By J. Alexander & Sarah E.
In the aftermath of one of the largest union strikes in recent amerikan memory, the First Worldist left is enthusiastic in their support for what they see as the militancy of the working class. They defend the strike as a resurgence of proletarian labor struggles in the united states, claiming that the unity of labor unions is a signal to the First World Communist movement that their ascension to “working class” leadership is underway. Though it would appear that they have not looked too long or too hard at the discourse of these unionists, or at what their demands and histories are, otherwise it may disgust those with principles or a conscience. It is well known that the labor history of amerika is riddled with colonial racism and its general pro-imperialist stance; so what of the modern revival of union struggles? The pro-colonial and pro-imperial element of the First Worldist labor struggle is far from weakened (indeed, it is the essence of such struggles), and it would seem that its message is unapologetically passed along by the First Worldist left.
The Imperial Demands of Labor
Among the demands of the communications workers of amerika (CWA; the union who led the strike) they made clear that the principle concern of theirs was the export of high-paying amerikan jobs to the Third World. In interviews conducted with the strikers themselves they complained of the company’s plan to export “amerikan” jobs overseas, and have made many standard nationalist overtures regarding the goals of the strike to preserve the integrity of amerikan labor. Their demands come not only from an accusatory stance with regards to the Third World proletariat colluding with the verizon company to “steal amerikan jobs,” but by their own admission they are part of a privileged stratum of workers themselves. In fact, the average base salary of the strikers was about $82,000, and when factored along with benefits it reaches an average $100,000 or more.
These are hardly the “proletarians” that the left has made them out to be, and their cause is hardly as noble. We are quite aware of how these workers have come to have such a privileged position in the arena of global labor. Their highly inflated wages are the result of the parasitic super-exploitation of Third World workers by the imperialist countries. This process, however aware of it they may be, has rarely—if ever—been the focus of their political projects. They seem more keen to ignore these conditions in favor of the conspiratorial accusations of “job theft” and focus primarily on the effects of capital export as it relates to their concept of “offshoring” rather than on the slave-like conditions of Third World peoples. When they do mention these conditions, it is always in a tokenizing fashion which is both logically inconsistent with their assertions and does little in the way of demanding solidarity with them. For the amerikan labor aristocracy, they see the super-exploitation of Third World workers as a challenge to their profession, rather than some humanitarian crisis.
Their Connection to the AFL=CIA
What is even more telling about the CWA than their wages or rhetoric is their relationship to the major labor aristocrat cartel, the AFL-CIO (whom we affectionately term “AFL=CIA”), whose pro-imperialist record stretches back decades. The AFL=CIA has a long history to answer to, but more than that they have a continued record of collusion with imperialism. For example, a vocal supporter of the Verizon workers has been the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, an AFL=CIA union (the same union which lost the 1944 James v. Marinship supreme court battle in an attempt at locking out Black membership even in closed shops). Anyone familiar with the AFL=CIA will know that the IBB routinely agitates for increases in military spending including “the need to modernize and expand the fleets of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy,” based on the fact that many of their members make their livings by producing amerikan weapons utilized in imperialist pillage. This is just one group of workers which has tied its destiny and livelihood to amerikan imperialism.
The AFL=CIA also unionizes the most reactionary sections of the imperialist apparatus, namely the Border Patrol Union and International Union of Police Associations, true criminal syndicates in the eyes of progressive humanity responsible for untold suffering for the internal colonies in the case of the latter, and terror against refugees and the international working class in the case of the former. In fact, even the CWA itself is a junior-contributor to the protection of the security forces with a sector that serves over 16,000 local and municipal workers employed as deputy sheriffs, probation officers, city and state police, as well as county and state correctional officers. From top to bottom, it is clear that the company kept by the labor aristocrats of the CWA, just like all labor aristocrats in general, is wholly rotten and reactionary.
So What Then?
It is telling that this episode garnered so much support and effort from so-called “progressive” (that is not to say anti-imperialist) organizations and individuals while the struggles of refugees and victims of imperialist war go unaided, the machinations for further imperialist subterfuge and realization of global surplus-value go unopposed. The imperialists gain the continued, peaceful operation of their system along with the renewed collaboration of the CWA, and more broadly all labor aristocrats, to continue all of the above.
We will not tell you that there was—or is—one single alternative to the recent pro-imperialist circus on-which the efforts of progressives could have been better spent. But rather any number of things could have been undertaken with as much determination and effort. This past week heralded the 6-year anniversary of the solitary incarceration in a men’s prison of the heroic Chelsea Manning. Small and sporadic efforts at solidarity with her and other political prisoners were eclipsed by the Verizon “strike.” The imperialists continue to carry out conspiracies against nations like Venezuela and Brazil, wage imperialist war on Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and otherwise terrorize the world. The imperialist machine continues to extract global surplus-value unhindered by any significant strategic internal opposition.
And why? Because, in our estimation, the debilitated north amerikan left relies psychologically on petty, assured victories delivered not by their effort in solidarity with oppressed peoples, but the machinations of the monopolies mediated by the Democratic Party. Such “victories” are in actual fact nothing but defeats. They represent the successful integration of supposedly progressive forces into the left boot of imperialism; the phenomenon known as opportunism which stabilizes the parasitic social contract, purchases peace and further includes the forces of progress as an eager party to their own degradation. It is a process which must be understood, critiqued and thoroughly rejected.