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Fusion, Democracy, and Politics in Labor’s Next Upsurge
Labor History (2004)
  • Dan Clawson, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

The best thing about writing The Next Upsurge has been the discussions and debates it has helped generate, none more stimulating than these essays. I'm delighted that the reviewers are often enthusiastic and always generous. More important, these contributions address the key issues, not just of the book, but facing labor today. I welcome this opportunity to re-state and re-think my positions, in an attempt to do what these essays do so well: move the debate forward.

It was an inspired editorial idea to solicit contributions on the next upsurge as viewed from a European or Canadian perspective. The contributors thus have a twofold perspective on the issues: on the one hand, a set of criticisms, concerns, and disagreements that a US reader might bring to the task; on the other, a perspective gained by seeing what is similar and what is different in viewing these same ideas and analyses through a French, Belgian, British, or Canadian lens. We all face a capitalist neo-liberal system that is global and tightly inter-connected, but we do so on the basis of differing political arrangements, cultural formations, institutional structures, and histories of past struggle. Some part of the challenge we face is the same everywhere; some part varies from country to country (and also, of course, by gender, race, skill, age and a variety of other factors).

I can't engage all the issues contributors raise, but will attempt to respond on five points, each of them raised by several contributors: fusion, the tension between democracy and leadership, my neglect of politics, the book's focus on marginal rather than skilled workers, and the meaning of an upsurge. It's also worth noting, however, what is largely omitted in these essays: race and (by the men) gender. Those issues are central to The Next Upsurge and to the US left; their importance in Europe is growing, and I strongly urge my European comrades to make them central to their analyses and political practice.

Publication Date
August, 2004
Citation Information
Dan Clawson. "Fusion, Democracy, and Politics in Labor’s Next Upsurge" Labor History Vol. 45 Iss. 3 (2004)
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