Saw this on Facebook today and I’m only just now realizing it’s actually from October of last year. Nevertheless, it’s great. In These Times interviews Stanley Aronowitz, lifelong labor activist, author, and CUNY graduate sociology professor, on the state of today’s labor movement and the way ahead. Some highlights:
“…[A]gitation for an anti-capitalist politics can’t wait for some kind of apocalypse. With the living standards of the American people stagnating as tremendous riches accumulate at the top, this is the time that anti-capitalist politics can resonate with the larger public. I call for another political formation linked to the labor movement, like the Trade Union Education League (the Communist organization of the 1920s), and for a party outside of the two major parties.”
Couldn’t agree more. When asked to elaborate on his belief that the labor movement’s biggest problem is not declining numbers but instead declining power:
“The numbers are important, especially for workers who need organizations to be able to fight their battles [with employers]. But unions in the United States do not recognize that a militant minority can have a tremendous effect if it engages in direct action—as unions do in France, and as the Service Employees [International Union] (SEIU) has done with fast-food workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has at Walmart, in conducting elective one-day strikes in several cities.”
Defining his advocacy for a “post-political” labor movement:
“Post-political means that the union movement may endorse candidates or run its own, but essentially does not rely on electoral politics and public officials—that is, the state—to fulfill its goals. Instead, unions should rely on their own resources, on their own members and on their own imaginations to create conditions to make their members’ lives better, in the way that unions, especially in the early-to-mid-20th century, once established and ran very good, moderate-cost cooperative housing.
We’ve been relying for so long on politicians to solve problems that the union membership no longer really relies on its own power. The proper word is really “post-electoral” or “post-state,” and it once had a tremendous resonance among large numbers of workers.”
Yes, yes, a thousand yeses. Workers will only be able to exercise their true power when they realize what it is, and that realization can only come from the process of learning to rely on their own resources and membership. Sounds like something Marx might say. And relying on their imaginations?
I’m pumped up and swooning. Anything is possible. Read the full interview, here.
And you’d better believe I have every intention of reading his book, especially now that I realize that it’s already out and has been for almost a year.
Thoughts? What’s your imagination telling you?