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International Socialism,October/November 1969


Kim Moody

The American Working Class in Transition


From International Socialism (1st series), No.40,October/November 1969, pp.10-24.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


For 20 years the American working-class has been silent, a sleeping giant lulled to sleep by its own victories and the ability of American capitalism to expand and provide a gradually rising standard of living. The working-class has had to struggle to realise these gains, but this struggle has been contained within the limits and rules established by the system. Furthermore, the struggles of the 1950s and early 1960s were essentially parochial in nature, limited to particular industries, shops or unions, virtually never taking on an overall class political character. Able to win real gains, the working-class became fragmented and local in outlook. This fragmentation of consciousness reinforced the political conservatism of the class and therefore, the willingness of some workers to turn to reactionary and racist solutions to their problems. The only institutions of working-class struggle in America, the trade unions, have followed and exacerbated this framentation by becoming bureaucratically ossified, politically reactionary, and institutionally integrated with the administration of industry. Once genuine if limited instruments of class struggle, the unions and their leaders have become parochial ‘interest groups’, not only incapable of inspiring their members, but often restricting struggle.

This conservatising process rested on the ability of American capitalism to provide discernable improvements in the living standards of the majority of the working-class. Since the mid-1960s, however, these conditions have been eroded and the system has been unable to raise real wages for the majority of workers or to prevent a drop in the living standards of black, Spanish-speaking and poor white workers. The mechanisms that have sustained the stability of the system, notably the permanent arms economy, have begun to backfire, even to the point of enhancing the contradictions they once served to suppress. The re-emergence of these contradictions, in somewhat new forms, has brought an accompanying growth in intensity of working-class struggle. Whereas, ten years ago, workers struggled to gain improvements in their living and working standards, today workers must struggle even more militantly just to hold the line. Furthermore, the interpenetration of industry and the state that was required by the arms economy and the subsequent statification of the economy tend to give a more national and political focus to what were previously viewed as local issues. The enemies of the working-class are more centralised and visible.

At the same time, the fragmentation of consciousness, the economic and racial stratification, and recent changes in the structure of the working-class have all combined to produce an extreme unevenness of consciousness. Lacking any readily adaptable institutions of struggle, this unevenness of consciousness poses serious problems for the growth of class-conscious struggle in response to the instability of the system. In discussing the direction of struggle, it would be misleading to simply discuss the class as a whole until we understand the roots and nature of the fragmentation, stratification, and differentiation within the class.

The Changing Structure of the American Working-Class

The working-class is composed of all those people who, divorced from the ownership or control of the means of production and forced to rely on the sale of their labour power (ability to work) for their livelihood, produce the great bulk of the total wealth of the nation. Numbering 60 million [1] or more in the active labour force, these workers and their families make up the vast majority of the population, perhaps 180 million people. This common condition

is defined by their subordinate relationship to the means of production, i.e., by their subordination to capital and its social personification, the capitalist class. As the definition of the class as a whole derives from its position in production, so the structure of the class is defined by the structure of industry. Since the technique, products and circulation mechanisms of the capitalist mode of production are always in flux, the structure of the working-class must always change accordingly. Both the perimeter and the internal lines of division of the working-class are always in a state of transition. [2] In the past 25 years, in particular, the structure of the American working-class has gone through important changes.

The best known of these changes is the growth of white-collar occupations in proportion to the traditional blue collar, industrial proletariat. The absolute size of the industrial proletariat has increased somewhat since 1950, but this is due largely to the growth of arms production in general and to the Vietnam War in particular: the arms economy as a whole employs about 10 per cent of the labour force. [3] As the figures in Table I show, the greatest increases in white-collar employment have been among professional and technical and clerical workers. Service jobs have grown as well, but not so rapidly as white-collar jobs.

Employment by Occupation, 1940-68 (in thousands)











White collar total





Prof. and tech.





Managers, officials















Blue collar total





Craft, foremen

























Driven by intensified international competition and a decrease in its share of world production – from 65 per cent after World War II to about 35 per cent today [5] – as well as by its need to accumulate capital, American capital has ‘sought to increase its production of surplus value by heightening the productivity of labour. Indeed, while employment in manufacturing rose only about 30 per cent from 1950 to 1968, the manufacturing output index (1957-59=100) rose 120 per cent in the same period. As a percent of total business expenditures on plant and equipment, the share spent on manufacturing rose from 36.4 per cent in 1950 to 41.5 per cent in 1968. [6]

Productivity in manufacturing rose faster than that for the overall economy. [7] This leap in productivity accounts for the relatively small increases in the size of the industrial proletariat and to a lesser degree for the increase in professional and technical workers. This latter increase, along with that of clerical workers, however, is only partially explained by the expansion of production technology.

Technological innovation, in fact, does not necessarily mean a dramatic or even notable ipcrease in skilled and professional workers. In industries such as auto, where even unskilled labour is expensive from a capitalist point of view, advances in technology may eliminate a significant number of unskilled workers. In general, however, the purpose of automation or other innovations is to lower labour costs. Thus as one management periodical put it, the reason for investing in technology is ‘to replace the most costly unit of labour (the skilled workers) with automated equipment, rather than the low cost labour (the unskilled worker)’. [8] Most of the serious studies of the actual effects of automation show that this is the case in practice. Such innovation reduces the entire labour force in relation to production without any absolute increase in technical or skilled personnel. Generally, skilled workers who retain their jobs find their job content diluted. [9] Such technical labour as is required does not compensate for the reduced cost of the rest of the labour force, and is not that much in any case. [10] The growth of professional and technical workers cannot be explained solely by the direct requirements of technology. Much of the increase in this sort of employment stems from broader strategic needs of capital, on the one hand, and the arms sector on the other.

The tendency of the rate of profit to fall, plus competition at home [11] and abroad, force capital not only to reduce labour costs at any given point but to plan ways of reducing the costs of the means of production themselves and eliminate frictions in the process of circulation. It is the planning of technological innovation, product distribution, and business practices which consumes much of the energy of scientists and engineers, as well as other professional workers. In 1966, 37.8 per cent of all scientists and engineers in industry worked on research and development, while 29.4 per cent worked in management, sales, service and other functions. [12] These same kind of functions are performed by many clerical workers and professional groups such as accountants, market research workers, advertising, etc.

Much of the growth in technical and professional employment represents a process of proletarianisation of previously independent or academic fields. Unlike the professionals of past decades, the post-war professional and technical worker sells his or her labour to an industrial capitalist, under conditions set by the capitalist. The growth of this phenomenon has been accompanied by an absolute and relative decline in the number of self-employed people: in non-agricultural work, from 6,070,000 in 1950 to 6,061,000 in 1965. [13] The degree of proletarianisation varies from occupation to occupation: it is greater for those who work directly on technology (e.g., computer programmers and technicians) than for those doing purely scientific work, nonetheless, the process of proletarianisation is moving ahead and the traditional middle-class is receding. Given the high salary level and growing annual increment rate in such occupations, however, it is not likely that this group will abandon its ‘middle-class’ consciousness for some time.

Most likely, it will take a good deal of motion within the industrial proletariat to stimulate a transition to identification with the working-class as a whole. The May 1968 events in France showed that professional and technical workers are capable of identifying with an active proletariat and of joining in the struggle for workers’ control. [14]

There is no evidence, however, to justify the notion advanced by some of the theorists of the ‘new working-class’, that these workers can play a leading role in the struggle of the class as a whole. Indeed, professional and technical workers have resisted numerous unionisation attempts by independent professional unions and by the IUE, UAW and AFTE. Union membership among organisable engineers, scientists and technicians is 2.5-3 per cent of potential, and membership is mostly among the less skilled technicians. This is largely the result of a continuing identification with ‘professionalism’. [15] The professional organisations such as the National Society of Professional Engineers will probably have predominant influence for some time to come.

Clerical workers have grown numerically at about the same rate as professional and technical workers. They compose more than 40 per cent of the non-managerial white-collar work force and have grown from 12.3 per cent of the total work force in 1950 to 16.5 per cent in 1968. [16] The overwhelming majority and nearly all of the new clerical workers since 1950 are women. [17] To a far greater degree than professional or technical workers, they are crowded into large ‘pools’, under supervision similar to that in production. Clerical work, because it is low paying and repetitive, does not represent the proletarianisation of formerly middle-class people so much as it is a channel for horizontal mobility within the working-class and even more, a second source of income for working-class families. In this sense it has served as a safety valve for working-class discontent. The possibilities of both a continuation of the rapid expansion of this sector and of significant wage increases are, however, limited by the potential automation. Automation is particularly applicable to clerical work and, as with production automation tends to drastically displace the less skilled jobs without offering much potential for skill upgrading among those displaced. [18] At the very least, there is likely to be a decline in the growth rate of clerical work.

The fastest-growing sector of the work force is state and local government – federal employment has not grown much since 1950. Nearly half of these state and local public workers are blue-collar workers [19] who perform the same tasks, under similar conditions, as their brothers in private industry. A fairly large portion of these blue-collar workers are union members, not only of the public employee unions but other industrial and craft unions as well (IBT, TWU, BSEIU, etc.). A large portion of the white-collar labour force is composed of clerical workers. Yet two-thirds of the increase from 1961 to 1968 in state and local employment was in public education. Although this includes custodial and clerical workers, most (about 2 to 1) were teachers. Professional salaries in government generally lag behind those in private industry and are often comparable to blue-collar wages in basic industry. In 1966, for example, the average teacher made 500 dollars a year less than the average steel worker and in 1965 20 per cent of all teachers ‘moonlighted’. [20]

In overall terms, these occupational trends show a general tendency toward economic and social down-grading, though with significant counter-tendencies. Those rapidly expanding job categories with a large numerical volume, notably clerical and service jobs, are generally low paying. On the other much of the expansion in professional and technical jobs reflects a social process toward the proletarianisation of previously middle-class, independent professions. Such upgrading as does occur is probably largely by the children of skilled workers who move into professional or government jobs – making room for the children of unskilled workers (white) to become skilled, to some extent. The continuing potential for upward mobility, however, is limited by the decrease in new investment required by more efficient technology. The annual growth rate of expenditure of research and development, for example, has fallen from about 12 per cent in the early 1950s to 5 per cent in 1967 – and even that rate has been sustained by increased government spending in the field, which is itself limited. [21] The overall tendency toward economic downgrading of the working-class as a whole shows up even more clearly in an industrial breakdown of employment, per cent change, and wages. From Table II it is easy to see that the fastest-growing areas of employment pay below the level of manufacturing, a level won by years of union struggle.

Work Force (excluding managers, supervisors, etc.)
by Industry, 1950 to 1968 (in thousands)





Av. wkly
earnings 4/68


























Financial, etc.




















As most of these expanding industries are poorly unionised and given the ossification of the unions today don’t show much hope of being unionised, there is no reason to expect them to show wage increases great enough to catch up with manufacturing. The only major exception to this is government employment and here a severe limit on continued rapid growth is closing in as the financial crisis of the cities deepens.

Consciousness and Potential of White-Collar Workers

The increase in the number and proportion of working-class jobs only indirectly or tangentially related to production itself has taken place over a period of 25 years. If the problem of a consciousness lag has always been at work as new sections of the population were proletarianised, it is an even greater problem with white-collar workers. Whereas, for example, the growth of mass production industry from the First World War to the late 1930s brought former craftsmen and farmers into essentially the same situation, the technological advances from 1945 to today have created scores of new, distinct situations on the periphery of mass industry. The previous section indicated this diversity: ranging from the highly technical to the most repetitive clerical work. Although the creation of these new jobs, or the expansion of old ones, has been accompanied and affected through an increased concentration in the work place for white-collar workers, it is by no means on the scale that took place in production. Furthermore, even though the process of proletarianisation may have meant the experience of the lessening of independent status for some this does not necessarily involve a drop in income of a change in life style, etc. The fact that many of these white-collar workers have been so much in demand has meant that they have been able to get salary increases at an increasing rate. This is true for virtually all professional and technical categories and even for clerks. [22] By and large this has been accomplished without unionisation or struggle. Even those increases, of course, are not sufficient to keep up with taxes and inflation, but the effects of this are somewhat mitigated by the high level of professional salaries, on the one hand, and by the fact that many clerical incomes are viewed as a family’s second income, on the other.

These facts, combined with the traditional social distance between white-collar and blue-collar workers, have contributed to the failure of white-collar workers to respond to their changing situation through collective action. White-collar unionism is as weak today as it was a decade ago. As a percentage of total union membership or of white-collar employment, union membership among white-collar workers has remained stable. It has not even grown significantly in numerical terms.

White-Collar Union Membership, 1956-66 (in thousands)


Total union


of total union

of white-collar











These gains that have been made were made mostly in government employment and that is numerically rather small. AFSCME, for example, has about 300,000 members, and of those only about a third are white-collar workers. The AFT has grown rapidly since the mid-1950s, but still has only about 125,000 members. [24] Strike activity among government workers is miniscule. In the most active year before 1965, workers on, strike as a percentage of all government workers was only 0.3 [25] per cent. In qualitative terms, government professional employees have conducted some very militant union struggles. In general, however, the hopes held by some a couple of years ago that the AFT and the independent welfare workers unions would spark a revival of militant unionism have collapsed. The AFT nationally has been content to rest on the liberal positions it developed in the early 1960s, while the situation has passed them by, and has even come to the, point of discussing merger with its old rival, the NEA. Virtually all of the independent welfare unions have been defeated and isolated. Most of them have merged with more conservative AFL-CIO unions, in some cases the same ones they split from in the first place. Perhaps even more significant, is the fact that in many areas and cities both the teachers and welfare workers’ unions have come into conflict with the black community. In all cases, the radical notion of forging an alliance with recipient or parent groups has faded from all but the rhetoric. In New York, the UFT has conducted a strike directed against the black community. The facile ability of various city governments to direct the struggles of certain professional workers against other sections of the working-class, particularly blacks, points to a peculiarity in the consciousness of many professional workers. (This is not to deny the importance of racism in such a situation.)

Many of the professional and semi-professional jobs in public employment are related to the oppressive functions of the state. This is certainly true of welfare workers, employment workers of various kinds and even of teachers. Although they are themselves subject to weighty authority from the top, these workers nonetheless have a good deal of power over those they are supposed to serve. This fact is two-edged. Often the oppressive nature of the work, as opposed to the official conception of the, job as a service, leads to rebellion among these workers. This was certainly the case in the early years of the welfare workers’ unions – around 1965. At the same time the objective nature of the work separates them from other sections of the working-class – not just blacks or poor people, but all workers who must deal with state bureaucracies such as Unemployment Insurance, Workman’s Compensation, etc. This fact is often reinforced by a rather arbitrary educational requirement in order to get the job. To a great degree, even with teachers, the requirement of a college degree is more a matter of enforcing social distance than of any skill requirement. All of this has had a distorting effect on consciousness beyond that of mere differences in income, etc.

It seems unlikely, given the state of the unions and the general consciousness of white-collar workers, that unionisation will play much of a role in the development of consciousness among white-collar workers – either as a cause or a reflection. Given the diversity and range of jobs and the lag in consciousness that still exists, it seems more likely that any major breakthrough among white-collar workers will only occur in the context of a general upheaval in industry. That is, the consciousness of white-collar workers is more likely to develop in response to overall social crisis than to the specific of the job around which unions are often built. This portends a leap in consciousness rather than its gradual development.

The conditions that might stimulate such a leap are in formation. Some of them are part of the process of proletarianisation already discussed – these are but the necessary conditions. Perhaps the sufficient conditions lie in the growing crisis of capitalism that is affecting the working-class as a whole. Taxes and inflation, endemic to the crisis, affect all sections of the working-class. Furthermore, although white-collar workers have been receiving continuous wage increases, they do not have any organised way of fighting to keep these increases at least to the level of inflation. It is significant that the wage increases of industrial workers under union contracts have been greater in recent years than those of professionals, [28] thus narrowing the differentials. As inflation continues, what is more, the second family income becomes more important. All of this must be seen in the context of advancing technology. Even assuming a fall in the rate of innovation, many clerical jobs will be displaced. Both the possibilities for second incomes and job prospects for young workers will narrow. The ‘macro-economic’ nature of these problems means a great tendency toward unification of class consciousness, that is, a reversal of the general fragmentation that has existed for the past 20 years and an overcoming of much that has separated white-collar from industrial workers. [27]

Industrial Workers and the Unions to the Mid-1960s

In the years from 1950 to 1968, the industrial working-class grew at a much slower rate than other sections of the working-class. The number of workers in manufacturing grew 28.8 per cent, those in transportation only 7.4 per cent, and the number of miners actually decreased by 32.2 per cent (see Table II). This, of course, was the result of technology and increased productivity. If the number of manufacturing workers grew by only 28.8 per cent, the output of manufacturing grew by 91 per cent. [28] The continuing advance of productivity allowed industrial workers, indeed all workers, to make significant wage gains. From 1950 58.32 to 107.53 dollars, an increase of 84 per cent, while to 1965 average weekly earnings in manufacturing increased the consumer price index rose by only 31 per cent for the same period. [29] This increased standard of living meant that workers could well afford to let the union leaders conduct union affairs as they saw fit. At the same time, it meant that the union leaders had to give capital a free hand in introducing new technology or simply sweating higher production rates out of the workers. Eventually this contradiction brought the union leaders in conflict with the rank and file. Nonetheless, the long-term of expansion of living standards created considerable apathy among industrial workers, and what is more important, the separation of political consciousness from industrial consciousness.

This expansion in living standards was not won without struggles. With the end of the no-strike pledge in 1945, strikes began to break out throughout industry. This strike wave reached its height in 1946 when nearly 5 million strikers cost industry an unprecedented 116 million man-hours. This high figure was due primarily to the 113-day auto strike of 1946. This strike was the first, and the last, to demand a large wage increase, 19.5 cents an hour, with no price increase by the auto manufacturers. The steel workers, after a 30-day strike, settled before auto, however, and undermined its price control demands. In the end, auto and all other major industries settled for 18.5 cents, with the understanding that the corporations had the right to off-set wage increases with price increases. The settlements of 1946 were important in that they firmly established the practice of ‘pattern’ bargaining, whereby other industries follow auto or steel in the terms of their agreements, and the practice of companies raising prices after a wage increase. [30] The strikes of 1946 had been over wages and had re-established the power of the unions after the restrictions of the war. The period from 1947 to the mid-1950s continued the ‘pattern’ set in 1946, but added a new dimension to the practices of industrial unionism.

In the first place the strikes up to 1955 were almost universally official union actions, conducted within the limits of the law. At this time, the old CIO leaders, Lewis and Murray, and the younger leaders, such as Reuther and Carey, were willing to fight fairly aggressively for certain types of gains. In fact, strike activity rose during the Korean War up to 1953 [31] and in February 1951, the CIO men actually bolted from Truman’s Wage Stabilisation Board, although they returned rather meekly in April. [32] What is most significant about the period up to 1955, however, is what these union leaders were bargaining for. Whereas in the 1930s the union movement had turned to the government to gain security for their members, in the period after 1946 the unions increasingly tried to win this sort of protection through the union contract. The leading demands of the Mine Workers, Auto Workers, Steel Workers and other industrial unions were for welfare and pension funds, health and accident benefits, cost of living clauses, and finally in 1955 for Supplementary Unemployment Benefits (won first in auto and then in steel). To a great degree these demands were an attempt to off-set some of the effects of automation without trying to control it. [33] At the same time, the attempt to win social security through the union contract represented a retreat from politics as a means of social struggle. Labour, of course, was politically active during this period, but virtually all of labour’s big political drives up to 1960 were defensive actions concerned with staving off openly anti-labour legislation: first Taft-Hartley, then state right to work laws in the mid-1950s and finally Landrum-Griffin in 1958-59 (the Labour-Management Relations Act). Furthermore, as the Democrats, who were out of power, were willing to fight most of the extreme abuses of these laws, very little initiative or independence was required of labour. Thus the struggles which won the working-class the gains of the 1950s were conceived of and led by the labour leadership without going beyond legal or ‘acceptable’ practices and without mass initiative by the workers themselves. The relative success in bargaining, the de-politicalisation of the unions and, above all, the fading of mass initiative by the workers in this period allowed certain old trends to reassert themselves and create a new situation for the workers and their unions.

The birth of the CIO was made possible by a massive upheaval in the new mass production industries that began in the early 1930s. The CIO and its various unions and organising committees did little more than finance and coordinate this rebellion. [34] To a certain degree, the CIO as an organisation, but not the workers’ rebellion, was born of a political deal: first Section 7A of NRA and then the Wagner Act, in return for which the CIO leadership offered its political support to Roosevelt and the Democratic Party. Within the ranks the fight for a labour party was not defeated totally until the late 1940s. But the integration of the labour leaders in the Democratic Party grew from an ‘alliance’ with the Democrats to a permanent institutional arrangement that has lasted to the present. This fact, by itself, has contributed to the continual rightward movement of the union leadership. Equally important, however, are the consequences of the initial victories won by this political alliance.

Labour legislation has proved itself a two-edged sword. While the Wagner Act gave the unions the legal right to organise, it also prescribed the manner in which labour is expected to behave. The incredible web of labour legislation that has grown up in the 30 years since the Wagner Act has expanded, without an expansion of labour’s ‘rights’. From a guarantee of basic rights, labour legislation has turned into a means of state reinforcement for industrial stability and corporation planning. It is well known, for example, that the primary criteria for NLRB decisions regarding representation, certification and bargaining units are based on considerations of industrial stability. [35] In spite of the pretentions of Landrum-Griffin, labour legislation and NLRB practice have tended to reinforce the structural bureaucratisation of the unions by placing real bargaining power in the hands of the central union leadership. This, of course, is only a reflection of the needs and trends of industry itself, but it is important in that it adds the power of the state to the process. Thus, even in the absence of formal state planning or wage control bodies, collective bargaining in America has taken on many of the characteristics of statified, tri-partite bargaining.

The labour contract itself is an institutional part of this corporate planning. From capital’s point of view, the long-term labour contract is an invaluable aid in projecting labour costs, the most unpredictable of all costs. [36] For the labour bureaucrat, the long-term contract simplifies administration of the union apparatus. Thus, by mutual agreement, labour contracts have steadily grown in length. Whereas in the 1940s most industrial contracts were of one year’s duration, now most of them are three years in length, and some even four or five years. [37] Obviously, in a period of rapid technical change (and later, inflation) such long-term contracts tend to work in favour of the corporation rather than the worker, particularly since the weight of court and NLRB decisions dictate against bargaining in areas regarded as management’s ‘prerogative’, such as the introduction of technology or other changes in the iwork process. [38] The labour contract, even where it does offer real protection for the worker, has not only proscribed the scope and timing of the class struggle, to a certain degree at least, but has forced the union apparatus to become an instrument of administration over the workers, as well as one of struggle. Thus, virtually all levels of union leadership, from the international to the shop steward or committeemen, are cast in the role of peacekeeper. Rebellion against this role, which does occur, usually takes on the character of a struggle against the international union leadership as well as management – and indirectly the state. As this institutional set-up is to the convenience of the international bureaucracy, the top level of union leadership has continuously enforced the contract and willingly bargained even longer ones. The process of enforcing long-term, nation-wide contracts, is itself a source of the structural bureaucratisation of the industrial unions. To a certain degree the increased power of the international leadership grew out of the need to meet industry on its own terms, ie, on the basis of concentrated, centralised national power. The nearly total divorce of the international leadership from the control of the membership, however, lay in the structural changes that took place during the period of low membership participation from 1950 to 1955. These changes include the lengthening of the period between international conventions, increases in appointed positions (particularly in those unions with a regional structure), the introduction of more difficult criteria for holding international office, and the growth of power of the staff and top leaders over the financial resources of the union. By the middle of the 1950s it was virtually impossible for anything less than a massive upheaval to displace the international leadership. Given this bureaucratic structure, the national contract became a source of power in itself, in that the international leadership had the power to decide which issues to push and which groups to placate. The skilled tactical use of the contract has, in fact, been a means of fragmenting rank-and-file rebellion by making concessions to one or another group of workers – old, young, skilled, production line, etc., and playing them off against one another.

The general strategy of the industrial union bureaucracy since the early 1950s has been to emphasise wages and benefits increases (with growing emphasis on benefits) and ignore working conditions. This has been perfectly acceptable to capital since it has meant that they could increase productivity, ahead of wage increases, without interference from the unions. The United Mine Workers, under John L Lewis, had capitulated to automation in the 1940s, which forced tens of thousands out of the union and generally caused a disastrous cutback in working conditions. [39] Reuther and the UAW generally allowed automation without a fight, and more particularly, in 1955, allowed Chrysler and Ford to lower their work standards to the level of GM, lowest in the industry. [40] Following auto, other industries enforced speed-up and the deterioration of working conditions with the co-operation of the union. This tendency reached its formal stage in the early 1960s with the ILWU-PMA ‘mechanisation agreement’, the introduction of oxygen furnaces in steel, and the formation of joint management-labour committees to discuss (expedite) technical innovation. Even before this, however, the deterioration of working conditions in industry was general. This strategy of basing the national contract on wages and benefits and neglecting, or contributing to the worsening of working conditions, determined much of the rank-and-file revolt that finally broke out from 1955 on.

The ability of the unions to win increases in real wages, up to 1965, through the contract, while allowing working conditions to get worse, meant that much of the attention of rank-and-file militants turned from the national contract, per se, to the local shop, where the conditions were felt. The rebellion in the UAW, for instance, has almost always taken the form of wildcats in opposition to the contracts’ failure to resolve working conditions. This was the case in 1955, 1958 and 1961. In 1964, Reuther made the wildcats official, but still did nothing about the conditions. In 1967 he actually sanctioned local strikes before the fact. The strikes took place and the longest of them did not return to work until nearly seven months after the national contract was signed. Nonetheless, no solid gains in working conditions were made. [41] Similar, though less dramatic and consistent developments have taken place in other major industries. In the electrical industry workers have resisted the imposition of ‘measured day work’, a system for speeding up production by docking workers who don’t produce a certain amount each day. This struggle was important in the ousting of James B Carey in 1964, the big GE strike of 1967, and reports by GE management of a growth in ‘interim plant strikes’. [42] In general, there has been a growing trend since the mid-1950s for workers to reject the national contract as a result of its failure to deal with working conditions. In 1967 the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service reported that 14 per cent of all the contracts they dealt with were rejected at least once by union members. [43] In fact, on the basis of this growing division between the workers and the union bureaucracy, some bourgeois econometricians have gone so far as to construct a ‘model’ for bargaining based on three parties, instead of the traditional two, the third party being the union rank and file. [44] The outstanding characteristic of the growth of this rank-and-file rebellion, however, is its primarily local nature.

There have been attempts to build national rank-and-file rebellions or organisations in various industries. These national movements, however, differ sharply from past intra-union struggles in that they have been universally apolitical. In general they have been concerned with single issues or with reforming the bureaucratised structure of the union. There is no doubt that the underlying causes of these rebellions have been economic or working conditions. What is significant, however, is the fact that these organisations did not express their discontent in political or even economic terms. This was a sharp departure from the old factional and caucus fights in the CIO, which were highly political. Whereas in the 1930s and 1940s caucuses were organised around the idea of a labour party, for or against a no-strike pledge to the government, or at least around the national bargaining programme of the union, in the 1950s and early 1960s, caucuses emphasised union democracy, virtually as an end in itself, dues, or the personalities of union leaders. The first, and one of the largest of the national rank-and-file rebellions was the Dues Protest Committee in the Steel Workers’ Union. Initiated around 1955 by local leaders in the Pitlsburg area, the DPC candidate made a strong showing against McDonald in 1956. Although it was smashed by 1958, the DPC undoubtedly contributed to the willingness of McDonald to conduct the long strike of 1959. The concerns of the DPC went beyond opposition to dues increases, but, nonetheless, as a movement it failed to develop a real programme. [45] More recently, among the skilled workers in auto, the Dollar an Hour Now movement built its short life on the single issue of a dollar an hour increase for skilled trades workers. Interestingly, its rival, the International Society of Skilled Trades, is one of the few large workers’ movements to take on a political cast, and it was right wing. [46] More typical of the organised revolts of the early 1960s were the various reform caucuses in unions such as the Painters’, the National Maritime Union, the Paper Workers. [47] These caucuses, along with scores of similar caucuses on a more local level, have all centred their attacks on issues such as corruption or lack of democracy rather than drawing political conclusions. In most cases, they have even failed to build a solid mass following among the workers in their industries. This is not to say that these struggles were not important or that they did not raise important issues. In all cases, these rank-and-file movements have represented the workers’ drive to gain control over their jobs and lives. Often the struggle has led these groups to go beyond the original, narrow concerns around which they were organised. Nevertheless, they have seldom raised issues beyond the limits of their own union, and never put forward political programmes for struggle. This kind of apolitical consciousness is partly a result of labour’s withdrawal from politics, as a positive expression of struggle, and partly a result of the way the ruling-class defined issues during the 1950s. The big issues of the era, after all, were the Cold War, contributed to by the CIO leaders when they expelled 11 unions for ‘Communist domination’ in the early 1950s, the prosperity, and particularly as regards the unions, corruption and gangsterism in the unions. Direct government intervention in strikes was rare under Eisenhower and really only began-in 1962 when Kennedy sent Goldberg to make sure the steel workers didn’t repeat the strike of 19:>9. At that time, however, the steelworkers were not about to go for another long strike and the intervention went unnoticed. [48] Consistent government intervention did not begin until around 1965 – in steel and later in the 1966 Airlines Mechanics strike [49] – and then was rather selective. Johnson, for political reasons no doubt, kept his hands off the auto negotiations in 1964 and 1967. A breakthrough in the fragmented, apolitical consciousness of most industrial workers will take more than intermittant government intervention. Developments since 1965-66, however, point to the formation of conditions that may spark such a breakthrough.

The Attack on Working-Class Living Standards

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics periodically calculates family budgets for a minimum and moderate standard of living for urban wage and salary earners. For 1967, the BLS calculated the ‘lower’ budget for a family of four (US average) at $5,915 and the ‘moderate’ budget at $9,076. These average figures are slightly higher for most northern cities, except Detroit and Cleveland, and slightly lower in southern cities. [50] For the same year, assuming no unemployment, the average earnings of non-supervisory workers were $5,295, not even at the minimum level. The manufacturing worker came closer with $5,875, but the average wholesale and retail worker missed the mark entirely with $4,271. [51]

Of course, not all male workers have families of four and within families of that size a fair number of women workers provide a second income. Even at that, a family of four with two working memebers is, at best, likely to have a total income around the ‘moderate’ budget level – particularly since women workers invariably receive lower than average wages. Even within the static picture drawn here, however, the reality is still grimmer. The wage figures are before taxes, the budget figures are after taxes. Since taxes run about 25 per cent of incomes in this range, most workers make less than the ‘modest’ budget and many less than the ‘lower’ budget. Thus even under the best of circumstances, a static situation in which inflation is not operative, the living standards of the working-class are hardly luxurious. Within the working-class, of course, there is a broad range of wage and salary levels. A Department of Labour survey of professional, technical and clerical salaries showed that in 1965 the majority of engineers made from $9,000 to $15,000, most draughtsmen from $6,000 to $8,000, most chemists from $7,600 to $15,000. At the same time most clerical workers, key-punch operators, stenographers, typists, etc. made around $4,000 [52] (a fact which indicates the enormous disparity between male and female salaries, clerical jobs being ‘women’ jobs and paying about $1,800 below the average). In fact, the statistics already presented in Table II indicate that a great many more workers receive wages around or less than the ‘lower’ budget figure of $5,915, than near the ‘modest’ level.

What distinguishes the period from 1965 to the present, however, is not so much the level of income as the dynamic which threaten even at that level. Since 1965 there has been a spiralling increase in consumer prices as a result of the Vietnam War and the inherent contradictions of the arms economy. From 1960 to 1965, consumer prices rose 6.5 per cent, while wages rose 17.7 per cent. Thus, there was still a significant, if not breathtaking increase in real wages. From 1965 to 1968, however, prices rose by 10 per cent while wages rose by 14.3 per cent, only slight increase in real wages. [53] Even this slight increase, however, has been wiped out by growing taxes – federal, state and local. One of the by-products of arms spending is an increase of state and local taxes. To be sure, federal taxes have risen somewhat (as with the 10 per cent surcharge, initiated by Johnson in 1968 and continued by Nixon in 1969), but the bulk of tax increases have occurred on the state and local level. In the past three or four years many state and most urban areas have instituted income, employment and sales taxes, all of which are taxes on the working-class. These taxes have supplemented or even surpassed the traditional property taxes. A recent study by the Teamsters in New York showed that these tax increases, along with inflation, virtually wiped out all the gains made by workers in New York City from 1965 to 1968. [54]

The rate of wage and salary increases has risen in response to this situation – largely as a result of intensified struggle. The increase for union workers covered by major contracts (those covering more than 1,000 workers), was 6 per cent in 1968, as compared to 5.2 per cent in 1967. [55] Similarly, professional, technical and clerical salary increases amounted to 5.5-7 per cent in 1968 and 3.5-4 per cent in 1967. [56] Even this increased rate of increase, however, has not produced an expanding living standard. Furthermore, there have been some setbacks in recent union contracts. For one thing, the cost-of-living escalator clauses won by some of the big industrial unions in the early 1950s have been abandoned or watered down. The ‘mean increase’ of escalator clauses has dropped since the late 1950s, from 6.4 cents an hour in 1958 to 4.9 cents in 1968. It was even lower in the early 1960s, but now that inflation is rampant, it has not even risen to the level of the 1950s. The steelworkers and railway unions dropped their cost of living clauses altogether between 1960 and 1962. By 1968, only one out of four workers was covered by any sort of cost of living clause. [57]

What is more, the increase structure of most union contracts poses a real problem for workers. Under the long-term contract, the bulk of the three-year wage increase occurs in the first year with progressively lower increases for the next two years. [58] This means that the union worker is powerless to combat inflation and tax increases in the last two years of the contract. At present, over 6 million workers out of 9.3 million covered by major contracts, are tied to such ‘deferred’ increases until 1970 or 1971. [59] Obviously, non-union workers are in an even more precarious position since they have no way of guaranteeing any sort of increase. The stagnation of income is only one of the effects of the permanent arms economy. As a result of scarce federal funds, along with the entire set of priorities inherent in capitalism America’s urban areas have become increasingly unliveable. Basic city services such as transit and sanitation have declined. In New York City, for example, a group of rank-and-file transit workers in 1967 documented the decline in subway services since the 1950s. [60] Also in New York City, the President of the Sanitationmen’s Union showed, before the city council, how sanitation services had declined by 1967. [61] This decline in standard services is typical of the whole country. More in the public eye, however, is the growing threat to health and life posed by air and water pollution. There is hardly an urban area in which these problems have not reached the danger point. The price of housing increased by 10 per cent from 1965 to 1968 as compared to about 5 per cent from 1960 to 1965 [62] – in fact, there has been a general housing crisis in most urban areas.

The growth of slums and ‘urban blight’ in the past 20 years is well known. The entire decay of the cities and surrounding areas has become so blatant that it is now a central focus of liberal rhetoric. This decay has hit black and Spanish-speaking workers the hardest, but it has been a source in the decline of the living standards of all workers. No one who lives in an urban area, except the rich, has been able to escape the degrading effects of capitalist decay. Blacks and other third-world workers, however, have been forced to accept the burden of this decay to a point that has become intolerable. The most recent ‘solution’ to urban problems, pushing workers and poor people out of the inner city and urban renewing it for the middle- and upper-classes, has only intensified overcrowding and slums. The centre of most cities is filled with glittering commercial buildings while the slums become more concentrated and even the old, stable ‘ethnic’ neighbourhoods are dragged into the vortex of decay.

This total attack on the living standards of the working-class is national in scope and increasingly political in nature. Unlike the problems of the 1950s which are still operative, those that have emerged in the second half of the 1960s affect all sections of the working-class – even if in varying degrees. Furthermore, the rooting of the current instability in the permanent arms economy tends to expose the interpenetration of the state and the corporations, and to destroy the myth of government as an independent force. In 1967, Professor Galbraith, a good friend of capitalism, observed that

‘no sharp line separates government from the private firm ... Each organisation is important to the other; members are intermingled in daily work; each organisation come to accept the other’s goals; each adopts the goals of the other as its own. Each organisation, accordingly, is an extension of the other.’ [63]

The traditional status of the American politician as a corrupt, but supposedly independent ‘professional’, which served to disguise the class nature of the state, has faded and his role as corporate flunkie become more visible. The state, the national economy and their interrelationship are part of the attack on living standards. These facts not only make the current crisis a national, class crisis, but tend to put the old issues associated with working conditions into their true, class context. Thus for the first time in years the possibility of a new level of class consciousness and activity has emerged. The objective basis for overcoming the fragmentation of class consciousness is being rapidly established by the system itself.

Black Workers and Racism

No single fact of American social history has plagued and distorted the consciousness of the working-class as much as racism. Though racism is probably as old as western (class) civilisation, its virulent American form is rooted, above all, in the role forced on black labour by an almost exclusively white ruling-class. Brought to North America as slaves, ie, as the permanent private property of whites, black people were institutionally locked into the lowest section of the labour force even before there was anything like a national economy. As ‘private property’, black workers were necessarily viewed as inferior by whites from the beginning. While the scope of this paper precludes a full analysis of the relationship between the economic position of blacks and the development of racism, it is clear that racism is more than a set of attitudes. It is above all an institutional set-up dating from the earliest moment of American history. It is on the basis of these institutions that prejudice has rested and grown. The abolition of slavery merely changed the specific institutional form, not the basic relationship.

As competitors with white labour, black workers were forced into the lowest-paying jobs and tied to the poverty of southern agriculture in the years from the end of the Civil War to the outbreak of World War I. The role of white labour unions, particularly the AFL, in accomplishing this end is well known and has been thoroughly documented. [64] With the growth of migration from the rural south during and after World War I, black workers began to enter industry, but only in the lowest jobs. Although many companies simply refused to hire black people at all, others, like Ford, made it a policy to fill their unskilled jobs with blacks. [65] The pattern of filling unskilled industrial and service jobs (usually in times of labour shortage) with blacks from the south was repeated during the Second World War, establishing the black labour force at the bottom of northern industry. When labour shortages become surpluses, blacks are dumped en masse. The 2 to 1 ratio of black to white unemployment has remained in force since the end of the First World War. The decline of southern agriculture following the Second World War produced the last great migration to northern industrial centres. The fact that there was no real labour shortage during the 1950s – there was rather growing unemployment – meant the establishment of a virtually permanent reserve army of black labour in the slums of industrial cities. [66] In general, the trade union movement has only added to the institutionalisation of this position at the bottom of the working-class (though not always as a matter of conscious policy). As mentioned, the AFL craft unions helped, consciously, to drive blacks out of skilled jobs – a practice still in force.

The CIO did contribute to certain advances for black workers just before and during the Second World War but with its ossification and its integration into the administration of industry through the contract, even the industrial unions have tended to keep black workers at the bottom of the job scale, largely through seniority provisions. It is significant, however, that the basis of the only period of advance for black workers was laid by a general upheaval of the working-class and the growing militancy of blacks for their own demands – A. Phillip Randolph’s threatened march on Washington in 1940 to win a strong FEPC Act. Prejudice did not disappear during the great strike movements of the late 1930s, but the edges of some of the institutional barriers to black workers were eroded for a few years. [67] Nonetheless, since the end of the Second World War. the position of blacks as the lowest paid and least skilled and as a permanent reserve army of labour has been firmly re-established.

By the 1960s, 70 per cent of all employed black people were in unskilled and semi-skilled blue-collar and service jobs. [68] In 1965, 67 per cent of all black men were operatives, labourers or service workers; and 72 per cent of black women were operatives or service workers, with another 13 per cent in clerical jobs. [69] All of those jobs are among the lowest paying. This has meant that black workers generally earn only slightly more than half as much as white workers. The median income of ‘non-whites’ has been a fairly stable 55 per cent of that of whites since the mid-1950s. Even this abysmal figure, however, represents a decline from 1950, when it was 60 per cent. [70] Thus even such gains as were made during the heydays of the CIO were mostly wiped out. The general 2 to 1 ratio of black to white unemployment (much higher for youth), the concentration of black women on welfare in urban areas, and even the decaying slums in which many black workers are forced to live derive from the position of blacks at the bottom of the working-class, [71] and from the fact that in general there is no possibility of escape from this position.

Both the special oppression of black people and the tenacity of white racism flow from this 100-year-old set-up, itself based on 300 years of slavery. For blacks this has meant that no matter how prosperous the period, they could expect very little advance in living standards. On the other hand, when prosperity fades or collapses, black workers feel the impact with at least twice the force felt by whites. At the same time, the racist attitudes of white workers has its base in this same 2 to 1 ratio that runs throughout black-white comparisons. The white worker earns roughly twice as much as his black counterpart and experiences half the incidence of unemployment. To a certain degree, the white worker’s relatively better position is based on the special oppression of blacks. Given a certain amount of variable capital (wages) for the economy as a whole, the capitalist class can and does grant a relatively larger share to whites (particularly those who fight for wage increases through a union) at the expense of blacks. The attitudes of the white workers have little to do with this, since when they strike for higher wages they are not aware of where the money comes from. It is rather a mechanism based on the structural position of blacks vis à vis whites. At the same time, this fact provides the capitalists with a unique strategic tool. For even while allowing a relatively larger portion of wages to white workers, he can keep the total wage bill down by dividing and emasculating the struggle of the class as a whole.

The institutionalised differential between black and white workers is the material source and sustenance of racism. The elimination of racism in the working-class, therefore, is not simply a matter of destroying attitudes through moral persuasion. [72] It must involve the destruction of their institutional basis. At the same time, however, the perception of the black-white differential as a matter of privilege is based on something of an optical illusion inherent in the institution and the fragmentation of class consciousness. The institution of special oppression is based on capital’s attempts to lower the total wage bill of the working-class – in the firm and in the economy as a whole. As we have seen, average wages tend to be around the subsistence (which does not mean starvation) level. In general, then, labour is paid at its value, in the Marxist sense. Black labour, however, is paid below its value, nearly 50 per cent below. For the most part, therefore, it is not the white workers who gain from the oppression of blacks, but white capitalists. The oppression is racist, it is institutional, but it is structured so that the bulk of privilege accrue to those whites who control the means of production and surplus value. [73]

The origins and the fundamental sustaining institutions of racism, relevant to today, lie in capitalist production, but this is not the end of the problem. As in other areas of social life, the racist institutions created in the structure of production throw up scores of ancilliary institutions. Over the decades these institutions grow and expand and take on a life of their own. Thus racism and racist institutions reach into every aspect of American society. Furthermore, many racist institutions no longer bear any necessary relationship to their original purpose of function. Legislative segregation in the south, for example, which was born as a means of diverting populism and a militant labour force, [74] is no longer needed to sustain racism as the north demonstrates. In fact, the more sophisticated sections of southern business joined with the black middle-class in the early 1960s to fight segregation, though not racism, in cities such as Atlanta. [75] Many more racist institutions, however, continue to function at full force and to affect all sections of society, including the working-class. The craft unions, which continue to exclude blacks, for example, do maintain a privileged position within the working-class by artificially restricting the number of skilled workers. Even within the industrial unions, seniority tends to act as a way of granting promotional privileges to white (and older) workers. Obviously, institutions of this sort must be opposed and destroyed. In general, racist institutions affect all classes and strata of black people. It is this fact that gives the struggle of black people a national (and nationalist) character. In this context, it is not at all surprising that the first section of the black community to rebel in our epoch was the most upwardly mobile strata, the black middle-class. Their rebellion was against precisely those institutions that had become peripheral to production and yet obstructed the fulfillment of a real middle-class life style. Because racism affects all groups of black people, including workers, all blacks could identify with the middle-class Civil Rights movement in the early 1960s, even if they didn’t participate in it.

It was in the wake of the growing movement of black people that black workers began to organise themselves as blacks. The first significant movement since the Second World War was the Negro American Labour Council, formed in late 1959. Unlike the Civil Rights organisations of the time, the NALC was a black organisation. It was limited, however, by the fact that throughout its life it was dominated by union officials and staffers. Nonetheless, the NALC did have the effect of raising the awareness of black workers to the level of organised struggle. In the UAW, the Trade Union Leadership Council, an NALC affiliate, grew to nearly 8,000 members and was actually able to defeat Reuther’s candidate in the Democratic primary in 1962. Up to 1965, A. Phillip Randolph, NALC leader, engaged George Meany in a fight which brought the existence of racism in the unions to light. [76] After 1965, the NALC declined and eventually disappeared (Randolph, probably under the influence of Bayard Rustin, made his peace with Meany). Since that time, black caucuses of various sorts have arisen throughout industry and in most major unions where there are significant numbers of blacks. These caucuses range from rather opportunist groups oriented toward staff positions in the unions (such as Bobby Scale ran up against in the Concerned Transit Workers in Chicago in the summer of 1968) to explicitly revolutionary organisations such as those affiliated with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit and the Black Panther caucus in Fremont, California (all of them in UAW shops). Simultaneously, there has been a rise in the general militancy of black workers. This is reflected in the strike and organised movements among black sanitation, hospital and other workers, beginning with the Memphis Garbage strike [77] and followed by the numerous ‘holidays’ taken by black workers after the death of Martin Luther King. The range of consciousness and politics within these new black workers’ movements is great, most of them being neither opportunist nor explicitly revolutionary, but the overall tendency is clear. In general this growing movement is both class and race conscious. It is part of the general rank-and-file revolt against deteriorating working conditions and income, as well as union bureaucratism. At the same time, the growing number of black caucuses and organisations are struggling against the special oppression of black workers.

The importance of this struggle, for black workers and for the long run struggle of the class as a whole, cannot be overestimated. Because of the importance of racism in American capitalism, there is a crucial dialectical relationship between the struggle of black workers and the struggle of the entire working-class. For 100 years the American ruling-class has played black and white workers off against each other. Only during periods of extremely intense struggle has racism taken a backseat to class consciousness. Unified class struggle requires self-confidence by black workers, on the one hand, and respect for the power of black workers by white workers, on the other. It also requires a determination by both groups to win real gains. White workers, no less than blacks, initiate struggles as a matter of self-interest. The most conscious black workers’ organisations have insisted on this and called on white workers to intensify their own struggles. [78] The United Black Brothers, who led the Mahwah wildcat in April 1969, for instance, made a direct appeal to white workers. They did this, furthermore, without abandoning their own struggles. [79]

There is no doubt that at this point independent black struggles put most white workers up tight. There have been reactionary groups formed by whites in response to black actions, such as that formed at the Belvedere, Illinois Chrysler plant, where whites threatened a walkout in honour of Lurleen Wallace in response to a walkout by blacks in honour of King. [80] Nonetheless, in those instances where black workers have raised issues relating to all workers, as well as special demands for black workers, the response has been at least neutral. At Mahwah, some white workers did support and join the black workers’ strike, and there are other instances of this. This is no concession to racism on the part of black workers. It is rather a strategy of struggle based on the recognition that on the one hand, black demands will become realisable only in the context of class struggle and, on the other hand, that black initiative around a programme that includes general class demands can spark such a struggle.

For black workers to abandon their own particular demands, however, would only reinforce racism and the misperception that many white workers have of their own position (the ‘optical illusion’ already mentioned).

Thus the militancy and consciousness of black and white workers is interrelated. Class consciousness cannot fully develop until white workers, at least, respect the power of black workers, which requires independent struggle by blacks, and black workers cannot destroy their special oppression until the struggle of the class shakes the centres of power that bolster institutions of both racism and class domination. This relationship is no longer an impasse, but a process. The growing decay of American capitalism has broken the impasse and set the process in motion. The role of black workers in breaking this impasse is particularly important because, unlike most previous militancy, it is based on the national (and even international) racial and economic crisis rather than on local grievances alone. [81]

Growing Struggle: The Transition to a New Level of Consciousness

The increased attack on the living standards of the entire working-class has spurred a significant and growing intensification of the class struggle. By every measure (see Table IV) strikes have risen to massive proportions since 1965. Major national strikes in auto, copper, electrical, east coast longshore, communications (for the first time since 1947) and airlines were long and large. Furthermore, the past three years saw a rise in local and wildcat strikes. We have already mentioned the local auto strikes and the rise of ‘interim’ strikes in the electrical industry that followed the 1967 strike and settlement. The United Steel workers settled in July 1968 without an industry-wide strike, but there were a number of local strikes. [82] In 1967, 60,000 coal miners struck without UMW authorisation in five states, [83] and in the spring of 1969, 40,000 West Virginia Miners launched a wildcat strike for stronger mine safety and health laws (the Black Lung strike). [84] Significant local and wildcat strikes also took place in oil, railroad, auto (in addition to those around the 1967 settlement), and public utilities. [85] In the same period there was a nation-wide upsurge in strikes by local and state public employees. Sanitationmen in several cities, teachers across the nation (not including the UFT’s action against black community control in 1968), welfare workers, transit workers, public hospital workers and others have all had long and/or bitter strikes, in spite of laws prohibiting strikes by public employees. For the first time in 30 years, farm workers successfully organised a union and led a series of long strikes that are still going on. The California farm workers organised themselves; the AFL-CIO came late and reluctantly.

Work Stoppages


Number of







































The rise in intensity of both official and wildcat strikes has been accompanied by certain changes in the style and scope of struggle, particularly with wildcats. Down through the Mansfield wildcat in 1967, most such strikes were strictly local, go-it-alone actions centred around local and particular manifestations of declining working conditions. Wildcat or local strikes at the time of contract expiration, of course, occurred simultaneously, but there was little or no conscious co-ordination by the locals, ie, no sense of national or even regional solidarity beyond inactive sympathy. It was precisely this isolation that led to the defeat of the Mansfield strike. In this instance, Reuther was able to muster the support of over 600 local representatives at a special conference to vote against the Mansfield (Local 549) strike. [87] This local isolation is in sharp contrast to the struggles of the late 1930s. In industry after industry before 1936, workers begged the AFL to organise them into national unions – they had already organised themselves locally. When the CIO was finally formed to meet this national need, it grew rapidly because the feeling of national class solidarity was already present. In those days, workers who were themselves engaged in struggle, with the threat of unemployment always present, freely contributed what they could to aid other strikers. This spirit of solidarity reached its height during the Flint, Fischer Body sit-in strike in 1937, when thousands of workers from all over the midwest poured into Flint to guarantee the victory of that struggle. [88] Local isolation is still strong, but there are indications that this is changing.

At a special bargaining convention of the UAW in April 1967, shortly after the Mansfield strike, there were organised floor demonstrations demanding that the union handle working conditions in the national contract. [89] The pattern of isolation in wildcats has also been broken. In early 1969 the workers at the Sterling Heights Chrysler plant, which like Mansfield is a body-stamping plant, struck over a safety hazard. As with the Mansfield strike, the international union slapped a receivership on the Sterling local and closed down the union hall. This time, however, another UAW local came to the support of the strikers, renting a hall in which they could meet when they refused to obey the orders of ‘Solidarity’ House to return to work. [90] Similarly, when the workers in the Bethlehem Steel Railroad yards in South Buffalo struck, without union authorisation, in March 1969, workers in the storage beds department walked out in sympathy and many steelworkers, who are not even in the same union, began a slowdown. [91] The most dramatic examples of the growing potential of wildcats to spread, of course, are the coal miners strikes of 1967 and 1969. In both cases, local actions (in 1967 an organising drive at Solar Fuel in southern Pennsylvania and in 1969 a wildcat over the Black Lung issue near Morgantown, West Virginia) set tens of thousands of miners into motion. Most recently, a strike by brewery workers at a Florida Budweiser plant set off unofficial strikes up and down the east coast. [92]

There are also some indications of the decomposition of the apolitical consciousness of the past 10-15 years. For the first time in decades, groups of workers have shown a willingness to accept or even request the aid of radical students. The first, and best known, incident of this was the strike by Local 1-561 of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers at the Richmond, California Chevron works. The oil workers voted to accept student help and even to endorse the demands of the Third World Students at San Francisco State. [93] The Sterling, Buffalo and Mahwah wildcats, already mentioned, also accepted or requested student help. In the case of the Buffalo railroad wildcat, one of the leaders of the strike actually called the University of Buffalo and asked to speak to any radical student leader. The willingness of workers to accept student, ie, radical, support doesn’t mean that the workers accept the politics of the students. It does, however, point to a significant change in the attitudes of struggling workers toward alliances with other struggling groups. The West Virginia miners also accepted students help, both from SSOC and a general strike by the students at the University of West Virginia. This miners’ strike is also important in that it is the first major political strike in our era. There have been strikes with political implications, but this is the first strike with explicitly political goals in years. Furthermore, this strike movement was initiated by the miners themselves (by Eliaja Wolford and other miners in the Morgantown area) and not by the largely middle-class Black Lung Association. [94] This strike movement is particularly instructive because it flowed from a situation that, in its fundamentals, is common to most unionised industries. The miners turned to the political strike because the UMW, like most unions, has refused to do anything about working conditions, which in this case involve safety and health hazards. The UMW, through its welfare fund, is tied into the mining business. [95] This in itself is rather unusual, but the acceptance of automation and deteriorating working conditions that flows from this fact is common to all large industrial unions. Pressed by intolerable conditions and unable to find redress through the union, the miners turned to their own self-activity and to political action. This struggle is far from over at the time of this writing, but there is good reason to believe that the. miners will not give up the fight in spite of the coalition of the UMW, mine operators and the state which is arrayed against them. There are a number of peculiarities in the mining industry, as there are in all industries, but it is, nonetheless, significant that such a strike movement should spring up now.

That workers are increasingly viewing their problems as political in nature was strongly indicated by the size of support received by George Wallace. The ‘Wallace phenomenon’ is a sign of the dangers of this period as well as its hopes. A number of radical writers have pointed out that Wallace support cannot be viewed simply as a matter of racist back-lash among workers. In fact, the bulk of Wallace’s support was not working-class, but petty bourgeois and middle-class. That working-class support that Wallace did get, however, was largely concentrated in heavy industry. Roughly it was of two types: those skilled workers from the traditional ethnic groups associated with auto and steel (Polish, Italian, etc.) who feel threatened primarily in terms of their communities, eg, towns such as Dearborn, Michigan; and young white production workers, many of whom have been ardent rank-and-file rebels, largely from the south. Both groups have been hard hit by inflation and taxes. The young production workers have also experienced vicious speed-up in the past few years. Discussions with both types of workers by various union and radical organisers shows that, while for the skilled workers the ‘law and order’ element of Wallace’s appeal was dominant, the young production workers viewed the Wallace movement as a rebellion against union and management. More than one young auto worker commented that if ‘Reuther was for Wallace, we’d be for Humphrey’. In the past few years, young workers in auto, and other industries, have generally ignored politics altogether. [96] Wallace, as a volatile anti-establishment (though not anti-capitalist) crusader appealed to their sense of rebellion. For both the older and younger (southern) workers, the racist form of rebillion was consistent with their cultural backgrounds (though in different ways). Thus, the legacy of the Wallace phenomenon is ambiguous. On the one hand, it was, at least for the volatile young workers, a form of political rebellion against the deteriorating conditions of their lives, in an election in which there was no other real alternative to Humphrey and Nixon. On the other hand, it represents the possibility that the growth of industrial militancy may assert itself, at least in some sections of the working-class, on the basis of old (racist) cultural assumptions deeply rooted in American society. One hopeful sign that this alternative will not become dominant, is the difficulty that Wallace’s AIP has encountered in organising a permanent base in Detroit. Another is the fact that very few of the wildcat movements that have sprung up since Wallace have been marred by overt racism.

The problem of racism and the division of the working-class that results from it is one of the most difficult ones facing the working-class. It is clear that there are no pat ‘techniques’ or tactics at hand to solve the problem. Only the barest outlines of a strategy can be deduced from the history and present direction of working-class struggle. In

general, it is clear that black workers must be in a position to command the respect of white workers and, at the same time that the class consciousness and activity of white workers must be at a relatively high level. Indeed, those instances in the history of the working-class, and other oppressed classes, in which racism was subordinated, have been periods of intense class struggle – -the Knights of Labour in the 1870s and 1880s, Populism, the 1WW and the CIO. Even the history of these movements would indicate, at least in a negative way, that self-confidence by black workers, itself a prerequisite of respect by white workers for the needs of black workers, requires some degree of independent black organisation – autonomous but within the context of the struggle of the class as a whole. Nor is it possible or even desirable for black workers to kow-tow to the current level of consciousness to white workers. In the context of class struggle, groups within the class do not ‘wait’ for other groups to move, rather they tend to pull these other groups into the struggle. Remember that the fights waged by the CIO workers brought forth an enormous upsurge among AFL workers, even though the AFL bureaucracy went to great lengths to convince their members that CIO efforts were a threat to them. At the same time, the growth of struggle among white workers means that they are feeling the pressure of capitalist decay and instability more strongly than in the past .and are responding to attacks on their living standards. Periods of intense class struggle usually begin by actions directed at the defence or improvement of living standards.

In the present situation this means a struggle against conditions at work as well as at home. The development of more radical forms of struggle depends on, and pre-exists in, this current ‘economic’ struggle. The primary task at this moment is to push and encourage this struggle in such a way that it further exposes the political and systematic roots of the attack on living standards. The demands of the state that workers make sacrifices for the sake of the economy and ‘national interest’ should be and for the most part have been, met with a cold shrug of the shoulders, as the 10,000 workers at Bell Helicopter (producers of the ‘Huey’) have recently done. [97] Radicals can play an important role by exposing the class nature of such state demands. In short, for the struggle to develop and the consciousness of white workers to grow, white workers will have to struggle for their own immediate class interests, ie, those which are common to all workers. The various ‘radical’ demands for sacrifices by white workers (or all workers), such as the demand that white workers renounce their consumer practices or their ‘white skin privileges’, are based on a total lack of understanding of the dynamics of class struggle. These demands, usually made by white student radicals and seldom, if ever, by black workers’ groups, are based on an abstract moral approach to politics more akin to liberalism than Marxism. In the heat of class struggle, workers have proven themselves capable of enormous self-sacrifice and idealism (in the conventional sense of the word). In such a context black workers, by their own action, can smash racist barriers in oppressive institutions within the class as well as without, but this situation flows from the dynamics of struggle and not from abstract moralising. It must be remembered that intense class struggle shakes loose the foundations of even the strongest institutions of oppression. It is for this reason that Marx spoke of the proletariat as the leader of all oppressed classes.

The institutions of racism, oppression and cooptation that seem so immovable today can be severely weakened even before the struggle reaches revolutionary proportions. The working-class, located in the central institution of society, production, is the only class that has the power to weaken and ultimately destroy these institutions. The struggle of black people is in a dynamic relationship with this overall struggle. Struggle in one’s immediate self-interest, by both blacks and whites, is a necessary step in unfolding this dynamic. It is the step in which self-confidence and class identification develop. In so far as racist attitudes are reinforced by insecurity, privatisation, and fragmentation, this step is crucial to the destruction of racism within the working-class. In so far as white workers view blacks as an enemy because they are an easier target than the ruling-class, black organisation is a necessity, both to make blacks a less vulnerable ‘enemy’ and to expose management, the union bureaucracy and the state as the real enemy.

As we have seen, the inter-penetration of the state and the corporation, and the contradictions exacerbated by the arms economy, in the form of taxes and inflation in particular, are simultaneously sparking new struggles and giving them a more national and political character. These phenomena tend to lead to still further attacks on the working-class by the state, such as wage control (an idea already hinted at by Secretary of the Treasury, David Kennedy) or, at the very least, increased Federal Intervention in strikes. In short, the ruling-class itself, is exposing the class nature and national scope of its attack on living standards. At the same time, the nature of this attack means that it affects all sections of the working-class simultaneously, though not to the same degree. This fact is an enormous counter pressure to the previous fragmentation of the working-class. To one degree or another, all industrial, occupational and income groups (and the infinite mixture of these) are victims of a common attack by a common enemy. Thus, the basis for overcoming fragmentation has been laid.

It is clear, however, that not all groups within the class are affected to the same degree, or that all are equally capable of responding at the same time or in the same way. The degree of organisation, previous traditions of struggle, concentration in the work place, etc. are all conditions which determine what sections of the class will move first. In general, the events from 1965 show that it has been the industrial proletariat rather than white-collar or service workers who have moved first and with the greatest force. By all the criteria mentioned above, and for other reasons, industrial workers are better equipped to raise the level of struggle. As we showed earlier, industrial workers have been struggling consistently since 1955 (and to same degree have never ceased struggling). Unlike any other section of the working-class, the industrial proletariat is fairly well organised and has a long and continuous tradition of struggle.

Many of the other groups and strata within the working-class that were discussed earlier are either relatively new groups (having no tradition of struggle), or are not highly concentrated or organised in their place of work. Many of these conditions are reflections of the structural and strategic fact that mass production industry is still the heart of the capitalist system, and within industry the proletariat is still the heart of production. [98] The strategic position of the proletariat and the fact that it is this section of the class which is moving first points to its centrality in any overall strategy. Furthermore, this national-political attack on the workers occurs at a time when the struggle over working conditions is itself more intense. This is not merely a coincidence of issues, but a synthesis. The attempt to increase surplus value through inflation and taxes, or through wage restraints, puts the significance of deteriorating working conditions in their real context. The arguments, and the real reasons as well, used to justify price increases and taxes are the same as, or closely related to, those used to impose speed-up or measured-day-work. The local appearance of working conditions fades as the attack becomes total. On the other side of the coin, the impulsion toward workers control inherent in fights over working conditions takes on a more political and class character in the context of this overall attack. The necessity, and therefore the possibility, of a total programme around which to fight, can transform the fight for better working conditions into the struggle for control over these conditions. Such a qualitative leap, however, is by no means automatic or ‘inevitable’.

In the past 10 or more years the struggle over working conditions and the wildcat strikes have been led by informal shop floor groups with little or no official standing in the union. The basic problem with these groups has been their isolation. The only unifying factor has been the intention of these groups and their choice of enemies. Most of these struggles have been directed against the union bureaucracy and the contract as well as management. Within an industry with one union, this can be the basis of an industry-wide movement. Outside of auto, steel and rubber, however, this is not an adequate basis even for this. Furthermore, this phenomenon offers little hope at all for cutting across industry lines. The shop groups and their rebellion are, nonetheless, the basis for expanded struggle. A startegy that didn’t begin at this point would be by-passing the real struggles of the working-class. (Alvin Gouldner, in his book, Wildcat Strike, quotes one corporate executive as saying that the workers seem to ‘have a strong desire to run the plants’. [99]) The linking of these shop floor groups is possible on the basis of the programmatic synthesis of national economic issues and working conditions. This is to say, linkages require politics. In general alliances with other groups in industry, or the class, can be formed around such a programme and the groups unified through a common struggle against the state as well as against management and the union bureaucracy. The Wallace campaign showed that an attack on the major bourgeois parties (those that administer the state) based on issues of real concern to workers can attract working-class support. The West Virginia miners’ strike showed that workers’ self-activity directed at the state, the bosses and the union leadership can do the same thing, whether or not electoral action is used is a matter of tactics. The point is that the state is a focal point for struggle by groups of workers whose specific demands do not immediately appear related on the industrial level. The relationship, real enough in the economy, has to be made in a way that cuts across industrial and union (or non-union) lines, without shunting aside the specific demands. Political action, direct, industrial or electoral; offers a way to do this in the concrete realm of action.

It is clear, because of bureaucratism, the managerial nature of contract administration, and the web of state controls, that the unions cannot be the vehicle for this transitional development. Yet, it must be recognised that rank-and-file rebellion, while unable to gain direct sources of power, has had an effect on the unions. The bureaucratic monolith that was the AFL-CIO has been broken with the formation of the Alliance, for Labour Action by the UAW and the Teamsters in July 1968. [100] While there is no reason to believe that these unions will change their internal practices significantly, or abandon their commitments to the Democratic Party and liberal politics, the mere fact of a break of this sort changes the political atmosphere and legitimises new kinds of movements. In some cases, rank-and-file militancy has actually won some concessions within the unions. The most notable recent rank-and-file victory was the withdrawal of the United Steelworkers from the industry’s ‘Human Relations Committee’, the joint labour-management committee through which the way for automation was paved. The unions and their leaders are bound to change to some extent, if only as a way of attempting to co-opt rank-and-file rebellion. Yet, it seems unlikely the structure of most unions or the interrelationship with management and the state can be sufficiently modified to actually transform the unions into adequate forms of struggle. At the same time, the union is a natural focus for political action within the industry. Political campaigns within the union can be, in some circumstances, a means for politicalising shop struggles. In this context, and unlike most union election campaigns in the past, the union becomes more an arena for action than the goal of the campaign. Clearly, however, the emerging movement, and the political movement that has the potential to emerge, is distinct from the union, a synthesis of shop-economic and political organisation and struggle.

Capitalism’s instability and growing crisis affects every aspect of life. Beginning with students and black people, the decay of American society pulls one section of society after another into turmoil. Just as the industrial proletariat has begun to intensify, and in some cases deepen, its struggle, so in coming years other sections of the working-class can be drawn into the struggle. As new sections of the class enter the struggle, eg, the unorganised, the struggle may be transformed or pushed to a new level. Similarly, what is now primarily an economic struggle may turn into a political struggle tomorrow, as with the miners’ strike. Rosa Luxemburg observed that there is a dynamic interrelationship between economic and political struggle. Commenting on the events leading up to the Russian upheaval of 1905, she said:

‘In a word, the economic struggle is the factor that advances the movement from one political focal point to another. The political struggle periodically fertilises the ground for the economic struggle. Cause and effect interchange every second. Thus, we find that the two elements, the economic and political, do not incline to separate themselves from one another during the period of the mass strikes in Russia, not to speak of negating one another ...’ [101]

The economic struggle of American workers has, indeed, advanced to a new political focal point. What remains is for the economic struggle to become explicitly political.

To achieve this will be a long and difficult task. The new generation of workers who are entering the shops now may prove to be the spark that makes such a revolutionary working-class movement a reality. This is not a question of any particular life style, but rather of the fact that youth is generally the first section of any class to interpret the experience of the entire class in a new way. Already being reached, to some extent, by the radical movement in the high schools, community colleges, armed forces, etc. this coming generation of workers can translate the radical ideas it is being exposed to into a programme and struggle in the shops and in the society as a whole. The effect of these radicalised young workers on the rest of the class depends on the extent to which they are reached by today’s, largely middle-class, movement and by the reality and quality of the ideas and analysis with which they are reached. Virtually all sections of the radical movement have made a rhetorical committment to the working-class. The crucial task for radicals and revolutionaries, now, is to translate that rhetoric into concrete analysis, programme and action that speaks to the real neds of the working-class.



1. Monthly Labour Review (MLR), April 1969, p 98. Figure is total labour force minus managers, officials, etc., and part of ‘professionals, etc.’ and ‘farmworkers’. The figure is very approximate.

2. The question of whether or not certain marginal groups are or are not workers at any given time is somewhat beside the point. It is more a question of direction and process and the manner in which these affect consciousness that is relevant to a Marxist analysis. The so-called precision of bourgeois sociology at drawing lines of definition, based on income, education, etc., is not really precision since it obscures the reality of transition. The statistics presented in this section are to be taken for the directions they point to rather than as precise numerical counts of various types of workers. – KM

3. Economic Notes, Labour Research Associates.

4. Compiled from: Historical Statistics of the US Colonial Times to 1957, US Bureau of the Census, 1960, p.74; Statistical Abstract of the US 1968, US Department of Commerce 1968, p.225; Monthly Labour Review, April 1969, BLS US Department of Labour, p.98.

5. Joel Stein, Locating the American Crisis, ISC 1969.

6. Calculated from Economic Report of the President, 1969, p.258, 270; MRP 1969, p.29.

7. Handbook of Labour Statistics (HLS), 1968, BLS US Department of Labour, p.122.

8. Martin Perline and Kurtis Tull, Automation: Its Impact on Organised Labour, Personnel Journal, May 1969, p.340.

9. For a solid study that describes these studies, cf. Paul Sultan and Paul Prasow, The Skill Impact of Automation, in Richard A. Lester (ed.), Labour: Readings on Major Issues, NY 1965, pp.345-364.

10. Perline and Tull, op. cit., p.340.

11. One study shows that automation was considered by most firms in relation to the productivities and costs of labour and capital of competitive firms, cf. Sutan and Prosaw, op. cit., p.362.

12. Harry Greenshan and Edith Adreno, Engineers and Scientists in Private Industry, MLR, May 1968, p.44.

13. Statistical Abstract of the US 1967, p.230.

14. See the discussion of professional workers in chapter 9, Patrick Seal and Maureen McConville, French Revolution 1968, Penguin.

15. Benjamin Solomon and Robert K. Burns, Unionisation of White-Collar Employees, Labour: Readings in Major Issues, pp.152-3.

16. Calculated from Table I.

17. Statistical Abstract, 1967, p.299.

18. Sultan and Prasow, op. cit., p.357.

19. H.M. Douty, Prospects for White-Collar Unionism, MLR, January 1969, p.33.

20. Robert E. Oshorty and W.E. Oherer, Teachers, School and Collective Bargaining, NY 1967, pp.15, 20.

21. New York Times World Economic Review and Forecast, 1968, p.79.

22. Research Summaries, MLR, January 1969, p.68.

23. Everett Kassalow, Canadian and US White-Collar Union Increases, MLR, July 1968, p.43.

24. Douty, MLR, January 1969, p.33.

25. Calculated from figures in Statistical Abstract, 1967, p.224, 228.

26. Comparison of figures in MLR, January 1969, p.68; Barbara Toth, Labour in a Year of Expansion, MLR, January 1969, pp.18-19; and Mary Sproul, A Report on Salary Changes for Teachers in Urban Areas, MLR, April 1969, p.49.

27. The fact that many of these white-collar workers are college graduates should not be lost on the student movement. A ‘working-class orientation’ by students should certainly include programmes directed at students destined for working-class jobs. Such a programme will have to deal with the nature of these jobs, of work under capitalism, with concepts of control, and with macro-economic questions as well as with war and racism, which are generally handled as moral questions instead of class questions.

28. ERP, 1969, p.270.

29. ERP, 1969, p.279; MLR, April 1969, p.107.

30. Thomas R Brooks, Toil and Trouble, 1965, p 216-218.

31. A. Preis, Labour’s Giant Step, 1964, p.420.

32. Abraham L. Gitlow, Wage Determination Under National Boards, 1953, p.184.

33. Brooks, op. cit., pp.219-222.

34. Stan Weir, A New Era of Labour Revolt, ISC, 1966, p.19.

35. George W. Brooks, The Case for Decentralised Collective Bargaining, in Labour: Readings in Major Issues, pp.441-442.

36. Michael Kidron, Western Capitalism Since the War, 1968, p.16.

37. Cordelia Ward and William Davis, Negotiations and Wage Calendar for 1969, MLR, January 1969, pp.59-64 [for current lengths].

38. Michael H Simonson, The Employer’s Duty to Bargain about Management Decisions, Intramural Labour Review, November 1967, pp.3-24.

39. Weir, op. cit., p.8.

40. Weir, unpublished report, May 1969.

41. Ibid.

42. Weir, op. cit., p.8; G.T. McManns, Why Workers Are in Foment, Iron Age, December 28, 1967.

43. Ibid.

44. Orley Ashenfelter and George E. Johnson, Bargaining Theory, Trade Unions and Industrial Strike Activity, American Economic Review, March 1969, pp.35-49.

45. Lloyd Ulman, The Government of the Steel Workers’ Union, 1962.

46. Kim Moody, UAW Rank and File Revolt, IS, No.2.

47. See various issues of New Politics and Union Democracy in Action since 1965.

48. Moody, Government Intervention in the Steel Settlement, New Politics, Summer 1965, pp.58-59.

49. Ibid., pp.60-62; Weir, New Era, p.3.

50. Jean C. Brackett, New BLS Budgets Provide Yardstick for Measuring Family Living Costs, MLR, April 1969, pp.4, 8.

51. Calculated from ‘average weekly earnings’, MLR, April 1969, p.107.

52. Statistical Abstract, 1967, p.231.

53. Calculated from ERP, 1969, p.279; MLR, April 1969, p.107.

54. New York Times, April 14, 1969.

55. Toth, MLR, January 1969, pp.18-19.

56. MLR, January 1969, p.68.

57. Ward and Davis, MLR, January 1969, pp.56-57.

58. Ibid, p.52.

59. Ibid, p 52.

60. TWU Fiddles While TA Robs Transit Workers and People of NYC, Rank and File News, Issues 4 and 5.

61. Statement by John J Dehony, President, Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, May 6, 1967 (mimeo).

62. Calculated from ERP, 1969, p.279.

63. Quoted in Kidron, op. cit., p.9.

64. See Herbert Hill,. Racial Practices of Organised Labour, New Politics, Spring 1965, pp.26-46; and Marc Karson and Ronald Radosh, The American Federation of Labour and the Negro Worker, 1894-1949, in Julius Jacobson, The Negro Worker and the American Labour Movement, 1968, pp.155-187.

65. Irving Howe and B.J. Widick, The UAW and Walter Reuther, 1949, pp.10-11.

66. Sidney M. Peck, The Economic Situation of Negro Labour, in Jacobson, op. cit., pp.212-213.

67. See Howe and Widick, passim; and Summer Rosen, The CIO Era, 1935-55, in Jacobson, op. cit., pp.188-208, particularly pp.200-201.

68. Peck, op. cit., p.213.

69. Statistical Abstract, 1967, p.230.

70. The Negroes in the United States: Their Economic and Social Situation, (US Department of Labour Bulletin, No.1511); Rosen, op. cit., pp.200-201; Peck, op. cit., pp.218-219.

71. Of course, the majority of workers in these low-paying positions are white – often southern whites who migrated north at the same time as the blacks. Nonetheless, while various white ethnic groups have risen to higher jobs, blacks have consistently remained at the bottom, and disproportionately so.

72. Even when this moral persuasion is garbed in revolutionary rhetoric as with both PL and the National Collective tendency in SDS.

73. This fact, however, is by no means so simple a matter as multiplying the income difference between black and white workers by the number of black workers to obtain the amount of surplus values made on black oppression, as PL seems to think. This is not only a simplistic travesty on Marxist economics, but it ignores the fact that some of this surplus does go to certain groups of whites, such as craft unionists, and to the black middle-class.

74. See C.Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, passim; and his Strange Career of Jim Crow, 1957, passim.

75. See Sy Landy, Black Power, ISC, 1967.

76. Brooks, op. cit., pp.246-248; Mike Shute, The Negro and the UAW, YPSL, 1963.

77. A detailed report on this strike can be found in In Memphis: More Than a Garbage Strike, March 1968, and In Memphis: Tragedy Una verted, April 1968, both from Southern Regional Council.

78. Guardian.

79. Taken from reports by a number of different observers and from a leaflet put out by the UBB and reprinted in ISCA Reports, May 1969. The United Black Brothers at Mahwah squarely rejected the suggestions of some SDS personalities that they call on white workers to reject their ‘white skin privileges’.

80. Weir, unpublished report, May 1969.

81. It should be noted, although it is beyond the scope of this pamphlet, that black wrokers bring a degree of power to the black liberation movement, not held by any other section of the black community. As blacks are a significant proportion of the work force in most heavy industry, they have the power, even on their own, to disrupt production. This fact has been discovered, more or less accidentally by various groups of black workers; in Detroit during the riots the auto plants were largely shut down, not because of the riot per se but because the work force was not at work. Clearly this power can be used in an organised fashion to wring concessions from the white ruling class.

82. Toth, MLR, January 1969, pp.13-15.

83. The New Rank and Filer, March 1968.

84. The Miner’s Voice, May 4, 1969.

85. See Wildcat Report (New York), March 1969, and Wildcat (Chicago), May 1969.

86. MLR, April 1969, p.126.

87. Moody, IS, March-April 1967.

88. See Howe and Widick, op. cit., pp.55-63.

89. Weir, unpublished report, May 1969.

90. Report from a student supporter of the Sterling strike.

91. Gay Semel, Buffalo: Strike Against Steel, Independent Socialist, No.10, May 1969.

92. Verbal report from Dennis Sinclair.

93. Kit Lyons, Under the Standard Sign, Independent Socialist, No.8, March 1969.

94. From an interview with Eliaja Wolford by Joe Weiner and Bill Gerchow in May 1969.

95. Miner’s Voice, May 4, 1969.

96. Most of this is from verbal reports by people in the UAW in Detroit. Also see Jim Jacob and Larry Laskowski, The New Rebels in Industrial America, Leviathan, No.1, March 1969, p.5.

97. NY Post, June 9, 1969.

98. The ‘new working-class’ view that the organic composition of capital will be so high that the industrial proletariat will be an insignificant point is based on the projection of a predominantly automated economy in which technical white-collar employees become the central labour force. Aside from the fact that this is somewhat of a fantasy, there are a number of economic and structural problems with the analysis underlying it; among them being: how could such an economy absorb the massive number of goods it would produce and still keep its wage bill insignificant; how does such an economy employ its superfluous population without severely cutting into surplus value and the profit rate.

99. Quoted in Bruce Levine, The Sterling Wildcat, Independent Socialist, May 1969.

100. See Toth, MLR, January 1969, p.12.

101. Quoted in Tony Cliff, Rosa Luxemburg, p.31.

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