Workers’ Correspondence

As soon as aspects of the proposed contract with General Motors were revealed, activists’ e-mail boxes began to fill up with the opinions of armchair socialists. “Sellout” and “backroom deal” were the usual characterizations. All of them blasted the union; none of them criticized GM. All of them were full of shrieking condemnation; none of them had any positive suggestions as to how we could help.

In Arlington, Texas, one could hardly photograph the GM picket lines because of all the cars and pickups stopping to deliver water, cookies and encouragement. While I was focusing my camera, an entire car caravan made several noisy passes along Abrams Street to wave and honk encouragement to the strikers. Handmade signs in the car windows said, “Retirees for UAW.” The union hall at Local 276 was pretty well packed with well-wishers. Their parking lot was inadequate to the overwhelming solidarity coming in.

But the know-it-alls on the Internet weren’t there. They were too busy blasting the union and criticizing to actually stop and try to help. The big question about the settlement isn’t, “Is this contract a setback?” The question is, “Could they have done better?” Those of us who aren’t GM employees don’t even get to ask either question. The only legitimate question we can ask is, “Could we have done something to make it better?”

The thing that sets me off about the people burning up the Internet with their high-and-mighty pronouncements is that it’s all criticism and no positive action. Were they out on the picket line? Did they go to the union hall and ask how they could help? More important than anything, did they focus their wrathful denunciations on General Motors management?

Most of these phony leftists, and these guys are phony leftists, wouldn’t know ideology if it bit them. A few have a system of thought that, at least, has some internal consistency, though it’s at odds with all the reality around us. The true believers sincerely think that the American working class is completely ready for revolution, raring to go, and has been since Trotsky was alive. They believe that only “sellout” leadership stands in the way. That’s why they spend all their time and energy criticizing and none of their time fighting on the side of the working class. I had quite a bit of experience with that line of thinking when I was a newcomer to class struggle, and I have very little patience with it now. Neither do the other honest soldiers in the day-to-day class struggle.

— Jim Lane, UAW retiree in Dallas