" 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."

Study It, Join It

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.

Definitely Progressive, but Not Revolutionary

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.

"Unions are good for working people." -- Pope John Paul II

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You can go through these little modules in any order you like, but now that you have finished Why are Unions so Important? then The Workers Must Have Their Own Political Party is recommended next