Working Class Self-Activity, by George Rawick

What does the term “working class self-activity mean?” This essay by George Rawick explains. Excerpt:

The full incorporation of the unions within the structure of American State capitalism has led to very widespread disaffection of the workers from the unions. Workers are faced squarely with the problem of finding means of struggle autonomous of the unions…

There is often a very – sectarian and remarkably – undialectical reaction to these developments. Some historians and New leftists argue that it demonstrates that the CIO was a failure which resulted only in the workers’ disciplining. This argument ignores the gains of the CIO in terms of higher living standards, more security for workers, and increased education and enlightenment. Clearly, the victories are embedded in capitalism and the agency of victory, the union, has become an agency of capitalism as well. This is a concrete example of what contradiction means in a dialectical sense; and it is part of a process which leads to the next stage of the workers’ struggle, the wildcat strike.

There are two characteristics of the wildcat strike which represent a new stage of development: first, through this device workers struggle simultaneously against the bosses, the State, and the union; second, they achieve a much more direct form of class activity, by refusing to delegate aspects of their activity to an agency external to themselves.

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