Trotsky on the US Labor Movement and the Need for a Labor Party

trotsky1938We republish here an extremely interesting discussion between Leon Trotsky and Abraham Plotkin, Midwest representative of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), held at Trotsky's home in Mexico in 1938. While much has changed since this interview took place (for example, the threat of fascism in the US is not at all imminent at present), Trotsky's insights on the nature of the labor bureaucracy, the tasks confronting the labor movement, and the need for a labor party are as relevant today as they were in the stormy years before World War II.

Which Way Forward for Labor?

trumkaobamaThe dramatic decline in the percentage of the organized labor force over the last 30 years is not an accident. It is largely the result of the class-collaboration policies of the labor leaders, which has put the workers in a weakened position. A complete break with this approach is needed. Only policies that recognize the irreconcilable interests of the workers and the capitalists, and which seek to organize the power of the working class for victory, can show the way forward. However, nobody in the current leadership is offering a real way out.

The Large Retailer Accountability Act and the Labor Movement

walmartlivablewageAs Marxists, we welcome and fight for any increase in the wages of workers. A gain for one layer of the working class is a gain for all, and there are few layers of the American working class more desperate for such a gain than retail workers. The 2010 average retail worker’s hourly wage was a wretched $10.09, adding up to a $20,990 yearly income. However a four-person family in DC requires a staggering $88,615 every year, a clearly unattainable amount of money for parents working the most common job in America.

Patriot, Peabody, Bankruptcy, and the Relentless Drive to Exploit Workers

peabodybankruptIn June of 2012, Patriot Coal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This could potentially lead to liquidation and the shedding of responsibilities for health care for about 22,000 retirees—including family members of former employees—who have contracts with Patriot and rely on their benefits to survive. In a period of sustained economic crisis such as we are living through today, these life-shattering bankruptcies are not out of the ordinary; there is no sure way of ensuring financial security for workers on the basis of capitalism, which is an inherently unstable system. What makes this particular bankruptcy noteworthy, however, is the particularly brazen way in which the company has used the courts to destroy the lives of its workers.

“Another fine mess” Budget Crisis in the United States

Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad, goes the saying. It is an apt description of the warring factions of the US political establishment, especially the Republicans, who are engaged in a ferocious battle over the government budget, and to hell with the consequences.