party that goes nowhere and does nothing. And, like the many other who are workers and must survive on wages, they must understand the misery of a dominating boss. They, too, must know what it is like to be overworked and tired -- to be completely wasted and destroyed by an eight-hour or twelve-hour shift. And finally, at the end of the day, to retire to the worry that you might not have a job the next day, with this "growing economy."

U.S. World War Poster, Edited by Punkerslut
Image: U.S. World War Poster,
Edited by Punkerslut

Unions Need Revolutionary Ideals to Succeed

"It has often been remarked that the trades union movement, where it does not go hand in hand with an independent political movement, i.e., where it is not saturated with socialist thought, acquires somewhat the character of the bygone guilds."
          --Karl Kautsky, 1901
          "Trades Unions and Socialism,"
          International Socialist Review, Vol.1 No.10, April 1901

     If the members of organized labor expect victory, then they'll need to challenge the system. They'll need to pose a serious threat to the Capitalist and the governor -- they'll need to demonstrate that they can withdraw their labor collectively, and starve the system of its food, our life-blood.

     We cannot simply organize people in the form of the traditional trade union form. We need radical, anti-capitalist principles. It is not just organizing for a few more dollars per paycheck, or few more minutes for break. It is organizing so that every worker will have a right to work the earth, to receive according to their contribution, and to have no exploiter or capitalist that starves them into misery wages.

     Revolutionary, worker unions are essential in bringing about the Social Revolution. If workers are organized, but they only make compromises with their enemies, then they will always be taking orders and suffering their masters' decisions.

     If the union is not willing to resist capitalism, its members will become disillusioned. They'll start to realize that their organizing has not done anything to give them a voice in where they spend most of their lives -- the workplace. Disenchanted, they'll see no distinction between union jobs and non-union jobs, between striking and strike-breaking. The union that excludes members, that has presidents and officials, that sends union dues to political campaigns -- the union that makes surrenders and compromises to Capitalism will not be able to give opportunity or self-government to its members. And in the end, such meek-hearted, misdirected organizing results in convincing people that there really is no way to be our own masters.

     We must realize that every worker's interests are opposed to every capitalist's interests -- that we are exploited and oppressed, as a group, and individual tactics have never liberated us. Our struggle isn't about "harmonizing the interests of the wealthy and the poor," it is not about "giving a little more to the laborers," -- it is about making each and every person their own governor, restricted by no artificial deeds to land or titles to aristocracy.

     We aren't asking for some more bread and a few more minutes. We are demanding our right to be in charge of the tools we use -- that we can work, and earn according to our labors, without someone taking a half or two-thirds of our production in the form of "profit" or "tax."

     The radical union is completely inclusive. It takes in all people as its members, only asking that they are interested in the emancipation of the worker. It does not exclude the poor, the homeless, the unskilled, or those of different cultures, religions, and races. Radical unions understand that if there is any individual is left behind, they'll join the ranks of strike-breakers and police. As radicals, we must be able to prove that the Social Revolution will mean an improvement in the living standards and freedoms of every person!

     The only persons who are going to lose anything are those who have oppressed and exploited the working masses for thousands of years -- they will lose their right to live on top of the labor of others, to exploit markets by causing a shortage and to deny workers the right to the land.

Having the Will and Hope to Resist Capitalism

"...our Congresses must never claim the role of General Church Councils, proclaiming obligatory principles for all adherents and believers. There exists only one law which is really obligatory for all members, individuals sections and federations in the International, of which this law constitutes the true and only basis. It is, in all its extension, in all its consequences and applications--the International solidarity of the toilers in all trades and in all countries in their economic struggle against the exploiters of labour. It is in the real organisation of this solidarity, by the spontaneous organisation of the working masses and by the absolutely free federation, powerful in proportion as it will be free, of the working masses of all languages and nations, and not in their unification by decrees and under the rod of any government whatever, that there resides the real and living unity of the International."
          --Mikhail Bakunin, Late 1800's
          "Marxism, Freedom, and the State," chapter 4

     Our revolutionary union's program must be very broad: it must take in everyone, and in its local chapters, it must work for the direct interests of those participating in the group. Worker self-emancipation must be its own premise. There is no need to have any more statement of belief than that. We are interested in organizing people to resist Capitalism. We would just become a church if we were bringing people together just to make sure we can conform all of their ideas to the same exact thing.

     By stating our purpose plainly and directly, and allowing people to implement in ways that fit them, we are making a universal organization; we are making a social organization that excludes nobody, that is based on the voluntary and mutual cooperation of those with similar desires. As revolutionaries, we are not just organizing to resist Capitalism, authority, and the state. We are beginning the construction of the new society, without masters or subjects. Our new world must be one where no government or capitalist can take rights or freedoms away from any person. No greater defense against tyranny exists than when the people are educated, prepared, and organized.

     Far from the edicts that might appear in the Communist Manifesto or the statement of faith of the Catholic Church -- the program of a revolutionary, anti-capitalist federation must be simple and direct. It must simply state that we are working for the self-emancipation of every laborer from Capitalism. Everyone should be allowed in who accepts this. And it should never be a point to criticize people for doubting, or questioning, as often happens in political parties. It even happens in the traditional forms of the trade unions.

     In creating an organization that allows all to join and participate, we are making an all-inclusive society; by being the most broad in our program, we are being the most revolutionary in our actions.

     This does not mean that the most open organization in the world will not be overflowing with revolutionary agitation. Its revolutionary members would be active with others in the group -- with pamphlets, newspapers, speeches, and books on Anarchism, Feminism, Imperialism, Racism, sexuality, and almost every form of progressive and alternative culture.

     Those revolutionaries who had the strength and will to bring together an open society must now advance their own ideas about revolution, resistance, and anti-capitalism. Being a free society, just as the Anarchist councils can form and argue for their own ideas, so will there be other sections. Some more moderate, some political means, and some possibly even conservative. Only where opinion is the most free can people be certain that they're really hearing all ideas -- and that they're really making an informed decision when acting collectively with others.

     While the revolution is going to be made by the masses, it is going to take individuals fighting for their ideas. It's going to take people willing to discuss, debate, argue, and overall, to get people prepared and ready to act cooperatively and effectively. The whole union itself might not initially be interested in a general strike against a government war draft, or against the religious discrimination policies of a corporation. But where there are active, socially-conscious workers within the organization, speaking freely and openly, they'll have the greatest chance of success -- unlike a political party or traditional union, the radical individual has the greatest chance of inciting the people to powerful, revolutionary means.

     The radical worker's union is unlike any other type of union, because it excludes nobody, and its intention is the self-emancipation of everyone. There is no point in isolating ourselves from the masses if we want to agitate them to the point of overthrowing the Capitalist system.

"...they who are engaged in building up industrial organizations for the practical purpose of today are at the same time preparing the framework of the society of the future. It is the realization of that feet that indeed marks the emergence of Socialism as a revolutionary force from the critical to the positive stage."
          --James Connolly, 1908
          "Industrial Unionism and Constructive Socialism," From: "Socialism Made Easy"


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