Electoralism: A Dead End for the Unions

A sign of the times is the increasing popularity of the  book by Joe Burns titled Class Struggle Unionism. Burns himself has been invited to speak at regional conventions of some of the countries largest unions including the National Education Association, with many leaders of prominent unions publicly affiliating themselves with the program of what he calls class struggle unionism. While the book hits on many of the characteristics of class unionism in the recognition of the centrality of strike power, the need to generalize strike action across unions and sections, the recognition of the class nature of the economic struggle, It falls short in it’s claims unions should join political fronts with inter-class community groups and endorse bourgeois democratic politicians such as Bernie Sanders. 

Between 2010 and 2018 unions donated over $1.8 billion of union member dues to political groups; however, this amount pales in comparison to the vast sums of wealth in which the army of millionaires, billionaires trillionaires and corporations make to politicians every single year. In the light of the endless litany of anti-labor laws and the growing dominance of multinational corporations and billionaires in the “democratic” process, can we really afford to continue to allow our unions to waste our precious resources on fruitless electoral campaigns? Or should we start prioritizing large scale strike strategies and building militant working class power as the way to force those who exploit workers to make the changes we want to see?

Most often the same politicians who receive these financial contributions from our unions also receive millions from the very same companies that workers unions are organizing or striking against! The major television and social media outlets are owned by the same handful of corporations representing a narrow view which endorses their own class perspective. While they like to claim the adversaries of United States imperialism must be fought as they are dictators and oligarchs, while they cajole us to fight to preserve democracy, here in the United States the vast majority of worker know that elections are bought and sold by capitalist class like any other commodity on Wall Street.  Far from being a democracy, for the working class the United States political system is a class dictatorship which violently cuts them out and at best offers scraps to placate workers. As indicated by the average voter turnout of 35% in the 2018-2022 elections, workers are not so diluted as to think that electoral participation is that path their economic elevation, despite the pompous voter turnout campaigns orchestrated by capitalist class philanthropists. 

Workers know that unions are intended to fight for their interests, not act as political organizations and advocacy groups, but as powerful vehicles which can bring their class enemy to the bargaining table through the coercive power of collective labor action. Our unions and caucus should not be politically exclusive to workers of this or that political outlook, instead they should work to unite workers across the spectrum into increasingly unified working class action against the class who is our common enemy and source of all the social ills in society.

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