Imagine two countries

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

Imagine these two countries:

In the first, the government has a tradition of due process and liberal rights for most adults, all adults have right to vote, and elections are free and fair, yet the country has been stripped of all of its labor unions.

In the second, the government is authoritarian, there are no free elections, but the people have managed to organize a vast labor union, noted for its militancy and enjoying great popular support.

What happens next?

We know what happens next, because these are real countries.

The first is the USA, which lost all of its labor unions during the period from 1948 to 2008. And during that time it slid further and further to the right, until it elected a fascist. Furthermore, the government is now focused on cracking down on who can register to vote, in an effort to limit people, especially racial minorities, from voting.

The second is Poland in the 1980s. The power of the unions built up, till the people were able to overthrow the government and establish a liberal regime with due process, mostly independent courts, and free elections.

What do I conclude from this?

That being well organized and militant is the main thing that progressives should focus on. It is pointless to focus on voting. Voting is a lagging indicator, it is the last right that you win when a progressive movement succeeds against an authoritarian regime, and it’s also the last right they take away once progressive movements have lost everything else.