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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
By Ron Baiman
Economic Democracy: The Politics
of Feasible Socialism, by Robin
Archer. New York: Oxford University Press / Clarendon, 1999, $24.95
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.
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
This idea is not new. Here for example is Rosa Luxemburg on
Lenin in 1905 (cited in Harrington's Socialism: Past and Future,
"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
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.
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
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).
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
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.
compiled by Bob Roman
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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.