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There would be no wealth at all if no-one worked. Labour is essential to everything that is produced. The rich have got rich because they have swiped a proportion of the value of the workers’ labour, and because they use that surplus for one purpose only: to increase their own wealth, power and privilege.
This exploitation of labour, by a class of people who have grown rich because of it, is as central a characteristic of society today as it ever was. The ‘market’ is the economic mechanism by which this system works. It claims to be able to identify what is wanted or needed, and then to produce it. It claims an ‘economic discipline’ which only produces where a profit can be made. If something makes a profit, it is selling and therefore it is needed. If it doesn’t make a profit, it isn’t needed or wanted and therefore shouldn’t be made. Paul Foot, The Case for Socialism ch4
What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make manhood more noble, womanhood more beautiful, and childhood more happy and bright. Samuel Gompers
We have a very violent labor history. Hundreds of American workers were being killed in the late thirties. Finally they got labor rights ... There is always challenge and struggle. Professor Noam Chomsky, ‘Is Capitalism Making Life Better?’
Labor Unions are the leading force for democratization and progress. Noam Chomsky
One of the most effective democratising forces has always been the labor movement – labor unions – the history on that is completely clear. In countries that have a strong labor movement, there is also a very strong tendency or correlation with a real-live functioning social contract that includes not only rights for working people but for people who need help and protection, for the defenceless, for children, for women, for families, for people who need assistance generally and for the general public. And there’s also a culture that goes along with it – a culture of solidarity and sympathy and mutual aid and support ... Here as elsewhere unions have been a leading force, probably the leading force, for democracy and human rights. Noam Chomsky, lecture 1988, ‘Class War: The Attack on Working People’
From 1985 to 1992 the United States went from highest labor costs to second lowest in the industrial world, and this was described by the Wall Street Journal as: A welcome development of transcendent importance. ibid.
Italy: Fascist goons effectively ended labor agitation with government help, and the democratic deviation was terminated. The United States watched with approval. Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy
As fascism darkness settled over Italy, financial support from the US government and business climbed rapidly. Italy was offered by far the best postwar debt settlement of any country, and US investment there grew far faster than any other country as the Fascist regime established itself, eliminating labor unrest and other democratic disorders. ibid.
In part, the dismissive assessment of Japan’s prospects was based on the failure of Japanese industrial recovery prior to the economic stimulus of military procurements for the Korean War. In part, there was doubtless an element of racism – illustrated, for example, in the reaction of the business community to the democratic labor laws introduced by the US military occupation. These laws were opposed by business generally. They were bitterly denounced by James Lee Kauffman, one of the influential members of the business lobby that worked to impede the democratization of Japan. ibid.
Militant labor action was barred, including some attempts to establish workers’ control over production. Even these partial steps towards democracy scandalized the State Department. ibid.
These pressures led to the ‘reverse course’ of 1947, which ensured that there would be no serious challenge to government-corporate domination over labor, the media and the political system. ibid.
Leftists who had been jailed under fascist rule were excluded, the normal pattern worldwide. Labor was suppressed with considerable police violence, and elimination of the right to strike and collective bargaining. The goal was to ensure business control over labor through conservative unions. ibid.
While Japanese corporate conglomerates were reinforced, labor was weakened and splintered, with the collaboration of US labor leaders, as elsewhere in the world. ibid.
Britain itself was to face a similar attack on unions and the welfare system, as did the United States itself, beginning with the assault on labor in the early postwar period, renewed by the bipartisan consensus of the post-Vietnam period in support of business interests. ibid.
Japan has perhaps the weakest labor movement in the industrial capitalist world, with the possible exception of the United States itself. It is a disciplined society, under the firm control of the traditional state capitalist management. ibid.
The main problem, again, was the [German] labor movement and other popular organizations that threatened conservative business dominance. ibid. p340
After the war, German workers began to form works councils and trade unions, and to develop co-determination in industry and democratic grass-roots control of unions. The State Department and its US labor associates were appalled by these moves towards democracy in the unions and the larger society. ibid. pp340-341
The postwar destitution was exploited to undermine the French labor movement, along with direct violence. Desperately needed food supplies were withheld to coerce obedience, and gangsters were organized to provide goon squads and strike-breakers. ibid. p343
In Italy too, US labor leaders, primarily from the AFL, played an active role in splitting and weakening the labor movement, and inducing workers to accept austerity measures while employers reaped rich profits. In France, the AFL had broken dock strikes by importing Italian scab labor paid by US businesses. The State Department called on the Federation’s leadership to exercise their talents in union-busting in Italy as well, and they were happy to oblige. The business sector, formerly discredited by its association with Italian fascism, undertook a vigorous class war with renewed confidence. The end result was the subordination of the working class and the poor to traditional rulers. ibid.
Labor movements have regularly been in the forefront of popular struggles for basic rights including labor rights and democracy. Noam Chomsky, Rickman Godlee lecture 2011, ‘Contours of Global Order’, Youtube 1.39.23
The US has always had quite weak labor laws by international standards and they were pretty well dismantled in the 1980s … The Reagan administration informed employers that they wouldn’t be applied. Noam Chomsky, lecture, ‘14 Principles on Which the US was Founded’, Youtube 51.42
North American companies view the Soviet Union and the newly opening nations in Eastern Europe as potential markets for their products or as sources of low-cost manufacturing labor. Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy
Every advance in this half-century: social security, civil rights, Medicare, aid to education ... one after another – came with the support and leadership of American labor. Jimmy Carter
History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them. Martin Luther King, 1961