Sunday, April 8, 2012

Is It Time For a Working Class Continental Congress?

In 1905, Big Bill Haywood opened the first convention of the Industrial Workers of the World(IWW) by saying, "This is the Continental Congress of the working class."  Nearly one-hundred and seven years later, is it time for the working class to come together again for a 2nd Continental Congress?  After all, in spite of what anti-labor propagandists would have us believe, many of the issues faced by the IWW in 1905 still exist.

I asked several members of the labor community if they thought that such an endeavor could be successful in galvanizing the working class beyond big labor.  Bill Fletcher, author of Solidarity Divided said, "I think that regional gatherings that built towards something national would be interesting particularly if broad."  Countering that point of view was Chris Townsend, National Political Director for the United Electrical Workers of America(UE), who stated when I posed the question of whether this could be an effective approach, "Yes, but not yet. The level of union activity at the rank and file level may be an an all-time low point. The "left" plays little role in addressing this, choosing instead to rally whatever contacts they have for issues and struggles other than basic union organization and struggle. We have a labor leadership which has relegated organizing the unorganized to marginal status at best, with many having given up on it altogether."

As for myself, I believe that the time has come for the working class - both organized and unorganized - to begin meeting in a sort of workers' councils at the local level.  Once these have been established, then the planning of a 2nd Continental Congress of the Working Class could commence.  What must be guarded against is the tendency that big labor has had in the past to usurp control over any movement of this type.  Bill Preston, President of AFGE Local 17 in Washington, DC, also mentioned that big labor might try to take over control of  the movement, " I am for experimenting with any tactical form that advances the cause of expropriating the capitalists and making the working class the ruling class...I think the labor fakers will try to hog the limelight as you say, once they see their unions' members active."

As we have witnessed over the last 18 months or so with the Tea Party and Occupy Movements, sometimes it is better to not have one organization or individual driving a movement.  If the workers in the United States have had enough, now just might be the right time for action.

In Solidarity,


1 comment:

  1. I've read that this special Congress will consolidate analysis and emerging programmatic perspective focusing on the intensification of working class struggles and campaigns in the coming period. So it could be helpful in this manner.

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