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Chicago Teachers' Fight Could Revitalize the Labor Movement Globally

If the fight to halt school budget cuts in Obama's Democratic heartland succeeds it would be a huge boost for unions.

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Chicago teachers don't even have the option of appealing to the Democrats, who are their antagonists in this case. But if they are to succeed, they will need allies. The unions have strategic power, but they are too small to fight in isolation. Some Chicago unions found that reaching out to Occupy last year helped them resist rightwing attacks.

If this strike goes ahead, it will be the first such strike since 1987. But the stakes are much higher. Teaching activists say this struggle recalls the Patco dispute. When the airline workers union failed in that battle with the Reagan administration, it was a setback for the whole American labour movement for decades.

A failure in this case would potentially be much worse than Patco. On the other hand, a success would partially redeem the heavy defeat inflicted on unions in Wisconsin, and signal a fundamental shift in American politics. And more than this: from Sichuan in China to Asturias in Spain, labour protests are growing in scale and militancy. America's influence is such that a return of the labour movement in the US would tilt the balance in favour of workers globally.

Richard Seymour is a political activist who blogs at Lenin's tomb. He is the author of The Liberal Defence of Murder and The Meaning of David Cameron