organize the south! a compilation of links
intro: strategic importance of the US south
I couple of weeks ago, I attended a workshop on Organizing the South (OTS) led by Saladin Muhammad of the Southern Workers’ Alliance and the North Carolina-based Black Workers for Justice. As a long-time activist in the Southern labor movement, Brother Muhammad advocates the formation of a Southern Workers Congress that would advance the struggles of Southern workers and allow workers to articulate their own political program. Below, I’m posting some links on OTS.
Given the current state of crisis of the US labor movement, organizing the South is of critical strategic importance. Organizing the South is essential both to the renewal of the US labor movement and to the future of independent working class politics.
third world within
In the postwar years, US industrial capitalists began shifting production to the low-wage, nonunion, South, where Jim Crow laws and the “right-to-work” laws guarantee a “favorable” business environment. What we are seeing is the fruits of the failure of “operation Dixie”, the ill-fated attempt to organize the South in the 1940s and the passage of right-to-work in the states of the old confederacy. Foreign capital has invested in the South as well as US business. The South has become the center of the US auto industry with only one GM plant unionized. Boeing Aircraft built a plant in Charleston, South Carolina, in a blatant union busting move. The US ruling class has created a low wage enclave that mirrors in some ways the working and living conditions of third world workers.
strategic importance for the us labor movement
The South is a knife held to the throat of the US working class. Organizing the South is essential to reversing the corrosive effects of the decades long employers offensive. Traditional business unionism and top-down bureaucratic organizing drives will not be sufficient to reverse the downward spiral of the unions. The unions must tackle racism as the central obstacle to both working class unity and to class consciousness. This means social movement, or class struggle, unionism must replace bureaucratized business unionism.
Organizing the South is not simply a “bread and butter” shopfloor question. It is a central political struggle for the US working class as a whole. The South, with its low wages and reactionary political environment, drags the US political system to the right. Organizing the South will require political struggle as well as economic struggle. This puts the question of an independent working class political party on the agenda. The twin parties of capital, the Republicans and Democrats, are both opposed to the interests of workers and oppressed people. The South is one of the keys to socialist revolution in the US.
In the Shadow of the DNC, Organizers Call for a Unionized South Working In These Times
After UAW Defeat at VW, Finding a Way Forward by Ron Lare, Solidarity, (Lare is a former E Board member of UAW 600) (added 3/15/14)
The Battle for Chattanooga: Southern Masculinity and the Anti-Union Campaign at Volkswagen, Mike Elk ITT (added 3/14/14)
UAW Leaders’ Pro-corporate Approach Crashes in Chattanooga Socialist Alternative, (added 3/14/14)
Bargaining to disorganize? Steve Early, Socialist Worker (added 2/22/14)
Chattanooga Shoo-Shoo, Bill Onash, Socialist Action (added 2/19/14)
Union leaders condemn ‘despicable’ GOP effort to influence UAW vote Guardian UK (added 2/18/14)
So the UAW Lost, What Can Be Done? Some History Lessons LAWCHA (added 2/17/14)
After Historic UAW Defeat at Tennessee Volkswagen Plant, Theories Abound In These Times (added 2/16/14)
Volkswagen Workers Vote on Union, Works Council Scheme Labor Notes (added 2/16/14)
Defeat of Auto Union in Tennessee Casts Its Strategy Into Doubt New York Times (added 2/16/14)
Tenn. Lawmakers Threaten to Block Subsidies If VW Plant Unionizes In These Times (added 2/16/14)
Making the South union-strong Socialist Worker
Independent Politics and Self-Determination interview with Chokwe Lumumba
New Immigrants in a New South MR Zine
1934: Strike wave in the South Socialist Worker
Behind labor’s long retreat Socialist Worker
The Communist Party and Black Liberation in the 1930s International Socialist Review