When I lived briefly in North Carolina and Wisconsin, I worked as a farm hand and fruit picker in some very prolific farming communities. I worked alongside Amish, immigrants, and high-end industrial farmers and made a point to jot down notes every day from my conversations and observations. A few years later, I came across my old notes, and rearranged them into a longer stream-of-consciousness specifically about the Dairy-Industrial-Complex; a configuration of all the players involved in dairy production. The poem has no conclusion or clear ending; it is merely a commentary on the deterioration of health and food production for profit. This type of Industrial-Complex shows the absolute necessity for the complete unity of class struggle and ecological struggle.
Category Archives: Uncategorized
Below is text to a flier that is being circulated in response to the recent attacks on the ILWU. Click the image below to see a full PDF version of the flier. Please feel free to circulate For our previous coverage on the ongoing ILWU struggle see here and here.
Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association (PNGHA) — a consortium of grain handlers that includes United Grain — locked
out 44 ILWU workers, of local 4 in Vancouver, Washington. This port ships over 5 million metric tons a year with United Grain Corporation being the main employer at this port, and the largest wheat exporter on the US West Coast. On December 21, 2012, 94% of 3,000 ILWU workers in the Northwest voted down a proposed contract by the PNGHA that made over 750 changes, including eliminating the power of the hiring hall. This PNGHA sponsored contract is inspired by the Longview Washington contract passed in February 2012. The Longview Washington contract is the worst contract passed in the whole history of ILWU, eliminating key components of worker power within the workplace and in ILWU local 21.
It is clear that the maritime capitalist, in this case, an alliance between United Grain Corporation and other companies who incorporated and organized in the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, aspire to crush the ILWU. As a response, the Longshore workers, with the whole working class, needs to organize an offense against such attacks. The concrete space of battle will be the picketlines at the ports of Vancouver, Washington. The potential solidarity longshore rank and file ILWU local 13 members in Los Angeles, local 10 in Oakland/San Francisco, local 8 Portland and local 19 in Seattle could do is central in shifting the power relations against the PNGHA’s sponsored attack.
An Injury to one, is an Injury to All
For the defense of ILWU local 4
For a Classwide Offensive against PNGHA
This flier was written by an AS comrade in San Francisco in light of the ongoing school bus drivers strike in New York City. Transit workers play a central role in the reproduction of our labor-powers on a day-to-day basis by moving working-class people to and from the sites of production and reproduction like our workplaces, schools, hospitals, groceries and other spaces we frequent to meet our needs. The current crisis of capital demands the continued disinvestment of the state in public commons like transportation, schools, and hospitals in favor of their destruction or replacement by privatized entities that provide the same services but at higher costs and lower quality. Since unionized workers continue to be a significant factor in these industries, the ruling class is on an offensive to remove these working-class organizations in so far as they represent an obstacle to continued capital accumulation, all at the expense of drivers, teachers, students, custodians, fast food workers, and all workers in general. Please aid our efforts to build rank and file solidarity and establish communication between rank and file workers in SF and NYC by printing this flier and distributing it to MUNI operators in San Francisco, or by joining us on one of our regular outreach sessions.
From NYC to SF!
Many transportation workers are facing bosses that are attacking their benefits, eliminating seniority, adding restrictive work rules, speeding up the pace of work and so on. One way to respond to this is to roll over and keep quiet, accepting it without a fight. Another option is to organize and go on strike, which is exactly what 8,800 school bus drivers of Amalgamated Transit Union 1181 in New York City are doing as of Wednesday, January 16 at 6:00 am.
By now, you’ve probably seen some of the pictures and videos posted showing the resistance of Mexican rebels against the imposition of the PRI’s presidential candidate Peña Nieto.
We’ve done a quick and rough translation of a statement put out by the Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (LTS), a Trotskyist group in Mexico who do quality militant work intervening in social movements and participating in workers and student struggles.
(See their red flag youth contingent 45 seconds into this youtube clip)
We’ve posted work that they’ve engaged in before, specifically their work in the struggle against gender oppression through the organization Pan y Rosas. We send out solidarity to all comrades struggling on the frontlines against the Mexican state and by extension against yankee imperialism!
Stop the incoming PRI government’s repression, co-signed by the PAN and the PRD
Immediate and Unconditional Release of All Political Prisoners Arrested on December 1st!
Today, thousands of young people, teachers and political and social organizations – such as the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Earth took to the streets to express our repudiation of the inauguration and imposition of PRI presidential candidate Peña Nieto, who comes to the presidency amid a scandal of electoral fraud. Early on, the Federal Police attacked the protesters with rubber bullets, tear gas, water tanks, batons and shields, leaving more than a dozen seriously injured, particularly to comrades Juan Carlos Valdivia and Francisco Quinquedal, who are hanging between life and death. We denounce the lie that the comrades were hospitalized due to injuries by firecrackers. The truth is that the wounds were caused by rubber bullets shot at protestors by the police and are the responsibility of the new incoming government, the fraudulent President and federal police.
After the repression in San Lazaro, protesters were violently suppressed near the Zocalo by Mexico City police who acted alongside undercover military personell, both of whom arbitrarily arrested more than 100 protesters, under the threat of Mexico City’s PRD chief of government, Marcelo Ebrard. They face charges with sentences ranging from 5-30 years.
The violent crackdown by the Presidential, Federal, and Mexico City police, shows that the “national pact” that the arriving parties in Congress: they are trying to keep “order” over the youth and social movements to implement the miserable plans demanded by the employers and the government of the United States. This is the “democracy for the rich” that the imposition of the new president has promised and delivered.
As the League of Workers for Socialism, we vigorously repudiate the repression and demand the immediate and unconditional release of all detained comrades. In addition we call on working class organizations that claim independence from the political parties, the CNTE independent, EMS and UNT to launch a broad call for unity of human rights organizations, intellectuals, trade unions, political and social movements, indigenous and peasant organizations, in order to implement a major campaign to release the political prisoners and denounce the repression, to free our comrades from the hands of the state, with the cryl of an injury to one is an injury to all! It is essential that these measures prepare the conditions to launch a national strike for the release of the compañeros. At the same time, we hold the Federal and city government responsible for any attack that may occur to our comrades who are already mobilizing to support the political prisoners.
Free all political prisoners!
Stop repression of youth and social fighters!
For a national mobilization against the reactionary agreement of Congressional parties!
The International Marxist Tendency – a Trotskyist organization – has printed an important article about the general strike that is unfolding in Indonesia. We normally do not repost other marxists groups literature, but we thought it important to highlight the explosive class struggle that is currently taking place throughout the world. As committed internationalists, it is important that we study the developments of Asian and Pacific Islander class struggle, with the political aspirations to develop direct links with workers and to spread the revolutionary potential that these strikes hold.
These struggles have direct effects on our own political terrain as well. The ILWU struggle is bound up with trade with Asia. Chinese class struggle could change the whole global political landscape. In the US there is a rising xenophobia against China that we must begin to prepare to challenge with internationalism.
Written by Ted Sprague Tuesday, 02 October 2012
Tomorrow, October 3, will witness an important event in the history of the labour movement in Indonesia. For the first time in 50 years, Indonesian workers will carry out a national general strike which will involve an estimated 2 million workers in 21 different cities. Three demands serve as the basis of this general strike: increases in the official minimum wage, an end to all outsourcing arrangements, and universal national health care for all.
This general strike is not something that falls from the sky. It is the culmination of the radicalization process in the workers movement for the past one year. Radical actions of hundreds of thousands of workers who have gone on strike and blockaded industrial areas and major highways; the leadership of the workers in the movement against the fuel price increase this March that forced the government to back down; the largest May Day rally with 160,000 workers on the streets, followed by the formation of the MPBI (Council of Indonesians Workers and Labourers) that united 5 million workers; all these form a continuing process that leads to this general strike.
Workers have also started to fight for demands that go beyond the confines of their factories, from workers in Gresik, an industrial area in East Java, who fought for free education for the people to all-Indonesia workers’ actions against a fuel price increase this year. Workers’ struggles have gone beyond “day-to-day demands in the factory” to “day-to-day demands of the wider masses”. This in turn will touch on the questions of politics and power. To win “day-to-day demands in the factory”, it is normally enough for workers to strike in the said factory to press the boss. However, to win “day-to-day demands of the wider masses” (free healthcare, free education, etc.), the struggle has to be brought to a wider political stage. It is here that the question of state power is posed, where economic struggle is linked to political struggle. It is also here that workers find their leadership role in the struggle for the general well-being of the masses.
The Indonesian working class has gone through a number of important phases in the past 50 years, ones which are filled with ebbs and flows, advances and retreats:
1. Period of Glory (late 50s to early 60s)
The labour movement is at its peak in the late 50s and early 60s, with SOBSI as the largest workers’ federation at that moment, claiming a membership of 3 million workers, even more than any federation or confederation today.
2. Defeat (1965)
In 1965 the labour movement suffered its biggest defeat, destroyed physically and ideologically in the hands of the New Order regime.
3. Rebirth (mid 1980s)
The shift in the Indonesian economy from oil-gas exports to manufacturing in the mid-1980s created a new layer of proletariat. This new proletariat, thrown into the factories in their thousands, was one of the forces that shook the Soeharto regime. The number of recorded strikes in the 1990s increased significantly, from 61 in 1990 to 300 in 1994.
4. Reformasi (1998)
The 1998 Reformasi Movement, even if it didn’t bring about a fundamental change, opened the democratic gateway for the workers. Independent trade unions mushroomed in the aftermath of 1998. Meanwhile, SPSI workers, awakened by the Reformasi, also started to shake this New Order trade union. (The SPSI, the state sponsored union and the arm of the regime in the workplaces, was until 1998 the only recognised workers’ organisation.) The stranglehold of the SPSI was weakened and splits took place. In this period, workers were re-learning their long-lost fighting traditions.
This general strike will be the next phase in the history of the Indonesian labour movement, a turning point whereby the working class becomes a real political force that is not only recognized and respected by the wider masses but also feared by the ruling class. Workers with their national strike, for the first time will enter the national political arena. In the eyes of the toiling masses, they will no longer just be “tens or hundreds of workers in factories demanding wage increases”, but they will be seen as the Indonesian working class who fought for the welfare of the whole people of Indonesia. In the period of Reformasi, this position was held by the students who became an extension of the voice of the people. Today workers will start claiming their historical role as the class that leads the struggle of the whole of the oppressed masses.
The complete victory of capital over labour during the Soeharto dictatorial regime made the Indonesian capitalist class somewhat arrogant. For the past 50 years since the destruction of the labour movement, they have never felt seriously threatened by the working class. They even believe themselves that there is no longer any such thing as the working class, that there are no longer classes in society, in other words a “bourgeois classless society” has been attained. This national general strike will wake the capitalists up from their sweet dream and make them learn to fear once more the might of the working class.
One thing that has to be noted by all revolutionaries is the fact that this general strike has been initiated by the MPBI, which can be generally described as a reformist or even yellow trade union. This emphasizes once again the fact that when the workers move they will use whatever organizations they have in their hands, regardless of how reformist or even corrupt their organization or the majority of their leaders are. The bulk of the workers are still in these reformist organizations. It is therefore the task of revolutionaries to orientate to these organizations. Attempts to isolate oneself in red trade unions will only separate the revolutionaries and their ideas from the wider layer of workers.
Statements of support from many red trade unions for this general strike, and even the involvement of some of them, are a correct step. This step has to be deepened and should not stop here. The task of the most advanced workers is to orientate toward workers whose consciousness is lagging behind, no matter where they are. We have to be able to work in any workers’ organizations, from the reddest ones to the reactionary ones if need be. There shouldn’t be obstacle in principle raised against working in reformist workers’ organizations.
This first general strike will not immediately bring about successes. Like a baby who is learning to stand for the first time, it will fall numerous times. But we know that at the end of the day the baby will stand, and then walk, run, and jump. Also when the baby stands up for the first time, the world will look very different to him/her. This general strike will shake the consciousness of a wide layer of workers. They will start seeing beyond their factory gates, that out there are millions of workers whose fate and interests are the same as theirs. They will start seeing themselves as a class for itself. They will start seeing themselves as the class that can – and must – lead the struggle of the whole oppressed people.
The Indonesian working class has begun to stand up and walk upright with confidence. Those who in the past denied the revolutionary potential of the workers are now faced with hard facts. They can no longer close their eyes to the might of the working class. And for those who will still continue to deny the role of the working class after this general strike, we will leave them to the dustbin of history as the workers move forward toward their historical task: the overthrown of capitalism and the building of socialism.
Please Spread Widely.
Grand Jury Resistors Head Into Court, Expect Jail
From Portland comrades: Supporters will be gathering today in front of the Federal Court House in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington to express opposition to the secret grand jury investigating the anarchist movement, and to show their support for those refusing to testify.
This will be the third time Leah-Lynne Plante has been called before the grand jury. Each time, she has publicly refused to cooperate. She is expected to be imprisoned after today’s hearing.
“So far as I can see, the authorities are just using these hearings to intimidate people, create suspicion, and collect information that they can use to disrupt political movements,” said Leah-Lynne Plante, of Portland. “It isn’t working. None of the subpoenaed activists have testified, and the support we’ve received from the broader community has been really overwhelming.”
For more information from the Portland folks, email The Committee Against Political Repression at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bertolt Brecht was a German playwright and artist who influenced the world of theatre and cinema powerfully. He also was a student of marxism and learned from his time studying with Karl Korsch. Below we re-post a poem that was brought to our attention by a comrade in Atlanta. Enjoy.
From A German War Primer
AMONGST THE HIGHLY PLACED
It is considered low to talk about food.
The fact is: they have
The lowly must leave this earth
Without having tasted
Any good meat.
For wondering where they come from and
Where they are going
The fine evenings find them
They have not yet seen
The mountains and the great sea
When their time is already up.
If the lowly do not
Think about what’s low
They will never rise.
THE BREAD OF THE HUNGRY HAS
ALL BEEN EATEN
Meat has become unknown. Useless
The pouring out of the people’s sweat.
The laurel groves have been
From the chimneys of the arms factories
THE HOUSE-PAINTER SPEAKS OF
GREAT TIMES TO COME
The forests still grow.
The fields still bear
The cities still stand.
The people still breathe.
ON THE CALENDAR THE DAY IS NOT
Every month, every day
Lies open still. One of those days
Is going to be marked with a cross.
THE WORKERS CRY OUT FOR BREAD
The merchants cry out for markets.
The unemployed were hungry. The employed
Are hungry now.
The hands that lay folded are busy again.
They are making shells.
THOSE WHO TAKE THE MEAT FROM THE TABLE
Those for whom the contribution is destined
Those who eat their fill speak to the hungry
Of wonderful times to come.
Those who lead the country into the abyss
Call ruling too difficult
For ordinary men.
WHEN THE LEADERS SPEAK OF PEACE
The common folk know
That war is coming.
When the leaders curse war
The mobilization order is already written out.
THOSE AT THE TOP SAY: PEACE
Are of different substance.
But their peace and their war
Are like wind and storm.
War grows from their peace
Like son from his mother
Her frightful features.
Their war kills
Whatever their peace
Has left over.
ON THE WALL WAS CHALKED:
They want war.
The man who wrote it
Has already fallen.
THOSE AT THE TOP SAY:
This way to glory.
Those down below say:
This way to the grave.
THE WAR WHICH IS COMING
Is not the first one. There were
Other wars before it.
When the last one came to an end
There were conquerors and conquered.
Among the conquered the common people
Starved. Among the conquerors
The common people starved too.
THOSE AT THE TOP SAY COMRADESHIP
Reigns in the army.
The truth of this is seen
In the cookhouse.
In their hearts should be
The selfsame courage. But
On their plates
Are two kinds of rations.
WHEN IT COMES TO MARCHING MANY DO NOT
That their enemy is marching at their head.
The voice which gives them their orders
Is their enemy’s voice and
The man who speaks of the enemy
Is the enemy himself.
IT IS NIGHT
The married couples
Lie in their beds. The young women
Will bear orphans.
GENERAL, YOUR TANK IS A POWERFUL VEHICLE
It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men.
But it has one defect:
It needs a driver.
General, your bomber is powerful.
It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant.
But it has one defect:
It needs a mechanic.
General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think.
Comrade Mara writes:
Spending the weekend in LA preparing for a presentation with comrades allowed me to spend some time with the comrades in SULU (Struggles United/Luchas Unidas) and attend a demonstration against the Anaheim police department for their series of murders of working class latinos.
By now you’ve probably seen the photos of the heavily militarized police force present at recent demonstrations in Anaheim – fatigues, pigs hanging off the sides of trucks with weapons at their side, horses running into demonstrators, etc. What follow are just some quick notes on thoughts that came to me as I spoke with the community, various revolutionaries, and considered the relationship between the resistance in Anaheim, the response of revolutionaries, and what I’ve been part of and seen in Oakland over the past few years.
Some of the maoists I spoke with (of the party building as opposed to social-democratic NGOish variety) immediately responded by going into the community where the murders took place and carrying out a door knocking campaign. The residents were encouraged to send messages of solidarity on a banner which these maoists then brought to the demonstrations in front of the police department. While the door knockers encouraged people to come out to the rallies and protests, not much else was proposed aside from buying newspapers and signing the banner. Nonetheless, the immediate inquiry into the community is a move that could generate positive results if coupled with a more proactive program of struggle.
A variety of Trotksyist groups responded in particular by relating to the circle surrounding the families of the men murdered by the police. This included forming a political bloc with them at public meetings and press conferences where the families, no doubt encouraged by people with friendly-to-the-state agendas, called out for the “violence” (e.g., property destruction and other militant tactics) to cease, because it would “not help in bringing [the victim] back.”
The anarchists I spoke and marched with on Sunday were determined to carry out a march away from the police state once hundreds of people were gathered and rallied up. As we’ve seen before, the simple chant of “march, march, march” was called out for a couple of minutes before a group of black clad, mostly younger, group of folks began marching toward Disneyland, the capitalist center of Anaheim.
While the march ended up gathering several hundred of demonstrators to march in the streets, the march was quickly attacked by police mounted on horses who were able to anticipate the direction of the march and keep it contained within a single lane of the road. The composition of the march included many community members, children, and revolutionaries which was very positive.
The eighteenth day of the Lakeview Elementary School Sit-in and People’s School for Public Education experienced a police raid that successfully shut-down the direct action. In the early morning, around 4:20am, police – led by Sargeant Barhin Bhatts, the officer responsible for shooting and killing an unarmed Raheim Brown in January 2011- gave an initial dispersal order and instructed all those looking to be arrested to sit in a designated area. Two Lakeview community members chose to be arrested, one – a parent of Lakeview and the other – an alumni and long time Lakeview supporter. All other supporters were allowed to gather their belongings and leave the premises without an arrest.
In response, the Education Committee of Occupy Oakland organized a rally just outside the front gates at Lakeview and a march to an undisclosed location for 5pm that evening.
The rally featured parents, teachers, and students who participated in the sit-in & People’s School. The program was a combination of calling out and shaming Tony Smith and the School Board for shutting down such a positive action, and also a call for people to get involved in the organizing against the austerity inspired policies of the Oakland Unified School District. There was a militant energy in the air coupled with smoke from dried sage provided by an indigenous elder supportive of the action. A long time Adult-Education teacher and veteran education activist credited our action with swaying the School Board to vote against a proposed 4 million dollar cut to Special Education. He made the point that this marked the first time in three years that the board voted against Tony Smith and felt this to be a contributing factor in shutting down our efforts. Three candidates for the upcoming school board elections called on the crowd to support their campaigns to bring about a much needed change for Oakland’s Public Schools. Four students from the People’s School for Public Education called for an end to the police presence and for the people to continue using the building for its intended purpose – public education. More on this point later in the post. The student speeches were very inspiring and were met with loud cheering and applause. An education committee organizer wrapped up the rally with a call-out for everyone to continue actively supporting these types of actions.
After the last speaker, a recently fired OUSD teacher announced there would be a student-led march to Tony Smith’s house to confront him face-to-face and let his entire neighborhood know just who their neighbor is and what he’s all about. The march was filled with militant chants in favor of “education not incarceration” along with music provided by the Occupy Oakland sound team. Upon arriving to Tony’s house there were calls for him to “reopen or resign” and a continuation of the rally started back at Lakeview. One of the students from the People’s School called on Supt. Smith to show his face. Despite him either not being there or else hiding behind the walls of his bourgeois home, it was nonetheless positive to see many of his neighbors outside their homes and supportive of our presence in that neighborhood. All in all it was a vibrant first volley in response to the police raid on the Lakeview Sit-in.
Now back to the political nature of this action and the reason why the sit-in was an extremely important step for the working class , i.e - the use of the building. The Use-Value of a commodity is defined as the qualitative aspect of value – its usefulness to people – as opposed to exchange-value - it’s worth in exchange for something else, like money – which denotes the quantitative aspect of value. The parents, teachers, and students reopened the building, a commodity, for its use-value. The People’s School for Public Education was holding social justice classes. Members of the education committee were building a people’s library and were to planning to call it La Casita II (in honor of the parents who led a successful occupation to keep open a field house library on the grounds of Whittier Elementary on Chicago’s south side.) The grounds around the school were being used for lessons in gardening, drumming, sports, etc. etc. On Sunday July 1st the building was opened up to the wider Oakland community. The education committee hosted a bbq/potluck followed by a movie screening of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman . All these were arguably qualitative leaps when compared to the day-to-day operation of the former Lakeview Elementary School. Once the state realized the building was being used not only for a People’s School but also as a community space for political education and culture – they quickly sent their armed thugs to smash the occupation and school.
The state, in this case Superintendent Tony Smith and the School Board, has no interest in Lakeview’s (or any of the other four elementary schools) use-value. These public schools are being closed because of the exchange value of their buildings and grounds. Next year Lakeview, located in an area with high property values, will host administrative offices. These offices will be housed there while a brand new administration building is completed. Once the new building is ready, the district will no doubt look to rent out Lakeview to a charter school or sell the property to a developer. Santa Fe Elementary, the last public school in Oakland’s 94608 zip code, is being leased to Emeryville. Lazear Elementary, whose parents and teachers were denied a charter by Oakland Unified after the district recommended this course to avoid closure, will be a charter school after all because the county granted them their charter and OUSD grudgingly allowed them the use of the building and grounds. Why grudgingly? Because the district intended to sell the property to Target, and the site was to become another corporate chain store. Thurgood Marshall and Maxwell Park are both being leased to Charter School organizations. These closures are not based on anything except Tony Smith and School Board wanting to generate revenue to balance a public education budget decimated by austerity. And it just so happens that this fits in with a nationwide trend to dismantle public education in favor of charter schools, which represent the transitional stages for the ruling class to privatize education across the country.
Use-value over exchange-value is why the Lakeview Sit-in is an extremely important action that should be publicized far and wide. The goals of this action were clear from the beginning – the people taking back what is rightfully theirs and using it for its intended purpose while demanding that the state stop closing neighborhood schools to balance their austerity budgets, stop union-busting, and fully fund free public education. Every urban center in the country that is being bombarded with the same ruling class privatization strategy should hear about the People’s School for Public Education. The working class must continue and escalate these types of actions. Failure to do so will mean losing access to a major component of our own reproduction — Free Public Education .
The Beginning and End of Occupy Oakland:
The article “Occupy Oakland is Dead,” posted on Bay Of Rage, covers the beginning and end of Occupy Oakland and captures many important points. The origins of Occupy Oakland lie in the first rebellion against the police murder of Oscar Grant on January 7 2009, making Occupy Oakland distinct from other Occupies. The insurgent student movement that fought austerity through building occupations shook up the liberal wing of the student movement that argued occupation as a tactic was akin to property destruction and thus destructive.
Occupy Oakland didn’t apply the logic of the 99% to the police, and was clear how and why the police were violent agents of the 1%. The centrality of food, health care, and shelter as “use-values”, useful items for human reproduction, within the camp symbolized and embodied the seeds of a world free of exploitation.
Incredible political events were launched as a result of Occupy Oakland: the November 2nd march on the port; the unpermitted march on November 19th to Lakeview Elementary as a direct response to the wave of school closures in Oakland; the December 12th west coast shutdown supporting ILWU struggle against EGT; and the January 28th move-in day to upgrade the content of the evicted camp with an actual building; the February 17th immigrant rights march against the firing of undocumented workers at Pacific Steel in Berkeley after an attack by ICE; the February 20th protest at the gates of San Quentin; a wave of neighborhood BBQs in West, North, and Deep East Oakland; and finally, completing its cycle of struggle, actions on May 1st.
Occupy Oakland captured the unfolding radicalism across the nation and upped the ante, with a fierce anti-state and anti-capitalist character.
The authors of the Bay Of Rage article argue, “It makes no sense to overly fetishize the tactic of occupations, no more than it does to limiting resistance exclusively to blockades or clandestine attacks. Yet the widespread emergence of public occupations qualitatively changed what it means to resist.” Occupy Wall Street generally, and its expression in Oakland in particular, opened up a space for newly politicized individuals, revolutionaries, and progressive people of diverse backgrounds to engage with one another directly across various political and identitarian divisions. The engagement went beyond verbal interaction and took the form of direct confrontation with the state, reclamations of public space, and strategic interventions against the circulation of capital. This by all means is true. But what is also true is every labor struggle Occupy Oakland engaged in was also lost, with the most notable example being the ILWU-EGT struggle and the Licorice Factory strike in Union City.
How do we make sense of a situation where, Occupy Oakland, a leading center of resistance, has lost every labor battle it has engaged in? How do we make sense of the limitation that Occupy Oakland’s central space, Oscar Grant Plaza, has been lost. Tahrir square, Plaza del Sol and Syntagma square were spatial centers that facilitated the generalization of rebellion, declaring war on the capitalist order. What is a radical social movement left to do once it has lost its spatial center? Continue reading
This piece is written by the Black Orchid Collective in Seattle, with contributions from members of Advance the Struggle in the Bay area, members of Hella 503 in Portland, as well as friends in various cities. We have all been deeply involved in Decolonize/ Occupy Seattle, Occupy Portland, Occupy Oakland, and Occupy Wall St., including the Dec. 12th West Coast Port Shutdown. We have worked to build solidarity between the Occupy movement and the rank and file workers of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). This piece presents our critical reflections on these struggles so far. We welcome criticism and discussion.
Table of Contents:
I) Longview and Occupy: a warm autumn on the West Coast
II) Birth of the hip hop picket line: the Dec 12th West Coast Port Shutdown and the precarious proletariat.
III) From Dec 12th to Jan 6th: attempts at coastal solidarity, and divisions in Seattle
IV) Our response to Socialist Worker newspaper’s article
V) Workers’ Committees : a stronger fightback under capitalism, pointing toward revolution
VI) Solidarity is a Two Way Street
VII) Critiques of existing union structures
a) Question of Bureaucracy
b) Partial worker self-management under Capitalism, or Territorialism?
c) Labor Law as a Broken Truce
VIII) The Solidarity we actually need
I) Longview and Occupy: a warm autumn on the West Coast
In Longview, Washington, multinational corporation EGT is attempting to operate a new grain export terminal by using non-ILWU (scab) labor. In September, workers faced police in riot gear in order to stop scab grain from being delivered to EGT’s terminal. Workers and their families have used their bodies to block trains bringing grain shipments to the terminal. When police beat them back, hundreds of longshore workers came back the next day and dumped the grain all over the tracks. Since then, Longview ILWU members have faced fines, injunctions on picketing, and ongoing police harassment and repression.
The Occupy movements in our cities have also blockaded the flow of capital with picket lines and barricades. Both the Occupy movement and longshore workers have challenged what is considered common sense and legitimate under capitalism, opening up new possibilities for creative class struggle against the corporations who are destroying our lives. But attempts to bring these struggles together have been filled with tension.
Some members of the ILWU, including the international leadership, do not want the ILWU to work with Occcupy, while rank and file members and other leaders have reached out to us. We have no desire to be caught in these debates among union members anymore than we unfortunately already are. Our intention is only to build broad solidarity with rank and file ILWU members who have asked for our support.
Steve-o’s post from yesterday raised some important questions regarding the approach Marxist militants take towards understanding and orienting towards the unionized sectors of the American working class. A reader recommended that we post Loren Goldner’s essay on the questions of unions in capitalism, so we’re reposting it here to continue the discussion in the fullest terms possible.
Goldner’s essay, originally from the Insurgent Notes journal, makes the point that “in this epoch there is nothing positive for the class as a whole to be achieved through the unions,” while briefly touching on examples in which militants have participated in unions and fought with “a perspective beyond unions and of their supersession into class-wide organizations.”
Add your thoughts in the comments.
The Demise of Andy Stern and the Question of Unions in Contemporary Capitalism
by: Loren Goldner
(This article originally appeared in Insurgent Notes No. 2 (October 2010 http://insurgentnotes.com)
For decades, since the beginning of the world crisis in the early 1970’s, militants around the world have groped for a way to turn the relentless attack on the global working class from defensive, usually isolated (however valiant) struggles into an offensive one. The rise and recent fall of Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for fifteen years, illustrate some of the issues at hand. They illustrate, as if through a glass darkly, that in this epoch there is nothing positive for the class as a whole to be achieved through the unions. Let’s first look at the specifics in order to arrive at a general perspective.
Our comrade reflects powerfully on our oppression, and the organization we’re gonna need to destroy it. A reminder to bring us down to earth: oppression and exploitation aren’t abstract concepts. They suck our life from us, steal our health, stretch us thin…………..and the difference gets made up by the strength and dedication of mothers and caretakers, of those in the working class who struggle to support themselves and their communities. For more analysis and reflections on the lived class struggle check out her blog Kissing in the Dark!
A few days ago I had to have two of my back molars pulled, because I do not have health care and cannot afford the services (root canal and crown) to save them and prevent infection. This came after waiting nine hours at Highland Hospital just to be seen. I got there at 5:30am in order to get on the new client emergency services list, and I was still number 22 (they only take the first 45). Some people got there as early as 4:30am in order to get seen. This incident occurred two days after my wallet got stolen (with my new EBT card inside) making it the newest incident in a long line of irritating and problematic events that keep popping up in my life and testing my spirit and drive.
When I was sitting in the Highland Hospital dental clinic in the early morning waiting with all the other working-class sick people for some rushed and inadequate care, I noticed a beautiful little girl sitting with her mother. It reminded me of my own adolescence sitting in over-crowded health clinics with my mother, who was determined to keep her four children healthy despite the lack of health insurance at her exploitative restaurant job; despite the lack of help from her dead-beat ex-husband; despite the lack of help from a capitalist system that relies on profit extracted by people’s labor at the expense of their health.
I look at these working-class mothers and their children, who are up before the sun rises in order to get 15 minutes with a doctor (if they’re lucky), and I am reminded that the economic crisis is settled on their backs. It is their commitment to the survival of themselves, their children and their communities that sustains them all; certainly not this barbaric, teeth yanking system. When prices rise despite high unemployment and wage cuts, it is often the women who must find ways to feed their families. When schools, daycare centers, and after school programs close, it is the mothers who must find education and safe places for their children to be at when they are at work. When health clinics close and affordable healthcare isn’t an option it is the women who keep their children warm while they sit in emergency room clinics hoping to be seen.
This is why I am offended by these complacent, bourgeois phrases that attempt to blame the working-class for the lower standard of living they must endure at the hands of capital. Phrases like ‘lift yourself up from your boot straps’ and ‘when life hands you lemons you make lemonade’ fail to see the contradictions within a system that is organized around a division of labor that has built in unequal social relations. These phrases instill in the working-class this incorrect idea that they are the ones to blame for their lack of upward mobility and comfort, and that if they just work hard enough they can achieve it. People are working hard everyday, and they aren’t going nowhere and this is exactly how it is suppose to be. Capitalist society is organized around a class of paid and unpaid workers, who are exploited through the wage; and it is the unwaged worker, such as the unemployed, and the unpaid labor, such as gendered domestic work, that supports the exploitation of the waged worker. We must all participate in this system in some capacity in order to get a paycheck/money to survive. The only way we will achieve any kind of liberation and relief from such an oppressive organization of society is not by working harder, but by smashing such a system of forced labor that steals our life away and keeps us sick. We must re-create the system, the productive forces, and the concept of labor to embody the creativity and the collective survival of the people. This is the historical task of the oppressed.
As the capitalist economy continues to descend into crisis the working class, who are already socialized in the workplace and in unemployment lines, must become organized and armed with revolutionary theory and political clarity on the system, and how reforming it will not lead to our liberation. The working-class must understand their historical task through understanding the system and their role in it and their role in changing it. In Georg Lukacs’s brilliant book,History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics he speaks to the practical and revolutionary functions of theory and consciousness within the class. He writes,
“Only when a historical situation has arisen in which a class must understand society if it is to assert itself; only when the fact that a class understands itself means that it understands society as a whole and when, in consequence, the class becomes both the subject and the object of knowledge; in short, only when these conditions are all satisfied will the unity of theory and practice, the precondition of the revolutionary function of the theory, become possible.” (3)
The working-class is a class in and of itself that is a part of the society we live in; they are one part (a huge part) of the objective conditions. When the working-class begins to study capital and understand the way society functions they begin to see themselves as this class of people with a particular function in the system that was created through a historical process. When the class begins to want to change these objective conditions as a subjective force, thus seeing itself as the subject and object of history, is when they can begin to make history through revolutionary means. This is when the class, the oppressed, becomes a fighting class for itself. In order for this to happen we need an organization of revolutionaries dedicated to developing other worker militants, who can spread such ideas among the class to reproduce revolutionary theorists and militants within the class. This is where Lenin’s system of reproducing professional revolutionaries that he theorizes about in What is To Be Done is incredibly useful and still relevant today; especially when most Leninist/Trotskyist organizations fail to do so. Lenin asserted that the working-class has embryonic consciousness of the inequality of the system through their lived experiences, but this doesn’t automatically result in all of the oppressed becoming dedicated revolutionaries committing their lives to overthrowing the ruling class, and emancipating humanity. This class consciousness must be supported and advanced by revolutionaries trained in such ideas, as well as the historical situations that inspire the masses to move. He illustrates this point well here, and when he refers to social-democrats he is referring to socialists. The way I would use that term today would be to describe liberals not socialists.
““We have become convinced that the fundamental error committed by the ‘new trend’ in Russian Social-Democracy is it’s bowing to spontaneity and its failure to understand that spontaneity of the masses demands a high degree of consciousness from us Social-democrats. The greater the spontaneous upsurge of the masses and the more wide-spread the movement, the more rapid, incomparably so, the demand for greater consciousness in the theoretical, political, and organizational work of social democracy.”(53).
This is true to me based off of my own class experience. I grew up poor as a woman of color. I watched my father get harassed by the police and my mother work several minimum wage jobs to support us, while dealing with my fathers emotional and physical abuse. I believed that the system was racist, and sexist and allowed serious class divides to exist between the rich and the poor. I also believed in the righteous struggle by the oppressed and considered myself a socialist by high school. But my socialism wasn’t theoretically informed by revolutionary theory and history enough to stop me from supporting John Kerry in 2004 and Obama early in 2006. I repped the Black Panthers, but saw potential in reformist and bourgeois politicians. These contradictions were based on a combination of my own contradictory consciousness and lived experience. When I begin to get exposed to Marxist thinkers, and read Marx and other revolutionary theories, histories and biographies, the fuzzy line between revolutionary and reformist politics begin to sharpen. I saw the contradictions within the system that would only be resolved through the revolutionary change in that system and the destruction of capital. It is this transformation within myself that reaffirms Lenin’s thesis to me and makes me committed to such a project. The people need political clarity; clarity that they will not receive from bourgeois education or their workplace. This clarity comes from the conditions we live in; the theory we study; and the determination and movement of the working masses and their organizations.
Ive grown tired of lemonade; give me my freedom!