By Mother Jones
In a much anticipated announcement, SIU president-elect Randy Dunn was recently named “Syndicalist of the Year” by the group Join a Union – Dummy, a loose assembly of national labor unions.
Dunn, who himself was a former member of the Faculty Association during his time at SIU, commented that he is “honored to receive the award,” but added that his accolades are a victory for working people everywhere.
Prior to taking command of the University system, Dunn said he plans to “make the rounds collecting union policy initiatives to advocate with the Board of Trustees.”
Anonymous sources reported that Dunn, a longtime friend of organized labor, “didn’t submit an application” for consideration of the award, but graciously accepted the honor and is eager to “make SIU a syndicalist paradise.”
Representatives of the SIU Presidential Search Advisory Committee approached Dunn to be a presidential nominee for SIU in October 2013, around the same time sources say they started speculating about the candidate’s syndicalist prospects.
“Dr. Dunn was a shoo-in. We’re happy Join a Union – Dummy had the foresight to offer this award to President-Elect Dunn,” a joint statement from the committee stated.
“However,” the committee’s statement qualified, “we hope he puts his money where his mouth is and does more to reform the University than his predecessor: if Poshard was Thomas J. Hagerty, Dunn needs to be Rudolph Rocker.”
Echoing the committee’s sentiments, students say Dunn can be heard quoting Rocker around campus, expounding upon how “the problem that is set for our time,” as Rocker wrote, “is that of freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement.”
Faculty, it is reported, couldn’t believe their ears. “The guy is too radical for me. I don’t like it,” said Rachel Stocking, History professor and President of the Faculty Association at SIU.
Upon announcement of the award, Dun cited Rocker’s “Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice,” as inspiration. He hopes, in the words of Rocker, to help forge “an alliance of free groups of men and women based on cooperative labor and a planned administration of things in the interest of the [University] community.”
“This guy is bat-shit crazy,” said Jim Wall, President of the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association at SIU, “I don’t know what Dunn is talking about.”
Dunn’s speech had union activists cheering, however, as it proceeded into a scathing critique of Bolshevism and Leninist theory. He said, quoting Lenin’s “What is to be Done?”: “consciousness could only be brought to them” – the workers – “from without.”
Dunn said he and his fellow workers – “comrades,” he called them – know better than Lenin what is to be done. “What Lenin called ‘trade union-consciousness,’ is far more important than any dictatorship of the proletariat and elite vanguard,” Dunn said. “Lenin suffered from his own ‘Infantile Disorder,’” Dunn added.
Dropping names like Big Bill Haywood and Joe Hill, Dunn said he’d like to use his hard-earned, working class street cred to revive the Industrial Workers of the World on campus.
“There are possibilities still today, Dunn said, to create the famed ‘One Big Union,’ expand workplace democracy and organize industrially to form ‘the structure of the new society within the shell of the old,’ as the Wobblies put it.
Dunn said he admires the tireless work of contemporary unionists like Illinois Education Association (IEA) UniServ Director, Bret Seferian. “Bret is an outstanding asset to this University,” Dunn claimed, “and my first act as President will be to secure a voting seat for Bret on the Board of Trustees.”
“And if you don’t like it,” Dunn jabbed, “you can lean down and kiss my ass.”
To conclude his acceptance speech, Dunn mentioned the kind of social movement unionism exemplified by Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers Union as models to be tried and tested in Carbondale. He added that he gets goose bumps every time he receives an automated voice message IEA President Cinda Klickna, who he called “a credit to the human race.”
And, he said, labor activist Bill Fletcher Jr. is correct to call for “a new unionism,” and a kind of “community unionism,” connecting worker’s issues to a broader institutional and social context. He said “SIUC is a great place to start creating the syndicalist paradise we’ve always dreamed of.”
“Join me, my friends,” he added.
Award in hand and with eyes on the future, Dunn said it is crucial to draw inspiration from the past. He pointed to thinkers like Anton Pannekoek, an early advocate of workers councils, as a continual source of inspiration.
“With the development of society we see arise new forms of fight,” Dunn read from one of Pannekoek’s writings. And, with a characteristic fire in his eyes, “this development imposed by the growth of capitalism and the growth of the working class, must go on in ever mightier display.”
“I also have an everlasting crush on the late Emma Goldman,” Dunn said sheepishly.
He said, like Goldman, if he can’t dance, he doesn’t “want to be part of your revolution.”
Reflecting upon receiving “Syndicalist of the Year” honors, Dunn said he seriously questioned the legitimacy of his new position as University president. Perhaps too much “power-over,” he said, adding that the $430,000 salary he is set to receive is “goddamn ridiculous.”
Yet, he likened himself to a poor-man’s Eugene Debs, a labor activist who ran for President of the United States several times. To instantiate the comparison, he read some of Debs’ oft-quoted lines in performative fashion, demanding unions heed his call:
I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, someone else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition; as it is now the capitalists [and administration] use your heads and your hands.