Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

San Diego Organizing Committee

United and Exposed: League of Struggle’s Unprincipled Conciliation with Local Bureaucrats

First Published: The Communist, Vol. III, No. 16, September 18, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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This article is a long overdue summation of a two line struggle on the trade union bureaucracy and its role during a strike in San Diego by the workers of Local 685 of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) against the Solar Division of International Harvester (July-November 1975).

The line of the San Diego Organizing Committee (SDOC) during the strike, and the line we defend in this article, was that the role of the International District, and Local leadership of the IAM was one of class collaboration and indirect opposition to the interests of the working class. In opposition to SDOC’s line other forces, who later (Feb. 1977) acknowledged themselves as part of a local collective called the “League of Struggle”, put forward that the local leadership was not “sold out” and during the strike did take progressive steps in support of the working class. The line of these forces was that to win the strike communists had to “unite” with this local leadership because it was not materially bought-off.

The national significance of this local struggle is that the League of Struggle (LS) takes leadership from the Workers Viewpoint Organization (WVO). The LS now defends their practice during the strike with the WVO slogan “Unite to Expose”. According to the LS, during the strike, they were uniting with the local leadership in order to expose them.

SDOC stands firmly opposed to this bankrupt line and slogan. Both locally through the LS and nationally through the WVO this line in practice has meant liquidating the struggle against opportunism and unprincipled unity with the opportunists.

It is only recently that the LS has publicly laid out their views on the Solar Strike and made this public exposure of the two-line struggle possible. In a polemic entitled “SDOC – A Thoroughly Opportunist Organization” and in their position on “The Trade Union Question” the LS has put forward their theoretical justification for unity with opportunism in the trade unions. It is the line on the trade union bureaucracy in their polemic against SDOC that we address in this article.

We welcome comrades’ views and criticisms of this article, and hope it will shed some light on communist work within the trade unions. In addition, we offer a more complete view of the trade unions in our pamphlet “A Communist View of Trade Unions” It is available for 25 cents by contacting SDOC, PO Box 1332, San Diego, Calif.


The course and outcome of the Solar Strike, the longest in San Diego history, is a familiar one in the recent history of the spontaneous workers’ movement. As a result of the deepening general crisis of imperialism the workers at Solar were offered a contract proposal that cut real wages and benefits, further undermined job security and health and safety, and in general seriously weakened their trade union organization. In resistance to this, on July 13, 1975 over 90% of Solar’s bargaining unit workers voted to strike for the first time in their history. But, the strike was to be undermined and eventually sabotaged from within.

In order to crush the resistance of the workers, Solar-International Harvester recruited hundreds of strike breakers from all across the country. In addition, the state made it clear from the beginning that it would protect these strikebreakers. The workers, on the other hand, were tactically paralyzed in this struggle by the ideological and political treachery of their union leadership at the International, District, and Local level. In the end the workers suffered a crushing and demoralizing defeat.

In this strike SDOC made its first effort at giving communist leadership to a mass struggle. Recognizing the need to be soundly guided by revolutionary Marxism-Leninism, we began our work by studying Lenin’s writings on the trade unions, current material by Albania’s Party of Labor and sum-ups on trade union work by the Workers Congress. In the same manner we will begin this polemic with a sum-up by the international proletariat on the two opposing lines in the world trade union movement.

On the one hand there is the opportunist, reformist and revisionist line which accepts the existence of the capitalist order and class collaboration and endeavors to alienate the trade union movement from the general political movement of the proletariat for national liberation and social emancipation, and to make it stand aloof from the solution of the major problems of the time, to turn it into a reformist social movement, confining its battle to that of securing immediate economic demands within the framework and legality of the bourgeois system, subjecting itself to the bourgeoisie and becoming an appendage of the capitalist order and an integral part of it.

On the other hand there is the anti-imperialist revolutionary working class line which seeks to make the trade union movement a center of resistance and an organization against capitalist exploitation, a lever for the ultimate liberation of the working class and a school of the class struggle of the proletariat, part of the general revolutionary front, as such, an important force in the struggle to wipe out the system of capitalist exploitation, to overthrow the bourgeoisie and establish socialism. (Kota, Two Opposing lines in the World Trade Union Movement, p.68).

This sum up is important because in any concrete situation, such as the Solar Strike, these two opposing lines, these two opposing class stands, will be reflected in the practice derived from these two lines. A correct evaluation of the local officials must ultimately be based on their practice.


The objectively treacherous role of the local officials during the strike is a matter of public record. We will summarize the most obvious manifestations of this role, then we will compare SDOC’s analysis on the local officials to that of the LS.

The role that the local officials were to play began to develop even before the strike began. In preparing the workers for the possibility of a strike, the local leadership made it clear to the rank and file that the strike was to be a passive act rather than an aggressive one of class struggle. The most obvious example of this conscious preparation for a passive strike was the pre-strike “deal” with the local police by the local union president that limited pickets to 4-7 per gate.

The local leadership continued to peddle this view after the strike began. At the strike vote meeting the only direction that they gave the workers was to go home and wait to be called.

Nevertheless, the response of the rank and file was to take up their picket line duties in a militant way in order to keep Solar shut down. But, when the company tried to stamp out this activity by threatening to obtain a court order that would further limit pickets to three per gate, the local leadership answered by making a “gentlemen’s agreement” to limit the pickets to three per gate.

Thus, instead of preparing the workers to fight off any injunction on the picket lines and in the courts, the union leadership chose to appease the company by imposing an injunction on itself! This class collaborationist policy exposed itself as the company soon went ahead and got its legal injunction anyway.

After the struggle entered its second month, Solar began in earnest its effort to break the strike. The company went all across the country to recruit hundreds of strikebreakers and rented large private buses to bring then safely across the thinly guarded picket lines. In response the local leadership put out the line that the strikebreakers were just a “front” by the company, and that the workers should continue to stay home, sit tight, and wait to be called. The local leadership continued to say this right up until the strike ended.

In addition the local leadership undermined the strike by refusing to respond in an active way to the personal needs of the rank and file. For example, the local leadership made only the most feeble efforts to raise financial support for the strikers. The strikers went almost two months without financial strike benefits, and then began receiving only the minimum of S40 a week from the International.

But, it was in their active opposition to all attempts by rank and file workers to wage an aggressive strike that the class stand of the local leaders was most clear. Rank and file union members that took up their picket line duties in a militant and aggressive way were pulled off the lines. And, if they held strike responsibilities, they were stripped of them.

Mass picketting, organized by the rank and file union members in defiance of the court order as a means to stop production was opposed and undermined in every way possible. Also, after much struggle with the local leadership, rank and file activists succeeded in getting a motion passed for weekly mass meetings that would involve the membership in the strike. But, the local officials used their control of the bureaucracy and union apparatus to openly block its implementation.

Another critical method by which local leaders set themselves against the interests of the rank and file was their refusal to build legal actions which would involve the mass of workers. For example, SDOC played a significant role in initiating and organizing the “Stop Union Busting” march through downtown San Diego. This was a demonstration of working class solidarity attended by over 700 workers from a number of different union locals in San Diego and community supporters. The local leadership first tried to block this activity from happening, then tried to subvert its political character and finally subjected the march to a red-baiting campaign and refused to attend in an effort to discourage participation by the rank and file.

Finally, in the last phase of the strike, the International union leadership and the company collaborated to develop a final offer by Solar. One of the conditions for this final offer was that the local leadership agree to a secret mail ballot before they were even allowed to see its content. The local leadership agreed to this condition. They did this knowing that by this time a great part of the rank and file was completely, demoralized and exhausted. They were demoralized and exhausted by almost five months of striking under leadership that had shown itself totally incapable of waging the struggle necessary to win. This final act of collaboration succeeded in ending the strike under vindictive and humiliating conditions. Nevertheless, 450 workers (over 1/3 of those who voted) displayed their unbreakable courage and determination by voting “NO” despite the fact victory was impossible under the present leadership.

One of the conditions for ending the strike was the firing of ten Solar workers for their militant activity. This vindictive act was also significant as a symbolic company threat to all future resistance by the workers. After the strike the local leadership refused to support any of the militant programs put forward by the rank and file to get back the jobs of the Solar 10.


The major part of this summary of the role of the local leadership is taken from the ̶Solar Strike Specials”, a series of agitation and propaganda leaflets and pamphlets distributed to the Solar workers during the strike by SDOC. The line of SDOC is that the leadership of IAM Local 685 through this practice proved itself consolidated behind the opportunist line of the world trade union movement. It was a major focus of the literature we distributed during the strike to expose how these local union officials were ideologically and politically united with the sold-out bureaucrats at the District and International levels of the IAM.

Both during and after the strike this line on the local officials has been attacked by the LS. According to the LS this line by SDOC is incorrect because it doesn’t acknowledge that there is a fundamental difference between local union officials and those at the District and International, i.e. local officials (according to the LS) are not materially bought off.

The international and district are part of the labor aristocracy, they are paid or bought with money, privilege, and power. The local leadership is not paid, thus the foundations for any sell-out by these forces is different...

The correct line to follow under these circumstances was therefore “unite to expose” that is, tactically unite with certain elements of the local leadership in order to facilitate the strike, isolate the high ranking hacks, and point out to the workers the vacillating nature of the local officials...Their (SDOC) line was to denounce any tactical unity with the local from the beginning. This was tactical suicide.” (Emphasis added by SDOC, from “SDOC – A Thoroughly Opportunist Organization”)

This criticism of SDOC’s line is nothing more than an unprincipled attempt at deception. In Solar Strike Special #3 (distributed after eight weeks of striking) SDOC summarized for the first time its criticisms of the local leadership and we evaluated them in this way:

Most of our leadership are politicians who make policy decisions that reflect the interests of the company and not the interests of the union members. This is not to say that this element of the leadership has been “bought off financially”. But their ideas and approach to the strike and to the working class movement as a whole is one of class collaboration. (emphasis added)

This was SDOC’s consistent line in the succeeding Strike Specials –showing both the distinction between the local leadership and the district and International, but even more importantly, the absolute similarity ideologically in their tactical approach to the strike.

In succeeding Strike Specials we more fully develop this line as we lay out the material bribery inherent in the privilege, power, and fat salaries of the labor aristocracy and upper echelon trade union bureaucracy. This type of material bribery obviously doesn’t exist at the local level. But, unlike the LS, we do not belittle the material bribery that does exist at the local level. This usually includes at least highest seniority rights, time off from work for union business, and access to “personal favors” from the company. In addition,(and even more important from the standpoint of bribery) often the only motivation for holding office is to move up the trade union bureaucracy.


The line of the LS does not fundamentally dispute SDOC’s summary of the objective role played by the local leadership during the strike. A year after the strike the LS lays out basically the same criticisms of the local officials in “The Truth #5” (an economist newsletter distributed to Solar workers by the LS).

Nevertheless, because the local officials are not materially bought-off (according to the LS) there exists a basis for tactical unity between communists and the local officials. In their polemic against SDOC the LS lays out concretely what this basis for tactical unity is, they say: “They did stand on the side of the workers at least some of the time (such as to call for strike, the key demands which were in the genuine interests of the proletariat) and they had much credibility, and following among the workers.”

This is nothing but a desperate clutching at straws. Besides never defining the “key demands” supposedly supported by the local TUBs [trade union bureaucrats – EROL], the LS must ignore the difference between “lip service” and real action in order to justify their collaboration with the local sell-outs. The key demand by the workers at Solar was the action needed to win the strike! Without support, in practice, for this demand, the “support” for the other key demands given verbally by the local TUBs was only a diversion to maintain their control over the strike.

In addition, the local leadership never led the call for a strike. The strike was an act of spontaneous resistance by the workers at Solar. For the LS the objective fact that the local leadership endorsed the strike is in itself an act in the interest of the workers. This is a metaphysical conclusion divorced from the concrete conditions of the Solar strike. And, the experience of the international communist movement exposes how incorrect this can be.

In an article from the Communist International (1933) “The Communist Parties of Capitalist Countries in the Struggle for the United Front” it is pointed out how TUB’s often agree to call for strikes when they are pushed by the spontaneous demands of the workers. But, they do so in order to stop the withdrawing of membership from their organizations, and not because they support the key demands that the workers strike for. In other words, “they agree to call strikes only in order to better betray the masses in the future.” (from the CI article) The practice of the local leadership during the Solar Strike shows that objectively the only purpose for their endorsement of the strike was to weaken it by diverting the spontaneous militancy of the workers away from class conscious leadership.

As to the “credibility” and the “following” of the local leadership we ask, “credibility on what basis, following among what workers?” Even the most reactionary bureaucrat has a following and credibility with some backward forces.

The point is that when you match the concrete practice of the local leadership during the strike to such things as agreeing to strike, verbally supporting the key demands, and credibility and following among some of the workers, the LS’s entire justification for its political collaboration in the sellout of the strike crumbles.

In essence the LS’ line belittles the struggle against opportunist leadership in the trade unions. It is not Marxism, but only the creative LS which asserts that the foundations for any sell-out by local officials will be different than they are for District and International officials who receive fat salaries. First, this line ignores the fact that local officials do receive privileges compared to the workers they are supposed to represent. And, even more importantly, this line exposes an opportunist reliance on vulgar materialism by the LS in order to theoretically justify their political unity with the local sellouts. They do this by raising material conditions (the absence of fat salaries at the local level) in order to obscure the opportunist ideology and political line, the tactics, with which the local leadership ran the strike.


The assertion by the LS that SDOC “denounced” tactical unity with the local officials underlies a second major difference between our two organizations–the correct method for winning the strike. In Strike Special #3, SDOC put forward the only complete identifiable tactical plan for winning the strike in opposition to the strike strategy being used by the bureaucrats.

1. STOP PRODUCTION AT SOLAR. We must at all costs stop the ability of Solar to increase its productivity. We must shut down production. We need massive demonstrations against the company and the scabs (strikebreakers) to hamper the ability of scabs to enter Solar and take our jobs.
We must fight all temporary restraining orders against our strike; we must fight in the courts, on the picket lines, and picket the police headquarters if necessary.
We must demand more up-to-date information concerning our contract and demand the type of union leadership that is militant enough to win this strike.
We must provide active militant support for those of our union members arrested (including demonstrations at the courthouse when they are on trial).
5. WORKING CLASS SOLIDARITY. We must seek out the support of our other union brothers and sisters in San Diego; we need financial support and their physical support on our picket lines.
With this tactical plan SDOC began to carry out in the Solar Strike its communist duty to put forward an independent communist line on every issue that confronts the proletariat. With this plan we began our agitation to guide the proletariat in the conduct of its political activity.


The LS “criticism” that SDOC denounced tactical unity reflects a metaphysical approach to unity and struggle. An approach that views unity and struggle as separate things. The correct Marxist viewpoint, however, is that unity and struggle are opposite aspects of a single entity. Opposite ends of a single line. SDOC’s “Plan of Action For the Strike” (which the advanced of Solar united with completely) was the correct basis for both unity and struggle on how the strike was to be carried out.

On the basis of this plan SDOC would have united with anyone including the trade union bureaucrats. But, as the LS correctly implies, during the strike it was mostly “all struggle” between SDOC’s proposed tactics and the local leaders who had control of the strike. However, as SDOC’s summary of their concrete role during the strike clearly shows, this is because the local leaders proved themselves ideologically and politically united with the opportunist line of the world trade union movement. There was no unity because the local leaders refused to carry out tactics, derived from the anti-imperialist line of the world trade union movement, which were necessary to win the strike.

For SDOC, tactical unity with the local TUB’S had to be based on a science. It had to be based on theory, the historical experience of the international proletariat, applied to the concrete conditions. Communists do this through their independent communist policy. During and after the strike SDOC carried out its independent policy mainly through the Solar Strike Special leaflets. Through this literature we put out propaganda on political economy, the state, imperialism, the trade union bureaucracy and labor aristocracy, and the central task of party-building. In addition, these leaflets included agitation on the economic and political struggles that evolved out of the strike. This included SDOC’s tactical plan to win the strike.

We challenge the LS to come forward with a tactical program for winning the strike that would be fundamentally different from SDOC’s. Instead of abstract criticisms that we denounce tactical unity, we ask, which of our proposed tactics should we have held back, which of these tactics should we have conceded, which of these tactics should we have not struggled over in order to achieve unity with the local leaders who were running the strike?


The essence of LS’s opportunism was their failure to put forward an independent communist line on the strike and to use this line as the basis for unity and struggle with the bureaucrats. Instead, for the LS unity and struggle with the local officials during the strike were obviously separate things – unity over here, applauding every time a local official uttered a curse at the company; and struggle over there, criticising the local leaders’ mistakes to your few advanced contacts or in organizationally unidentifiable literature. Unity on such a basis made it inevitable that the LS would end up tailing and politically supporting the opportunist line and tactics of the local leadership. For, without an independent communist line, unity with the bureaucrats had to be based as it was for the LS during the strike, on whatever the bureaucrats did that was most “progressive”.

The fact that today the LS must stoop to abstract criteria divorced from the concrete conditions of the strike, such as having credibility and a following, to justify their unity shows just how badly they have tailed. Objectively what the LS put forward (in opposition to SDOC’s tactical plan) is “Unite with the Bureaucrats to Win the Strike”. In the context of the Solar Strike, this was a bow to the sentiments of the most backward workers, a policy that could find support only among the average and backward, and it was straight up unity with opportunism.

The spontaneous day to day struggles of the working class are against the oppressive conditions of imperialism itself. As Lenin points out, the most dangerous right opportunists are those who “do not wish to understand that the fight against imperialism is a sham and a humbug unless it is inseparably bund up with the fight against opportunism”. (Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism p.153 FLP)


The significance of this local struggle for the entire movement is that it reflects the continuing predominance of economism, the chief means by which revisionism penetrates our ranks, and social democratic practices with respect to the question of the trade union bureaucracy. This question is critical because the struggle against opportunism must be the pivot of our tactics in the workers movement. And, the TUB’S along with the labor aristocracy constitute the main social basis for this opportunism.

Clearly, the root of the LS’s opportunism was their failure to rely on orthodox Marxism-Leninism as a guide to action. It was their failure to base their work on revolutionary theory applied to the concrete conditions – an independent communist policy. Instead for the LS it was the empty rhetoric, vacillating stands, or isolated militant acts by this or that bureaucrat, on this or that day, over this or that issue, rather than the international experience of the proletariat that was important in determining whether the local leaders were TUB’s. And such a method of work inevitably liquidates the communist principle of uniting and relying on the advanced in every situation. Instead the LS bowed to the sentiments of the backward and average workers in order to build a base and theoretically justify their work.

In general, for the LS the struggle against opportunism in Local 68 5 of the IAM during the Solar Strike was one thing, while the historical struggle against opportunism nationally and internationally is something else. This is part of what Lenin is criticising when he speaks of those who belittle the organizing, mobilizing, transforming role of revolutionary theory and bow to spontaneity.

Finally, the practical result of the LS’s line on tactical unity with the local leaders during the strike was to rally the rank and file to get these local trade union officials to correct their mistakes and move to the left. These are the tactics of the right opportunist forces in our movement.

These tactics and the political line guiding them stand in direct opposition to the general trade union line of the international proletariat – expose and isolate all opportunism and win the class conscious leadership of the trade unions. As such, in relation to our central task of party building, this polemic is an exposure not only of the economism of a local collective in San Diego but also the national organization they take leadership from, the Workers Viewpoint Organization. The political essence of WVO’s unite to expose line is capitulation to opportunism.

Such a petty-bourgeois opportunist line makes empty rhetoric of WVO’s claim to be the “Foundation of the Communist Party”. As communists struggle to build a new party, we must uphold orthodox Marxism-Leninism on every question and defeat all petty bourgeois tendencies in our midst.