A new leadership, a new mood, and a strike

I was the state leader of the Communist Party of Michigan from 1977-1988. During that time, I followed and commented on the contract negotiations between the UAW and the Big 3. The late 70s marked the beginning of an era of concessionary bargaining by the UAW top leadership. It was not so much a break from the bargaining strategy – Reutherism – of the previous quarter century as an adaptation of that strategy to changing conditions in the auto market and the declining vigor and mounting contradictions of U.S. capitalism.

But that bargaining strategy now appears to be fading into the past. If the current strike is a telling expression of its demise, the election of a new leadership embracing class struggle trade unionism is the motor of this process. Or to put it differently, the election of Shawn Fain and his team and the 180 degree shift in bargaining posture and practice is bringing down the curtain on Reutherism in its recent as well as earlier forms.

And it is all the more remarkable because of the state of the UAW that Fain and the new executive board inherited. It was in about as bad shape as you could imagine: its leadership swimming in a sea of corruption scandals and jail sentences, its members demoralized, and the auto company execs were doing high fives. Less than half of the union’s roughly 250,000 members voted in the first ever direct election of the president and executive board in March of this year. And in the runoff election that quickly followed Fain narrowly prevailed over incumbent president Ray Curry, slightly more than half of the union’s members casting a ballot. What is more, the new executive board of 15 was divided with Fain’s supporters holding a thin majority. Hardly propitious signs!

In short order, though, thanks in part to Curry who upon losing appealed for unity and in part to Fain, who quickly turned the union’s attention and energy to the upcoming negotiations, the mood and spirit shifted. And now – only a few months later – the auto workers are on strike, the leadership is leading the charge, and the demands are, in many ways, radical. No doubt the mood in the suites of the auto executives has shifted too. No longer are they laughing on their way to the bank. More likely, the words out of their mouths are: Holy Shit! What’s happening! I didn’t see this coming!

It doesn’t hurt that the Biden administration is on the side of the union in the current negotiations. One would have to go back to Roosevelt to find a president who is as partisan to labor as Biden.

Of course, if Biden and his team could find a way to dramatize that support for all to see, nothing but good would come from it in. Not least, it would distinguish him from Trump’s demagogic attempt to position himself on the side of the auto workers and manufacturing workers across the Midwest.

It takes no special insight to say that a successful strike in auto will surely give a boost to labor’s resurgence as well as class and democratic struggles going forward, including next year’s elections.

Each of us, in big or small ways, should find a way to give meaning to Solidarity Forever.

Allende and Popular Unity

Many of the 50th anniversary retrospectives on the Popular Unity government in Chile (1970 – September 11, 1973) in recent weeks argue that if President Allende and his supporters had only done this or that the coup would have been averted and a rapid advance to socialism would have been possible. The problem with this sort of analysis is that it lacks any sense of the real constraints on and resistance to the Allende government as well as the real difficulties of any revolutionary process.

To assume, as many do, that Allende and Popular Unity were captives of illusions about the nature of the state, the neutrality of the military, the non intervention intentions of neighboring countries and the US government, the imperative of sustained mobilization of popular forces, the necessity of broader, cross class alliances, and the urgency of retaining the political initiative, I find problematic. They may have had illusions to one degree or another as well as mistaken policies. Few of us are free of illusions. I know that from my own experience. But before arriving at such a conclusion, one has to study the experience concretely and bear in mind that the revolutionary process is complex in any circumstances. And, in the case of Chile novel too insofar as it was an attempt to move towards socialism along an electoral path free of civil war for the first time.

Moreover, its failure to do so, to achieve its objectives isn’t proof positive that such a path is foreclosed going forward. Such a conclusion, history suggests, would be premature to say the least. In fact, the Chilean experience, understood in all of complexity, is more than suggestive that such a path to socialist transformation is necessary and viable.


I never envied the rich and wealthy, except for moments when I open a bottle of wine and pour some into my glass. I don’t drink Ripple any longer. I upgraded as I got older. But I suspect that the bottle of wine that is served on the patio of some estate in Richville USA is of a better quality than the bottle that finds its way onto my table. And that makes me a bit envious, not to mention pisses me off!


What a great interview of Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. I couldn’t help but notice shifts in her thinking toward the Democratic Party, members in Congress, and coalition politics. I wish more on the left possessed a politics and analytical disposition that was equally flexible and dialectical as hers.

Frankly, too many on the left, unlike AOC, are politically stuck. Their categories of analysis – center, right, left – are static and frozen – rather than open ended and fluid. Once political leader or a political/social movement or political coalition are typed, they stay typed. They’re enclosed and remaine in one category or another.

What is more, Joe Biden, it is said, is a “Bourgeois” or “Establishment” politician. The Democratic party’s center of political gravity is frozen in time, dangling somewhere in the neoliberal era. And liberals have no place in this discourse, except as a term of ridicule and opprobrium.

In short, movement, complexity and contradictory locations have no place in this rigid analysis. Political life is lifeless and petrified.

But here’s the problem: If taken too seriously by too many, the winning of next year’s election becomes an unnecessarily steep climb. Luckily most activists have more common sense, not to mention analytical skills.

Labor Day

Hope you enjoy and celebrate Labor Day, the holiday of the the U.S. working class, broadly defined! Roughly 70 per cent or more of the population. And yet, only in alliance with other social constituencies is progress, especially major breaks from the past, possible. If you don’t believe me – and many of you might not – take a look at historical experience, here as well as elsewhere in the world.

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