Letter: Marxist Unity Group Labor Strategy Position Paper

Date: 2023-03-09T21:46:40+00:00

Location: cosmonautmag.com

Organizing in the Inevitable Era

“Just as British capitalism, which was also once powerful…is now on the decline, so will American capitalism, however strong it may be now, go the same way downward because of contradictions inherent in capitalist production and distribution. The industries will shut down, great masses of workers will become chronically unemployed, their standards of living will be reduced; the concessions won from or given by the employers in the present period will then prove illusory and be swept away. The workers will be compelled to turn against capitalism, to organize their forces to put an end to the capitalist system and to establish the new proletarian order of society. In the bitter struggles of that inevitable era the strike strategy will have to be quite different from and will be based upon a far more militant offensive than that possible in the workers’ fight today.”
-William Z. Foster, 1926

The neoliberal political economy is in deep crisis. Its replacement will either strengthen the international proletariat’s capacity for self-determination or revive the fortitude of those parasitic classes which built the fascist movements of the 20th century. As socialists, we have a responsibility to ensure the former possibility comes to pass. As it currently stands, DSA’s labor work is both extremely impressive and wholly inadequate to the monumental task before us. MUG can and will play a key role in changing this. Our comrades in DSA labor circles are doing outstanding work, and it is without question that we can cooperate amicably to bolster our organization’s ability to lead the American labor movement into an unprecedented period of militancy and success. Anything less would be a dereliction of duty; conceding leadership of the labor movement to the very neoliberal elements collapsing before our eyes would condemn the working class to defeat.

Thus far, conversations around DSA’s orientation to labor work have been confined to the realm of strategy and tactics. That is, we regularly debate the merits of the rank and file strategy and periodically debate specific questions of how to engage with this or that labor struggle as each develops. The question of DSA’s labor policy, or the why to direct the how, has been completely ignored. Solomon Lozovsky, a communist labor organizer who led the Red International of Labor Unions, defined these terms succinctly in 1924:

“Policy lays down within the limits of the program the basic direction which the class must follow in order that its fighting capacity may be enhanced and in order to prepare it for the overthrow of the other class. Strategy determines the direction of the operation and the choice of the point to be attacked as part of the achievement of the chosen aim. Tactics provide the answer as to how to direct the battle at definite sections of the front.”

DSA’s program is clearly defined in its political platform as one which pursues “a socialized system that serves the common good”, our strategy focuses on raising the militancy of rank and file workers to move beyond the shortfalls of business unionism, and our tactics vary from strike support to organizer trainings to other interventions depending on the needs of the moment. But our policy remains unclear; is our labor work meant to prepare the working class to overthrow the government established by the U.S. Constitution and build a new socialist order, or is it meant to prepare the working class to ally with progressive politicians and extract concessions from the imperial police state? In other words, will DSA pursue a revolutionary labor policy or a reformist one? 

This question is far more important than debates over the rank and file strategy, which on the whole has been a resounding success. Solidarity efforts with organizers in Starbucks and Amazon have flourished, EWOC has done commendable work in organizing the unorganized, and DSA has earned a reputation for being valuable allies on the picket line. Our focus now should be working to strengthen and deepen the rank and file strategy by politicizing our labor work. We cannot simply build militancy and hope that a labor party will materialize to direct the workers to victory. As our political platform says, “the socialist movement and the labor movement will rise or fall together.” Comrades, it is high time for a merger. DSA’s historic mission is to lead the U.S. socialist labor movement.

To this end, Marxist Unity Group endorses the following goals for the DSA National Labor Commission:

  1. Formally adopt a revolutionary labor policy to make explicitly clear the goal of our organization’s labor work: to prepare the working class to take political power and establish a democratic socialist republic.
  2. Host a labor convention in 2024 composed of delegates from various labor organizing efforts of local DSA chapters to debate strategic priorities and establish operational NLC bodies for organizer trainings, local chapter coordination, and a national labor publication to analyze current trends and events within the labor movement and to investigate burning questions about the proper role of unions staff & officers, what sort of labor law should socialists fight for, and what part unions will play in a socialized economy.
  3. Encourage local DSA chapters to politicize their labor work by forming explicitly socialist union caucuses complete with shopfloor publications, complement strike actions by canvassing local neighborhoods for community support, making demands of local electeds to intervene in workplace struggles on behalf of the workers, uniting the labor movement with the struggles of the oppressed, and naming capitalism as the source of all shopfloor struggles in agitational and educational materials. 
  4. Support local chapters to utilize DSA’s electoral expertise to run strategic campaigns as socialists for union office and to use the elected office of steward, union local president, and others, as tribune of the people, increasing transparency among members of inner union corruption and most importantly to use the office to combat imperialist, racist, sexist, and anti-trans tendencies within the labor movement and instead advance socialist ideas of total human emancipation. 
  5. Begin outreach to cohere the partyist elements of the labor movement (including the likes of United Electrical Workers, Labor and Community for an Independent Party, Railroad Workers United, and others) for a joint conference to determine the necessary first steps for the creation of a socialist workers’ party. 

These goals are intended to transform the NLC from a simple support body into the central hub of all DSA labor work so that it may exercise leadership during this critical period of surging worker militancy. Without a merger of socialism and labor, both are doomed to fail. By building a robust NLC, we put DSA in a far better position to become the party the U.S. working class requires. The days of tailing the progressives and labor liberals are behind us. A socialist labor movement is our future if we dare to make it so. 

Marxist Unity Group Labor Strategy Committee

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