Monday, February 21, 2011

Labor's Moves In Politics

Samuel Gompers (1850-1924)

From ITU Lessons in Printing. Trade Unionism Unit VI (1958), p. 97:
Throughout the centuries various political doctrines have been evolved promising, or purporting to promise, the redemption of labor. The suppression of labor in the 18th century led the Anarchists of the early 19th century to advocate abolition of all government, which was to be replaced by a system of voluntary co-operation among individuals. As developed by the French syndicalists, the basis of organization of the new state was to be the syndicate, an expanded trade union assuming full responsibility for the conduct and well-being of its members. The movement had some following in the United States during the 19th century and attained its greatest strength in the International Workers of the World, or I.W.W., which launched extensive strike movements in this country in the early 20th century.
A radically different approach was counseled by Karl Marx; namely, the violent overthrow of the government and its seizure by working class groups led by a "dictatorship of the proletariat." The Communist Manifesto, issued in 1848 at the time of widespread revolution in Germany, stated their position. Within the Socialist movement thus launched, two trends developed: one movement, authoritarian in its character, developed into the Communist Party which successfully seized power in Russia in 1918. The other, more democratic in nature, though committed to the doctrine of public ownership of the means of production, developed into the Socialist and Social Democrat movements of England, France, Germany,* and Italy. Both movements found some adherents in the United States, particularly during the depression years of the early 1930's. American labor, however, has, with few exceptions, followed the advice of Samuel Gompers: a policy of rewarding friends and punishing enemies.
*Presumably this included the National Socialists of Germany.


  1. I left a related comment today on Althouse which I wanted to keep track of:

    What is going on in Madison is important precisely because it is defining who is the State. Look at the obvious symbolism of the struggle happening not in the streets but in the Capitol Building. It's like fighting over Jerusalem!

    The State isn't something to be shunned or destroyed or ceded to thugs -- it's something that should be downsized but definitely cherished. I'm at odds with people who think The State should whither away -- the last person who seriously suggested that was Karl Marx.

  2. The state is integral with order and stability. However Thomas Jefferson put things in perspective when he said that any state that was powerful enough to give you everything you wanted was also powerful enough to take everything you have.

    Life is about balance.