Monthly Archives: February 2010

Parallels Between Greece and California

Greece has been featured heavily in the news lately because of its ‘dire’ economic situation and the steps the European Union has taken to ‘bail it out’. Here is our comrade Sycorax’s analysis of why the economic situation in Greece actually shares some similarities with what’s going on in California.

Here’s the first post on the parallels:

Parallels between Greece and California: Understanding the Budget Cuts Means Understanding the Way our Global Economic System Works

Greek Farmers Blockading the Border Between Greece and Bulgaria

There’s also some coverage of the General Strikes that have been going on in Greece, which are also very applicable to the situation in California. Greece has had serious austerity measures placed on it, and there is tremendous pressure from the entire EU being put on Greece to cut its government spending.

In response, Greek public sector workers are not backing down. Their declaration? We did not make the crisis and we will not pay for it. This is a war on workers and we will respond with war.

Greek Public Workers on Strike

Check it out: Greek Public Workers on Strike!

So, what do ya’ll think? Parallels between Greece and California, is the comparison valid or not? What can we learn from both the crisis and the resistance to it, here and abroad?

Something to marinate on.

How To Not Capitulate to Union Bureaucracies: March 4th and the AFSCME 444 Resolution

On October 24, 2009, 800 students and workers met to decide how to work together against the budget cuts. It was decided that March 4 would be a day of strikes and a day of action. This formulation of “strike and day of action” was incredibly ambiguous and has had consequences for the movement, mainly coming in the form of most unions passing watered-down resolutions that say nothing of a strike but abstractly support March 4 as some type of day of action. Concretly this has led to unions to tell their members that March 4 will be like any other day of work except there will be an after work rally at 5pm in downtown SF. A movement of workers pushing for strikes in unified way could be the real beggining of a resistance that produces confidence and concsioussness against these attacks, but this has not materialized for several reasons.

Fundamentally there is a lack of worker militants in major workplaces who have the type of influence needed to push for strikes.  The result is that the various left-organizations have been trying to work around this problem by acting as substitutes for absent worker militants. This lack of worker militants, combined with a hesitancy on the part of leftists to push for militant methods of struggle in fear of being marginalized, has not done much to change the composition of left politics in California . . . With that said there is one seriously notable exception, and that is the AFSCME 444 resolution.

The resolution clearly states that the union should push for, contribute resources to, and participate in a strike. If the militant left was stronger, we could have thousands of copies out in the hands of union members and may have already pushed for several locals to endorse the resolution.

Unfortunately, many of the left organizations that claim to be for a strike have been unwilling to propose such a resolution to their respective unions due to a fatalistic logic that such unions will automatically reject the resolution, so trying to pass it will only create political isolation. Such logic misses the point. Proposing a strike to the unions will open up the discussion of the merits and importance of strikes as methods of struggle to the ranks and expose the political nature of the leadership of such unions who will reject the resolution.

As of now, only East Bay Carpenters local 713 and Oakland chapter of Association of Raza Educators (ARE) have endorsed such resolutions (Oakland go!) with many other unions endorsing a watered-down resolution that ignores the call for a strike.

The left should give the worthy credit to the militants in Labors Militant Voice for creating and pushing the resolution amongst AFSCME and the Carpenters Union.  Other groups who call for strikes but dont really push them should begin to think critically about their own contradictions. Political clarity in labor struggles is central as bureaucracies, whether they be unions or the state, will coopt ambigious and contradictory political messages. We should give credit to AFSCME 444 resolutions for shining light on our path of struggle and not falling in this trap.

Read the resolution here:

Reflections on “the most radical university”: Santa Cruz student-worker organizing – April 14th 2005

Far rightwinger David Horowitz announced in 2007 that UC Santa Cruz was the most subversive school in America. Why? In 2005 and 2006, UCSC had a wealth of labor struggles, anti-war activity and other forms of radical activism. The Pentagon was caught spying on anti-war activists due to succesful shutdowns against military recruiters.

Labor struggles also were noticed throughout the country as AFSCME 3299, one of California’s biggest public sector unions engaged in the first ever statewide one day strike in 2005 (see Estamos Aqui film).

As activists gear up towards building for March 4, some have framed the success of the AFSCME strike simply due to it being a “mass action” and not “liberal” or “ultraleft.” The problem with such categories is it depoliticizes the actual history of the struggle and ignores a key battle that took place, the struggle against the trade-union bureaucracy and its ideology.

Student Worker Coalition for Justice (SWCJ) was a dynamic student group, with a few active workers (not nearly enough) that helped organize the one-day strike and debated out strategy for its success. An undergrad IWW student activist wrote a reflective analysis of the labor struggles that took place at UCSC in 2005. In it, he posits how we should understand the source of agency and the role of the trade-union bureaucracy in labor struggles. This piece should have some political use value for students and workers who are hitting themselves on the head with frustration due to the deep passivity of unions and their unwillingness to struggle against layoffs and budget cuts.


Reflections from Two Quarters of Organizing with the SWCJ

My aim is to express some of the critical reflections and analysis I have made of the organizing I was involved in with the Student & Worker Coalition for Justice over the course of the Winter and Spring quarters of 2005. By no means did I develop the ideas and analysis I am putting forward on my own. It is an analysis I arrived at with many of my SWCJ comrades, developed mostly in informal settings and casual conversations. My intention is to spark further collective analysis and greater political definition of the organization, as well as promote the idea that the Student Worker Coalition for Justice should create formal forums for this type of activity to occur.

A Debate of Tactics or Political Definition?

Leading up to the April 14th strike a debate within the Student Worker Coalition for Justice arose. It revolved around the following question: Should the emphasis and aim of the strike be to receive positive media coverage and “shame” the university or should it’s central emphasis and aim be to shut down the school through militant mass direct action, demonstrating the real power of the workers derived from their ability to withhold their labor? Some may not remember this debate in such sharp terms, or even recognize it as a debate of two conflicting tendencies, largely, because it was masked and softened by the terms with which it was framed, and because the two sides of the debate were never in overt opposition to one another. No one ever objected to mass direct action outright, but during these discussions the advocates of mass direct action were continually asked if our actions would remain “on message” and they were met with a defeatist attitude that implied that what they advocated was fantastical. Though masked and couched in civil language, the debate did occur. It was sharpest at the Sunday, April 10th meeting held at the AFSCME office specifically to address the forms of direct action the coalition would organize. Even after we had collectively decided to engage in mass direct action this decision came into question yet again at the Tuesday, April 12th meeting at Stevenson College.

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