“The only a priori is the objective situation of class exploitation.”
The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur has a tremendous analysis of exactly what’s happening in Michigan (for the sake of making greater points beyond the basic facts, I’ll post the video):
There are really two things that matter most when it comes to what’s happening in Michigan:
1) How unions can recover the losses, regain solidarity, consolidate power, and overturn the law. But this is just the technical side. As Labor Notes reports from Michigan,
“Teamsters President James Hoffa, who’s from Michigan, said the way back for unions will be a long fight. The slide down has been long, too, and now it’s accelerating.”
2) What is the narrative under which this is presented in the press? Predictably, it has been little more than perverse, dogmatic, ideological discussion. Media solidarity, as it is sometimes called, has long been the tool by which unions and workers use to consolidate power. It was how unions grew their ranks exponentially in the 1930′s and 40′s and win rights in Congress and through the courts.
Media solidarity still exists today—but on the other side. Given its institutional structure, it’s natural for the media to unilaterally propagandize against workers and operate on the side of vulgar business interests. But the business press is unabashedly leading the charge with the standard weapons of ideological warfare: defame, falsify, and slander. Take the Wall Street Journal’s slandering of a Democratic legislator from Detroit, who said ”We’re going to pass something that will undo 100 years of labor relations and there will be blood, there will be repercussions. We will re-live the battle of the overpass.”
The Journal decided to call this the “echoing of violent rhetoric” by Big Labor as it “shows its ugly face in Lansing”. As usual, the Journal also decided to wholly ignore history, without any cautionary precepts. What exactly happened at the Battle of the Underpass?
…several of the leading UAW union organizers, including Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen, were asked by a Detroit News photographer, James E. (Scotty) Kilpatrick, to pose for a picture on the overpass, with the Ford sign in the background. While they were posing, men from Ford’s Service Department, an internal security force under the direction of Harry Bennett, came from behind and began to beat them. The number of attackers is disputed, but may have been as many as forty
It turns out, rather inconveniently, that the Battle began as a violent invasion by management. To “re-live the battle of the overpass” would thus mean defending oneself against invasive measures. Furthermore, is is frankly uncontroversial to hold that the US has an unusually violent labor history compared to other nations precisely because of the immense capacity of private power to act selfishly under the law. The indication of violence would contextually be limited to management’s provocation, not labor’s.
But it’s not just an objective coincidence that the business press is utterly contemptuous of working people, unreservedly calling them thugs, bullies, describing them as “combative”, and signaling their criminality with coded language. In practical terms, the easiest way to suppress a group of people is to personalize the general perception of this particular group. Calling them “thugs” is simply a means to an end. These rhetorical devices fit into a bigger ideological picture of vulgar class warfare on a scale that even Marx couldn’t predict.
A quote from Sartre is especially fitting:
The only a priori is the objective situation of class exploitation. Consciousness is only born in struggle: the class struggle only exists insofar as there exist places where an actual struggle is going on. It is true that the proletariat carries within itself the death of the bourgeoisie; it is equally true that the capitalist system is mined by structural contradictions. But this does not necessarily imply the existence of class consciousness or of class struggle. In order that there should be consciousness and struggle, it is necessary that somebody should be fighting.
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