Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Questions and Answers: Why We Work in Reactionary Trade Unions

First Published: The Call, Vol. 6, No. 38, October 3, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Dear Call,

Each issue of The Call shows how the union misleaders defuse and divert the revolutionary potential and consciousness of the rank and file within the labor movement.

We wonder why the Communist Party (M-L) doesn’t take the lead in forming an entirely new labor movement?

Fraternally, Afro-American Bureau Washington, D.C.

* * *

The CPML is opposed to the idea of abandoning the existing trade unions and instead of building new, independent or “pure” union organizations.

It is true as you say that the trade unions today are completely under the domination of reactionary misleaders who employ a powerful bureaucratic machine to suppress the rank and file. The Meanys, McBrides and Frasers are bought-and-paid-for agents of the bosses within the workers’ movement, whose job it is to preach narrow reforms while keeping the system of exploitation and wage-slavery intact.

But, on the other hand, there are nearly 20 million workers in U.S. trade unions, and these workers are concentrated in the most basic industries. Their struggles set the pace for the whole working class.

The importance of the trade unions lies in the fact that they are the most basic and accessible mass organizations of the working class. All workers, regardless of their level of political consciousness, can and do unite in unions to wage common struggles against the bosses.

Under class conscious rather than class-collaborationist leadership, unions could organize the 80 million unorganized workers and be an even more powerful force against the capitalists.

“It is the task of the Party,” states the Program of the CPML, “to win the broad masses of workers in the trade unions to socialist revolution and communist leadership.” We can’t do this standing on the sidelines of the workers’ existing organizations.

Our policy is to work within the unions and mobilize the masses to drive out the corrupt labor bureaucrats. We direct our main blow politically at these reformist and revisionist traitors, exposing them to the workers on the basis of their own experiences.

We recognize that this is a difficult and protracted struggle. But Lenin was clear on the necessity of it: “If you want to help ’the masses,’ and to win the sympathy, confidence and support of ’the masses,’ you must not fear difficulties... but must imperatively work wherever the masses are to be found.”

The sectarian desire to withdraw from the workers’ existing organizations and build “pure” unions has a long history in this country. In every case where this dual-unionist approach was used, it succeeded only in leaving the reactionary machine of the labor bureaucrats intact, and their domination over the working class unchallenged.

For further readings on this subject, see Lenin’s Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder and William Z. Foster’s critique of the early syndicalists in History of the CPUSA.