Unless we become a movement with a membership that recognizes its historic responsibilities -- rather than just a set of institutions answerable only to our own members -- we will lie under capital's feet. Labor must embrace its role as the movement of the oppressed, animated by progressive ideals and an unapologetic militancy....Traditional labor has to move away from a National Labor Relations Board-dependent (and -deadlined) organizing approach, which is dismissive of the real potential of workers to build power. Laws are necessary to keep the other side in check, and so we need to fight for better ones. But we don't have to wait for the law to tell us whether we have a right to organize, or to define who we as unions and union members are. Workers alone do that.
Until Desai recognizes the necessity of a political organization by, of and for the workers -- with whom other interests can ally -- she too will remain dismissive of the real potential of workers to build power. If laws are necessary to keep the other side in check -- that is, if there is to be a rule of law in the workplace that respects workers as well as property, contrary to "capital's" apparent preference -- workers need to not just fight for but make those laws. Desai seems to recognize this in her implication that workers can define their own rights, but as far as I can tell she'd still leave the law-making to the self-styled experts, as if the Democratic party were the skilled legislators' union. It may still seem unrealistic to imagine a labor party supplanting the Democrats, but a persistent failure of imagination within the labor movement would only prove that you can be realistic without really being serious about your situation and your options. To be serious in this case might mean acknowledging that the odds are and will remain against you -- that your only real chance is a small one -- yet you must act. It all depends on what you think your historic responsibilities are.