Some Lessons of the CIO

The Greaves Summer School is a yearly conference in Dublin, Ireland where speakers mainly from the socialist republican tradition associated with James Connolly (1868-1916) and James Larkin (1876-1947) discuss  current  issues. The school is named in honor of C. Desmond Greaves (1913-1988) a leading Marxist historian of Ireland. Both James Connolly and James Larkin  had American connections. They were active in the Industrial Workers of the World ( IWW, the so-called Wobblies). The IWW was a forerunner of the CIO.

One presentation  was given by Joe Jamison. The background to his talk was a map of US union density, that is, the percentage of the workforce organized into unions. In the early 1950s union density was over 30 percent. By 2012 density had declined to less than 12 percent.

final-union-density-chart


His overarching theme was that, since the late 19th century, the history of American labor  been the struggle between a right-wing, class collaborationist/pro-imperialist tendency and a left-wing, class struggle/anti-imperialist tendency. When the former  was dominant, organized labor declined. When the latter was in the ascendancy,  the  fortunes of the unions improved. The video of the talk, at <<www.greavesschool.com>>,  runs about 30 minutes.

January 27, 2014

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