Why the Working Class and the Rank & File Strategy
Labor Notes: Workers' Struggles 2017 (photos: James Leder; Susan Ruggles (CC BY 2.0) bit.ly/DiaSinInmigrantes; SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana; Dan DiMaggio)
At the Boston DSA/Solidarity Socialist Day School in September, the centrality of the working class to the fight for socialism was the topic of the second panel of the day. [Listen to it HERE]
Bhaskar Sunkara of Jacobin magazine was first up; he stressed that only the working class has the social power to seriously challenge capitalism both inside and outside the workplace. Next, Solidarity member John Fitzgerald, a public school teacher and activist in the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Educators for a Democratic Union, discussed the rank and file strategy as a way to end the isolation of socialists and socialist organizations from the day to day struggles of the organized sectors of the working class. This approach is key to reviving socialist consciousness in the working class and building a revolutionary socialist workers' movement in the U.S.
Karin Baker, also a Massachusetts teacher and member of Solidarity and DSA, talked about "what the rank and file strategy is like when you're doing it," including a successful statewide campaign to replace a top-down, service oriented bureaucratic union leadership with reformers who were willing to fight back and who went on to organize against and defeat an anti-union ballot initiative. Laura Gabby, a member of the Carpenters Union in NYC, joined the DSA, along with other progressive members of her local, and campaigned to defend the union hiring hall and challenge unsafe working conditions.
Listening to them brought me to reflect on my own experience as a longtime activist in the NewsGuild; I shared some of that in the Q&A section of the workshop...