Text Call | Intersectional pan-unionism by IRESMO

[Translated by the ASCED. Read the original French version here]

Intersectional Pan-Unionism

Revolutionary unionism and anarcho-syndicalism have put forward pan-unionism. Nevertheless, it is necessary to understand how the intersectionality or the interweaving of social relations leads to rethinking this notion.

Pan-unionism in revolutionary syndicalism and classical anarcho-syndicalism

The conception of pan-unionism means that the union is sufficient for everything and is able to take into account all the social questions that may arise. Traditionally, pan-unionism meant that the union did not need political parties to take into account all social issues.

Pan-unionism was linked to the idea of ​​the centrality of the factories and work in the revolutionary transformation from the practice of the general strike as a revolutionary strategy. To this was added that the administration of things was to replace the administration of persons. Consequently, politics had to disappear, implying the disappearance of the state and political parties.

That said, the administration of things, that is, the management of factories and economic affairs in general, had to be handled by the workers through their unions.

From a limit of classic pan-unionism …

The materialistic feminist movement introduced a limit to the classic pan-unionism. Indeed, the classic working class theory was constructed from a conception of the worker which was that of the workeringman. Whether Proudhon or Marx excluded from their theory of work and exploitation the reproductive work produced by women.

Materialistic feminists highlighted that the factory of the capitalist mode of production was not the only place of exploitation, and that the specific exploitation of women was centered on the domestic space and thus the mode of domestic production.

Consequently, the thesis that the capitalist labor market was the sole center of exploitation was thus undermined.

… to the limits of the intersectionality theories

The intersectionality theories have the disadvantage of not necessarily referring to a theoretical materialistic foundations. This is why materialist feminists prefer to speak of the interweaving of social relations. The materialist approach does not focus on the exploitation of labor in the capitalist system, but on the exploitation and division of labor in the different spaces where it can occur: factory, domestic space, activist organizations…

Another difficulty with activist approaches that are inspired by intersectionality is that they may tend to favor the fight against oppression of sex and race, but have more difficulty in taking into account social classes. The risk is that then intersectional approaches focus on the promotion of a feminine and / or racial bourgeoisie: it is intersectionality as it can appear in enterprise programs promoting diversity.

Intersectional Pan-unionism

Intersectional pan-unionism does not deny that exploitation and the division of labor can exist outside capitalist places of production. But it assumes that it is through the question of the exploitation and division of labor in the capitalist labor market and therefore through union struggles that the question of intersectional struggles must be posed as a priority.

Indeed, it is possible to note that the capitalist labor market makes it possible to address the fight against all oppressions. Indeed, the capitalist labor market distributes individuals socially according to their social class, gender, ethno-racial origin, sexuality, religion or disability.

Consequently, depending on their position in social relations, individuals suffer from: social reproduction, over-unemployment, discrimination in hiring, wage inequality, occupational segregation, sticky flooring or glass ceiling…

Several studies in recent years gave themselve a stake to show not only for people of popular classes or women, but also for ethno-racialized people, for LGBT people, for Jewish or Muslim people, with disabilities… how the labor market produces inequality and discrimination.

Addressing the intersectionality of social relations through the capitalist labor market, as a union organization can do it in the first place, makes it possible not to focus the intersectional approach on the claims of the bourgeois representatives of the socially underprivileged.

This makes it possible to better take into account the intersectionality of the demands of socially minoritised people within the popular classes.

People belonging to the precarious intellectual bourgeoisie can ally themselves with the popular classes, but they do not constitute the center of gravity of the class struggle because they do not constitute the most socially dominated group.

In one sentence, it is therefore possible to emphasize that the role of intersectional pan-unionism is to fight, first and foremost, against the invisibilisation, within intersectional approaches, of the lower classes and, in particular, the even greater discriminations that popular classes: women, racialized people or other socially underprivileged groups.

 

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