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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Russell, July 19, 1975. Interview E-0014-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role of the electoral political system in labor organization

Russell offers his thoughts on whether or not trade unions should become increasingly involved in electoral politics. According to Russell, the political system was deeply flawed and here, as elsewhere in the interview, he explains his adherence to radical politics and his belief that putting power in the hands of workers should be the ultimate end goal of the labor movement.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Russell, July 19, 1975. Interview E-0014-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WILLIAM FINGER:
Do you think that labor in terms of being political trade unionists currently? Do you think building an interest in electoral politics is important. building a separate party or working within one of the two parties?
JOHN RUSSELL:
Let me just say how I feel about it. I guess I'm just like anybody else, I get so god damned disgusted with the pragmatic approach to politics that I get sick of it. For instance, you see what's happening in Congress right now, waltzing around on the energy issue. Each one, they try to blame the President, and he tries to blame them. It's all getting ready for seventy-six, and it doesn't seem they care about what happens to people in between, providing they are in a good position in seventy-six. Some of it may be important, that they expose Ford, I think he's a fraud, I think he's a continuation of Nixon in a much more gentle, subtler form. But it's the same god damned politics of aiding the rich and the rich are getting richer, and the poor are to get poorer, you see. That to me is how I make my decision. Here is the way I feel about electoral politics, the common approach to elections and electoral politics, you had to do it. You got to do it for some reasons. First of all, there can be some practical advantage that's made by labor and by the people. More, important, how can you get people to look inside of a system and see how corrupt and rotten it is unless they take part? If a man is isolated, and he says, ah shit, they ain't no god damned good. He says that, but if he really means it and has a philosophical understanding of why they're no good, I don't care then. But if all it is, is because they gave me a screwing on this last year or three years ago, and I don't like it, or I don't even know what the hell they're doing, I say that's crap. The best way to change people is to get them in and see the impossibility of doing something with a certain system or a certain procedure. If they can see that, the time comes when they'll say, there has got to be a change, but it can't just be a change of taking Joe instead of Bill, or Pat instead of Pete, it's got to be a fundamental change. Where people have a real, genuine right to say something because they own and control the methods and the means of media, and everything else in this country of ours. Production, everything else. I see this as important to take part in them, because I don't buy this bullshit of saying the people don't engage in these things because up a high goal, you see. I don't buy that kind of business because first of all they got to see the ineffectiveness and inefficiency of the system they've got now and then maybe at the same time, if you point directly and properly, they may see that's got to be the goal, because this ain't going to be… They have got to see that alternatives based upon their recognition and experience of the failure of the system they live under.