by El Chaco
The immigrant proletariat is fast becoming one of the most organically active layers of the proletariat.
This is of course for a reason. We will quickly go into the 2 reasons why the proletariat is getting squeezed by the State and the Bourgeoisie. Then, we will go into the task of revolutionary communist in regards to this struggle.
It is of course obvious that the illegal immigrant proletariat has been attacked for a while now. Through legislation and consequently domestic police terrorism. This of course is nothing new. But the intensity is! To, with but a blink of an eye, eliminate Ethnic studies, the Capitalist click has certainly attacked not only the immigrant, but its offspring as well.
In the context of crisis, the Capitalist and the State want to rid it self of the excess labor-power that is fast becoming useless in profit making. Think housing in Arizona and how before the 2007 crisis housing was a great market to be in and many homes were being built.
“… that consequence is an excess of homes. He says that the explosion of single-family homes built in the Greater Phoenix area in 2004 and 2005 exceeded actual demand by about 20,000 homes. He estimates that there are currently about 6,000 homes under construction that are not spoken for by buyers, and about 18,000 more homes for sale than normal.”1
Well who build those surplus houses by far? Immigrants. Illegal immigrants at that. It’s Cheaper that way.
The second, reason is an old worry the Ruling class has always had of a minority they oppress. The worry is that of revolutionary potential and upheaval. The revolutionary potential of the illegal immigrant is of course obvious to the ruling class. We need only look at 2006 and the potential that could’ve had. During May 1st 2006, the LA ports were shutdown, and 86% of the meat industry was shutdown. The social power of such shutdowns, threatened the state, and led to a wave of physical ICE raids in 2007-2009. Once these physical raids made ICE look bad, they switched to “Silent Raids” through checking social security numbers.
More recently, we can look at the Steel Workers in Berkeley. 600 workers went on strike in March 2011 against a terrible contract that offered 10-cent annual raids. ICE caught wind that there were many undocumented workers playing the role as militants during the strike. As a result, ICE starts checking social security numbers, firing 22 workers a week for those who don’t have matching social security numbers. The total amount; 200 undocumented proletarians were fired. The Capitalist directly called the State to discipline the proletariat. Discipline them from what? From collectively attacking the minority capitalist that does nothing but get rich off the majority that toils. The workers in this instance stand as a great example of workers in general beginning a struggle from a rank and file level, but this example, according to the Bosses, must not be generalized. According to the Capitalist, the different layers of the proletariat cannot catch wind that one of the most oppressed layers of itself, their immigrant brothers and sisters, are organizing and fighting back. This example may unite the Proletariat and inspire it! If not this one, then perhaps an accumulation of similar instances, similar situations of coordination! Thus the Capitalist solution is to remove the active proletariat, and more importantly, remove the potentially radical proletariat. This is based on who is on the bottom, the most oppressed layers (immigrant, womyn, black) may be the first to strike, and to do so ferociously i.e. the recent rolling strikes by garbage workers starting in Alabama, the American Licorice Workers striking, the truckers up North in Washington who are mostly African immigrants struggling, the wildcats in Alabama by immigrants in response to copy-cat law from Arizona against undocumented folk, and the above mentioned immigrants in a Union City Steel Factory, etc.
Thus we see the attacks from la migra against Latino brothers and sisters. We see Latino/a workers being rounded up in 6 days in the largest ICE raid ever all over the US!2
The American Licorice Workers in Union City went on strike recently because of healthcare fee disputes with management. The strike started December 5 2011. 3
Truckers in Washington, mostly African immigrants, go on strike and a slow down earlier this year in order to get better work conditions and stop the misclassification they are put into (company calls them private contractors). The strike began January 30 2012. 4
In Alabama immigrants go on wildcat strikes against the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. More commonly referred to as HB56. “the union didn’t back the October 12 strike”5. The strike began October 12, 2011.
And as we have said, in Union City, Steel Factory immigrant workers went on strike against an unfair contract. The strike began and ended March 2011.
Though not specifically immigrant, the rolling strike of garbage workers starting in Alabama and going as far as Washington and NYC, should be noticed. Its importance lies in solidarity strikes organically led by rank and file, indeed, the rolling strike cannot be done in any other way. This struggle was launched when local Management for Allied Waste and Republic agreed to remove two fees charged to workers. Allied Waste and Republic then backtracked on these agreements which the rank and file said was breaking federal law. This is an important lesson for the immigrant proletariat. The strike started March 22, 2012.6
This wave of strikes can be expected to grow. With more militancy on behalf of the workers as the attacks from the Bourgeois click and the State continue and intensify.
And let us notice this: all great examples of worker power, all dynamic individual and single struggles. Within the class there is such dynamism, but this dynamism the class must consciously notice and consistently act upon as a class. This however, does not just spring up…..
In a global context of upheavals and crisis, the Ruling class (the State and the Capitalist) must get rid of revolutionary potential and excess labor.
As the crisis deepens, we can surely expect two things: one, the attack from the State on the immigrant layer of the proletariat will increase in quantity and intensity. And two, that there is only so much the immigrant will be able to take before it reaches a point and it starts screaming and proclaiming: “ENOUGH!!!”
We must explain here, as well, what we mean by organically active: By organically active we mean that up until recently the proletariat has not struck as much as it is striking now, if it is doing so, it is because it itself is now putting the strike on the table. Surely the union leadership would not lead an assault if the rank and file didn’t push it to take such a course of action! Indeed, in that case it should not be called a leadership at all! And outside socialist and activist have by far fallen on their face for trying to have a strike with no implantation (March 4th in 2009 and November 2nd 2011. This is not to say they were not very important lessons.). If the strike is now becoming a weapon that is being pickedup by the proletariat it is because the proletariat sees no other method, it is remembering, as a class, that it has had victories before, and these were brought about largely by striking! This is the Luxumburgist in us speaking. The class as a class retains memory of past struggles, indeed, this is because its hitherto existence is based on past class struggles. It is up to Communist militants to make these memories lucid and explicit!
So, the question thus becomes; what should communist militants do in such a climate?
We must sharpen our theory and engage in practical work. But what theory and what practical work? Our knowledge must come from reading any book that gives us knowledge on anything useful to Proletarian revolution; and this knowledge must be placed within a Marxist framework.
“Dogmatists!!” “Bastard Communist put Marx on a pedestal!” “We should only read Lenin I suppose!!!??”.
Comrades!!! We have said read what you may, on the subject that you wish (a cook book, a poetry book, and history book all have use within a revolutionary movement. Though all in different degrees), but remember, if you are a revolutionist, all this knowledge must be placed within the most revolutionary framework, all your knowledge can only be advanced by employing Marxism! Dialectics! Etc etc. etc. (and yes Lenin should be read thoroughly)
In these most ferment times, in these times of class struggle sharpening, no empty brained fool can, nor should enter the battlefield. The proletariat needs sharp soldiers, not fools that base the struggle on their hopes and dreams. Who have no grasp of history nor its motion, which can indeed be turbulent! But the sharpest theories are empty without the sharpest, most humble, and consistent practice.
So what practice should we employ?
Salting and Party building. Though these two are not mutually exclusive they are not the same. Indeed, the former can be thought of as a tactic. Salting means entering an industry consciously as a militant in order to organize struggle so as the proletariat can improve its conditions. Salting takes time. Party Building is a longer process in where a collective (such as AS) wants to centralize the most humble and consistent militants from among the working masses. A developing vanguard is always doing just that, developing! It only crystallizes it self into a Party when the Mass Strike has reached a peak and consciousness among all the oppressed in general, but the proletariat in particular, is high! It crystallizes when the developing vanguard has proven through Praxis and over time that it is the genuine organization for revolution representing the Proletariat! A collective like AS would employ a specified method like salting in order to struggle and recruit at a workplace to a revolutionary organization.
How would these two look in struggle?
SALTING (A Tactic on its Own. Limits )
One could enter a workplace one knows to be highly immigrant. The back of the house of any given restaurant is a very good start. Salting here of course is not an easy task. The labor employed is arduous. But it also has the most potential. Of course salting for what? This depends on many factors: conditions of work place, consciousness of workers, history of workplace, etc. Also, what is the salting militant trying to do? Get a strike going? Recruit, if so, to what?! Salting on its own can be useless, thus is must be connected to party building. (to make a quick point: a tactic is a tactic and should not be elevated to strategy. Our Occupationists might well remember that).
The main thing to do as a single salt is to start a rank and file workers committee (underground at first of course) that produces independent lit, trains its members as writers, organizes the distribution of information amongst the workers, creates its own program for political and economic direction, and has the ability to mobilize the rank and file in a democratic way. One should advocate rank and file committees that specifically seek to use the tactics that have been made illegal by the labor laws (secondary boycotts, sympathy strikes, hot cargo agreements, mass picket lines etc.) because those tactics are more effective and the legal unions have been largely defeated due to not using those tactics. We of course do not dismiss the simple collective walk-up on the manager, a small but powerful tactic that a beginning worker committee could do on its own. Rank and file committees should seek to be connected with other similar rank and file committees in other sectors of industry, particularly ones that could be decisive in a confrontation with capital due to their role in the reproduction of capital.
It must be doubted, however, how well a none developing vanguard can do these things and sustain them; whether that none developing vanguard is an individual, space, or none programmatic revolutionary organization.
The reason to salt as executed by a developing vanguard, aside from the above too, is also to centralize different layers of the proletariat! To develop and formalize a network based on revolutionary Marxism, a network that can contract (meets, strategizes) and release (execute, pedagogy, practice). Salting for a developing vanguard should be long term and must be thoughtful. Salting, and arguably any tactic in the long run, is useless unless its trying to centralize different layers of the proletariat into a revolutionary organization and move in preparation for the socialist revolution in the United States. Though for those anti-party activist, if you want to do something, one of the most none romantic tactics is salting, for it implies a consistency and a specific closeness, as opposed to quick fast action.
In any case, a tactic employed on its own will eventually exhaust itself out and indeed meet with insurmountable limits.
Party (Long Term/Strategic Organizing. Subordinating Tactics to Strategy)
Party building is key. Why? Imagine this: the workers from the Steel Factory in Berkeley, the American Licorice workers, back of the house workers from any given restaurant in the Bay, teachers, nurses, imagine all these different layers of the proletariat (plus more) centralized in a revolutionary Marxist organization, strategizing how to have workers committees, how to co-ordinate strikes, how to have a communist revolution!
The reason this is necessary is because we have historically seen different industries and the workers within those industries move in a radical ferment but always fall short of long term victory. We have for example, the 1934 strikes, in where different industries in the different cities of the US took the lead in struggle (Minneapolis, Toledo, San Francisco). Thought these were very militant struggles, and they were organized very well, you still have an absence of strong solidarity with the many other different layers of the working class. This is obvious from a glance at race and gender within these movements.
And when there is an organic and spontaneous initiative from the different proletarian masses, as in the Bread and Roses strike of 1912, there is still a Programmatic Marxists framework that is absent. Great working class revolutionaries learn skills and strategy for revolutionary class struggle, without the formal knowledge of dialectical materialism. We do not, however, reject the great and tremendous role of the IWW during that strike. There is however a limit that will be hit without explicitly employing a Marxist analysis to the life of class struggle. The goals of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Communism must be explicitly talked about in struggles such as the 1912 struggle, and it must be made clear to the masses that a program of their own is needed. If we are reaching objective conditions in where again immigrants are beginning to strike back, a revolutionary strategy of how such struggle can generalize into workplaces that are composed of both undocumented and documented workers is necessary. With these early immigrant class struggles making rumblings, a growth of such politics of class struggle must seep into the different sectors of the working class. We must be able to have worker militants that have the ability to create and sustain struggles and networks etc, which was one of the inabilities of the IWW (“But while strong in leading struggles, the IWW was weak in maintaining its organization thereafter. Before the strike the IWW had about 300 members in Lawrence; in September 1912 the membership rose to 16,000, but by summer 1913 it had fallen back to 700. This pattern of quick recruitment during a strike and quick loss after it was typical of the IWW”7).
In order for a truly radical movement to succeed in anything it is paramount for the most ardent, disciplined, humble, consistent, and intellectual workers within the different industries to be centralized in a revolutionary Marxists organization, with a program, in order that the working class can indeed move as class when the objective situations reach a high peak in the class struggle. When the proletariat in the US in general, not just the immigrant layer of it, enters the international stage through the Mass Strike, we must already be spread in strategic sectors and come together in a centralized and horizontal revolutionary Marxists organization.
There of course will be many bumps on the road. This is expected. There are countless of historical reasons why this is the case. Essentially, the proletariat is conditioned to not recognize it self as a class. Thus, contradictions arise and these contradictions vary; from wanting to get a permit for a rally (thus not understanding the Bourgeois State as its enemy), to thinking the police are workers such as they who produce and reproduce (the police are the armed wing of the state. It has historically all over the world crushed movements. This is now becoming very explicit.), to being subsumed in racism (thus forsaking their fellow workers, and their own eternal liberation). The developing vanguard cannot instantly dissolve all the contradictions within the proletariat, it can however, patiently explain to the masses the faults in their contradictory actions. It can slowly explain to them that the Bourgeois State needs to be smashed, the police dissolved and the worker armed, and racism done away with. It can help humanity start chipping away at the oppressive tools, and eventually, totally smash them.
Marxist praxis must be employed in order to be on this road…
Can we imagine what would happen if the steel workers from Berkeley and Licorice workers from Union City linked up in a formal and programmatic way? What if they released literature together? This would be a great stride for us here in the Bay. And indeed something like this, the solidarity of this magnitude, cannot be build by an individual or a group simply wanting to recruit. Solidarity like this, between brother and sister industry, is made by a developing collective that wants to grow through struggle, and has members that want to and will do the kind of consistent political work that helps foster these political links. The way to get justice for the recent 3,000 immigrants that were just abducted by the State through out the US, is to build a developing Marxist Vanguard (different layers of the proletariat centralized), that has programmatic precision guiding its political operation. A Workers Committee based in one industry, that has their own program for struggle, partly being shaped by the experience of struggle, coupled with reflections on the lessons built into such experience, should seek to unite with other unfolding Workers Committees from other industries. If not struggles become isolated. A developing vanguard can help facilitate these processes, and it must do so in the humblest way. Tactics, organizations, projects, and spaces not connected to a revolutionary organization cannot, in the long run, emancipate the immigrant in particular, let alone humanity in general.
But comrades this is not impossible. It takes time, patience, love, Marxism, a program, and consistent praxis.
Viva La Revolucion Communista Liderada Por Las Masas Proletarias!!!