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Travis Rowley: Marx and Labor

Saturday, December 17, 2011


“[Socialist League] members, accordingly, are pledged as units within their Labour Parties, Trade Unions and Co-operative Societies, to do everything in their power to further the promotion and ultimate realisation of a militant Socialist programme and policy.” – The Hereford Times, London (1936)

Offering an attentive ear to labor advocates can be enlightening. For instance, when Council 94 president Michael Downey contends that “every worker deserves a safe and secure retirement,” he is not merely making an absurd proclamation – he is offering an opportunity to understand the ideology that guides his union politics.

Every worker “deserves” a secure retirement? What about lazy workers, Mr. Downey?

But this is not a rational consideration within the mind of a Marxist, someone whose worldview is that of an ongoing battle between the classes.

Yes, Marxist. Downey’s statement is flatly a collectivist notion. And it’s more likely to lead to the collapse of the entire institution of retirement, than any form of retirement security.

Central Falls retirees might know what I’m talking about here.

Labor Marxism

Unbeknownst to many, it is socialist theory that has long instructed union desires. Radical Ivy League professors Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven confirmed the un-American philosophy behind organized labor by writing the following in 1966:

“Many American workers…accepted and practiced the principle that each can benefit only as the status of workers as a whole is elevated. They bargained for collective mobility, not for individual mobility; to promote their fortunes in the aggregate, not to promote the prospects of one worker over another. And if each finally found himself in the same relative economic relationship to his fellows as when he began, it was nevertheless clear that all were infinitely better off. That fact has sustained the labor movement in the face of a counter pull from the ideal of individual achievement.”

It’s often repeated that union members, while perhaps manipulated and politically organized by their union bosses, have much in common with other Americans in terms of basic values, principles, and philosophy – more conservative than liberal, we’re told.

Time and time again, however, we find that this is not necessarily the case. Union members often illustrate that they have adopted labor’s collectivist philosophy – brainwashed by union leaders who have unfettered access to them.

Followed by applause, former president of the RI American Federation of Teachers Marcia Reback told a crowd of fired Central Falls teachers last year, “If one of us is hurt, then all of us are hurt.”

Really, Ms. Reback? What about the firing of a bad teacher? Would that hurt all other teachers?

This is not Americanism. This is not competition. This is not individualism. This is collectivism. This is “solidarity.” This is “Workers of the World, Unite.” This is plain old Karl Marx.

Reback now serves as the treasurer of the RI Democratic Party.

Socialist Infiltration

In a nation based on the freedom of the individual, we have seen the rise of labor bosses such as Brenda Stokeley, a former AFSCME official in New York City, who said in 2003, “The first thing we have to do is remind ourselves that we are fighting for socialism.” And the famously socialist SEIU president Andy Stern once said, “There are opportunities in America to share better in the wealth, to rebalance the power. And unions and government are part of the solution.”

It has become pretty evident that an infiltration of organized labor is crucial for those who crave the radical revolution. As explained at a 2008 Netroots Nation conference by a progressive panelist, “More union members means a better progressive movement. You can’t have a successful progressive movement without a workers movement. It’s never been done in the history of progressive politics.”

In Rhode Island we have Peter Asen, a “senior policy analyst” for the General Assembly “focusing on health care and labor policies.” Asen is a community organizer out of Brown University, who has been known to make submissions to Solidarity.org, “a democratic, revolutionary socialist, feminist, anti-racist organization.” Asen is a former officer of the RI Democratic Party, and also the former president of Ocean State Action, a “social justice” outfit currently headed up by another socialist activist – Kate “We All Do Better, When We All Do Better” Brock.

Most notably, Ocean State Action is largely funded by organized labor, is housed within NEA-RI offices - where it rents space.

Around every corner, we find links between unions and socialists.

Government Unions

As it’s the Utopians’ belief that they can create Heaven on Earth, they are constantly seeking to remove the risk from life, and establish as many guarantees as possible. And they have brought their philosophy of guarantees into the world of government employment.

Today many Rhode Islanders are waking up, only to witness their government employees occupying careers that are void of any real competition or the necessity to turn a profit; jobs that are marked by automatic pay raises during economic downturns, the uplifting of the collective rather than the individual, the virtual inability to be fired, guaranteed healthcare for life, and the ability to collect retirement payments around age eleven.

Basically, jobs that offer the most reward possible for the least amount of work. Go figure, it’s Europe.

What, other than Marxist theory, could have produced such a system? And why would anyone be surprised at its failure, or the implosion of the state it has exploited?

Promises, Guarantees, and Contracts

“A promise made should be a promise kept,” union bosses have argued in regards to the state’s recent debate over pension reform. But this is just rhetoric derived from their utopia of guarantees.

Public union bosses despise the idea of private retirement accounts, and adore the concept of pensions, because they believe pensions rescue workers from retirement risk. In fact, Downey is under the naive impression that his “retirement dollars” never reach “Wall Street’s hands” simply because of a government pension promise. Rather than shifting the risk to the taxpayers, Downey actually thinks he eradicated the risk altogether.

If Rhode Island ever found its pension fund severely underfunded due to poor investment returns, it was the design of labor Marxists that government workers would be protected by a system of “contracts” and “promises” that would leave only one available option – socialize the losses by raising taxes.

For union bosses, the sanctity of promises can be suspended when it comes to private citizens. Utopia for the government worker. Hell for the taxpayer.

In the Providence Journal last week Downey wrote, “A strong middle class is what has distinguished this great country of ours.”

Wrong. Freedom is what distinguished the United States. An unprecedented expansion of individual liberty is what allowed for a strong middle class. Not unions.

Downey, like most Marxists, seems entirely oblivious to the great American irony – that it has always been America’s utter lack of guarantees that has actually secured its people.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the chairman of the RI Young Republicans and a consultant for the Barry Hinckley Campaign for US Senate.


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