Class war 3/3

Hope and Change

Unions use collective bargaining to improve levels of workplace justice for union members. Without unions, workers are reduced to a commodity that bosses can purchase as cheaply as they can possible.

Left to its own devices, capitalism will concentrate money and power in the hands of a few and wealth inequality grows ever greater. Unions were created to combat these tendencies to defend workers from their employers’ unrelenting pursuit of money and accumulate capital. While employers want to maximise profits, workers want enough to pay their household bills and lead a comfortable life. Hence, there is a power struggle between workers and employers over how much of the company’s profits will go to wages and benefits and how much to the owners.

 Given that the owners have far more money at their disposal than the workers, one might assume that they hold the reins of power in their hands and can dictate the outcome. But there is a limit to the power of money. Unions provide the potential for a far greater exercise of power than what their employers can command, even with far more money at their disposal. Workers organised unions on the principle of solidarity. While an individual worker is powerless in the face of an oppressive employer and while workers who are competing against one another are collectively powerless in relation to the employer, workers quickly learned that power shifts in their direction when they join together and engage in coordinated cooperative action. If one person tries to conduct a strike, that person is simply fired. When the entire workforce conducts a strike, they bring the business to a halt and become a force to contend with. Because of this need to stand together and work for a common goal, unions generate their own culture. When they struggle together, camaraderie and consciousness of solidarity develop among union members. They take care of one another and cover for each other, and form lifetime friendships in much the same way as soldiers who have endured battles together. After all, it is war – the class war. When workers make a stand to fight for a decent standard of living that includes a living wage, job security, health care and retirement with dignity, not just for themselves but for everyone, they inspire all working people and create the possibility of a massive social movement that has the potential to forge historic changes with an aim at creating a better world for everyone, where those who need help are given what they need, where people contribute according to their ability, and where no one advances at the expense of others. This noble sense of humanity encourages social movements where people end their isolation, become engaged with one another, grow knowledgeable of the issues, and derive strength from their numbers. The workers’ inherent power lies in their numbers, organisation, and ability to collectively assert themselves in the workplace and streets. Socialists recognise that the ‘strike’ is a weapon of the working class in their struggle with the capitalist class and stand with the working class in their necessary battles with capital. Working-class struggles with the capitalist class are fertile ground for the development of socialist consciousness, and for the potential of workers coming together in a Marxist socialist party to take political power. The working class can win just by sheer force of numbers.

The workers’ only real bargaining power is their ability to stop production. And to do this, workers must fight as a class. These two unavoidable facts gave birth to solidarity pickets, secondary strikes and boycotts that need to involve whole communities, whole countries, the whole world. The only real security is solidarity. If we fail to act collectively, we get picked off separately. Solidarity is not an ideal but a practical solution to an urgent need. Class solidarity means that no scabs are allowed to cross picket lines, and no outside company is allowed to use blacked products goods. When class solidarity is solid, workers are not so easily defeated. Revolutionary unionists recognise that:

1) There can be no common interest between bosses and workers, only war.
2) Workers will always lose if they play by the boss’s rules.
3) The power of workers lies in their ability to stop production. If they don’t use this power, they have nothing with which to bargain.
4) Workers can stop production only if they unite as a class, disregarding the boundaries of job description, workplace and industry.
5) Now that production is international, class solidarity must also be international.
6) In order to fight effectively, workers must be prepared if necessary to break the laws laid down by the State, such as on mass picketing.

The Socialist Party unhesitatingly declare that the struggle in the economic field must be encouraged. But our fellow workers must not be deluded into a false sense of confidence by occasional union victories. They have to strike and face lock-outs because they are wage slaves to the capitalist class. They cannot challenge the ownership of the means of life whilst the capitalist is in possession of political power. That power is given them by the workers themselves, who have been trained for centuries to think along capitalist lines, and then through the medium of the ballot box have, in consequence, elected the capitalists to power.

The wealth of the world is produced by the workers and it is, therefore, common sense to say that what the workers can produce for the capitalist we can produce for ourselves. But understanding and determination are essential to that task. Until the workers are prepared to give their consideration to this aspect of their problems, all the strikes in the world will not rid them of their troubles.

In any war, there are only two options: fight to win, or surrender. Both options produce casualties. There is no “safe” option for workers under attack in the class war, no place to hide in the hope of protecting one’s individual job, dignity and life. The Socialist Party does not advocate doing nothing and simply waiting for some spontaneous, successful strike to resuscitate a dying labour movement. Our most urgent task is to reconnect the labour movement with the genuine socialist tradition. We can and must lay the foundation for renewed struggle in the here and now. Developing class solidarity is a process. Socialists require to provide the information and the arguments we need to build a new labour movement from the ground up – one that fights to win. Any goal short of victory for all is an injury to workers everywhere. The battleground is the shop floor, not the bargaining table. The question of class power must lie at the core of any union strategy.

We can be certain that capital will continue to assault labour, and workers will continue to defend their rights. Whether workers prevail will depend on the extent to which they fight as a class, using their greatest power – the power to stop production. Workers must use their power as a class and fight as a class. When unions don’t support the class, they cannot count on the class to support them. And without mass support, unions cannot prevail against an employers’ offensive that pits groups of workers against one another. Unions are organisations of economic defence, not political struggles. Workers join unions to put more bread on the table. A union must represent all workers in the bargaining unit, regardless of their political views. And capitalism is very effective at convincing workers to adopt views that conflict with their class interests. Also, unions divide workers by workplace, job description, industry, nation, etc. That’s why there are so many unions. Only an independent political organisation of workers – a world socialist party –  can promote the interests of the working class as a whole. We must remember what it takes to win – fighting as a class.

The economic organisation based on socialist principles can only arise after the workers have been made socialists in far greater numbers than at present. The struggle on the economic field held under capitalism has to be, and is, carried on by socialists and non-socialists alike. The small number of workers who really understand the meaning of socialism is such that any attempt to form a separate socialist economic organisation at present would be practically futile, for the very nature of the workers’ economic struggle under capitalism would compel such an organisation to associate in a common cause with the non-socialist unions during strikes, lock-outs and all the other activities on the economic side of the class struggle.

The Socialist Party, therefore, while holding that the working class must be organised, both politically and economically, for the establishment of socialism, urges that the existing unions provide the medium through which the workers should continue their efforts to obtain the best conditions they can get from the master class in the sale of their labour-power. That the trade unions must inevitably accept the socialist theory as the logical outcome of their own existence, and as such will provide the basis of the economic organisation of the working class to manipulate the means and instruments of wealth production and distribution when the capitalist ruling class have first been dislodged from political power. Until we begin to trust in our own strength, nothing will change. The gains paid for with the lives of working men and women are now being reversed. We are back where we started.

 We must organise, resist and build movements. We must embrace socialism.