Our Friends With Benefits: Unions a Lost Cause for Revolutionaries


The union is nothing more than the legislative body which upholds the concessions made by capitalists in order to keep the status quo, and maintain capitalist order. We see debates in the ruling class play out that effect our material lives, but our strategy is not to convince one side or the other that they are correct. We do not wish to destroy “the union” more or less than we wish to destroy the supreme court, which currently maintains our legal rights to abortions, freedom of speech and assembly, and ensures due process. But just as we see our constitutional rights being eroded away and our solution is not to defend the supreme court, but rather to build a fighting working class; as we see our benefits being diminished, our primary response is to build analysis and organization of the working class that can fight directly against capital itself.

To this end, we do not believe the “correct form” for contemporary working class struggle has yet been discovered. But we know that whatever forms emerge must be the dialectical response to the current mode of capitalism, not a flat opposition that attempts to bring back the old days, impossible to resurrect anyway, instead of confronting the new. The current working class faces a new kind of “double freedom”: we work many jobs at once, we stay at jobs for short periods of time, we work under the table to get health benefits and food stamps from the state, we seek diminishing housing subsidies. We are so “free” that each day of work could be our last through, no fault of our own. This is not a condition which the trade union form can comprehend.

The lives of the working class are thus simultaneously more isolated and more connected than ever before. No longer organized by the massive cooperation of the industrial factory, whether the factory of GM or the factory of the steno pool, we work for ourselves, by ourselves, on our bosses’ schedules. We work from our own cars or our tiny apartments, we purchase our own cleaning supplies to clean someone else’s office or apartment, we rent our own trucks to move someone’s furniture. We discover that the comfortable-sounding notion of “working at home” is instead the reality of a world in which we are always at work in some form or another.

We feel so isolated, so particular, so endlessly individualized. But when we meet one another in the welfare office, on the bus, or passing in the hallway of the company building we work, we find our experiences are almost identical. We work on a rotating basis for the same bosses or the same kinds of bosses, and when we confront the similarities of our situations, the particularities fade into the background. This is the basis for collective struggle.

There are more of us, the lowest rung of the working class, than perhaps any other time in the last fifty years, and we are directly involved with the production and reproduction of capitalism. It is this that we must seize on; not the protection of an institution that is itself dying. We will fight tooth and nail to hold on to health insurance, for those few who have it, and wage and security benefits, for those few who have it, but we will not do this from the isolation of our jobs. We will do this as a class, and for the class, not to demand simply a better price for the sale of our labor power, but to force a change in the entire mode of production itself.

At times, we may decide this means holding a union sign, and other times, it may mean holding our own picket signs in protest to the union. Most of the time, and for 86% of us who are not in unions, the over 10% of us who are unemployed, and the several million of us who are living on disability, or barely living at all, we will fight directly against capital, recognizing our own conditions and pushing the struggle forward, on the terrain of class struggle furnished by the present and the future.



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