Noam Chomsky Calls For ‘Militant Labor Movement’ To Transform American Politics And Fight Trump

On January 29, 2017, Rob Cotton writes on the Inquisitr:

Noam Chomsky, a distinguished professor of linguistics at MIT and a long-time political activist, has called for a “militant labor movement” in the United States to revitalize American politics and take on the Donald Trump administration and the rest of the corporate-owned political establishment.

In a recent Alternet interview, Noam Chomsky explains the rise of right-wing populist movements in Britain and the United States that led to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as largely a reaction to the failures of neoliberal policies of the past several decades to improve the lives of working-class people. In fact, these policies have only served to concentrate wealth in the hands of the rich, increase inflation, and keep wages low. In this light, it’s no mystery why people are looking to new solutions.

Noam Chomsky told the interviewer that neoliberal programs “have just cast a huge number of people to the side. These programs have improved corporate profit, kept wages stagnant, and highly concentrated wealth and power. They’ve undermined democracy.”

2016 militant labor movement 2017
Striking workers in 2016. [Image by David McNew/Getty Images]

Chomsky goes on to explain that neoliberal policies in place since the late 1970s in the United States have created a situation where the extremely wealthy are reaping huge rewards while many in the working class are struggling to get ahead. Chomsky explains support for Trump as a function of resentment by certain segments of the population for policies they see as elevating those who haven’t worked as hard as they have while doing nothing to help them increase their quality of life.

“Trump supporters are not necessarily very poor—some of them are moderately well-off, they have jobs, but then, the image that’s been used, which is not a bad one, I think, is that they are people who see themselves as standing in line trying to get ahead. That they’ve worked hard, they’ve ‘done’ their place in line, and they’re stuck there. The people ahead of them are shooting off into the stratosphere, and the people behind them, in their view, are being pushed ahead in the line by the federal government. That’s what the federal government does [in their view]—it takes people who are behind them and who haven’t worked hard enough they way they have, and pushes them ahead by some supportive programs.”

According to the Independent, Noam Chomsky had previously discussed the failure of the Democratic Party to appeal to working class voters by highlighting a need for a “militant labor movement” in the United States, which could appeal to working-class voters let down by empty calls for “hope and change” from Barack Obama and other neoliberal Democrats. Speaking before the crowd at Democracy Now’s 20th-anniversary event in December of last year, Chomsky explained that the seeds of such a movement have already been planted in the movement to elect Bernie Sanders as President in 2016.

“Suppose people like you, the Sanders movement, offered an authentic, constructive program for real hope and change, it would win these people back,” Chomsky said.

“I think many of the Trump voters could have voted for Sanders if there had been the right kind of activism and organization. and those are possibilities. It’s been done in the past under much harsher circumstances.”

Noam Chomsky is correct in recognizing that it has historically been labor movements, and not power-players in the political establishment, who have been the most successful in advancing the interests of the American working-class.

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Striking auto workers in 2008. [Image by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images]

According to Worker’s Compass, the labor movement in the early 1950’s did not have a serious ally in Democratic President Harry Truman. Worker solidarity at the time played a large role in advancing the cause of worker’s rights, often in spite of efforts by Truman and the Democrats to counter the labor movement’s goals.

“In 1950 Democrat President Truman tried to smash a strike of 100,000 miners by invoking the Taft-Hartley Act (legislation that greatly restricted strikes),” the article says. “In protest, 270,000 additional miners joined the strike. Soon the mine owners backed down, and the miners won a substantial wage increase.”

Truman, who initially tried to veto the Taft-Hartley Act, nevertheless invoked the law a total of 61 times during his administration, and in 1951, President Truman raised taxes on working people by 12 percent while raising taxes on millionaires by only one percent. This type of duplicitous, anti-worker action continues to haunt the Democratic Party today, whose neoliberal Presidents Clinton and Obama don’t seem very much different from Ronald Reagan in terms of attitudes toward policies to strengthen the working poor and the middle class.

A militant labor movement in the United States, as Noam Chomsky advocates, could go a long way in challenging the pro-corporate neoliberalism that has dominated both parties in American government since the Reagan administration.

Noam Chomsky Calls For ‘Militant Labor Movement’ To Transform American Politics And Fight Trump

While advocating for a militant labor movement, Chromsky should also be advocation for transforming the labor union movement into a producers’s ownership union movement.
None of the outrage would be happening if the labor union movement had transformed to a producers’ ownership union movement and embraced and fight for worker OWNERSHIP stakes in the corporations that employ them.
It is not too late. They should play the part that they have always aspired to––that is, a better and easier life through participation in the nation’s economic growth and progress. As a result, labor unions will be able to broaden their functions, revitalize their constituency, and reverse their decline.
Unfortunately, at the present time the movement is built on one-factor economics––the labor worker. The insufficiency of labor worker earnings to purchase increasingly capital-produced products and services gave rise to labor laws and labor unions designed to coerce higher and higher prices for the same or reduced labor input. With government assistance, unions have gradually converted productive enterprises in the private and public sectors into welfare institutions. Kelso stated: “The myth of the ‘rising productivity’ of labor is used to conceal the increasing productiveness of capital and the decreasing productiveness of labor, and to disguise income redistribution by making it seem morally acceptable.”
Binary economist Louis Kelso long ago argued that unions “must adopt a sound strategy that conforms to the economic facts of life. If under free-market conditions, 90 percent of the goods and services are produced by capital input, then 90 percent of the earnings of working people must flow to them as wages of their capital and the remainder as wages of their labor work…If there are in reality two ways for people to participate in production and earn income, then tomorrow’s producers’ union must take cognizance of both…The question is only whether the labor union will help lead this movement or, refusing to learn, to change, and to innovate, become irrelevant.”
Unions are the only group of people in the whole world who can demand a real Kelso-designed ESOP, who can demand the right to participate in the expansion of their employer by asserting their constitutional preferential rights to become capital owners, be productive, and succeed. The ESOP can give employees access to credit so that they can purchase the employer’s stock, pay for it in pre-tax dollars out of the assets that underlie that stock, and after the stock is paid for earn and collect the capital worker income from it, and accumulate it in a tax haven until they retire, whereby they continue to be capital workers receiving income from their capital ownership stakes. This is a viable route to individual self-sufficiency needing significantly less or no government redistributive assistance.
The unions should reassess their role of bargaining for more and more income for the same work or less and less work, and embrace a cooperative approach to survival, whereby they redefine “more” income for their workers in terms of the combined wages of labor and capital on the part of the workforce. They should continue to represent the workers as labor workers in all the aspects that are represented today––wages, hours, and working conditions––and, in addition, represent workers as full voting stockowners as capital ownership is built into the workforce. What is needed is leadership to define “more” as two ways to earn income.
If we continue with the past’s unworkable trickle-down economic policies, governments will have to continue to use the coercive power of taxation to redistribute income that is made by people who earn it and give it to those who need it. This results in ever deepening massive debt on local, state, and national government levels, which leads to the citizenry becoming parasites instead of enabling people to become productive in the way that products and services are actually produced.
When labor unions transform to producers’ ownership unions, opportunity will be created for the unions to reach out to all shareholders (stock owners) who are not adequately represented on corporate boards, and eventually all labor workers will want to join an ownership union in order to be effectively represented as an aspiring capital owner. The overall strategy should assure that the labor compensation of the union’s members does not exceed the labor costs of the employer’s competitors, and that capital earnings of its members are built up to a level that optimizes their combined labor-capital worker earnings. A producers’ ownership union would work collaboratively with management to secure financing of advanced technologies and other new capital investments and broaden ownership. This will enable American companies to become more cost-competitive in global markets and to reduce the outsourcing of jobs to workers willing or forced to take lower wages.
Kelso stated, “Working conditions for the labor force have, of course, improved over the years. But the economic quality of life for the majority of Americans has trailed far behind the technical capabilities of the economy to produce creature comforts, and even further behind the desires of consumers to live economically better lives. The missing link is that most of those unproduced goods and services can be produced only through capital, and the people who need them have no opportunity to earn income from capital ownership.”
Walter Reuther, President of the United Auto Workers, expressed his open-mindedness to the goal of democratic worker ownership in his 1967 testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress as a strategy for saving manufacturing jobs in America from being outcompeted by Japan and eventual outsourcing to other Asian countries with far lower wage costs: “Profit sharing in the form of stock distributions to workers would help to democratize the ownership of America’s vast corporate wealth, which is today appallingly undemocratic and unhealthy.
“If workers had definite assurance of equitable shares in the profits of the corporations that employ them, they would see less need to seek an equitable balance between their gains and soaring profits through augmented increases in basic wage rates. This would be a desirable result from the standpoint of stabilization policy because profit sharing does not increase costs. Since profits are a residual, after all costs have been met, and since their size is not determinable until after customers have paid the prices charged for the firm’s products, profit sharing [through wider share ownership] cannot be said to have any inflationary impact on costs and prices.”
Unfortunately for democratic unionism, the United Auto Workers, American manufacturing workers, and American citizens generally, Reuther was killed in an airplane crash in 1970 before his idea was implemented. Leonard Woodcock, his successor, nor any subsequent union leader never followed through.

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