Always lose? “Oh surely not,” you assure me. “Just look at all of labor’s victories. Why, there was he sit-in in Flint Michigan. There was the drive to organize steel, and what about the 8-hour day movement?” you say.
And yet I say we always lose, and I ask “Why?”
When we talk about our losses, we usually ask what we did wrong. We have our theories like:
The Knights of Labor, the most successful organizing effort of the 19th century, failed because its Master Workman, Terence Powderly, was too timid, too vain, and too afraid to admit it when he was wrong.
The Industrial Workers of the World failed, according to one theory, because they tried to be a revolutionary organization and an ordinary trade union both at the same time, and they couldn’t decide which.
The American Federation of Labor failed because it was too conservative and the Congress of Industrial Organizations failed because it was too brash.
In the political arena, Hillary Clinton failed because she was too backward and Bernie Sanders failed because he was too advanced. Eugene Victor Debs was too nice and Joseph Stalin wasn’t nice enough. If the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela comes crashing down tomorrow, we’ll think of some reason to blame them for it. We always blame our own side and discourage ourselves unnecessarily and incorrectly.
We didn’t just lose, we were beaten
The point is, our losses aren’t our fault. We may have played the game very well. The other side just played better. On labor issues, the other side is the employers. They’re very good at defeating working people. They have a lot of resources. More importantly, for purposes of this discussion, they always know that there are two irreconcilable sides to any war and they know which side they are on.
Oftentimes, we don’t. When we lose, and we always lose because we never settle things for the long term, we blame ourselves. That’s just wrong.
I’m still on http://knon.org 89.3 FM every Saturday at 9AM