Judith Allen
Unions and Reformism

Reprinted from Internationalism No. 3

Unionism corresponded to a particular historical period of workers ‘ struggles. Its form was determined by its reformist content. Unions regrouped only a minority of the working class, just enough to be able to put pressure on the capitalist class. Unions organized workers in the image of the capitalist system itself: according to trade, job skills, industrial sector. Unions became increasingly bureaucratized as capitalism itself became more complex. Hierarchical relations became the norm as unions entered the field of bourgeois legality. Economic demands were the unions’ exclusive preoccupation and a political view of the system was relegated to a separate compartment: the political parties. But as long as reformism was a valid perspective, unions continued to play a role in improving the lot of the working class.