What does the term “working class self-activity mean?” This essay by George Rawick explains. Excerpt:
The full incorporation of the unions within the structure of American State capitalism has led to very widespread disaffection of the workers from the unions. Workers are faced squarely with the problem of finding means of struggle autonomous of the unions…
There is often a very – sectarian and remarkably – undialectical reaction to these developments. Some historians and New leftists argue that it demonstrates that the CIO was a failure which resulted only in the workers’ disciplining. This argument ignores the gains of the CIO in terms of higher living standards, more security for workers, and increased education and enlightenment. Clearly, the victories are embedded in capitalism and the agency of victory, the union, has become an agency of capitalism as well. This is a concrete example of what contradiction means in a dialectical sense; and it is part of a process which leads to the next stage of the workers’ struggle, the wildcat strike.
There are two characteristics of the wildcat strike which represent a new stage of development: first, through this device workers struggle simultaneously against the bosses, the State, and the union; second, they achieve a much more direct form of class activity, by refusing to delegate aspects of their activity to an agency external to themselves.
Full article: http://www.geocities.com/cordobakaf/rawick.html
Focusing on the African continent and the parts of the world where a lot of people of African descent live, this article challenges the notion that the fight for national ‘self-determination’ is a more valid political agenda than the fight for international proletarian self-determination. The author blames much of the confusion about the value of nationalism as a revolutionary movement, on VI Lenin:
“The silencing of the working class and the decade-old replacement of informed socialist discourse with the half-wit sound bites of liberalism in the world-sociopolitical debate is a natural consequence of generations of adherence to the [Leninist] “political line” which preached the gospel of “United Democratic Fronts” against “Imperialism.” This doctrine, as we have seen in practice, is capitalist ideology in essence, all nationalist struggles being ultimately directed at fortifying the capitalist order of society. It has yielded the most repressive and corrupt regimes in Angola, The Congo, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Somalia – – the list goes on ad infinitum.”
To counter this historical trend of nationalism (necessarily) gone wrong, the author urges:
“Working people have a duty to reassert the primacy of the working class struggle over all others. The working class has no allies among the capitalist of any country irrespective of what their race, or, religion might be. The battle lines may not be clearly demarcated in this era of sound bites and systematic dis-information about “national security,” “democratic values,” and “war on terrorism” but there is no question that the real struggle is between capital and labor. Whatever the diversionary route taken society shall finally come face to face with this reality. That is the bottom line. It is time to return to basics.”
Manushi Bhattarai is part of the Maoist ticket that swept the student elections at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu – Nepal’s largest university. Here she discusses the revolution, recent political developments, the international situation and the role of young people with Ben Peterson.
Professor Adolph Reed Jr debates three other professors, Steven Gregory, Maurice Zeitlin and Ellen Meiksins Wood, about how race and class relate to each other. This debate represents a historical problem in the American Marxist movement. Many different progressive and revolutionary movements in American history were never able to overcome racial differences to create class unity in key historic class struggles. Arguably the two most important strike waves in working class American history, 1877 and 1919, ended in defeats. Intra-racial fighting was a central problem that helped lay the ground work for the defeats of the strike. Eugene Debs, one of American labors great socialist leaders once openly stated, “We see it as a class issue rather than a race issue.” Debs colorblind socialism differed with racial theorist WEB Dubois who remarked in that same time period; “That the white heel is still on the black neck is simply proof that the world is not yet civilized. The history of the Negro in the United States is a history of crime without a parallel.” With that said, read this outstanding debate that will challenge simplistic notions of both race and class.
A PDF of this debate How_does_Race_relate_to_Class includes the following contents:
1. UNRAVELING THE RELATION OF RACE AND CLASS IN AMERICAN POLITICS Adolph Reed, Jr.
2. CLASS, RACE, AND CAPITALISM Ellen Meiksins Wood
3. ON THE ‘CONFLUENCE OF RACE AND CLASS’ IN AMERICA Maurice Zeitlin
4. THE ‘PARADOXES’ OF MISPLACED CONCRETENESS: I THINKING THROUGH THE STATE Steven Gregory
5. REJOINDER Adolph Reed, Jr.
An organization called “History is a Weapon” has made the entire text of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States available online in full text, for free!
Check it out: A People’s History of the United States 1492- Present