Sell-Out Unions Buy-In

UAW Workers Sold Out and Forced to take the Fall

UAW Workers Sold Out and Forced to take the Fall

American Capitalism is forcing the United Auto Workers to take financial responsibility for the shaky car industry leading to unions being more commodified and integrated into the capitalist economy. Such a process forces unions into a position where more and more unions can only collaborate with capital as apposed to fight against it  for the workers they supposedly represent.

This is what happens to the working class when no leftist militants take them seriously enough to intervene in their daily struggles and radicalize the movement…

(see the posts below on IWW militants for positive examples of how leftists could and should intervene)


http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/15/business/15Auto.html

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33 responses to “Sell-Out Unions Buy-In

  1. The terms in which UAW were brought into this was really extortion, not quite necessarily Trade-Union leaders “selling-out.” Revolutionaries must be very mindful what Trade-Unions effectively do, they win gains and privilege within Capitalism, because indeed an American worker, especially established union ones, have a lot to lose than simply his chains. In this situation, imagine if a strike was called for by UAW in the midst of the meltdown of their industries – it would ultimately probably produce the end of the industry itself.

    Here “class collaborationism” is effectively in the interests of their trade. The survival of this auto industry is in the interests of auto workers within capital.

    This is not celebration of the fact, but skepticism over the radical shout of “strike” as an always effective bargaining tool.

    Celebration of IWW is merely deflecting the reality of radical trade union failures. There is a reason IWW doesn’t maintain large membership and never has grown. Yes we here of a few shops in organized sometimes, but with respect to undocumented workers, largely they’re finding themselves more and more going into the standard Trade Unions or going into the new Worker Centers and other labor related organizations. And the Starbucks’ worker campaign, I just think there is little promise in it.

    • the biggest example of “class collaboration” is for a self labeled revolutionary to say that class struggle is against the workers’ interests! i wonder if you get checks from GM for spreading this bourgeois propaganda. with this perspective, revolutionary struggle in “backward” places like nepal would be fruitless, and i know that stp is very enthusiastic about THAT unlikely battle.

      meanwhile stp claims that the proletariat in the most central nation-state of the world system, which has organized against capital so well that it has achieved “something to loose” other than chains, is impotent and has no bargaining power. if they got no leverage then why are they building new car factories in the South? if they got no leverage, then why is the US government doing everything to save the industry? the answer is that the US needs the auto industry and it needs those workers (as workers, as consumers, as loyal citizens, etc) – thats leverage that the workers can use. how? first of all, by organizing bottom-up style against the union leadership and taking direct action. they could become the vanguard of the proletariat if they launched factory occupations in all sections of the auto industry supply chain. a network of militant alternative union structures (like the DRUMs and yes like the IWW – the iww of its heyday, not today’s iww obviously) can be built, it can struggle and it can win – despite the odds, just like the peasants of semi-feudal nepal..

      another glaring inconsistency in stp’s logic is the assertion that the auto workers are class collaborationist, yet the union that represents them is not a sell-out one. lets be clear that there is NO reason why the UAW has to offer up all its hard-earned gains just bc the economy and the industry is in crisis. a general strike (which the UAW leadership is capable of calling – not they would, BECAUSE THEY”RE SELL OUTS!!) would secure their past gains AND it could win new ones. it could encourage other unions to do similar things, and a nationwide general strike could be called. of course this a fantasy bc politically, the unions are run by sell-out junior partners of the democrat/republican big bourgeois corporate political agenda. the unions are not led by people who identify in any way shape or form with marxism, let alone revolutionaries.

      but back to the question of the relationship of the union leaders to the union members… either the union officials do not actually represent the workers, or they do. if they do represent the workers’ interests and their will, then our assessment of the leaders and the workers should be uniform. either both are sell-outs or both are helpless victims of capitalism and have no agency. personally, i think the unions do NOT represent the interests of the workers. I think its in the workers interest to preserve all their gains including full pension, all jobs, and all benefits. that should be the union’s minimum program – defending that shit. above that, they should be making fresh demands and launching new offensives. not possible because the economy is in crisis? thats the best time! when was the UAW born? when did go through its most spectacular growth? look at the French workers – they arent experiencing economic crisis? look at the Guadalupe workers – they arent facing unemployment and a stagnant economy? yes they are, but they know how to fight back. crisis is a time of opportunity and revolutionaries should not reinforce the bourgeoisie’s fear tactics and lies that the workers in the core of the world system have no bargaining power. if workers were so easily displaced, if the core didnt rely on domestic consumption to bolster the outsourced production, then capitalism would be a shining example of success today. instead, after 3 decades of treating the US proletariat like they’re expendable, the internal contradiction of the neoliberal form of capitalism has come full circle through the credit and home loan /financialization crisis. as always, capitalism’s best case scenario sows the seeds of its own destruction. not innevitably, but potentially. the potential exists today, but the revolutionaries do not. will those of us who see the potential, recognize the challenges, build the needed alternative, and FIGHT BACK, or will we shiver in the corner and play dead?

  2. Unions do protect workers, like a lawyer does his or her client. The collective bargaining agreement is a set of laws that can be somewhat enforced. And I agree that the UAW was forced into this situation. But that is the point. The unions can negotiate subsistience, but only the rank-file workers could lead an offensive against the industry. There is demands that could be made on the capitalist and the government, especially because the industry is close to collapsing. That means there is real leverage possibly in the hands of the workers. What is needed is more than unionism, but working class militancy and vision in how were going to get out of this mess. UAW and the rest of us are all stuck under the same system. Is the UAW proposing an independent vision for struggles in the future, or holding on to the present with shaky arms? And it now carriers a lot of financial responsibility for the car industry. So the industry and its investment systems have penetrated the and reshapped the union. That is not good.

  3. This quote means what? Read the text within the text, “Executives from all of Detroit’s companies have studied the plan, which would probably cost the auto industry tens of billions of dollars to carry out in the United States. But if the U.A.W. did agree, it would mean removing the liability from the car companies.”

  4. Esteban, you’re missing the main point. Yes look at the French workers’, look at the ones at Chicago, etc. What were they fighting for? In the end it wasn’t a radical vision of proletarian state power or anything else, it was simply radical trade-unionism altogether. That’s fine and good militancy, but it is still within the domain of bourgeois politics altogether. Even Obama celebrated the action of the Republic Windows workers.

    So whats the key difference, well Republic Windows workers had nothing to lose and nearly the most key thing to win (their job), whereas Chrysler’s bankruptcy would have meant much worse for workers’ benefits than this corporatist extortion of bringing them into being a part of this deal with FIAT.

    Now I in my opinion don’t believe very much in the idea of Union’s leadership not being representative of its rank and file – Internationals maybe, but within Locals this is nearly impossible. In that much, the claim that the workers’ themselves are selling out is just a way that visibly is reflective of whats at stake during a strike. Maintaining and holding a strike is very difficult and unless you can get the employer by the balls (not to be sexist) doing it, its a very hard maneuver.

  5. first of all, i want to apologize if my tone was rude in my last post. im a nice and civil in person, but somehow the internet turns me into an asshole sometimes. someone told me privately that i was dissing you, so if you felt that i was, i apologize.

    “That’s fine and good militancy, but it is still within the domain of bourgeois politics altogether. Even Obama celebrated the action of the Republic Windows workers.”

    thats quite an accusation to make, coming from someone who enthusiastically supports the CPN(M) in their flexible new revolutionary politics of parliamentary leninism. im curious though.. could you please describe the process by which the working class transcends the limits of bourgeois politics here in the US? personally, i think that the process starts within those limits, and that revolutionary leadership orients the struggle to progressively bigger and better things. proletarian consciousness grows through struggle, not in a vacuum, not in a vacuum on an armchair. the difference between reformism and revolutionism is not the struggle for reforms, but the limitation of the struggle ONLY to reforms. reforms can be fought for in a revolutionary way. both the winning of those reforms and the way in which they were won can set the proletariat up for a struggle on a higher more revolutionary plane in the next phase.

    stp: “Maintaining and holding a strike is very difficult and unless you can get the employer by the balls (not to be sexist) doing it, its a very hard maneuver.”

    being hard doesnt make it correct or incorrect. taking state power is even harder than winning a strike yet you are enthusiastically advocate it.

    ultimately, the working class’ biggest source of leverage is its militancy. revolutionaries should see it as their responsibility to infuse workers with as much consciousness and militancy as possible. how does boycotting their struggles do this?

  6. Advance The Struggle

    The maoists I’ve come in contact with usually chalk the struggle of workers in the workplace as something that they tried doing in the 70’s but which proved to be unsuccessful. Most trotskyists love to talk about workplace struggles yet have marginal influence within the actual struggles (if any at all.)

    NGOish groups tend to cozy up with union leaderships and bureaucrats and see this as their role in class struggle.

    Why does it have to be this way?

    The book “Detroit: I do mind dying” examines the experiences of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, a semi-maoist formation of black auto workers who led militant wildcat strikes at several auto plants in Detroit.

    These experiences didn’t always lead to concessions or “victories” but are rich as examples of the type of radical, rank-and-file, workplace struggle that is possible. We should take this (and other) examples seriously when debating strategy and tactics for the present.

    As John Watson says in the film “Finally Got the News” (paraphrase): “There are some workers which are strategically positioned in industry, that when they stop working it cripples the whole economy: busdrivers, autoworkers, steelworkers . . .”

    Well, he was speaking specifically about black workers in the late 60’s/early 70’s. Now we’re in 2009 and as we saw in Chicago many workplaces have become and are becoming even more multiracial (and multinational) than before. And I would argue (and agree with esteban) that conscious worker militancy still has the potential to bring the political economy of capitalism to its knees.

    It’s easy to write off workers in the US as being “bought out” and bourgeoisified through their position at the center of capitalism, but it’s more fruitful (and much more challenging) to reflect on the phenomenon of proletarianization (or re-proletarianization) of the US working class, and the potential they/we have for developing struggle into one which can challenge the capitalist political-economy as a whole.

    If we are aspiring to be revolutionaries in the center of imperialism, then we need to take this seriously and begin to engage in a practice which orients towards working class people in such a way that we can develop and advance their struggles.

    If we don’t do this then how are we even beginning to conceive of smashing the bourgeois state?? In what other way can we really express our internationalism than by training ourselves in battle on the workplace front which can provide the basis for which we train to not just temporarily battle against bosses and politicians, but ultimately replace them with something like revolutionary socialism?

    bell hooks said in an interview: “Our leading people buy into utopian fantasies of liberation, when in fact our liberation should come from a concrete struggle in the workforce . . . “

  7. Shine the path wrote, “Now I in my opinion don’t believe very much in the idea of Union’s leadership not being representative of its rank and file – Internationals maybe, but within Locals this is nearly impossible.” This demonstrates that you have a social democratic understanding of social relations and leadership. Your Maoist logic has kautskyism lurking in the backround. Capital accumulates through expansions and contractions. The state is the executive force of this process, facilitating its reproduction.

    Marxist theorist Nicos Poulantzas explains:

    Through its activities and effects, the State intervenes in all the relations of power in order to assign them a class pertinency and enmesh them in the web of class power. The State thereby takes over heterogeneous powers which relay and recharge the economic, political and ideological powers of the dominant class…[Class] power therefore traverses, utilizes and gears down that other power, assigning to it a given political significance (1980, State, Power, and Socialism p. 43).

    By accepting the framework of leadership that unions function by, your also accepting the statist notions of leadership, which are ultimatly defined by capital reproduction. In Staughton Lynd’s book Rank-File, the raw agency of workers against capital, trascended different political currents, CP, SP, IWW and so on. But to understand how that agency worked, never was formal leaders, leaders of struggle. There is no historical correlation. Look at 1934. SF, Minneapolis, and Toledo Ohio. The leaders of struggle was not the leaders of the unions and vice versa. If you want to spend your time orienting towards union leaders to advance the struggle, then be my guess…But in my opinion that represents collaboration not struggle.

  8. There’s been a lot of issues raised here.

    First of all, I don’t think the problems within the unions stem strictly from the failure of the left to get involved in them. Yes, this is part of the problem, and along with this goes the failure of those lefts who do get involved to seriously put forward an alternative program and strategy to that of the union heirarchy.

    In the UAW there has been a very active dissident caucus – Soldiers of Solidarity. Despite them, every concessionary contract has been voted up. I think the main reason is that SOS has failed to adequately deal with a very real issue that the union auto workers face – the rise of the non-union plants in the US and the competition from low wage plants in Mexico and elsewhere. The fact is that either the union wage will be driven down to the non-union wage or the wages of the non-union workers will rise to the union wage in conjunction with a mass organizing campaign.

    The problem is that the “organizing” campaign of the UAW heirarchy is about as effective as trying to stop a Mack truck with a motor scooter as a road-block. And the dissident minority has not offered any alternative – a campaign similar to what was done in the 1930s. So most workers figure that there is no alternative.

    The struggle against concessions in auto should be linked with a real, crash organizing campaign domestically and a campaign to build direct links internationally, with the goal of building a strong international auto workers organization that can shut down the industry globally.

    Along with this, of course, it is increasingly obvious that we need a radical mass workers’ party in the US in order to even start to deal with the financial crisis.

  9. OK So being done with some necessary work I have a good opportunity to elucidate my point. I am not really quite found of people beating up an effigy of an argument, and not what I said.

    People here are missing the point altogether, workers’ struggle is very easily able to be co-opted into the processes of the bourgeois state – especially in what was the period of late capitalism. The problem altogether with the “bottom-up” and workerist rhetoric of most people on the left is that such a routine is nearly always out of step to the actuality of the working class.

    Lenin’s point altogether in “What is to be Done?” is that Trade-Union consciousness, that is the consciousness of the narrow self-interests of workers in relation to capital is always actually a bourgeois form of workers’ consciousness. Why? Because it remains within the actual coordinates of bourgeois ideology itself, remaining within the confines of bourgeois right. It is of course, and here I agree with Esteban, the necessity that we infuse communist work in relation to these struggle of workers.

    But how is that done? Through the method of every Trotskyist organization, by going into every Union you can get a member in and argue for a general strike when ever issues in contracts come about? Simply that strategy is done and tried, its produces always next to nothing. Trade Unions are organizational forms of class collaborationism and struggle, they’re both contradictorily bounded with each other – in fact all struggle has this quality when it addresses itself to capital or the state, unless it overturns it. Every union collectively bargains for the labor power of its workers, that is its role. This is why Lenin critique the economists who solely put emphasis on organizing at the point of production, organizing workers’ for their economic gain.

    The most advanced form of organization of the proletariat is a revolutionary party which is able to expose and engage in politics outside of the work place. Class consciousness poses an actual direct challenge to the limited narrow interest of bourgeois right, for which unions are organized on, i.e. raising consciousness through exposure of the system of capital and systematic forms of all types of political oppression.

    Esteban essentially adopts a militant economism when he tries to compare the political imperative of taking state power to the tactical ability of a workers’ organization to strike with respect to their collective bargaining with capital on the price of their labor power. The reason I had brought up why strikes are usually the most difficult thing to is because simply because they can easily result in failure, if the strike is not immediately successful, then capital has the upper hand against workers’. This is why in most locals when the issue of strike comes out, more so than not it is thrown to the “rank and file” and they say no to a strike.

    To quote Lenin : “The consciousness of the working masses cannot be genuine class-consciousness, unless the workers learn, from concrete, and above all from topical, political facts and events to observe every other social class in all the manifestations of its intellectual, ethical, and political life; unless they learn to apply in practice the materialist analysis and the materialist estimate of all aspects of the life and activity of all classes, strata, and groups of the population.”

    And to speak from practical experience as someone who has helped organized picket lines and been involved in worker centers’, this lesson is of the most importance, otherwise all you get is just a form of militant economism – even there, no matter what the activity is, its still conceived narrowly in self-interest.

    On the question of “reproletarianization,” lets get a clear picture. Sometimes you’ll see a tendency amongst the left to generally hold that the working class is almost homogeneous, with revolutionary potential throughout. “Advance the Struggle” is making the claim that in fact the American working class is being ‘reproletarianized’ and more importantly he quotes John Watson on the importance of worker organizing at an industrial level. There is actually a much larger question here, what is the proletariat and what is class consciousness? Proletariat is a political subject of the working class, the self-conscious force that understands how it is bound to the relations of capital, and how these relations result in exploitation of the working class. It is more importantly, not an individual subject, but a collective subject. Class-consciousness is not a consciousness of self, its a political consciousness, meaning the reduction of class consciousness to workers’ self-interest is merely turning Marxism into identity politics and back to the problem of economism once again. Class consciousness is the concrete manifestation of the subjectivity of the Proletariat, outside itself.

    In my opinion, and maybe this is what “Advance the Struggle” was getting at, the most proletarianized section of the working class in the traditional white Trade Unions – I think the argument for that can be simply be put; Trade-Unions had functioned as quasi-state institutions during the Keynesian period, the strategy of which was in fact class collaboratist. We can’t just simply drop the insight of Lenin on the labor aristocracy, and how is it not possible to say that politically capital and labor in America came together under conditions which were manipulated by the state after world war 2? Those conditions may have changed, but Trade-Unions essentially being sub-contractors of labor hasn’t.

    I think the most proletarianized section of the working class are those undocumented workers, non-union skilled labor industrial workers, day laborers, nationally oppressed communities and the internal colonies created by imperialism in this country, those in the informal economy (sex workers, street vendors, etc.).

    But there is many ways in which they can be organized and such organization, at this stage, wouldn’t certainly shut down production (in fact with a lot of industrial production not in this country altogether, and our working class being mostly service labor, how could that be done?) Worker centers from my experience have shown the greatest depth for revolutionary organizing precisely because their work doesn’t have to be centered in the workplace, because they can bridge very easily into issues of the community and direct confrontation with the state, the ability to bring forward revolutionary political education is also much easier without the structural impediments.
    ——

    Some other things of note, quoting LRBW and their history one most understand that ultimately their political line on organizing at the point of production black workers was made universal to the conditions of all black people. That was incorrect, and being situated in Michigan, maybe they couldn’t tell the wood from the trees. The Black Panther Party’s work was in the conditions of rapidly de-industrialized urban centers amongst a brutally criminalized section of working black people – their work in Oakland, LA, NJ, Chicago, and elsewhere had to deal with this fact as did the work of other NCM organizations.

    In fact the history of LRBW shows to a certain extent the more intellectual ML(M)-ists of the organization, like John Watson himself, tended to have difficulty relating and conveying ideas to workers who were themselves mostly black nationalists.

    —–

    On what Esteban calls “parliamentary Leninism,” not to re-pick up the debate of Nepal and maybe if you like you can respond in that previous thread, but what was more significant of the Nepalese was that going into the CA was a way to polarize whole sections of the Nepali urban population to revolutionary politics – its success was uniting almost the whole of other revolutionary organizations with the Maoist Party, the successful growth of their mass organizations to tens of thousands of members, the growth of the PLA to 8.000 to 20,000. The Maoist Party was not within the confines of simple bourgeois parliamentarianism, in fact the CA is charged with creating a new constitution – this was political class struggle in a new form. Calling this naively or purposefully “parliamentary Leninism” is just simply ignoring what the facts say about Nepal, there is dual power between the remnants of a reactionary state and army and the Maoists themselves.

  10. John,

    I am not familiar with SOS caucus, how large is it and are there already existing political formations which are doing organizing of this caucus?

    From my experience these dissident caucuses tend to either be one of two things – politically organized forces with a few other workers finding traction to their political line, or politically organized forces that tend to just be nonsensically detached from the larger body of the rank and file.

  11. All you have to do is look them up on the internet. They seem to have quite a base within the UAW. I think you may be overly cynical.

    • I don’t think I am cynical, but inquiring to the relationship this caucus has to the rank and file. From my experience radical caucuses just tend to be permeated by various Trotskyist formations which may or may not have any relationship to the rank and file. There are of course exceptions I can think of, but I have not heard of anything of SOS, so I am always carry a certain amount of skepticism at the very least.

      I think other comrades should to, in NYC the radical caucuses of Trotskyists in TWU Local 100 have in this recent election united with the right-wing of the union to try to beat the more progressive leadership of those inheriting Roger Touissant’s leadership under the pretense of union democracy and fighting NYS budget cuts. The union leadership remains popular amongst the rank and file and the radical caucuses have no traction with any of the workers. Keep in mind this is a militant trade-union made up of mostly black workers that have shut the city down.

      From their website, I really can tell nothing about their relationship with progressive political struggle immediately. Their video isn’t co comforting when it puts up pics of Jimmy Hoffa’s mural.

  12. it is difficult to reconcile an apologetic approach to parliamentarism with a complete boycott of unionism. in fact completely inconsistent. shine the path is clearly struggling with contradictions within his own theoretical framework, although she may not be conscious of it.

    stp:
    “And to speak from practical experience as someone who has helped organized picket lines and been involved in worker centers’, this lesson is of the most importance, otherwise all you get is just a form of militant economism – even there, no matter what the activity is, its still conceived”

    workers centers? really? are you seriously arguing that workers centers like Young Workers United here in the Bay Area and whatnot, are more POLITICAL than the IWW? i agree a shortcoming of the IWW was its lack of political theory, but in actual fact it was very political in its message, its anti-capitalism and in its dogged pursual of “militant economism” which crashed against the state apparatus violently. the militant parliamentarian is arguing in favor of workers centers and quoting Lenin… Kautsky would be proud.

    • Esteban, I would like to approach you here in the decency to carry forward an actual argument that is based the actual conditions of what is our disagreement on American Trade Unionist work. Unforunately, you can hardly see the woods for the trees, which is why instead of carrying forward a discussion about class relations and strategic organizing in the United States, you can only dismiss me upon my support of the Maoists in Nepal – this is sectarianism at its purest – switch one question for another.

      If you want to debate Nepal further, we can do that, but perhaps within the discussion of Nepal (or else all you’re promoting is a muddle)

      Now on IWW and Worker Centers and other forms of organization for combatitivity of the masses – there are many worker centers and forms of community organizations, I have no knowledge of your one worker center you mention – but for that one there are many others

      The Labor Community Strategy Center – http://www.thestrategycenter.org/
      Miami Workers’ Center – http://www.miamiworkerscenter.org/
      POWER in the Bay Area (can’t find a site) etc.
      Chinese Staff Workers’ Association (oldest workers’ center in the country) – http://www.cswa.org/

      These organizations aren’t models, but their work has shown that actually these type of organizations seem to be model and key for revolutionary work at the current moment – it shares the openess and ability to do political education and the flexibility to do organizing on multiple issues. Trade-Unions on the other hand have definite character and strict form.

      On the IWW – there is a union that has been dead for decades, it serves as merely the sometime project of all types of syndicalists.

  13. I have so many disagreements with shinethepath’s distortion of marxism, its incredible. In every theoritical turn and characterization this person makes lies deep inner flaws with an overall logic that is inherintly anti-thetical to Marxism. Shinethepath’s marxism, or framework of, is historical expression of the distortion of marxism and why marxism needs to be rebuilt with different roots and methodology.

    To start off, Shinethepath says, “The problem altogether with the “bottom-up” and workerist rhetoric of most people on the left is that such a routine is nearly always out of step to the actuality of the working class.”

    Yes, most marxist there out of touch with the working class. Some do argue a bottom up approach and others argue a unionist approach. Neither system has proven some type of merit over the other in the last 30 years. But the Windows republic occupation being a noticeable acceptation, and one that validity towards the bottom up approach, and without a doubt there was some class-struggle militant in that miluex- of what tendency? that is not known. But just because some group is disconnected to the working class means their politics are wrong just as much as a group that is connected with the working class is right. Politics is more complicated than that.

    Shinethepath said “Through the method of every Trotskyist organization, by going into every Union you can get a member in and argue for a general strike when ever issues in contracts come about? Simply that strategy is done and tried, its produces always next to nothing.”

    I seriously doubt most trotskyist militants do this even though most trotskyist groups have a very problematic relationship to the working class. Most trotskyist see the unions as being a double edge sword, a bureaucracy that balances the needs of capital and the needs of workers, and its their job to be leaders to the revolutionary leaders and fight the bureaucrats. Many see unions like a “workers state” meaning that it has a progressive based but a rightwing leadership. And what a worker state needs is a political revolution where one head replaces the other. They are weak about the political nature of the structure of the unions. What I mean by structure is what defines social relations. And what defines the relationship the workers have as a whole with capital. Laws is an important theme. Unions respect laws, so do liberals and social democrats. Laws are shaped to facilitate the reproduction of capital in the long run.

    Shinethepath said “The reason I had brought up why strikes are usually the most difficult thing to is because simply because they can easily result in failure, if the strike is not immediately successful, then capital has the upper hand against workers’. This is why in most locals when the issue of strike comes out, more so than not it is thrown to the “rank and file” and they say no to a strike.”

    Huh, this comment is unbelievable. Uh, yes, the rank-file has not been striking for a long time because when they do, they lose. THAT IS THE PROPLEM. Why would you go on strike to lose? The question is then how do you win? What does it take to advance the class struggle? But if your point is that since the workers are against striking then striking must be anti-worker. Therfor if a leftist advocates strikes, there really going up against the real sociology of the working class. What brilliant ahistorical logic!

    Shinethepath said “Trade-Unions had functioned as quasi-state institutions during the Keynesian period, the strategy of which was in fact class collaboratist. We can’t just simply drop the insight of Lenin on the labor aristocracy, and how is it not possible to say that politically capital and labor in America came together under conditions which were manipulated by the state after world war 2?”

    Many mainstream marxist said that unions were colloborative in the Keynesian era 1945-to1973 Capital growth took place and the state supported the public sector. In such a situation why shouldn’t the unions join the government and business, in an alliance, to get some of the piece of the pie. But now with capitalism declining in the US, how could unions have the same collaborative nature? Again more brilliant insights into class society. Unions have been shaped with capital since the 1830s. During the 70s there was more “militant economism” but that culture has been destroyed with Reagan smashing the air controllers strike of 1982. Unions have not won better contracts for their members. They have not created a counter system to the downward trajectory of conditions. They have not successfully beat budget cuts of schools or any of the mass layoffs. Unions function like a law firm. They want the employer to fallow the laws because the union is. They believe the state is balanced, or at least the legal system is. With that said, no strike in American history has been won by no breaking the law. You have to have unpermitted marches, workplace takeovers, and direct fights with the bosses. Check the article about French workers holding Catapillars managers hostage. In 1934, SF, Toledo Ohio, and Minnepolis all had general strikes. Why? There unions did it? No, the AFL actually was trying to sabatoge such efforts. Well if it wasn’t the unions who led and sparked this general strikes, who did? Leftist militants in conjunction with the rank-file. SF was due to Harry Bridges and the CP. Toledo Ohio was because Muste and the workers party. And Minneopolis was because of Farrol Dobbs and the SWP. One group was syndicalist, the other trotskyist and the other stalinist. What does this mean? That its the rank-file militants that can mobilize their class against capital. Unions play a role of institutionalizing struggle.

    Shinethepath said, “Worker centers from my experience have shown the greatest depth for revolutionary organizing precisely because their work doesn’t have to be centered in the workplace, because they can bridge very easily into issues of the community and direct confrontation with the state, the ability to bring forward revolutionary political education is also much easier without the structural impediments.”

    Again more brilliant insight from our friend here. I once asked Ben Fletcher, a respected labor radical writer, of what model of organizing do you see as being effective? His answer was community centers because with the problem of workplaces being disorganized and divided, orienting towards the community is more effective in relation to urban space. I asked is there an example of a place where capital has really been challenged due to such a community center, and his response was that this works as an orientation. OK. Well lets say you get a really good corner somewhere and you open up a “community center.” This still does not answer the question, how are you going to organize the working class against capital? In California, there are a bunch community centers in LA and SF. What have they done? Have they led any struggles? Have they brought together the community against exploitation? It doesn’t take a Karl Marx to realize that no, it has not. So were back with the same problem, how to advance the class struggle?

    In most other countries the word militant is often used. What does this mean? A worker militant is one ready to take action. A worker militant is trained in revolutionary theory to make such action politically relevant. A worker militant can out organize a union businness representative. A group that collaborates with unions as a substitution of ignoring the development of worker militants, reverse your marxism into Kautskyism. Our system is threatened by these type of militant workers. Our system has marginalized and depoliticized workers so a political education and militancy is stripped away. None of the left groups of the American left are building a process that fosters this development. It is taking place in other countries, most notably, but not limited to, Latin America and Europe. If in your workplace, you were told you were being layed off, is there a group of militants that you can connect to that could help you organize against the boss and organize sympathy strikes to make it an offensive of workers? No. Such a group has to be built. Such militants have to be built.

    • Jonak, it is funny that you consider my orientation to be “anti-thetical” to Marxism, when you say very much exactly what I am saying just with a “we still need to give it a shot approach,” because I am skeptical of the prospects of Trade-Union work being developed by Marxists doesn’t mean I’ve adopted revisionism. In fact it is my contention your own ‘Marxism’ is the text book example of economism in all its various shades and forms. If Marxism were merely a faithful play of mere fully old labor rhetoric than I would in fact not be a Marxist, but since that is not the case let me show why I am in fact being a thorough-going Marxist where as you simply play on the strings of labor struggles of the past and projection of them into the future.

      Lets once again go back to the example of the workers in their union struggle taking over the Republic Windows facilities. Now what a militant act that in the end did essentially what? Yes, lets celebrate a victory of the militant workers’ fighting and winning what they were promised – but let us not act for one moment that this struggle itself was revolutionary. Far from it. The workers’ didn’t take the factory and continued production under their command, they didn’t do anything but hold down land until their contract was obliged. No wonder they were standing right with Blagovich and Obama was airing his support, because within that action there wasn’t really anything threatening to capital itself (besides the particular capitalists involved). This is at most a primitive step forward for militancy of Trade-Unions around Trade-Union issues.

      Let me even be generous at this point, maybe it even opens the possibilities of revolutionaries in Trade-Unions ( I would argue, and have before there is a need for the limited forces in the South and right to work states to probably take up this work). But you already pointed out, as I did before, what a Trade-Union is. Its an organization of workers formed out of the basis to collectively bargain its labor and to contract itself to capital. The problem with the Trotskyists overall in Trade-Unions (and yes how understand most Trotskyists, sometimes even the better ones like ‘Solidarity’) in their role in their little radical caucuses is they don’t recognize that objective conditions in their role of their work. They tend to subjectively project revolutionary aspirations into struggles that aren’t revolutionary – as they did with the TWU Local 100 strike in NYC, as they do with any worker action. Those actions were militant and revolutionaries need to support them and find ways of embracing them, but whats the point of having illusions about them?

      What is most outstanding is that Jonak here begins to champion the role of Trade-Unions in the period of Keynesianism. It is of course true, what are Trade-Unions going to do besides try to get more of the pie. But how was that class collaborationist strategy accomplished? By whole-salely eliminating the left-wing of the Trade Unions, joining whole wholeheartedly with the democratic parties aspirations, and essentially forming itself into the organization of labor aristocracy – racist exclusion of nationally oppressed workers and fully assimilating ethnic white workers, Italians, Jewish and Slavic people into the white supremacist system. I would even argue that fundamentally Trade Unions are much better today, politically all around, than the years of Jimmy Hoffa.

      It is utterly weird to be a Kautskyist by someone who doesn’t recognize the simple fact of the existence of a labor aristocracy in the United States working class – especially historically in the period of Trade Unions height in the post-world war II period.

      Jonak say:
      “..how are you going to organize the working class against capital? In California, there are a bunch community centers in LA and SF. What have they done? Have they led any struggles? Have they brought together the community against exploitation? It doesn’t take a Karl Marx to realize that no, it has not. So were back with the same problem, how to advance the class struggle?”

      Another example of how you reverse the political history, this was effectively the argument of Kautsky on political questions as well as Martyov in What Is To Be Done? The class struggle is here reduced in fact to class reductionism, the real struggle is the workers vs. the bosses. The problem with this logic is that capital’s expansion needs the reproduction of the conditions of capital – i.e. relationships to the state, social relationships amongst the broad masses, ideaology, etc. Those are just as significant and probably more important in this current period, and they’re a point where we can effectively begin building a base and roots amongst the people – not just tailing their more militant contract negotiations.

      “You have to have unpermitted marches, workplace takeovers, and direct fights with the bosses. Check the article about French workers holding Catapillars managers hostage.”

      Yes, and whats the real lesson? The legacy of 68′ exists in the relatively stability of French Capitalism to incorporate Trade Union actions as part of its political landscape since then. Are we merely fighting for French Welfare State? You know what was unthinkable for the French state though? The rebellions of its immigrant North African poor.

  14. I posted up a reply to Esteban’s post before, but I am not sure if it got through – but here is all I wanted to say.

    1) Bringing up the issue of Nepal in a question about the strategic orientation of revolutionaries in the United States is just pure sectarianism – as if support for the Maoists were essentially a badge for being discreditted. The US is not Nepal, how struggle occurs there and here are different…in fact in Nepal it is absolutely necessary at a point where revolution is immanent that they do Trade-Union work (and they do). But Esteban, you merely choose to bring up this issue continually, even though there is a whole other thread for it, because you’re merely being sectarian.

    I am not sure who would be proud of it, but if I knew, I would try to make a political argument for it.

    2) On Worker Centers’ and similiar organizations, I would recommend comrades take a look mass organizations like

    Labor and Community Strategy Center in LA – http://www.thestrategycenter.org/

    Chinese Staff Workers’ Association in NYC (oldest worker center in the country) – http://www.cswa.org/

    POWER in the Bay.

    VAMOS Unidos in NYC – http://vamosunidos.org/VAMOS_UNIDOS/Home.html

    Miami Worker’s Center – http://www.miamiworkerscenter.org/

    Domestic Workers’ United – http://www.domesticworkersunited.org/

    Not to mention other similar organizations like Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami in Miami (Haitian Women of Miami), Desis Resising and Moving, INCITE!, the Right to the City Coalitions that are spawning everywhere, the strong Filipino orgs like BAYAN, Gabriella, and others.

    Yes they have all their own limitations, some more than others, I can tell you some of experiences and thoughts working with CSWA for example, as well with other comrades – we’ve got a few differences in our summations, but why did those things come into existence in the first place? Because Trade-Unions were either completely inept to deal with the problems (some where nothing more than poverty pimps), others’ memberships were too white and comfortable to care very much about the undocumented workers or even had historically conspired to keep them out of Trade Unions – belonging to a Trade Union family I can even tell you more than one way some unions have more progressive leadership than the majority of members.

    —-

    On IWW

    Listen, I like the history as much as anyone else – throw out Joe Hill, all the old CP members, etc. Fine. Lets even celebrate TUUL and even the hey day of CIO. But that isn’t today, that history is tried up. If you think there are particular lessons to learn from it, great! But what is IWW now beyond the few thousand syndicalists around the country that only want to sing old labor songs. “Solidarity Forever..” and all that jive.

  15. Bro, I’ve read Althusser’s essay “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” where homeboy Louis draws on the reproduction of capital which Marx analyzes in Vol. 2 of Capital, and I feel like you’re drawing heavily from that when you state:

    “The problem with this logic is that capital’s expansion needs the reproduction of the conditions of capital – i.e. relationships to the state, social relationships amongst the broad masses, ideaology, etc. Those are just as significant and probably more important in this current period, and they’re a point where we can effectively begin building a base and roots amongst the people – not just tailing their more militant contract negotiations.”

    I have a couple of direct, Concrete, questions to ask you:

    What is your perspective on working class workplace organizing and communist militants? Should serious revolutionaries engage in work place struggles and attempt to advance them?

    You bring up what’s generally referred to as the “superstructure” of capitalism and state that it’s in that sphere that building bases and roots amongst oppressed people should take place, so I ask concretely:

    What role do you think revolutionaries should play in organizing at the point of production – workplaces of various sorts in the formal and informal economy?

  16. Big L,

    The Althusser quote is very illuminating to this discussion and I essentially do agree with it (maybe no surprise there). But it is good you posted it because it can help clarify my contention.

    On the question of revolutionaries in relation to organizing the workplace, etc. I am not opposed to organizing here at the very least. It is my position that revolutionaries doing this work should organize in the most proletarian section of society – undocumented workers, day laborers, domestic workers, non-union labor (right-to-work states), black workers, even Vendors, etc.

    The reason I am even am putting forward Worker Centers and other similar community organizations like Labor and Strategy Community Center, Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association, VAMOS Unidos, Miami Workers’ Center, and others is because I’ve met with people in these orgs, observed how they’ve done their work, and even been active in their organizing for a couple of years (CSWA). From my experience and observation these organizations, even in their more primitive stage, had infinitely more wealth and value for the work of revolutionaries than even the most militant Trade-Unions like TWU Local 100.

    I will be the first to say there are definite limits to Workers’ Centers, but there are definitely much more in Trade Unions.

    Just to speak to some definite concrete benefits of Worker and Community Center organizing vs. Trade Union organizing is the ability to openly politically educate and agitate (some unions, even all black unions, have anti-communist clauses), the ability to work easily in the informal section of the economy, i.e. Trade Unions DON’T organize immigrant vendors, their organizing of domestic workers is nearly pathetic, and their organizing of day laborers non-existent. With undocumented workers, it always depends, but speak to anyone in NYC about the conditions of undocumented and even documented Chinese and Latino workers in garment sweatshops – they had the largest Trade-Union UNITE! and it was the most impotent union ever, all it could try to contend to do was poverty pimp its workers and try to hold down health care, it was only orgs like CSWA that broke that.

    And of course at the same time these orgs can do work in the community around housing, development planning projects that destabilize communities and toss people from their homes – one of the major lessons of David Harvey’s work is that the question of capital being tied to the land, and the issue of housing being just as much a primary question in terms of expansion of capital as is the point of production.

    So those in my mind are the advantages of that type of work in those organizations.

    I’d like to make another argument though, even here, why the good old “super-structure” is still primary and plays the main role; and my critique of my work in CSWA is they lacked this understanding and basically took up work not much different than a radical trade union. If you look at why these sections of the people are the most proletarian section of the working class, it is because of how they relate to a repressive and ideological state apparatus – their struggle goes on beyond the workplace.

  17. Oh wait that was a quote from me lol 🙂

    My mistake – but yes I am drawing I think that idea from Althusser

  18. first of all, organizing in the workplace doesnt have to go through any official organization. by official i mean registered with the state or otherwise sanctioned by the capitalists. League of Revolutionary Black Workers is one example, but there are countless examples of these informal networks within and between workplaces (and communities). bolshevik methods which you can learn about in a book called “20 Years in Underground Russia” great example of workplace organizing outside the official legally sanctioned channels. expand your scope of working class agency beyond the official bureaucratic structures.

    here are some of the points you touch on in your last post.

    organizing the most proletarian section of workers: no one ever argued to the contrary.

    workers centers allow more space for political education: you end your comment saying that workers centers fail to touch the broader problem of “repressive state apparatus” and are at best similar radical trade unions, thus basically contradicting your claim that they are political.

    organizing should go beyond the workplace: nobody here argued to the contrary.

    the status quo of the trade union movement is “impotent”: agreed, hence the title of the post that this thread flows from.

    question: where do workers centers come from? what is their relation to existing trade unions? what is their relationship to non-profits and the foundations that fund them? what is their relationship to the state?

    if you’re gonna be criticizing trade unions for their narrow economism, you have to prove how it is that workers centers challenge the political structures better. you havent done this.

    and again big l’s question was how revolutionaries can organize in the workplace, which should not be assumed to equate to working within the trade union for the simple fact that 90% of workers are not in unions.

    finally, in an earlier post, you said that trade unions are democratic and representative of the rank and file. if this is so, the implication is that they can be challenged from within and your hostility to “trotskyist” opposition caucuses would be unwarranted. which is it? are they democratic and viable as vehicles for workplace demands? or are they hopelessly bankrupt and narrowly economic? if its the latter as you seem to have argued earlier, you still have yet to demonstrate how workers centers are any better (in fact you admit that they are at best akin to radical trade unions) than trade unions?

  19. Esteban, I think your analysis of LRBW is really mythology and not concretely true – LRBW was an organization that actually was recognized by the state as nearly every substantial organization has been – i.e. it had tax status. What is exactly an NGO? I can agree with the critique of the politics that go along with activist NGOs’ that fundamentally act like the ethical soul of capitalism, but the reality of the form is very basic, its an organizational recognition of the State for purposes of tax status.

    Every organization people have brought up here, from LRBW, IWW, and CPs’ TUUL has had legal tax status – i.e. they had the same tax status and recognition as NGOs’. This may seem mechanical to bring up, but it serves as an important to point to challenge what I’ve seen in this site as an overly simplistic criticism of NGOs’ that confuses politics with form and a wrong mythology of some of the more revolutionary mass organizations in the past. In fact if you look at the history of LRBW, there were many similar questions that came up that occurs with all NGOs’ on funding.

    And it is at all not that simple as just going outside of this rubric, and I would say that is ultimately purposeless, because it gives the state a hammer for which it can easily bring down at any time.

    – On the issue of why I think work in Workers’ Centers to be more appropriate, I’ve already explained thoroughly and you can see a summation of that in my post to Big L.

    I have also added that Trade Union work is necessary, but it depends on its conditions – i.e. in Right-to-Work states, mostly traditional black trade unions, etc. But even then, this work can simply be worthless without the agitation and presentation of a broad politics.

    -Lastly, Esteban, I didn’t say worker centers didn’t go beyond militant economism. I said my work in Chinese Staff Workers’ Association, a truly militant mass organization, showed that this work can just easily function more or less like radical trade-unionism. That didn’t happened because of the organizational form of Worker Centers’, which allowed for greater possibility, but because of the politics in command. Those politics were essentially a class reductionist line that didn’t recognize the necessity of a Party and only understood class consciousness as limited to workers’ interest.

  20. StP: “On the issue of why I think work in Workers’ Centers to be more appropriate, I’ve already explained thoroughly and you can see a summation of that in my post to Big L.

    I have also added that Trade Union work is necessary, but it depends on its conditions – i.e. in Right-to-Work states, mostly traditional black trade unions, etc. But even then, this work can simply be worthless without the agitation and presentation of a broad politics.”

    We’re not debating the same point, and you haven’t quite addressed my question.

    Here’s where I see the divergence: StP sees the “necessity” of doing trade-union work, and of engaging in other institutions which workers participate in such as worker’s centers.

    However, this is not the point. As I see it, StP’s perspective incarcerates class struggle into already-existing institutions such as trade-unions and workers centers (and even non-profits, perhaps?). This perspective doesn’t incorporate what has been brought up on this site – organized activity of the working class not subordianted organizationally or politically to these official mediums of struggle.

    So my question is still on the table: What is the role of revolutionaries should play, in 2009, in workplaces? What about working class communities? What about working class educational institutions? As far as I can tell, StP doesn’t advocate for much else than work within the already-existing politcial formations found here – workers centers and trade unions in particular.

    Absent seems to be the perspective that class politics and struggle can transcend these institutions, organizationally and politically.

    Where is revolutionary self-activity and working class agency from the ground-up in your politics?

  21. “I said my work in Chinese Staff Workers’ Association, a truly militant mass organization, showed that this work can just easily function more or less like radical trade-unionism. That didn’t happened because of the organizational form of Worker Centers’, which allowed for greater possibility, but because of the politics in command. Those politics were essentially a class reductionist line that didn’t recognize the necessity of a Party and only understood class consciousness as limited to workers’ interest.”

    StP, be creative here. Let me ask you, what could have been done differently so that the work you did amongst the chinese workers would have led to a revolutionizing of their struggle and of their politics?

    How do you think an organization with revolutionary politics should relate to workers in struggle?

    What do you think about revolutionaries working alongside workers in their day to day struggles?

    What role does this play in your vision of revolution?

  22. It is really becoming unfortunate that I need to continually return to these questions. Work that revolutionaries take amongst the masses takes always the form of mass work that is organizational, whether informal or formal, whether done by yourself or not. Whether we decide to take up work in already existing organizations or create or own basis of work is conditional and has no universal principle of any sort.

    Secondly, to return to my point of revolutionaries in the workplace, this work has shown itself repeatedly to be limited without a fundamental orientation of revolutionaries to the economic and political conditions of the masses outside of the workplace.

    Lastly, this is not a question of “creativity” but of political line, and honestly it isn’t like what people are proposing here is radically breaking away from other strategies of revolutionaries. CSWA’s economism actually stemmed from its continual insistence on organizing the workplace of workers and day-to-day struggles of workers – that insistence led them, as revolutionaries leading it. In the end class consciousness became workerist identity politics. This is a failure of their program.

    In fact, Esteban’s comments so far embody their political line – especially in regards to imperialism (the China thread), NGOs’, and “workers’ self activity” (nearly meaningless phrase in my opinion).

  23. “Lastly, this is not a question of “creativity” but of political line, and honestly it isn’t like what people are proposing here is radically breaking away from other strategies of revolutionaries.”

    This takes me back to the days of having mad debates with RCP folk.

    I’m gonna drop this for now and hope to pick up in person, StP, i’m gonna find you and we’ll dialog on your take on political lines and the worthlessness of “self activity”!

  24. I welcome it brother 🙂

    I find it very interesting though that you think my thoughts are close to RCP. There is no question that I was definitly influenced by their political line as a RCYB member, and when I had left I found myself with similiar reflections as others here. I found myself accepting a lot of the argument in WITBD to change my position; but how do you think this similiar to RCP and what is wrong in this line?

    Pull no punches brother!

  25. im guessing that big l means your method of argumentation is RCP-like. that is, you dont answer the questions posed to you and in fact dont raise very many questions that you actually want answers to, signaling that you are not approaching politics in the spirit of genuine debate…

    StP says:

    “Worker centers from my experience have shown the greatest depth for revolutionary organizing precisely because their work doesn’t have to be centered in the workplace, because they can bridge very easily into issues of the community and direct confrontation with the state, the ability to bring forward revolutionary political education is also much easier without the structural impediments.”

    i think all that is necessary to demonstrate the contradictions in your argument about workers centers being qualitatively superior as sites for political struggle over unions is to quote directly from one of your recommended links, The Strategy Center. their principle campaign has been for as long as i remember The Bus Rider’s Union, which lobbies the state for more buses and lower fares. it is indeed an example of a struggle outside the workplace, yet the way in which it is somehow LESS economic (or how ideology behind is less Economist) than the typical AFL-CIO struggle is impossible to discern.

    from the Strategy Center website, here is a poem by a high school student and BRU member expressing, as StP paraphrases lenin so eloquently, an economic “consciousness, that is the consciousness of the narrow self-interests of workers in relation to capital [which] is always actually a bourgeois form of workers’ consciousness. Why? Because it remains within the actual coordinates of bourgeois ideology itself, remaining within the confines of bourgeois right.” here she goes:

    “Am I really the future as everyone says or just another court case
    Below the federal poverty line is where the majority is based
    So how can one afford a $250 truancy ticket for being 30 minutes late
    Especially since unemployment among minorities is highest in the state
    Not to mention that LAUSD has a 50% high school drop out rate”

    thats the working class base that BRU orients toward, representing a textbook economic struggle consciousness. personally, i am encouraged by this consciousness, i just dont like workers centers/ non-profits that pretend they are radical tokenizing it leading it nowhere.

    but StP, the thorough-going marxist, has done nothing but denounce this consciousness as being hopelessly polluted with self interest rather than proletarian altruism. maybe now that he knows such self-interest eminates from more than just white union members StP will give it some validity, at least as embryonic class consciousness, which the right political leadership (armed with a correct line of course) can mold into something more revolutionary.

    now here’s the political leadership, presenting the reforms they won within “the actual coordinates of bourgeois ideology itself, remaining within the confines of bourgeois right” as StP characterizes trade union work:

    Victories since 1994

    * More than $2.5 billion redistributed to bus riders through Federal Civil Rights Consent Decree, 1996-2006

    * Bus Only Lane on the 20-mile Wilshire Blvd. from downtown to the ocean (finished 2010)

    * No fare increase for 9 years; saved Monthly Bus Pass from elimination

    * Created the largest clean fuel fleet in the county (replacing 1800 diesel buses and adding 550 expansion CNG buses)

    * New Rapid Bus lines that dramatically reduce transit times on major surface streets.

    * 1 Million+ Annual Bus Service Hours Added

    * 12% Increase in Bus Ridership

    * Created 800+ New Public Sector, Green, Union Jobs

    * Eliminated the Student Pass Application Process (increasing its use by 64%)

    ECONOMISMMM!!! ohhhh noooooo!!!

    rather than get into a drawn out discussion about them being extensions of the state, class struggle proxies, legalistic, and Obama supporters, i just want point out that workers centers (if Strategy Center is at all representative of workers centers in general, which i believe it is) offer no sign of any of the merits StP ascribes to them (other than organizing outside the workplace).

    these imagined merits include:
    – the ability to engage in “direct confrontation with the state” – through civil rights lawsuits??
    – “the ability to bring forward revolutionary political education” – they are pro-obama!
    – no “structural impediments” – i dont know their “tax status” but if they are free of one, they have no excuses and all this is just a typical liberal job. something a chrisitian charity would do.

    if we were to go down the list and determine if the actually Strategy Center meets StP’s imagined merits, the answers would NO, NO, and NO.

    so if for the sake of argument we put the unions and the non-profits more or less in the same pot (really they arent, because unions are way bigger in scale, more democratic and specifically class based, which in my opinion makes them more valid potential bases for the launching of a working class movement, but thats not saying much cuz their crystalized pretty securely in the sell-out mode, hence the title of the post) with basically the same politics and the same basic orientation to the state (co-opted, benign) WHAT IS OUR PATH FORWARD?

    my answer is that theoretically, its a within and without approach. but mostly a without approach, because neither unions nor non-profits actually exercise enough hegemony over the working class life to matter very much. about 80% of the proletariat is untouched by these, so there’s plenty of room to build completely outside the established spaces and we can build alternatives that are much more receptive to radical politics. being within should never be approached with false illusions in the bullshit. its just a location from which to agitate, and if possible to create a militant current that pushes the organization more to the left and makes it more active, more democratic, and if need be (and the need almost always is to) mobilize an upsurge against the conservative leadership. i see this as soviet-izing existing structures. i have less faith in soviet-zing them though, than in creating soviet-like structure through struggle outside these places. even creating soviet-like structures through struggle, though is thinking rather far ahead of ourselves at this point. building a party to agitate around the current struggles – wherever they pop up- and secondarily, to organize necessarily small-scale struggles where they dont yet have a vehicle to pop up with… this is the number one task. unless you have an organization capable of doing this, with something like 100 members in a given metropolitan area, entryism into unions, non-profits, etc is a waste of time. if you need a job, sure go work for some well intentioned idealist nonprofit, or if the job you got now has a union, join it and be active, but dont go out of your way to enter those godforsaken spaces as a sole radical in the hopes of doing anything other than meeting a few people to build the shit you got going on outside of it.

    but assuming you are dead set on orienting toward this milieu there are only a few ways to approach them. the “best of the trotskyists” like Solidarity say we should create caucuses within to vitalize the base and push out the mis-leaders. hardline maoists like the RCP say boycott them and agitate from without, at the factory gates so to speak. liberals (including those of a maoist stripe) say enter them (or better yet – create them) uncritically and pretend they are revolutionary when they really arent. this latter options is to me the least justifiable, and seems like its what StP advocates, unless there is a 4th or 5th way to approach the non-profit milieu that i am failing to see.

    it would be helpful for SfP to clarify, as has been directly requested of her, what precisely the approach to non-profit workers centers and the part of the working class untouched by any of these institutions ought to be. as for unions, its pretty clear: boycott them unless they are black (wtf?), especially if they are legally handicapped as in right-to-work states (huh?).

  26. Esteban,

    I am not really going to respond to you any longer because every single comment by you has suffered from nasty sarcasm and willful misrepresentation of my views. I am all for the fullest expression of difference in political lines, but when it ventures into this form of nastiness (especially the variant of sarcasm), the participant in the discussion is more interested winning the battle than actually understanding each other’s positions and hoping to learn from it.

    Unfortunately, for the sake of my own thoughts not being defined by yourself, I am going to try to set some things right.

    This long diatribe shows very much that you don’t understand in fact what is economism, in fact you merely reflect that its loaded term for the critique against doing work at the level of all economic struggle. In fact, mass struggle is often oriented in the economic struggle. Its not a question of whether this work is in itself wrong, but whether it can connect to political work and education.

    Unfortunately for you, in your examination of Labor and Community Strategy Center, you only pick up on their work in the Bus Riders’ Union and you have nothing to say on their political education of workers and community people. They even have a radio station that broadcasts about the Filipino Revolution, on LGBTQ issues, etc.

    So this idea that I am looking down upon economic struggles is altogether incorrect; I am saying this needs to be done from a position of strength by revolutionaries with the ability and openness to politically raise the consciousness of workers beyond their own struggles. Traditional Trade-Unions unfortunately afford none of that because precisely it was the organizational structure of the Labor Aristocracy (white workers’ who collaborated with Imperialism), and structurally made it impossible for revolutionaries to organize within it besides forming radical caucuses that found themselves alienated or with only limited success.

    Hence the superiority of the Workers’ Center model and NGO form.

    But here is how Esteban turns an idealist and mechanically tries to apply the lessons of Russia and a fake history of revolutionary movements of the past, he puts forward the approach of Advance the Struggle with no concrete value whatsoever besides the idea of creating “soviet structures.” Well first, how will this be accomplished? Unfortunately for you Esteban, if you want to create your own organization that has anything sort of a mass appeal your going to need a government recognized tax status or you’re not going to have an organization at all. Unlike Tsarist Russia (where revolutionary organizations and non-state Trade Unions were illegal), there is no forming organization outside of recognition and relation to the state in the US. Your soviet will be a NGO, sorry to say.

    Please re-read my point on the myth you’ve gotten on LRBW.

    In essence your workers’ org will be no different in shape and form than the form of all Worker Centers’, its politics of course will depend – but what would be different about your group than Labor Community Strategy Center, POWER, or Miami Worker’s Center?

  27. On Unions – you misrepresent my views.

    What I said about Trade-Unions is that we should work with them conditionally based upon the importance of a Trade-Unions to a Marxist class analysis, i.e. you’re dicking around if you think you’re going to make revolutionaries of carpenter union members. The work I would see as important in Trade-Unions is work in traditional black trade-union locals, which many formed in response to racist exclusion, and right-to-work states in the south.

  28. alright since we all seem to agree that this conversation has exhausted itself, let me end by touching on a note of unity.

    StP:

    “In fact, mass struggle is often oriented in the economic struggle. Its not a question of whether this work is in itself wrong, but whether it can connect to political work and education.”

    WE AGREE!

    despite the hard headedness, the nasty sarcasm, etc from all sides this has been a fruitful debate. thanks for engaging it. i hope we will meet again on some other thread. hopefully we seek more unity from the onset since we seem to be generally allies in the grand scheme of things.

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