Please read the short essay, or just click the answers to these simple questions. You may need to *enable popups.
1. Which of these quotes might have come from Marxist leader V. I. Lenin? (click on the icon of your choice)
"The trade union struggle is one of the constant forms of the whole workers' movement, one always needed under capitalism and essential at all times."
"Let every worker who understands the need to unite for the struggle against the employers and the government join the trade unions. The very aim of the trade unions would be impossible of achievement if they did not unite all who have attained at least this elementary degree or understanding, if they were not very broad organizations."
"The experience of all capitalist countries shows that the most advisable form of organization of the working class for the economic struggle is that of broad trade unions..."
"The trade unions were a tremendous step forward for the working class in the early days of capitalist development, inasmuch as they marked a transition from the workers' disunity and helplessness to the rudiments of class organization... the development of the proletariat did not, and could not, proceed anywhere in the world otherwise than through the trade unions, through reciprocal action between them and the party of the working class."
All of them
2. Why are employers solidly and everlastingly opposed to unions?
Union members tend to stay with the same employer longer than non-union workers
Union members can get better wages
Union members try to buy the products they produce
Union members are not as ethical as non-union members
3. Why do we say that unions are not revolutionary organizations?
They oppose the bosses on wage and job benefit issues
Unions must favor their own members, not the working class in general
Union workers tend to be more productive than non-union workers
Union workers get so much money that they join the bosses' side
4. Which of these is a great value to our side in the class struggle?
Union fights train workers for future struggles
Union members tend to buy the products they produce
Union members are always loyal to America
Union members are more productive than non-union*If popups don't work when you click on the answers, you will probably get a yellow line across the top of your screen. Click on it and choose "temporarily enable popups."
Unions Are Good for Working People
" I love this union cause."
-William Silvis, Pioneer American trade union leader
In previous lesson modules, we have already emphasized the central role of the working class in opposing capitalism. As Marx and Engels put it, "Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie [capitalists] today, the proletariat [working class] alone is a really revolutionary class."
Real Marxists emphasize the tremendous importance of the union movement, even if some so-called 'radicals' seek to discredit it. The CPUSA requires its members to join the union in their workplace, if there is one. Interested activists who cannot join a union can still become part of the union movement through the AFL-CIO's Working America. No communist ever scabs. In the most recent great union upsurge in America (1935-1947) Communists played an outstanding role.
Unions are the largest, strongest, and most thoroughly working-class of all the progressive organizations in industrialized society. They oppose the central goal of capitalism by their very nature. While many progressive organizations draw their leadership from the middle-class intelligentsia, there are very few union leaders who did not emerge from the rank-and-file.
A really easy way to recognize the importance of unions is to evaluate the money and resources that capitalists devote against them!
Historically, unions have often taken broad anti-capitalist positions that were not immediately related to their own immediate interests. Since 1995, American unions have taken a noticeably progressive turn toward broader political action on behalf of the entire working class. In 1997, the AFL-CIO leadership voluntarily removed the "anti-communist" clause from their constitution. Although it is an overstatement, many union leaders claim that their every action is in the interest of all workers, not just their own membership.
Marxists realize that unions are not revolutionary organizations. Rather, they concentrate primarily on defending their members from the excesses of capitalism. In the unusual circumstance when the interests of their own dues-paying membership collides with the overall interests of the working class, they necessarily choose their members. While Communists recognize the limitations of trade unions, we help them whenever possible. Trade union consciousness is not far short of true working class consciousness, and even narrow union struggles constantly train workers for the broader struggles ahead.