No scabs

cover dictionary-copy.jpg courtesy of Tom Hynds

If only I were certain, to which the word ‘Left’ in the line “Many on the Left…” refers to (writers of the New Left Review? or the ‘left’ a political generalization?) I would commit to an opinion, that ‘No Scabs’ by The Charnel-House blog is not only a great literally and historical essay, but will turn the dictionary establishment upside down, with this epic definition to and fascinating history lesson of a long understood word. I will be challenged to think of ‘scab’ in the same way again, and perhaps, may begin to question the use of all words.

The Charnel-House

.
In the history of modern class struggle, those who cross picket lines to fill jobs temporarily vacated by workers on strike are known as “scabs.” Scabs are thus low-cost replacement workers, whose willingness to work for less allows employers to starve out the more organized regular workforce. They are therefore looked down upon, understandably, and treated with disdain. Not all strikebreakers are scabs, however. Company muscle, whether made up of mafiosos or Pinkerton men, are typically deployed in order to clear pickets and escort scabs into work.

Many today on the Left, either unaccustomed to labor disputes or unschooled in their past, are confused by the term “scab.” For example, Sebastian Budgen — an editor for Verso, New Left Review, and Historical Materialism, formerly a member of the SWP in Britain — has writtenfrothy diatribesagainst anyone who illegally downloads books published by his company (er, I…

View original post 341 more words

3 comments

  1. Originally posted on

    Interesting article but it could be far more descriptive.

    I agree that picket lines should not be crossed, nor should a “large” company/corporation be allowed to fire strikers. After all, without the power to negotiate or the means to gain that power by threat of strike, America likely would never have had a robust middle class and the continuing inequity we now see–ever since the institution of “boom and bust” Supply-side economics and the demise of Glass-Steagall–would have been the order of the day since WWII. We would essentially be “Dicken’s London” and the old Gilded Age would still be in force.

    Workers are the one’s who produce value. Thus, in a just society, the more value produced, the more the workers should share equitably in the wealth that value generates. Currently, virtually all the wealth goes to the already wealthy.

    Understanding, however, the article’s apparent intent to project “many on the left” as ignorant of labor movements and of the term, “scab,” seems to me to be further fueling the hatred and ignorance of many on the right in thinking everyone on the left is extreme in his views. Perhaps a better word would have been “some” on the left.

    Normally this would not bother me, but I’ve had too many debates with right wingers to not understand that most, if not all folks on the “left” are viewed by many on the right as Russian-style communists (a true, communist state has never existed).

    In fact, I would wager that “some” if not “many” on the right–in particular the far right–are afflicted with a greater degree of ignorance about the economy, government, the U.S. Constitution, and the history of labor movements, and it is misleading articles like this that add to the ignorance.

    Besides, that a few on the left or the right use the term “scabs” wrongly, is hardly a cause celebre, but it is a lame excuse to bash the left. If anything, the far left might be as ignorant of the power of the genetically-inherited, human impulse to self interest as the right is ignorant of classical fascism, and especially of the social/political manipulative power of corporations.

    Nor is an article that uses the term “scabs” incorrectly, or as a metaphor, a good reason to cast either side of the political spectrum as ignorant fools.

    Personally, I would love to have a pure communist system, but such a state is not possible in the present day world because it would require all people to have “universal empathy” (a genetically based impulse strong enough to override self interest).

    Humans do not have such an impulse, and this is why a truly just society has never existed and likely never will, at least for another millennium of the evolution of the human power of reason and the demise of religious certitude and dogmatic exclusivity.

Add your voice

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s