[WV] 603 Teamsters article

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Jul 13, 1994, 11:36:49 AM7/13/94
From: Spartacists/US Section
The following article is from the July 8 issue of Workers
Vanguard, the Marxist working-class biweekly of the Spartacist
League. A one year subscription to Workers Vanguard is $10.00.
Make checks payable/mail to: Spartacist Publishing Co., Box 1377
GPO, New York, NY 10116.

Other articles in this issue are: "U.S. Hands Off Haiti!";
"South Africa Powder Keg"; "Stop the Frame-Up of Keith McHenry!";
quote of the week: "No to Yankee Imperialist Intervention!";
"Anti-Immigrant Frenzy in California Elections"; "Logan County
Miner Framed for Picket Line Defense--Freedom for Jerry Dale
Lowe!"; "Clinton/Reno Mass Murderers Railroad Waco Survivors";
"Free Jesse Acuna!"; Workers Vanguard Special Supplement:
"Abolish the Racist Death Penalty! Mobilize to Save Mumia
Abu-Jamal!"; "From Death Row, This Is Mumia Abu-Jamal"; "Oakland:
Racist Cop Riot at Lake Merritt"; "Mobilize Midwest Labor to Win
CAT Strike!".

Reformists Cover for Teamster Bureaucracy
Feds' Finks: TDU and the Left

The 24-day Teamsters strike by 70,000 truck drivers and
loading dock workers in April sharply posed the possibility of
reversing years of labor defeats, givebacks and humiliating
sellouts. And just as sharply, the strike posed the crisis of
leadership facing the working class. Strikers remained solid in
the face of vicious police assaults and arrests on the picket
lines. They received widespread support and solidarity from
longshoremen, rail workers and other unionists across the
country, who knew that the Teamsters union, despite the erosion
of its power in recent years, could have won this key strike
But the strike was sabotaged from the beginning by the
Teamster leadership. Both IBT president Ron Carey, installed in
1991 in a government-run election along with the "reformers" of
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), and the venal "old guard"
of corrupt officials played by the bosses' rules. Less than two-
thirds of the freight membership was pulled out on strike, none
of the "double breasted" non-union subsidiaries were shut down,
victimized and arrested strike militants were abandoned to the
cops and courts. And when Clinton intervened, Carey quickly
rolled over. In the last decade-and-a-half the American ruling
class has systematically driven down the standard of living of
the working class by over 20 percent. The Teamsters were one of
the only major unions to retain the right to strike over
grievances, which the sellout contract replaces with binding
arbitration. It also gives up thousands of jobs to intermodal
(rail) freight, sets up a new category of dock "casuals" with
substandard pay frozen below scale, and leaves "double breasting"
The Spartacist League and our newspaper Workers Vanguard
argued from the outset that to win the strike it was necessary to
use the arsenal of class-struggle tactics which had made the
Teamsters the powerhouse of labor it once was. We called for
spreading the strike to UPS and the non-union outfits, and to
refuse to bow to anti-picketing injunctions and anti-union laws
which ban "hot-cargoing" (refusing to handle) struck goods. We
warned that the Carey/ TDU gang was beholden to the employers and
their government, that to win it would take a class-struggle
leadership which recognized that the bosses' state was the enemy
of workers' struggle. And when Carey & Co. capitulated, we told
the unvarnished truth, "Teamster Contract Stinks," adding that it
was the "Bitter Fruit of Government Intervention." We wrote:
"So the regime the government put in, Carey and the TDU,
called a limited strike, handcuffed the Teamsters into
playing by the bosses' rules, wearing out the strikers and
sending them back to work in order to give the bosses what
they wanted from the beginning--a new category of cheaper
Most of the left, in contrast, echoed the AFL-CIO News (16
May) headline, "IBT Stand Hailed as Victory for Labor." Typical
were the quirky reformists of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
who proclaimed, "Teamsters Win One for Labor" (Militant, 23 May).
Even one of their own salesmen complained that the Militant's
coverage "did not reflect any of this sentiment" against the
sellout that he encountered at a strike meeting in Pennsylvania.
An SWP splinter, Socialist Action (May 1994), called the Teamster
settlement a "partial victory," lauding a "tough-minded and
experienced leadership that sent its troops out slugging" and
"struck with all the force at their disposal." They even hailed
Carey's wretched "public relations" campaign as "downright
revolutionary." SA honcho Nat Weinstein knows a thing or two
about how to be a waterboy for the bureaucrats. He got his group
off the ground by gooning leftists and militant workers on behalf
of the San Francisco labor tops during the 1983 Greyhound strike.
RICO "Socialists"
In this class battle, the burning need to fight for the
complete independence of the workers' organizations from the
bosses' state was posed pointblank. Opposition to this racist,
capitalist government is the first principle of genuine
socialists. The strike and the feds' vendetta against the
Teamsters union was a test for the left--and the reformists
failed the test miserably.
Behind these "socialist" groups' sickening praise of Carey
and his contract stands their long history of support to the TDU
and its project of bringing the government in to "clean up" the
Teamsters. Many Teamsters have a deep hatred of this government,
recalling how the arrogantly wealthy Kennedy clan went after
Jimmy Hoffa in order to break the union's power to shut down
freight across the country. During the strike, our supporters who
visited the picket lines got angry challenges from some Teamsters
who wanted to know if we were with the "TDU socialists" who
dragged their union into the courts. Definitely not! More than a
decade and a half ago, we warned that the TDU acts as "the cat's
paw of reaction" who "deserve the scorn of every labor militant":
"They invite the government in to tighten its stranglehold
on the unions even more than it has already. The capitalist
state's constant striving to subordinate the unions to its
control is in fact the major obstacle both to union
democracy and to putting the unions on a class-struggle
--"Hands Off the Teamsters!" (WV No. 158, 20 May 1977)
It is one of the crimes of the pseudo-leftists who founded
the TDU in the 1970s that a whole layer of Teamsters has come to
identify "socialist" with dragging the union into the bosses'
courts. And no organizations are more responsible for that crime
than the groups spawned by the International Socialists:
Solidarity/Labor Notes (the chief braintrusters of the TDU) and
the International Socialist Organization (ISO).
The ISO's refusal to defend the unions against the
capitalist government's attacks--indeed its appeals to the
bosses' state to intervene in the labor movement--is not
surprising given its refusal to defend the former Soviet Union
against capitalist attack. Indeed, these social democrats
actively joined the anti-Soviet cold war. More than 50 years ago,
Trotsky drew an analogy between the bureaucratically run unions
and the bureaucratically degenerated Soviet workers state under
Stalin. While fighting to oust the bureaucratic misleaders, the
organizers of defeat, we called for defense of the USSR against
imperialism and counterrevolution, just as we defend the trade
union against state intervention. The ISO does neither. Those who
cannot defend past gains of the working class will not conquer
future ones.
Beneath the empty headline "Teamsters Strike Settles"--
buried on page 15 of its newspaper Socialist Worker (May 1994)--
the ISO amnestied the Carey leadership, talking about how it was
"forced to concede" on intermodal freight, singling out the "old
guard" for criticism and ludicrously claiming that "Carey has
demonstrated he is more willing to take on the bosses than any of
his predecessors." The ISO managed the feat of publishing two
articles on the strike and contract without one word on the TDU
or the feds' "racketeering" suit to take over the union! But the
ISO knows quite a bit about the TDU, close-up. Longtime TDU
leader Pete Camarata is a prominent ISO supporter, and was a
featured speaker at an ISO May Day rally in New York City during
the strike.
Seeking to distance itself from the despised TDU--which it
has backed for more than 15 years--and TDU's reliance on the
capitalist state, the ISO talks out of both sides of its mouth.
When Carey won the presidency under the auspices of the
government, the ISO hailed his election as "a tremendous victory"
and "a source of pride and confidence" in one paragraph, while in
the next denouncing Carey's Justice Department pals as "a threat
to union democracy" (Socialist Worker, November 1992).
When the feds announced their RICO (Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations) Act suit against the union in 1987, the
ISO declared on paper that "union activists should stand in firm
opposition to any interference from the Justice Department into
Teamster internal affairs" (Socialist Worker, July 1987). They
subsequently claimed that "the leaders of the reform group
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), did not seek federal
intervention" (Socialist Worker, July 1991)! They lie. Dan La
Botz writes in his pro-TDU history, Rank-and-File Rebellion
(Verso, 1990) that the ISers like Ken Paff were in bed with the
"In April 1987, even before the official announcement of the
RICO suit against the Teamsters, TDU National Organizer Ken
Paff sent a nine-page letter to Stephen Trott, assistant US
attorney general, laying out in detail TDU's views at the
time: `[W]e strongly urge the government to seek
reorganization of the IBT under Section 1964(a) of the RICO
Trying to weasel out of a tight spot, the ISO urges that the
TDU return "to its roots," when they "wanted to fight the bosses,
were progressive on race and sex divisions." These "progressives"
have never sought to bring out the power of the Teamsters against
the race-terrorists of the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis; they have
never opposed the unions' organizing of racist, strikebreaking
cops; and all the fake "socialists" in the TDU remained silent
when the Teamsters raided the Farmworkers on behalf of the
employers in the 1970s.
Contrary to the ISO's cynical rewriting of history, the
TDU's central strategy has always been to drag its opponents in
the union into the capitalist courts and to appeal to the bosses'
Labor Department. In an interview in 1977, Camarata told Workers
Vanguard: "I think the union's so corrupt right now that you need
it [government intervention] for a while, at least until you get
things straightened out." The ISO parroted that line as recently
as three years ago, saying: "In concert with the government--
forced to curb the openly corrupt aspects of the union--the
reform movement under TDU's leadership has gone a long way toward
leveling the playing field for those seeking union offices"
(Socialist Worker, January 1991).
But what else can you expect from an outfit whose main
international leader Tony Cliff of the British Socialist Workers
Party bragged how SWP steel workers crossed miners' picket lines
during the yearlong 1984-85 miners strike, and asserts
internationally that the racist, strikebreaking police are part
of the labor movement.
Another supposed socialist who hails scabbing is Peter
Sollenberger, who currently heads up the centrist Trotskyist
League (TL). The first issue of the TL's Workers Struggle (June-
July 1994) applauds the West Coast longshoremen who honored the
picket lines of striking Teamsters at Sea Land terminals. But
back in 1977, when Sollenberger and his then-partner Leland
Sanderson set up the Revolutionary Workers League, the first
issue of the RWL's paper was devoted to defending their crossing
of picket lines during a strike by Ann Arbor AFSCME campus
Workers Struggle hails the TDU as an "inspiration" which
"revolutionaries should join and build," fantasizing that "TDU
could have been the basis for organizing insurgent rank-and-file
strike committees to spearhead a renewed strike." Only if they
got prior approval from Attorney General Reno! The TDU majority
on the General Executive Board joined the "old guard" in voting
to cut off strike benefits and force the Teamsters back to work.
The TL's only lament is that the "TDU is limited by its reliance
on the capitalist government." "Limited"? Reliance on the
capitalist government is the TDU's reason for existence!
As we wrote in 1977: "The corrupt Teamster bureaucracy must
be ousted, but not by the bosses' government. This is the task of
a militant leadership which knows that the bourgeois state is the
workers' mortal enemy." For class-struggle militants, that is the
real lesson of the Teamsters strike. The "reform movements" built
by the fake-socialists in the Steelworkers, Mine Workers and
Teamsters have played a significant role in "disciplining" the
working class by bringing labor under the greater control of the
bosses' government. Our objective is to free the unions from the
bureaucracy that chains them to the bosses' government and
transform them into organizations of struggle of the working
class fighting for a workers government. This is the only road to
ending unemployment, racist oppression and the other ravages of
capitalism. Those who seek to "reform" the unions by bringing in
the agencies of the capitalist state wipe out the basic
precondition for class struggle against that state--the political
independence of the proletariat. Government out of the unions!
Break with the Democrats and Republicans! For a workers party to
smash capitalism and form a workers government!
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