There’s a lot of reading here, and it would seem only fair to read the original article first. This is a Dorset Wobbly commenting in a personal capacity without a branch mandate, and my reason for doing so is the use of the old IWW graphic showing the ubiquitous white, male manual worker.
The IWW arose in the USA during a period of mass migration, at a time when unions were little more than extensions of the craft guilds of former times. They were segregated along strict trade and ethnic lines. It became obvious that this structure was ill-suited to the class war that raged in the early years of the 20th Century.
It’s worth pointing out that the IWW was the first union to attempt to organise African American, Hispanic and Chinese workers alongside ‘white’ workers. Its members also included Italian, Irish, Scottish, Germanic, Scandinavian and Jewish Diaspora, reflecting the makeup of the exploited class at the time. This had never been done before.
It just about expended its considerable energies and resources opposing the First World War on the simple premise that Fellow Workers shall not kill each other for their bosses. This brought down ferocious state repression, what was left over went down the plughole that is the Communist Party, the fate of the vigorous South African syndicalist movement was similar.
Today the IWW is a painstakingly inclusive organisation, but still rejects liberalism. I’m not sure we’re part of the ‘left’, but we are of the Working Class; since we decline to participate in party politics it seems churlish to devote too much attention to the outcome of elections, but I believe a pile of dog shit could have defeated Hilary Clinton had it achieved a party nomination. The arrogance of the political class in assuming workers were going to vote for a sneering elitist warmonger just because the other candidate is a village idiot beggars belief. But then I don’t vote, and I don’t live in the US. If the office of President were important could it have been filled by the likes of Nixon, Johnson, Gerald Ford (!) – remember him?
The power of the Working Class is expressed at the point of production, when it declines to work, or occupies space and refuses to relinquish it, that has not changed, and never will. I’m a little nostalgic myself, for a time when the Working Class, however constituted, was ready to fight; when scabs needed armed guards to pass armed pickets, when Wobblies from all over flocked to a small town to fill up the jails so a public meeting could take place. If that spirit has been depleted over the last century or so it’s by the political ‘left’ with its shady manoeuvrings and self-defeating power struggles.
Contrary to popular belief, not all American workers actually look like this.
The Workers Solidarity Movement recently published a piece by Andrew Flood analysing the make-up of the Trump vote. The article’s specifically intended as an intervention into a particular debate on the left, one that Flood characterises as being between “the Nostalgic Left” on the other hand, and “the Intersectional Left” on the other, with the idea that “the left needs to reach out, and listen to the concerns of” Trump voters cast as a symptom of people “dreaming of a mostly fictional past when a united (white male) working class was not distracted by what they term ‘identity politics’”.
I’m not convinced that the two poles Flood sets up are the most useful ones to be using here. In an equally polemical move, I would say that an equally useful distinction could be made between a Shouty…
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