How do we use organizing for collective power and solidarity, to win steps toward new power over our own lives? Labor Power and Strategy is a compelling take on this question, and the dialogue between organizers and educators is the kind of far reaching discussion we need to advance our workers movement.
“We need to ask ourselves,” Leo Panitch and Donald Swartz stated in the third edition of From Consent to Coercion, “whether free pertains to those who do business or whether it pertains also to the majority of Canadians who do not do business.” Their book, now a classic, focused on a critical expression of the tension between liberal democratic principles and capitalist realities: the substantive right of workers to strike. Canadian workers were officially granted the basic democratic right to form unions, but the substance of that right – the withdrawal by workers of their labour power – was regularly suspended when workers successfully used it.
Jackson, Mississippi - Jackson, Mississippi Is Currently Suffering Through An Unprecedented Water Crisis. After Decades Of Systematic And Intentional Neglect Due To Environmental Racism, Capital Flight And Deindustrialization, The City's Water System Has Collapsed. This Collapse Didn’t Have To Happen. As A Result Of The City’s Declining Tax Base Over The Decade, It Cannot Pay For The Repairs By Itself. Nor Should It Have To. Jackson Is The Capitol Of The State Of Mississippi, Which Means It Is The Base Of State Government And Resources. In Addition, It Is Also Where The Federal Government’s Administrative Resources In The State Are Concentrated.
I recently moved back to the United States after over a decade abroad. It’s been an interesting re-acclimation which I believe some people call ‘reverse culture shock’. There is so much about this country, my home, that is comfortable and familiar. A shared language, sense of humor, and customs allow me to flow through this society with ease. However, the thing that has stood out more than anything is that nearly everyone I meet seems to be struggling with some form of anxiety or depression. What’s even more jarring is that they all seem to feel like it’s their fault — telling themselves they just need to work harder, meditate, or exercise more to emerge from this crushing darkness. But if everyone is feeling this way, then clearly there must be something bigger at play.
Brother Stanley Aronowitz was always ahead of the curve, with his criticism of the shortcomings of old labor and his envisioning of “a new workers movement” that might replace it. During the 1960s, campus radicals turned to him, as a former factory worker and staff member of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers, for advice about the student left’s much debated and then still pending “turn toward the working class.” Late in life, while well embedded in academia, he remained a teacher union activist and successful reform caucus member. In a series of incisive books like False Promises, Working-Class Hero, and From the Ashes of the Old, Stanley always took “slumbering mainstream unions” to task for their lack of militancy, diversity, internal democracy, and progressive politics.
In the run-up to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris taking office on January 20, a key debate raging now is about what kind of change they will usher in. Some say it is clear from those two leaders’ biographies that they herald the bold transformations needed to tackle the inequalities that scar society. Others say it is clear from their biographies that they will not. History suggests, however, that neither of those arguments gets it quite right. That key to what happens is what we do, together. For my new book, How to Fight Inequality, I looked at what we could learn from how inequality had been tackled in the past. What I found, across the world, was that progress in tackling inequality was never simply gifted by political leaders. It was won through people power.
On Labor Day, Joe Biden did an online event with AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka to talk up unions. At this point in his political career, Biden can do these things in his sleep. His well rehearsed grab bag of pro-union lines (”My uncle in Scranton, Uncle Ed, used to say, ‘Joe, you’re labor from belt buckle to shoe sole’”) flow out easily. The question for America’s union members is whether anything tangible will flow back to us if Biden is elected, or if we will — as has happened in previous Democratic administrations — have to satisfy ourselves with pats on the head and White House photo-ops.
Election seasons bring with them a renewed interest in politics. For most that couldn't care less about such concerns, election season becomes, for at least a moment, a time to reflect on deeper issues. For those of us who spend a large portion of our lives thinking, writing, acting, and engaging in these larger-than-life matters, election seasons bring other questions: can we affect change through the electoral system, how effective is voting, and how can we overcome the corporate stranglehold over politics, to name a few. However, beneath all of the political discussions lies an uncomfortable and overwhelming truth: Nearly all of our problems are rooted in the massively unequal ownership of land, wealth, and power that exists among the over-7 billion human beings on earth.