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Session:         Page of 592

All right? Enough on this philosophy? Unless you have other questions. Have you come across other unions that operate different?

Q:

No, it's not a question of that. It's a question of --

Foner:

What can you see?

Q:

At TDU we had an abstract ideal, in a certain sense, of “the members will control the union.” If a TDU official got elected it was like a first generation. You would organize a stewards council. You would have a souped up newsletter. You would have the food committee to give out food to the unemployed. Where TDU people got elected, they would try to carry these things out. But I always wonder -- it's like the second generation in a revolution. The Nicaraguans do not want to be mobilized for the next fifty years. They want a return to a normal way of life. It's the same thing in a union, you know? I'll never forget this - - this is really a little lengthy for this tape.

Foner:

That's all right. Turn off the tape then. No but it's part of it.

Q:

Saul told me a story about how in Guatemala in the 1950s, when the United States government was destabilizing the economy -- the same they are doing to the Nicaraguans now -- all the people on the Left said, “Oh, no. He was popularly elected. There'll be a Civil War. They'll fight back.” Then his point was that when finally the CIA instigated the coup, the people were so exhausted that they didn't fight. He was making the point, it's not clear that the Nicaraguans can fight and fight and fight and fight. You become exhausted. You see what I'm saying. It's a very broad analogy. But it seems like it's impossible to have that sort of “stage of siege” mentality all the time in a union.

Foner:

Not only that, but the union becomes institutionalized. First of all when you come along, you no longer can function the way you -- see in the old days, you could walk through a meeting and you knew everybody's first name. And everybody knew you. But when you've reached the point where you're thirty, forty, fifty thousand people, you're all ready removed from them. You're the person they see on television, or reading the paper and you occasionally walk through the hospital and you come to a meeting. But there's a distance -- a gulf evolves. You can't do the same things that you did when you were 500 as you can when you're 50,000. You have to adapt new kinds of strategies and new approaches to try to accomplish some of that, knowing that much of it dissipates in the process.



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