. The following article was the main content of Detroit Workers Voice #13, March 2, published
by the Detroit Marxist-Leninist Study Group. A first draft of this article appeared in Communist Voice #12, vol. 3, #1, March 1.
. The labor traitors swear they are ending the strike only to launch new tactics that will make the struggle more powerful. They have undertaken a big public relations campaign to smother widespread skepticism about this decision among the workers and their supporters. But the great "new" tactics are merely a continuation of the same basic course that has undermined the struggle from the start. Long ago the union bureaucrats sabotaged the workers' militant blockades of the main production and distribution points. Scab production was allowed to continue because supposedly encouraging advertisers and others to boycott the scab papers was all that was needed. Time and again the union leadership boasted that its tactics would bring the newspaper bosses to their knees. But actions speak louder than words. No matter what the bureaucrats say, these "effective" tactics have led to ending the strike on unfavorable terms. Yet the bureaucrats want to continue down this road to nowhere. Their "new" campaign continues to bank everything on boycotts and ignores the mass mobilization of workers necessary to shut down scab production.
. Thus the newspaper workers are fighting against steep odds. Not only do they face the wealthy
and ruthless Knight-Ridder and Gannett media magnates, but they are being betrayed by their
so-called leaders. This pattern is being repeated in strike after strike across the country. There is
no way out unless the rank-and-file workers get organized in a new way, in a way that allows
them to really exercise their potential might that today is held in check by the lords of the
. Of course, it may be that the NLRB rules that the newspaper corporation does not have to take
back any ex-strikers. Then again, even if the ruling favors the union bureaucrats, the company
can hold up the decision with lengthy appeals. Even a labor consultant who the union leaders
quote as a supporter of their plans admits that "the appeals process is so notoriously prolonged
that a favorable judgment for the unions would be years past the point when the bargaining unit
would be destroyed." (Steve Babson in Crane's Detroit Business, Feb. 24-March 2, 1997) Time
and again the newspaper barons have stated they will not fire their scab workforce. So its quite
possible that any NLRB decision will simply be ignored while, as a supporter of the AFL-CIO
misleaders' scheme admits, the workers will slowly "be destroyed."
. Having given up the most effective actions, the bureaucrats centered attention on having groups of workers picket advertisers and encouraging people not to buy the paper. A number of advertisers pulled their ads out of the newspaper, and many people stopped buying the papers. But it was clear that the giant newspaper chains were willing to use their empire-wide resources to weather some losses and wear down the workers. As the strike dragged on, it took its toll on the workers. Some left the area for other jobs while the cowardly stand of the union bosses sapped a good deal of militancy from the struggle. Meanwhile, the newspaper bosses began to cut the extent of their losses as production was normalized with scab labor. Time and again the national and local AFL-CIO officials promised some new version of the boycott would be the key to victory. But a series of scattered pickets at advertisers or brief sit-downs on city streets, while OK in themselves, was woefully insufficient.
. Now these tactics have proven so "effective" that the strike itself has been called off with
nothing won. Sure, sometimes retreats are necessary in a struggle to allow the workers to gather
their strength for a more powerful assault on the capitalists. But the union leaders are not merely
taking a step back to gather strength for a more powerful onslaught. They are promoting their
defeats as victories. They are doing this so they can keep continuing the same futile tactics. They
will continue to have some sporadic actions here and there, while the newspaper owners continue
to normalize their production and circulation without interference. In fact, since ending the strike
has exposed the failure of the tactics recommended by the union leadership, and since the same
tactics are to continue, this will spread further demoralization among the workers and confusion
among strike supporters.
. In the DSJ of February 23, the Bridgestone/Firestone strike is mentioned as an example of such tactics, but the outcome of this struggle was that the company won their main demands such as 12-hour shifts. Meanwhile, the DSJ falls silent about how these tactics failed miserably in such major battles as the Staley and Caterpillar struggles that ended in 1996. In these struggles too, the national AFL-CIO leaders promised to always stand with the workers, and local leaders sold this bill of goods to the rank-and-file. Instead, the bureaucrats imposed rotten settlements on the workers where many strikers were left jobless and working conditions were gutted. Indeed, even in the examples chosen by the DSJ to illustrate the "success" from following the union tactics, they confine themselves to bragging that an NLRB injunction got some workers their jobs back, and avoid mentioning whether or not the workers actually won the main issues for which they originally went on strike.
. The bureaucrats are now attempting to salvage their tattered reputation by agreeing to hold a
large national solidarity march in Detroit in mid-June. Gathering thousands of workers for a
show of solidarity is a good idea. But it in no way changes the overall path of betrayal taken by
the AFL- CIO bureaucracy. Keep in mind that the AFL-CIO organized a big solidarity march in
support of the CAT and Staley workers. They sabotaged militancy during the march and used
such events to promote their bankrupt "boycott" tactics. Despite the occasional show of
solidarity, the workers were eventually sold down the river. Militant workers should try to put
their own stamp on the Detroit march, but no one should have illusions that the AFL-CIO bosses
are changing their stripes.
. When the newspaper and other workers were able to briefly break free from the shackles of AFL-CIO policy and shut down the newspaper plant, they got a glimpse of the workers' potential power. But for such glimpses to become a strong trend, the workers' movement must undergo a basic reorganization. Rank-and-file organizations oriented toward militant mass tactics are part of the solution.
. As well, the setbacks the workers are suffering everywhere shows that each struggle is part of
an overall class struggle. The corporate onslaught against the workers also raises the question of
what sort of future the workers can expect so long as the economy and political system are in the
hands of a handful of wealthy corporations. The workers' present dilemma raises the question of
building a class political party. Only a political force that is the most resolute opponent of
capitalism itself, that isn't concerned with assuring the profit margins of the corporations, and
that doesn't depend on the bourgeois establishment, can guide the present struggles along the
most militant possible course. A party of this type is needed to carry out the tasks today that will
put the workers on course to face the larger class battles of the future. Such a party will explain
how it is that the end of the capitalist profit-system, and the end of the division of society into
exploiter and exploited, is not only a nice dream, but that the material conditions for this are
being created by capitalism itself. Such a class reorganization is needed if our potential power is
to be utilized both in the immediate skirmishes and in the revolutionary struggle of the future. <>
Last changed on October 16, 2001.