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New Ground 68

January - February, 2000

Contents:

Sidebar: Two New Commissions
Sidebar: Midwest DSA
NAFTA for Africa
US Action
Campaign for Better Heatlh Care
Tool & Engineering Settled
Detroit Journal
JwJ Cmte for New Priorities
Kudos


The Battle in Seattle

by Harold Taggart

The unions were unified in an uncommon harmony of purpose. They had an equal number of outside supporters. The city ground to a halt.

The city was Seattle, Washington. The time was 1919. In one of the most successful and non-violent strikes in history, union members took control of an entire city. They even provided their own unarmed police force. After five days, the strike fell apart.

In 1999, eighty years later, Seattle again shut down. Union harmony and unity of purpose and an equal number of non-union sympathizers, who shared that purpose, brought the city to its knees early in the afternoon of November 30. In 1919, the general strike started when shipyard workers demanded pay increases from greedy, inhumane, tight-fisted corporations. In 1999, protesters were attempting to preserve the gains made from past successful strikes and ward off corporate efforts to usurp local democratic rights and self-determination.

The 1919 strike ended peacefully under pressure from union leaders and from the difficulty of running an entire city with inexperienced personnel. Then the mass arrests began.

The 1999 protest strike ended successfully but violently. Over 1000 protesters were arrested. About 560 were charged with crimes. Huge amounts of money from appreciative supporters poured in for the defense of those arrested. They appreciated the heroic sacrifices made in the streets of Seattle to stop or at least slow down the monstrous, insensitive global WTO juggernaut.

Most of those arrested have chosen individual trials as opposed to some mass plea agreement. This will tie up courts in the old IWW tradition for years. Also, the public sentiment moved during the week of November 30 to December 3 from pro-police to pro-protester after the brutal tactics of the law enforcement units appeared on the nightly news. It's unlikely that a local jury would convict anyone. After a few losses, charges will be dismissed against the remaining protesters.

Building Toward a Popular Veto

The immediate success of the 1999 protest against the World Trade Organization (WTO) can be attributed to the efforts of four groups. The long-range success was possible due to a solid foundation built during a similar battle a couple years earlier. Unions, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other interest groups had combined to fight the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI). The partnership won the battle, and in December, 1998, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) declared the MAI moribund.

In December, 1999, the WTO declared that the Seattle Ministerial Round was hopelessly gridlocked. Internal disputes, particularly from Third World nations, plus protester obstacles to meetings and clouds of tear gas and pepper gas insured the failure of the event. Secrecy was an essential ingredient for both the MAI and the WTO. Since Americans are at best confused and at worst bored about economic and trade issues, the Seattle event should have occurred without national notice. The efforts of the opposition groups made WTO not only a household word in the U.S. but world wide.

The WTO was founded in 1995. It replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It was formed to meet the needs of a more globalized world of trade. The WTO was given more power to impose sanctions and penalties than the GATT had. Since the WTO is a treaty, it has priority over all federal, state and local laws that conflict with its provisions and rulings. The fact that our politicians are willing to give up their democratic and self-determination powers to organizations like the WTO is testament to the political debt the politicians owe the corporations and their wealthy stockholders. Each new round of meetings expands WTO jurisdiction. The Seattle round was planned to expand authority to areas like intellectual property, e.g. patents on medicine and computer software.

I like to refer to the MAI as the transnational corporations' profit guarantee act, and the WTO as the global corporations' social safety net. One of the objectives of the WTO is to insure that transnational corporations survive and are not bothered by those pesky local laws and courts with their numerous levels of appeals. If the corporations were incompetent or just too greedy, they could appeal to the unelected members of the WTO tribunals and argue that there were no profits or insufficient profits. The fault could be attributed to wages that were too high, or employee benefits that were too generous, environmental laws that were too restrictive or health regulations based on evidence that had not been verified. The proceedings of the three member tribunals are secret and remain that way even after the decision is handed down. Since all decisions so far have been based primarily on corporate profits, even when working conditions, health and the environment could be harmed as the consequence, the need for secrecy is paramount.

Political Ecology

Since nearly everyone could potentially be harmed by the WTO rulings, nearly everyone was represented in Seattle among the opposition to the WTO. The most significant groups were the unions, NGOs, religious and anarchy. Union activities originally were to be for members only. Later, they decided to open some of the events to everyone. One anomalous result was Socialists and Communists leafleting and hawking of periodicals and books at the entrance to Memorial Stadium where the unions held their rally on November 30. Amazingly, there were no confrontations between these ideologically diverse groups. Both sides seemed to know that they had one common, insidious enemy that could be stopped only if the opposition was not divided.

The NGO protesters were divided into two groups. First were the older members interested in peaceful marches and protests and learning more about the WTO at the numerous forums, symposia, lectures and mock tribunals. Second were the predominantly younger people who were prepared to participate in non-destructive civil disobedience.

One of Ralph Nader's organizations sent Mike Dolan to Seattle in February 1999 to coordinate NGO efforts and serve as an umbrella for the numerous activities. 776 NGOs registered. Protesters came from 144 countries. Hotel rooms were booked months in advance of the event. Dolan's volunteers were attempting to place protesters in private homes, at universities and under any other hospitable roof they could locate. Thousands more protesters would have been in Seattle had the city been able to accommodate them.

One group of about 60 protesters took over an abandoned four-story apartment building. They made superficial repairs with plans to house over 300 protesters. After the protest, they intended to turn over the building to Seattle's homeless people.

The younger segment of the NGO organizations was led by a coalition which included Direct Action Network, Earth First, the Rukus Society, Rainforest Action Network and other more militant groups. They met and planned strategy outside the downtown area at Seattle Central Community College on Capital Hill. They used a large, old, sprawling building at the foot of Capital Hill for training. They could conduct up to three classes simultaneously. Classes included training in civil disobedience, how to deal with tear gas and other police crowd control tactics, the local law and possible options if arrested. On the days before the conference opened, they hung anti-WTO signs on overpasses and on a large crane near Route 5, the main interstate passing through downtown Seattle.

The National Lawyers Guild provided attorneys who visited the action sites. Identifiable by special T-shirts, they tried to be available when conflict with the law occurred. They also prepared a 67-page pamphlet outlining rights, types of protest crimes and options with likely outcomes when arrested.

The religious groups emphasized the issue of Jubilee 2000. Jubilee 2000 calls for the forgiveness of Third World debt held by the IMF and World Bank. The First United Methodist Church on Fifth and Marian Streets was the center of their activity. They held a Jubilee 2000 candlelight march on the evening of Nov 29. After various ceremonies in the church lasting over two hours, nearly 10,000 people marched to the Kingdome where WTO opening ceremonies were being conducted. There, in the pouring rain, with candles doused, they formed a human chain around the building next to the Kingdome.

Men in Black

The Anarchists were the most militant groups. They oppose most government political, social and economic structures and naturally detest a world order like the WTO. They wore black, often wore masks and carried tools like hammers and pipes that could be used to cause damage to property. They view property as a root of evil. Destroying property is not a crime in their opinion. Property was acquired illegally they believe so the alleged owners have no real claim to it. The most famous group of anarchists is located in Eugene, Oregon and is centered on writer and philosopher John Zerzan.

Another group calling itself the Black Bloc claimed credit for most of the property damage. Both groups targeted only banks and outlets of large corporations associated with sweatshop labor and other crimes of inhumanity. The anarchist groups began their property destruction spree only after the police suddenly changed their non-confrontational strategy to one of battery, brutality and riot tactics.

The Police

Even when there was a change in tactics, it was enforced unevenly. The group I was with blocked entrance to the Roosevelt Hotel. We kept everyone out all day long. There was no police force used against us.

Rumors abounded that there was a jurisdictional dispute between the city and Federal law enforcement agencies. Seattle Mayor Paul Schell was an anti-war protester in the 1960s and 1970s. He vowed that Seattle would not be like Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention. The brutal tactics used by police in Seattle seem more akin to those preferred by Federal agencies. The destruction of the Branch Dravidian compound in Waco Texas comes to mind. The head of security for the Direct Action Network also believed that federal intervention, either direct or by exaggeration of the gravity of the situation, was critical in the turn around in tactics.

Infiltrators were everywhere. As I watched training at the Direct Action Network site, a young woman approached the guy standing next to me. She identified herself as an attorney, and asked him if he was a Seattle cop. He said yes. She represented a client he apparently had fingered earlier.

Later, during the Turtle Parade, so save the green sea turtles, I noticed a man dressed like a street person holding an object in his right ear. On closer examination, it became apparent that he was holding an earphone. He was communicating with someone else regarding the direction and mood of the marchers. He stood out because he was Black; and most minorities wisely avoided the protests.

Political Education

Something not mentioned by the media was that most protesters spent the bulk of their time attending forums and lectures. Led by some of the most renowned scholars and civic leaders of today, these events had standing room only audiences. Over 100 educational sessions were scheduled. They were held at a half dozen venues, which kept changing as those in charge looked for larger and larger rooms and auditoriums to accommodate the unanticipated demand.

The most common theme in the forums was the fate of the WTO. Could it be modified to be palatable to most people, or must it be dismantled? Some union leaders seemed to think a place at the WTO table would enable them to enjoy the fruits of opulence. They seemed to adhere to the TINA theory expounded by Margaret Thatcher. There is no alternative to capitalism, the Iron Lady claimed.

The scholars and experts presiding over the forums were not quite as sure that TINA was the end of the line. David Korten, author of The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism, has written several books attacking the myth of the market. He has outlined how capitalism or the rotten, corrupt system that is posing as capitalism can be replaced.

Charles Derber, author of Corporation Nation, also sees a much better world for us if we make the economy the servant of the people, rather than the current economic system in which the people are the servants of the economy. Under a full-fledged WTO, the people would be transformed from the servants of the economy to the slaves of the economy The Third World sweatshops are indications that some people already are slaves of the economy.

The consensus of the NGO experts was that the WTO and the corporation-dominated economic structure behind it must be replaced. The WTO is just one more power grab by an economic system that seems to have an insatiable appetite for property, power and social control and a total absence of morality, principles social concern and altruism.

Castro Oil?

The buzz at the beginning of the week was that Fidel Castro would attend the WTO. A speech by Castro scheduled to be held at the University of Washington sold out immediately. By mid-week, word came down that Castro would not attend. The speculation was that Castro would overshadow other national leaders so the State Department would not issue a visa. That turned out to be of no concern, since all world leaders except Bill Clinton decided it would be wise to stay home. Even Bill Clinton decided to land Airforce One at Boeing Field rather than risk landing in potentially hostile territory at Sea-Tac airport.

Kevin Danaher predicted, even before the police had exploded the first teargas canister, that Seattle would go down in history as the first skirmish in a peoples' global revolution. The next battles already are being planned. There will be a march April 16 and 17 to protest the IMF and World Bank meetings being held in Washington DC. For May 1st, plans are being made to close down Wall Street, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco.


WTO Action in Chicago

by Bob Roman

The Chicago WTO action took place on November 30 at the Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago at 4:30 in the evening. It was a smashing success and an abject failure.

A Smashing Success

It was beyond a doubt a wildly successful event simply because it received significant news coverage. In the context of Seattle, editors and news directors felt they simply had to have some mention of the event in their coverage. Some of the reports were reasonably fair, given the constraints of reportage limited to 30 to 60 seconds. Though it may seem cynical, such participation by the "media" is crucial if anti-globalization issues are to be regarded by the political professions as something other than nationalist outgassing by fringe groups.

It was a major success because the event was organized almost at the last minute by a small number of activists, with minimal resources. That it happened at all, let alone that it was a distinct and significant political event, deserves our applause and appreciation. Further, it was one of the largest WTO demonstrations outside of Seattle itself.

Quack!

It was an abject failure. At any one time, the crowd never exceeded much more than about 200, though it was a fast moving event and maybe half again as many people ultimately participated.

The participants were a real mulligan stew of activists from various lefty groups, some of which one only rarely encounters. Adopting the spirit of a bird-watcher, it was fun. My, what exotic and endangered species could be observed!

Leaflets and papers flowed like joints at a Jimi Hendrix concert, but many of them had little to do with the WTO or with the issues around globalization. And, don't you know, it was strange but not too many of these items were being directed at passers by. Michael Moore is often obnoxious and half-assed in his criticisms of the left but he's not entirely wrong. Isn't it wonderful how 200 lefties from diverse ideologies can get together to trade leaflets?

To be fair, this behavior was most evident at the rally. After about twenty minutes of speeches, the rally formed up to march over to State Street and up State to the Old Navy store. I admit to having been skeptical about the political reasoning behind choosing Old Navy, but in fact the location made it ideal. If there had been an isolated, ingrown feel to the rally, the march up State Street brought it squarely in contact with the public and provided some choice photo opportunities.

What time is it, boys and girls?

It's Hubert Humphrey Time!?

Certainly nothing recent has quite so mobilized the left as the victory over the WTO in Seattle. You have to go back to the Nuclear Freeze campaign in the mid 1980s to find something comparably energizing. Yet it should be clear that the left, despite the participation of the labor movement in Seattle, is nowhere near as healthy as it was during the mid 1980s, and I wouldn't have called the left robust then either. With an issue like the WTO, even a last minute ad hoc demonstration should have brought out ten times the turn out in Chicago, and the fact that Chicago was one of the largest local demonstrations just makes it that much more poignant.

Furthermore, the WTO and international trade is not an exclusively "left" issue. Consider that the only mainstream presidential candidate present in Seattle was Pat Buchanan. If the "Battle of Seattle" ended in a victory for the left, the main beneficiaries could ultimately be the right, just as they ultimately were the main beneficiaries of the Sixties. This is a prospect that ought to be in mind as we contemplate future strategies.

Marx, never a patient man to begin with, was particularly unkind to those who insisted upon drawing historical parallels without regard to political economy. Seattle 1999 is not Chicago 1968 nor is it Rosa Parks freshly at the front of the bus. The situation is complex, and a proper understanding of it will not come from reading ideological speculations but from focusing on hard data. The left is too weak to neglect these tools.

Because regardless of the strength of the left, planning has already begun for a series of actions next spring. The tentative plans include a national march in Washington, DC, in mid-April. This will be followed by a number of regional marches on May 1st, including one in Chicago.

Save that date: May 1st! On that day, Seattle will come to LaSalle Street in downtown Chicago. If you are interested in helping plan this action (by golly if there were a time to be involved, it is now!), call Joan Axthelm at (773) 262-6502 or (773) 871-3942 or call Dennis Dixon at (773) 384-8544.


1999 DSA National Convention

by Bob Roman

The 1999 DSA National Convention was held in San Diego on November 12 through 14 at the Handlery Hotel and Resort. With the exception of resolutions regarding U.S. intervention in Columbia and DC Statehood, it was an introspective affair, largely concerned with putting the national organization's affairs in order.

Two significant public events were held in conjunction with the Convention. The first was a panel discussion that served as a public outreach session. Entitled "Face-off with the Global Economy: Changing the Terms of the Debate", the panelists were: columnist Barbara Ehrenreich; producer, writer and director Paul Espinosa; former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport; and John Nichols, the editorial page editor of the Madison, Wisconsin, Capital Times. Several hundred people attended this Thursday evening event.

The San Diego DSA local also organized a fund raising dinner on Saturday evening. The Nick Nichols - Michael Harrington award was presented to Fred Lonidler, and the Dinner's keynote address was provided by Representative Bernie Sanders.

Resolutionary socialism was not widely practised at this Convention, but the Convention did pass on general political priorities. These include work on globalization issues; labor solidarity both domestic and international; defense of and in favor of the social welfare programs such as Social Security, health care, education; and campaign finance reform. This work will include not only politics but developing a socialist analysis of these issues.

Much of the other work was directed at rebuilding and expanding national DSA's organizational infrastructure. This is understood to include building strong DSA locals as a requisite part of the project. Mostly this consisted of fairly straightforward tasks and priorities that might apply to any political organization and have, sometimes, been done by DSA in the past. But there were a number of "new" initiatives, including a proposal for a regular series of regional training institutes, possibly under the auspices of a "Harrington Institute", as well as a proposal for a concerted at building a public DSA presence both locally and nationally.

A great deal of time was devoted to considering a flurry of proposed amendments to the DSA Constitution and Bylaws. Most of these were intended to serve as structural solutions to various organizational dysfunctions. Most of them were defeated. Part of this was the usual difficulty in passing any proposal that requires more than a simple majority. Another part of it was a healthy skepticism that structural change without political change would not count for much.

The National Political Committee had a fairly significant turnover in membership. From the Midwest, Detroit DSA's Ron Aronson just barely retained his seat, but he was joined by Eric Ebel, also from Detroit, and Charity Crouse from Chicago DSA.

The Convention's mood was distinctly gloomy at the start, and a protracted debate on procedure did not help. Though the debate was understandable. The 1997 Convention apparently strictly observed a rather less than participatory set of rules and delegates were eager to make sure that particular fiasco did not repeat itself. By the end of the Convention, the mood was purposeful if not cautiously optimistic: just the right mood for Seattle.

 

Convention Sidebar 1:

Two New Commissions

The 1999 DSA National Convention also took steps toward reestablishing a national Labor Commission and a national Gay Lesbian Bisexual Commission. Both events were accompanied by some controversy.

The Labor Commission meeting was well attended, mostly by DSA members who are active in their union locals. The major point of controversy was about the basic function of the commission. Should it be an organization of and for DSA union members, directed at the labor movement, or should it be primarily directed and organizing labor support and education among nonunion members?

While the Convention passed a resolution mandating the organization of a Labor Commission, the meeting itself was not strong on determining follow up steps.

The meeting of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Commission was not so well attended and the controversy might seem trivial: what's in a name? For a variety of reasons, some involving obscure points of ideology but others, more practically, involving just how the Commission is to be presented to its constituency, the meeting decided to change the name to the Queer Commission.

Since then the members of the Commission based here in Chicago have begun work on a number of literature pieces (one of which was distributed at the Chicago WTO rally and at World AIDS day activities) and on an email list. If you'd like to join the latter, go to http://www.egroups.com/groups/dsaq.

Bob Roman

 

Convention Sidebar 2:

Midwest DSA

Delegates from the Midwest Regional DSA caucused during the DSA National Convention. Delegates from Detroit DSA, Chicago DSA, Greater Madison DSA and Minnesota met to talk about the future of the regional organization and its current project, Prairie Power, a quarterly newsletter that is distributed to DSA members that have paid dues to the regional organization.

The general consensus was that the regional organization should continue, and that we should be looking for opportunities to meet while also developing means of decision making that do not necessarily depend upon physically gathering together. The function and distribution of Prairie Power might well change over the coming year depending upon what happens with the national organization and Democratic Left but for the next couple of issues, at least, should continue as is.

The delegates traded ideas about possible functions and projects for the regional organization. Some included meeting as an adjunct conference to another DSA event such as the annual dinners done by Detroit, Columbus or Chicago, or participating in the annual "Rad Fest" in Madison (an event similar to Chicago's defunct Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference). There was even conversation about eventually serving as a platform for another midwest staff person.

Bob Roman


Values and Strategy for a Socialism of the Future

By Ron Baiman

Economic Democracy: The Politics of Feasible Socialism, by Robin Archer. New York: Oxford University Press / Clarendon, 1999, $24.95 Cloth

Why do we struggle for democratic socialism? From where do we get the inspiration and strength to endure hardship, marginalization, sometimes persecution and criminalization in order to press for a social goal that at times seems so unobtainable as to be a laughable? Do we speak truth? If we do, how do we actually get there? We need to map out a feasible politics, since one of the dictums of our truth is that (quoting Karl): "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point however is to change it."

Robin Archer may have succeeded in answering these two most basic questions in a fine recent book: Economic Democracy: The Politics of Feasible Socialism. In a nutshell Archer believes that we are motivated by a desire for freedom and we can get there by forging strong centralized labor movements that are willing and able to tradeoff "exchangeable goods" for greater corporate control and democratic freedom within a corporatist political and social framework. Moreover, this is possible even in a non-homogeneous country with a strong individualist classic liberal political tradition because this strategy has recently been successful in Australia.

Why Freedom?

Archer's advocacy of freedom as the core value of socialism may appear strange. Although in the west democratic socialism has long been viewed as a political tradition rooted in the core enlightenment values of liberte, egalite and fraternite (see Tom Weisscopf's: "Toward a Socialism of the Future in the Wake of the Demise of the Socialism of the Past," Review of Radical Political Economics 24(3/4) 1992, for example), socialism is most often associated with equity rather than liberty. John Roemer has been one of the most forceful advocates of this latter position. But, as Archer points out, freedom lies at the core of equity and solidarity, as a clear understanding of freedom implies the latter. In this sense freedom and autonomy is the most deeply held principle of the enlightenment, and real freedom can only be obtained through democratic socialism.

In order to show the concept of freedom and liberty must be extended beyond the liberal notion of "negative liberty", or "freedom from constraint", to the socialist concept of "positive liberty" entailing the "availability of means". This "principle of equal liberty" would join together the conditions of "lack of constraint" and "availability of means", both necessary for freedom of choice and action, to get liberty as a core value principle of democratic socialism. Notice, for example, that although removing constraints to liberty often requires restrictions on government power, or at the very least public inaction compatible with the "classic liberal" tradition, providing available means such as: food, clothing, shelter, legal aid, etc., usually requires government action.

This idea is not new. Here for example is Rosa Luxemburg on Lenin in 1905 (cited in Harrington's Socialism: Past and Future, p. 68-9):

"We always differentiate the social essence of bourgeois democracy from its political form, we unmask the harsh core of social inequality and unfreedom which exists under the sweet husk of formal freedom and equality. But to do so is not to reject freedom and equality, but to spur on the working class so that it is not satisfied with the husk but rather conquers political power in order to give that husk a new social content. It is the historic task of the proletariat, when it comes to power, to replace bourgeois democracy with socialist democracy, not to abolish democracy itself."

However, Archer elaborates upon these core ideals of "socialist democracy". To the "principle of equal liberty" he adds the "axiom of sociality" which stems from the recognition that we need other people to achieve some of our goals. This requires associations of people including firms. In enlightenment terms, this implies that freedom requires fraternity. We therefore have to distinguish between personal freedom, which can be had when individual choices do not affect others, and democratic freedom, which requires association. Democratic freedom, or the principle of equal liberty applied to associations, leads in turn to the "all affected" principle which stipulates that: "all individuals whose ability to make choices and act on them is affected by the decisions of an association should share control over the process by which those decisions are made"(27). If this were not the case all persons affected by the social decisions of associations could not be equally free.

But this basic democratic principle (see for example Bowles and Edwards: "All those affected by the decision must have a say in making the decision." Understanding Capitalism p. 26) clearly can only be applied if it can be determined which affected individuals should have what kind of share of control. This is Archer's principle contribution. He notes that it is important to distinguish between: a) control which can be exercised directly by making decisions in the face of constraints, and b) control which can exercised indirectly by affecting the constraints. For example, the controlling shareholders of a firm can exercise direct control by setting company policy through their power on the board of directors, whereas, in a market economy, consumers can only affect firm policy indirectly through their purchasing decisions. Archer defines the condition of being subjected to practical de facto "authority" as the condition of having to comply with the decisions of the person(s) in authority. He then determines that direct control of an authority is the appropriate form of control for subjects of the authority, whereas indirect control is appropriate for affected non-subjects.

The all-subjected principle applies to those who are under the direct control of the association (32). As these subject's choices are equally supplanted by that of the association they should all have equal say regarding the policies of the association. This principle appears similar to Hirschman's concept of "voice" in his book Exit, Voice, Loyalty.

On the other hand, if the association's choices become a factor which must be weighed with other choices, persons can, in some cases, secure freedom by vetoing the affect of the choices of the association. In a market context, this would involve not purchasing the products of the association, or firm. This is referred to as (consumer) "exit" power in Hirschman's terminology.

Following this analysis, the most fundamental moral problem with capitalism is that workers can only exercise "exit" (assuming competitive labor markets), whereas capitalists can exercise "voice" and "exit" even though they are only "indirectly affected" by the actions of the firm. The major critique of "wage labor" under capitalism is that it, like slavery, offers no "direct control" to the worker even though the worker is one who is directly subjected to the authority of the capitalist. Also, the worker is not free to exit the working class even though that person may be able to exit a given firm. Thus along the two dimensions of "direct control" and "class entry and exit" the wage laborer under capitalism is in the same position as the slave. Only with regard to the greater limits on the authority of the capitalist, or his/her "scope", and in the ability of the worker to "exit the firm," is wage labor an improvement over slavery (58). Archer concludes that in terms of freedom, capitalism is an intermediate form between slavery and socialism. The goal of economic democracy, and one of the central goals of democratic socialism, is to give workers direct control over firms.

How Do We Get There?

Archer defines corporatist societies as those with industrial relations characterized by: a) a high degree of centralized decision making power by the government, employers, and unions, b) high levels of class cooperation between employers and worker associations, and c) "public involvement" which includes both a government role in industrial relations and public and union and employer involvement in government - typically through socialist and conservative parties (80-1). In contrast, a lassez-faire system is one in which the political functions of the state and the economic functions of "civil society" are strictly separated and social relations within the latter (which includes industrial relations) are based on individual contracts (81-2).

Citing other studies, Archer notes that paradoxically, because workers in lassez-faire systems have no formal avenues of resistance and are in constant fear of losing their jobs, these systems are characterized by high levels of "class cooperation" - or absence of labor conflict. Moreover, since governments in lassez-faire systems must continually act to prevent unionization and, at least in theory, to support competition among employers, these systems also sanction high levels of public involvement by government in civil society (81-2).

On the other hand, Pluralist systems, such as in the U.S., are characterized by decentralized labor and capital organization so that they fall in-between lassez-faire and corporatism. They are likely to have the highest level of class conflict as each individual union and employer association will act exclusively in their own self-interest (101, 150).

After noting the dangers of destructive class collaboration, public involvement and centralization (85-8), Archer makes a case for progressive corporatism which includes strong constitutional guarantees for internal union democracy, as in the highly centralized Swedish unions with some measure of local autonomy to enhance membership motivation, and strong pro-labor public involvement by social democratic or labor governments (91). The basic argument is that corporatism: a) "maximizes workers' strength", b) "enables them to use this strength to obtain the widest variety of goods", and c) "enables these goods to be distributed to the working class as a whole" (92).

To support this contention Archer enumerates the advantages of capital in the labor-capital relationship. Capital owns the means of production. There are many fewer capitalists than workers, employed and unemployed. Capital can be easily "merged" and put under unified command through joint-stock companies and capital has a wide range of applicability and is easily transformable. Moreover, capitalist organizations do not face as much of a "free rider" problem since individual capitalists may see substantial individual benefits from association and have a unifying interest in profit maximization (92-4).

Workers therefore must merge if they are to have any chance of overcoming capital's historical advantages. In particular workers must associate to restrict the supply of labor to overcome labor's disadvantage in numbers. Moreover, at high levels of "corporatist" organization, labor has an advantage because centralized labor organizations can forge a broader group identity that is not exclusively based on a narrow self-interest in profit maximization. Corporatist systems also allow for "societal bargaining" through which unions can combine their power with that of the government and negotiate benefits for the entire working class. Societal bargaining permits negotiation over broad tax, welfare, investment, and economic democracy. These are goals over which unions otherwise would have no control. The outcome of these negotiations may increase the strength of labor in the future. "Incomes policy" tradeoffs of wage constraint for tax cuts, growth and employment, or increased social security or pension funding, are classic examples of this (98-102).

In the remainder of the book, Archer describes in detail the ways in which unions in corporatist societies have been able to tradeoff "exchangeable goods" for greater direct control. Archer uses John Stephen's six step typology of levels of control: (roughly): 1) annual leave and welfare services, 2) work speed, work methods and choice of work tasks, 3) hiring and firing, 4) technology, organization, and planning, 5) choice of products, and product quality and quantity, 6) the distribution of profit, investment, financing, and budgeting as a refined schema for disaggregating negotiations over corporate control (see The Transition from Capitalism to Socialism p. 24).

Control can be gained "against ownership" by limiting the prerogatives of capital ownership. For example the metalworkers union in Germany gained some control over technological change in 1973 and 1978. In 1973 Swedish safety stewards gained a temporary veto right over unsafe work situations (105). These limited initiatives were completed by the far-reaching 1976 German co-determination law which gave unions near-parity representation on all large company supervisory boards and a 1976 Swedish co-determination law which gave unions the right to negotiate the outcome of decision making at all levels of firm management (105, 156-8). Alternatively, control can be obtained "through ownership" as in the famous case of the Swedish Meidner Plan enacted in a watered-down version in 1983 (106, 158-161).

In periods of "stagflation" such as that from the mid 70's to early 80's, Archer provides evidence indicating that corporatist societies have outperformed all others in reducing the "misery index" of inflation plus unemployment through wage and price restraining "incomes policies" (153). Under stagflationary conditions, Archer claims that "control through ownership" tradeoffs (for example by exchanging increased employer contributions to union-controlled pension funds in return for wage restraint) are most likely to succeed as they both increase union control of investment and increase worker benefits in the future (167-8). He notes that the Swedish unions had much less trouble setting up the "fourth AP" union-controlled pension fund in 1974 which, unlike the three earlier pension funds, was allowed to purchase stock than they had with the 1983 "wage earner funds". Similarly, in Denmark a worker-controlled cost-of-living fund resulting from a 1976 incomes-policy agreement was subsequently allowed to invest a certain percentage of its assets in shares (167). Finally, in 1983 the Labor government in Australia entered into an "Accord" with employers which with the help of a long tradition of centralized government wage-fixing through an Arbitration Commission, led to a tradeoff of cost-of-living wage plus productivity increments in return for a shorter work week, price restraint, lower taxes, employment growth, and other industrial development and social wage policies. Again, empirical evidence shows that this strategy was relatively successful (215-6).

In the subsequent period of "structural adjustment" from the early to mid 80's to the present, international pressures presented advanced country economies with a new and different problem of developing competitive export industries to solve job growth and international balance of payments problems. Here again, Archer argues that corporatist regimes offered a viable alternative to Neo-liberal policies of cutting the social wage and weakening union power. He notes that of the three key necessary reforms of: a) wage flexibility, b) labor mobility, and c) training and work organization enhancement and flexibility (175), the most important "structural adjustment" goal is to facilitate labor mobility, skills training, and productivity enhancements that increase firm productivity.

Archer argues that, contrary to received neo-liberal wisdom, centralized union power can foster increased labor mobility and economic efficiency and competitiveness by setting wage differentials across functional job categories rather than across firms or economic sectors. An example of this is the Swedish "active labor market policy" jointly administered by unions, government, and employers for example (178).

In contrast, in countries where wage differentials are not based on job classification, highly paid workers (such as U.S. steel workers) often have no where to go but down the pay scale. In this situation there will be strong resistance to structural adjustment as each union and group of workers fights for its own. Similarly, skill and training requirements can benefit from corporatist apprenticeship programs such that of Germany which enrolls about 90 percent of youth over age 16, because of the well-known "free-rider" problem associated with individual firm-based skills training (see Comparative Economic Systems, by H. Stephen Gardner, p. 334). In the absence of negotiated "corporatist" agreements, productivity enhancements are also likely to face strong worker resistance because of fear of layoffs (180). Archer notes that: "...the task for labor is not to prohibit the introduction of flexible skills and flexible training arrangements but rather to control it."(190)

For example the Australian "Accord" was extended in the "structural adjustment" period to deal with the new "balance of payments" crisis. In these later accords, unions agreed to wage increases and industry-wide contributions to joint union and employer controlled superannuation funds in return for more flexible decentralized wage setting and job classifications systems. These kinds of agreements between unions and employers do not require government funding and are not dependent on a pro-labor party remaining in power (167, 220).

Extending the Archer Vision

By confining his analysis to industrial relations, Archer is able to produce a clear and compelling argument for a corporatist strategy for advanced country transition to a form of democratic socialism involving worker controlled firms within for-profit "corporatist" market economies. Missing from this book is an analysis of the international and national economic policies that undermine this "corporatist" "high road" solution by continuously enhancing the power of capital and reducing that of labor, and of the necessary macroeconomic policy responses. For example, corporatist facilitation of skill based "wage flexibility" could undermine "freedom" by reducing equal opportunity across workers if it is not off-set by progressive income redistribution policy measures. The solution to current high unemployment and slow growth around the world is not simply a matter of "structural adjustment" but also a consequence of a global regime of tight monetary policy and liberalized capital flows that has dramatically enhanced (private) corporate and rentier profits and power.

While, I have no quibble with retaining important elements of a market economy to ensure continued innovation and consumer accountability, it appears clear that in order to achieve "socialist freedom" increased union scope and power should be used to change the basic parameters of this very same market economy. The power of workers and citizens relative to capital should be increased through support for "fair trade" policies, low interest rates and selective credit targeting, public sector growth, direct development and social program funding, and other progressive policy measures (see Ed Nell's Making Sense of a Changing Economy, pp. 115-120).

Without this parallel struggle for "extra-firm" public policy control, it seems to me that a corporatist transition is not viable. "Public involvement" should not just be used to increase worker control or ownership of firms, and Neoclassical economic nostrums regarding the causes and solutions to economic problems should not be accepted but rather resisted and changed. From the start, influence over public policy needs to be leveraged in order to increase democratic control of the economy. Without this broader approach, which includes significant national and international progressive policy intervention and planning, I fear that "economic democracy", narrowly defined as simply "workplace democracy", will be a dead end or a bust.

This however, should be construed not so much as a critique, but rather as an extension or elaboration of Archer's basic idea. This is not, after all, a book on progressive economic policy analysis, or the necessary public policy components of a democratic socialist economy. Extending the "tradeoff" to these areas would appear to be a natural and necessary complement to Archer's basic corporate control emphasis. Overall, this is book is a "must read" for those concerned with how to achieve democratic socialism. Archer has tackled the most difficult "transition" problem and outlined a closely argued and realistic strategy that should inspire us all to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Utopias by Gareth Lind


Other News

compiled by Bob Roman

 

NAFTA for Africa Act

Among the items happily stranded by the end of session budget battles in Congress was HR 434, the "NAFTA for Africa Act" otherwise (and officially) known as the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (see March April, 1999, New Ground #63, Page 1, "Africa's HOPE Against Globalization"). The bill was passed out of both the House and the Senate, though not after an extensive fight and, in the Senate, many amendments. The debate delayed Senate action until the very final days of this session of Congress. The House and the Senate bills must now be reconciled in conference. Once again, circumstances seem to be in our favor; the two versions of the bill are very different. Among other things, the Senate bill also includes a 24 country expansion of NAFTA into the Caribbean (the "Caribbean Basin Initiative") as well as other significant differences.

With the events in Seattle making opposition to free trade measures more than just rightwing nationalist cant, we have a real opportunity to exercise a popular veto of this pernicious measure. Call your Senators and your Representative. Tell them to oppose all versions of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. The Capitol switchboard number is 1-800-648-3516.

Congressman Jackson's "HOPE for Africa" bill, HR772, continues to pick up sponsors but has not moved from committee. You might indicate your support for this measure when you call.

For additional information, go to http://www.citizen.org.

 

US Action Convention

When Citizen Action collapsed as a national organization a few years ago, it left behind several strong state organizations, including Illinois Citizen Action, and a definite political vacuum that needed to be filled. A year of hard work paid off November 11 through 14 when 38 organizations representing some 600,000 members sent delegates to Chicago for a national convention refounding the Citizen Action movement in a new organization, US Action.

Citizen Action of Illinois' Legislative Director, William McNary, was selected to be the new organization's president. In his acceptance speech, McNary said, "This ain't no club; it's a movement based on tolerance, justice, fairness and freedom. These are things US Action stands for and these are things most Americans stand for. This organization is in a contest for the hearts, minds and souls of America."

Of particular interest is the affiliation of three national organizations representing over two million members: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Service Employees International Union; and the United States Student Association.

US Action is based in Washington, DC. Chicago DSA is a member organization of Citizen Action of Illinois.

 

Campaign for Better Health Care

The Campaign for Better Health Care held its annual fund raising dinner and reception and its annual strategy retreat on Friday and Saturday, December 2nd and 3rd at the Congress Hotel in Chicago.

The strategy retreat brought together representatives from the labor movement, seniors, disability rights, and elements of the health care industry. The mood was generally optimistic. It's not that anyone seriously expected that a national health plan would be on the agenda next year, rather the perception was that the times are changing and this means the next four or five years will be fruitful years for organizing support for a universal health plan. And indeed the retreat did provide the CBHC with some ideas worth pursuing.

This weekend of celebration and planning came after a statewide campaign to demonstrate the need and popularity of universal health care. The downtown rush hour rally in Chicago did not go well, especially considering that the American Public Health Association had brought several thousand delegates to town at that time. But the townhall meetings, designed to pressure present and prospective members of Congress, were generally more successful.

 

Tool and Engineering Settled

Those of you who attended the 1999 Debs Thomas Harrington Dinner might recall that the Steelworkers used their tickets to send three tables of striking members from the Tool and Engineering Company on Chicago's near south side. It was a particularly apt conflict for the Dinner as the CEO, William Farley, was the highest paid CEO in Chicago and had interests in a multitude of Chicago businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The strike was settled on December 10th, after 13 months on the picket line. It was a victory in the defensive sense. The workers preserved their grievance procedure, the seniority system and their union, none of which seemed likely during the strike. Further, both parties have signed an amnesty agreement and all the strikers have an opportunity to return to work. The folks at the Steelworkers emphatically assert that not even this would have been accomplished if it had not been for the active support of the community.

 

Detroit Journal

The final edition of the Detroit Sunday Journal came out on November 21st, the fourth anniversary of the award-winning interim strike newspaper's first issue. The publication faced a continuing loss of staff as workers were called back to work at the two Detroit newspapers or took jobs elsewhere. The reader and advertiser boycott against the Free Press and the News will continue until new contracts are ratified by the six locked out unions.

 

JwJ Cmte for New Priorities

The Committee for New Priorities January forum will on the topic: "Beyond Seattle: The Global Battle for Democracy, Living Wages, and a Clean Environment". It will be on Tuesday January 18, at the UNITE hall, 333 S. Ashland in Chicago. The panelists will be Tina Beacock, Chicago teacher and Labor Party activist; Yittayih Zelalem of Jubilee 2000 and UIC's Voorhees Center; Tyler Grossheush, UofC Young Democratic Socialists; and Patrick Murphy, Conservation Director of the Sierra Student Coalition. Come at 6:30pm for refreshments and socializing; the forum is at 7pm.

 

Kudos

Nate Gooden, who was honored this past May at Detroit DSA's Douglass Debs Dinner, was elected a vice president of the UAW Executive Board to fill the vacancy created by the death of Jack Laskowski. DSA Honorary Chair Dolores Huerta was presented with the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights by President Clinton. Marilyn Sneiderman, Director of the AFL-CIO Field Mobilization Department and a recipient of the 1998 Debs Thomas Harrington Award, was named by Working Mother magazine as one of the nation's 25 most influential working mothers in its December 1999 January 2000 issue.

 

Save the Date!

The 2000 Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner will be Friday, May 5th at the Congress Hotel. This year we will be honoring Representative Jan Schakowsky and our featured speaker will be LA Weekly Editor, Harold Meyerson.


Holiday Season of Conscience

by Harold Taggart

In spite of pouring rain, nine people showed up to celebrate the Holiday Season of Conscience to End Child Labor and Sweatshop Abuses. Spearheaded by the National Labor Committee and People of Faith Network, over 25 cities nationwide planned marches and candlelight vigils to draw attention to the disgraceful treatment of child employees by numerous American Corporations.

Wal-Mart was selected as representative of the atrocious, barbaric practices of these greedy, multinational corporations. Wal-Mart's annual gross income is larger than the gross domestic product of 155 nations according to the National Labor Committee. Yet it pays its workers 9 cents an hour in Bangladesh, 43 cents an hour in Honduras and 12.5 cents an hour in China. One-half of Wal-Mart's 720,000 U.S. employees qualify for food stamps. Meanwhile, members of the Walton family are among the richest people in the world.

Chicago's action was organized by the City-Wide Coalition Against Sweatshops and was made up largely of DePaul students and DSA members. The Coalition chose anti-sweatshop Christmas caroling as the means of protest. Standing in front of Marshall Fields at Washington and State Streets, the wet group with undampened spirit sang carols such as "Away in a Sweatshop" (to the tune of "Away in a Manger"), "Hark the Wal-Mart Banners Say" (to the tune of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing), and everyone's favorite, "The Twelve Days of Sweat-Shopping", sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Numerous shoppers stopped and stood in the rain to listen to the strange lyrics of the carols and read the anti-sweatshop banner prepared by DePaul University students. Several people approached the group to thank the carolers for drawing attention to this issue.


James K. Tribble, Labor Leader

by Bob Roman

James K. Tribble, an International Vice-President of UNITE! and a manager of the union's Chicago and Central States Joint Board, died Tuesday, November 2nd of a heart attack in Clarksville, Indiana. He was 58 years old.

I learned this news when I walked into the Chicago DSA office on that Wednesday. The phone was ringing. It was a reporter from the Chicago Tribune, who was inquiring about our having awarded Tribble the Debs Thomas Harrington award at the 1999 Dinner (see below).

It was not news that I wanted to hear. The left and the labor movement suffered a sad loss that will take some time to heal. Nor was he of an age that is ripe for death. I couldn't help but think of Harold Washington and Maxie Hill.

While the Tribune obituary was generally sympathetic, I must take exception to its title: "James K. Tribble, union executive". He was a leader and he is gone too soon.

 

1999 Eugene V. Debs - Norman Thomas - Michael Harrington Award

James K. Tribble

From your days as a rank-and-file member of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in Jacksonville, Illinois, through your years as a local union officer, staff member and Joint Board leader, you have been steadfast in the effort to empower workers.

You have continued your union's proud tradition of reaching beyond the workplace to lead the fight for social change.

You have placed your union in the forefront of the fight for fair trade laws, for universal health care and for the building of a progressive political movement.

And most importantly, you have renewed and reinvigorated UNITE's efforts to organize workers in the Chicago and Central States region as your contribution to the effort to rebuild the American labor movement.

For a lifetime devoted to the cause of working men and women, the Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner Committee is honored to present you its 1999 award.


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