Letters

Editors: In the twenty-five years since the appearance of my first book, False Promises, my work has occasionally been subjected to fierce criticism and to close scrutiny. Nevertheless, I have...

...Letters will not be returned to senders unless they are accompanied by stamped, selfaddressed envelopes...
...Nowhere do I endorse such a policy...
...Calls for violence may or may not be protected, depending on the circumstances and the intent of the speaker...
...I was also surprised that Aronowitz gave such a retrospective political pass to Walter Reuther and Albert Shanker...
...We must acknowledge Oliver Wendell Holmes's truism that ''you do not have the right to shout `fire!' in a crowded theater" applies where "fire...
...In his From the Ashes of the Old, Stanley Aronowitz mines recent labor history for the strategic insights it offers contemporary partisans of a revived union movement...
...I wish to note that in the same issue of the magazine, I have a piece in a symposium on union democracy, substantively drawn from the last chapter of the book, in which, among other points, I repudiate the Shankerite conception of union governance and call it "anti-Stalinist democratic centralism...
...That's why I took exception to DISSENT / Spring 1 999 I25 LETTERS his frequent, and sometimes offhand, invocations of the idea of a "social compact" that guided the relations between labor and capital during an earlier era of labor strength and progress...
...The First Amendment demands no less...
...Editors: First-Amendment loyalists like Wendy Kaminer ("Feminists, Racketeers, and the First Amendment," Winter 1999) make valid points about the need for citizens to protect the constitutional right to protest in this society...
...My critique here is not so much that Aronowitz advocates such a compact, but that he accepts the reality of its historical existence...
...Chapter and verse on such episodes can be found in my "largely apologetic" biography of the UAW leader...
...Regrettably, though, they often tend to downplay present dangers in favor of concerns about plausible but by no means inevitable future ills...
...In the book, I note, approvingly, Reuther's early call for corporations to "open the books" during contract negotiations, but argue that his leadership and policies of industrial labor in the 1950s set the stage for union decline...
...To Letter Writers We welcome succinct letters from our readers...
...They were neither fools nor conservatives, so when they drew a line between their unions and the new social movements that had erupted in the 1960s, the division was hard-edged and long lasting...
...We reserve the right to edit letters down to fit our space and to choose which shall be printed...
...That is why we need well-defined hatespeech and hate-crimes laws in this country...
...Jim Grossfeld praises Albert Shanker's "pragmatism," which helped double AFT membership, but Shanker and his circle turned a teachers' movement into an autocratic business union that policed organized labor's ideological boundary...
...Nelson Lichtenstein's review of my latest, From the Ashes of the Old: American Labor and America's Future, is an exception (Dissent, Winter 1999...
...Workers as well as employers had acknowledged the compact," he writes on page 5. But whatever the contemporary views of John Sweeney and Robert Reich, many historians, including Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, David Stebenne, Sanford Jacoby, Jack Metzgar, and myself have argued that even in the 1950s, industrial relations instability and corporate anti-unionism were so great that the term "social compact" is fundamentally misleading, and for contemporary activists, disarming...
...If his critique is more sharply posed in a subsequent Dissent essay, I'm delighted...
...Nevertheless, I have made it a practice not to reply to criticism unless invited to respond to collective reviews...
...DISSENT / Spring 1999 n 127...
...Regardless of their organizational accomplishments or their collective-bargaining prowess, these two figures are ideologically polarizing, and for good reason...
...Some guardians of free speech find this verdict defensible, but it involved direct, targeted threats...
...We apologize to Marc Edelman for misspelling his name on the cover of the Fall 1998 issue...
...It was more like a case of stalking than an instance of protected political protest, or hate speech...
...The First Amendment generally requires a very close causal connection between violent speech and violent action, partly to prevent the suppression of political opinions, however extreme...
...Statements accusing abortion providers of murder or homosexuals of sins against God are not false: they're not lies, they're opinions, which, in a free society, people must have the right to express...
...Editors: Having worked at AFSCME, the United Mine Workers, and as a consultant to several other unions, I can't help but respond to Nelson Lichtenstein's and Stanley Aronowitz's gratuitous slaps at the American Federation of Teachers...
...It is simply not a crime to share the aims of people who turn to violence...
...But no such attack on "anti-Stalinist democratic centralism" appears in From the Ashes of the Old...
...In Reuther's case, Aronowitz just gets the basic facts wrong about the UAW president's disastrous decision to hang in there with LBJ during the spring of 1968, a decisive moment, not only in the history of the Vietnam War, but in the relationship between labor and all those social forces to its left...
...Should every antiwar protester who took over a college administration building in the 1960s or simply shouted slogans condemning those who supported the war have been held responsible for the bombings or bank robberies by radicals on the violent fringe of their movements...
...But for this to happen, the guardians of freedom of speech need to participate...
...On the basis of these remarkable, unsubstantiated assertions, the author places himself on my left...
...In short, Lichtenstein's caricature of my position leads him to miss most of my essential points...
...I show that he was an innovator in some union demands but also a collaborator with giant corporations in the auto industry, albeit to the benefit of some UAW members, that his anticommunism led to undemocratic practices, and that, under Reuther, labor's subordination to the Democratic Party has, in historical retrospect, proven disastrous to labor's cause...
...Likewise, Aronowitz offers us an Albert Shanker in which his disastrous relationship with the African-American community and his hostility to the main body of post-1968 liberalism are alluded to in only the most gingerly fashion...
...Consider the recent jury verdict holding anti-abortion activists liable for contributing to the "Nuremberg Files" Web site and issuing wanted posters featuring abortion providers...
...But if he gets the history wrong the contemporary lessons will be misguided as well...
...We are unable to acknowledge letters...
...Lichtenstein finds that my viewpoint on organized labor's postwar trajectory is both pro-Reuther and proShanker and that I favor a new social contract, like labor's deal with capital and the liberal state in the 1950s...
...Perhaps the difficulty lies in the fact that I have tried to avoid the dogmatism that marks some leftist critiques of union labor's leadership by conceding some of its accomplishments...
...What is surprising is that the author of a largely apologetic biography of Reuther should now adopt the perspective of the dogmatists...
...Correct me if I'm wrong, but the last time I checked, that's what a strong labor movement is all about...
...The point is that "imminent lawless action" caused by speech or protest is not a vague concept, in a context where violence against a target group is systematically present, as it has been for over ten years in the anti-abortion movement...
...STANLEY ARONOWITZ New York, N.Y...
...Letters must be no more than 500 words, typed, double-spaced, and carry the full address and name of the sender...
...126 n DISSENT /Spring 1999 LETTERS Actually, Oliver Wendell Holmes suggested that you do not have the right to shout "fire" falsely in a crowded theater...
...it is not even a crime to applaud them.This doesn't mean that abortion providers have no legal recourse against people who threaten their lives...
...CHRISTY RODGERS San Francisco, Calif...
...If it can be shown that there is a historic pattern of deadly violence against a particular group of persons, on the basis of a legally protected status or activity, then calls to violence and protest strategies involving the threat of violence against that group ought, de facto, to cease to be protected speech...
...I agree with Kaminer that RICO is not the ideal instrument for the task of protecting the targets of ideological violence...
...In Morris Dickstein's discussion of Bonnard, the thirteenth line from the bottom of column two should read, "we see small daubs of color...
...I find reason to praise Shanker for his ability to become a public intellectual at a time when most labor leaders had become contract administrators and bean counters, but I do not support his views on some educational matters or his style of unionism...
...Reuther was not "his own person" as Aronowitz avers on page 210 of his book, but collaborated with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in the most self-deluding fashion...
...It's a subtle argument, to be sure, but the points are made clearly...
...JIM GROSSFELD Washington, D.C...
...EDS...
...If they raided abortion clinics and assaulted clinic workers, they can be prosecuted for their actions, but how can we hold them responsible for the acts of others...
...is the call to violence, and this country's theater is sadly crowded with the targets of racist, homophobic and "prolife" violence...
...Far from being a neoconservative juggernaut, I've always found AFT members and staff to be among the most committed and innovative unionists I've ever worked with...
...I say that AFL-CIO President John Sweeney's call for a new social contract would be possible only on condition that labor find the means to strengthen its hand...
...But because we have a long "lead time" for each issue, you have to send us your letter within three weeks after getting an issue of Dissent in order to get it into the next issue...
...Holmes's famous remark is not relevant to political protests...
...Of course, the murder of seven abortion doctors is different from the intimidation of boycott breakers, but the defendants in NOW v. Scheidler were not charged with encouraging or facilitating murder...
...What Lichtenstein and Aronowitz characterize as the AFT's tilt to the right is, in fact, a refreshing, liberal pragmatism...
...Rather than being a hindrance to the AFT's progress, I'm convinced the union's pragmatism, part of Al Shanker's legacy, is one reason the AFT has not only doubled in size since the late seventies, but also redefined the debate on public education in America...
...This was a very close case, distinguished by the fact that individual doctors were identified and clearly targeted...
...We also regret the typo on p. 97 of the Winter 1999 issue...
...I reply because this review is a serious misreading...
...The murder of seven doctors is qualitatively different from the disturbing situation of boycott breakers being vandalized or being "publicly identified and vilified" on a one-time basis in the case involving an NAACP boycott that Kaminer sets up as a parallel to NOW's RICO suit...
...It's a unionism unencumbered by the nostalgia, romanticism and rhetoric that some on the left have too often mistaken for strategy...

Vol. 46 • April 1999 • No. 2


 
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