Skip to main content

The Ancien (Old) Régime ruled in France from the Middle Ages until the late 18th century, when the exploited folk began taking-care-of-business (double-entendre intentional). It is called the French Revolution, and it abolished feudalism and the nobility. A Reign of Terror lasted from September 1793 until the fall of Robespierre in 1794. Its purpose was to purge France of enemies of the Revolution, domestic and foreign, as in bye bye Marie Antoinette.

rights eroding

In a reverse twist today, as the rights of poor and working class people in the U.S. are rapidly eroding under Trump, the sometimes liberal, sometimes milquetoast recent Obama regime is missed, but not by the large number of immigrants the U.S. deported under his orders. Nor do we miss the hyper-imperialist war-hawk views of his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton [Haiti (1994); Iraq (2002); Pakistan (2007, 2008); Afghanistan (2009); Libya (2011); Syria (2012)—ad nauseam].
The most reactionary sectors of the owning class seek to reverse gains made over the years in support of social and economic justice, and in opposition to racism, sexism, and war.

The greed is worldwide. Reports “Avaaz”:

“Elephants are being born without tusks -- an extraordinary last bid to survive human cruelty and greed. We’re slaughtering these majestic beasts for ivory trinkets! But for the first time ever China just announced it's shutting down its market. Now if we push Europe to follow suit we could end ivory forever.”

The U.S. fightback is encouraging, from the historic Women’s March, to the Democratic Party beginning to wake up (well, sort of). The struggle, by the UAW (United Auto Workers), to organize the huge Nissan automobile factory in Canton, Mississippi (6,400 mostly African American workers), is promising. A labor-clergy alliance is in support.

The union charged, in March, that Nissan Motor Co stopped workers from handing out literature outside a plant gate. As well, the company faces fines for safety violations in its Mississippi and Tennessee plants.

The close trade and economic relationship developing between President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could well be tested in this battle. Neither is a friend of the working class.

Nissan became legendary in Japanese industry for crushing one of the country’s most militant unions. This happened in 1953 during a famous 100-day strike against Nissan. The company used the strike to break a powerful, left-wing union that was one of the most influential in Japan.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

“The Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers’ Unions (JAW), the union that took over, soon became a symbol of the company union-style of labor relations that can still be seen in certain Japanese industries today. Its website actually celebrates the dissolution of ‘Zen Jidosha,’ as the militant union was known.” (Tim Shorrock, In These Times). Is there a parallel with the crushing of the C.I.O. labor federation in the U.S. in the late 1940’s?

James Meredith, the first African American to graduate from the University of Mississippi, conducted a March Against Fear (alone) in 1966—and was shot. (I joined this march soon thereafter). In Canton, the marchers were greeted with cops firing huge amounts of tear gas. Will this happen again, in the same Canton, all these years later, this time at the Nissan factory?

There is wonderful mobilizing going on in the U.S. today. But is there sufficient ORGANIZING? Will we be able to change company-union-style labor relations in a transition to class-struggle unionism? Stay tuned.

Japan, China, Mexico and Germany have huge trade surpluses in relation to the U.S. How will the Nissan organizing drive impact this?

Misnamed Right to Work laws are preventing unions from organizing the unorganized. Here in Kentucky, we had been the only state in the South that was not a right-to-work state. Not any longer—and our state and city labor movements, in dire straits, are struggling to figure out how to get our act together.

Will the working class be able to push the labor movement into really effective action? Will we stand with the Muslim and Jewish communities in their fight against the Klan, Nazis and others?

Will we stand with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance when it cries out: “The Trump effect is real; white supremacy is endangering our families and friends. We’re seeing more incidents of hate against communities of South Asian – or those perceived to be – descent. It’s clear that more than ever we need to resist, organize, and fight back against any and all attempts that put our lives at risk.”

Will we fight for single-payer healthcare (a song many decades ago is so painful: “When you’re too old to work and you’re too young to die.”)? Will we effectively protest the genius of an Arkansas state legislator, who wants publicly supported schools to exclude works of Howard Zinn? Why? Maybe because Howard wrote: “If you look at history from the perspective of the slaughtered and mutilated, it’s a different story.”

There is wonderful mobilizing going on in the U.S. today. But is there sufficient ORGANIZING? Will we be able to change company-union-style labor relations in a transition to class-struggle unionism? Stay tuned.


Ira Grupper