Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Crap/Not Crap - Craft Union Voluntarism

The Federation adopted an equally interesting political strategy, for Gompers sought to make voluntarism and the craft unions' nonpartisan civic education a source of political strength rather than weakness. Trade unionists would debate and deliberate political issues within their own councils, formulating a cohesive set of policy demands. They would then present labor's agenda to each of the political parties, and educate their members on the parties' response. The AFL, as in the past, would not affiliate with a political party; in fact, the strategy would only work if they did not. Gompers itended to forge unions into a highly knowledgeable, independent bloc of swing voters, so that all parties seriously contesting elections would have to address labor's needs. Organized labor would not be apolitical or partisan but would pursue "aggressive nonpartisan political action." As he explained it, "labor does not become partisan to a polititcal party, but partisan to a principle." - Schools of democracy : a political history of the American labor movement by Clayton Sinyai


Chad said...

I have to admit I'm not familiar with the term "voluntarism" as used here, so I'm not sure about the crap/not crap question. And I assume you are asking the question as it relates to the present, not Gompers' era, is that correct?

I just came across this and I considered it in the light of Sinyai's account of Gompers' aims. Nonpartisan political action may have been possible (or maybe not, I don't know the political history of the period well enough) at that time, but it seems pretty certain that Macaray would argue against it being a contemporary possibility.

I think this is interesting, but I'm tired and heading to bed, so maybe more later. I'm definitely interested in hearing more about this.

gabbagabbahey said...

labour news from across the pond:

"Employers have warned that future investment by multi-national companies would be lost if they were forced by law to recognise trade unions"



multi-national companies being US corporations, for the most part.

as to the question, not crap, I think. here, unions, political parties and employers are supposed to be 'partners'... but then again the main political party retains a large core constituency amongst (public sector) union members.

wobblie said...

You know my inner-Marxist says crap.

lex dexter said...

chad, every time i hear "voluntarism" used in this context i get confused, as well. mebbe dave can explain? he's our john lennon ("the smart one.").

gabs, understand that my knowledge of the contemporary Irish politics pretty much amounts to my parents or grandparents cheering about how "we" are "finally" doing well. but i'm glad to hear that neoliberalism even on the other, more social-democratic side of the Atlantic understands "freedom" as more markets, less voluntary associations for working people, and ultimately less redistribution of wealth.

wobs, my inner marxist has problems with the craft stuff, too. but my inner marxist also has problems with the reformist (not to say collaborationist) tendencies of the industrial era. it's this pickiness that leaves my inner marxist stuck outside selling Newspapers and Mumia buttons while my inner social-democrat buys nice new shirts and searches unionjobs. sound familiar?

lex dexter said...

i think "voluntarism" refers to the "nonpartisan," self-reflexive political agency exhibited in Gompers' famous "reward your friends, punish your enemies" mantra.

is Dave really not going to weigh in, here?