Saturday, August 10, 2013
America Uber Alles
You come across things like this all the time. These are from a Facebook page that urges people to buy American and save American jobs.
This graphic drew many comments including: "F**k China. Dog eating short m***********s."
Unions are behind most of these graphics. The problem with them of course is that they pit one group of workers against another. The lower graphic suggests that Chinese workers shouldn't be able to have jobs, so that we can have them.
When you go beyond the graphics, you rarely find an analysis of how Capitalism, in order to survive as a system, always must be seeking out new markets, including new labor markets. Instead of being pointed to the logical conclusion that workers must organize across international boundaries, you find easy appeals to nationalism, which we in the US never admit to having so we always call it patriotism.
In the context of the overall class war it makes strategic sense to support and promote American unionism, but here is an opportunity to point out the problem of organized labor as it exists in the US. The golden era of the American working class, from the 1920s until the early 1980s, when we achieved the highest standard of living for a working class in the history of the world, came in some ways at the expense of workers in other countries. Our Capitalists, their safety and access to markets guaranteed by our military, were in countries all over the world busily exploiting cheap resources, extracted by cheap labor. This, along with US workers higher productivity, and 35 percent union density in the US, set up the conditions under which US workers were paid wages of multiple times what those other workers were getting.
The golden era also was made possible by the way our unions operated. The militancy and Socialist leanings of the US Labor Movement of the period from the 1890s to the 1930s, brought here by large influxes of European and Latin American immigrants, that existed when Franklin W Roosevelt became president, was weeded out of the movement by the union leadership as part of a bargain brokered by Roosevelt between Capital and Labor. Holding the specter of the rise of Socialism in Europe over the heads of owners, and dangling the promise of luxuries for workers in front of the union leadership, he made the deal that brought us out of the Great Depression and saved Capitalism from itself. In return for the union leadership purging militants, Socialists and Anarchists from their ranks, the owners would call off the Pinkertons and the other hired private militias who were killing strikers and organizers, and pay more in wages and benefits.
A good Capitalist, of course, sees a deal as just so many words, and beginning in 1980, with Ronald Reagan leading the way, Capital immediately went back on its end of the bargain. Instead of allowing unions to exist they were attacked, and good jobs were moved overseas. The union leadership, still unable to admit that there ever was a bargain or that it was ill advised, is now reduced to appeals to nationalism.
Workers have to go around the union leadership.They have to remember that the union movement is not about unions per se or about protecting specific union jobs, but about working class power. And since Capital knows no national boundaries and is free to move Capital and factories across borders to exploit workers who have less power, the working class can know no national boundaries. Workers must stand together across borders and all other kinds of divisions against lower and lower wages, against moving factories, against Capitalist control of the economy and the political system, and eventually must realize that only when workers own the factories, and the capital, can they guarantee economic justice.
And of course we American workers might have to get used to the idea that the living standard we enjoyed during the golden years was not sustainable, either in moral or environmental terms.