Class Struggle Against Zionist Propaganda

We received this flyer from comrades who have been distributing it to workers in San Francisco.  The SF-MTA is currently taking the money they’ve received from selling advertising space on MUNI buses and donating it to the Human Rights Commission.  While this attempt at liberalism is appalling, what we should be focusing on is finding the instances of workers struggle on the shop floor.
If what follows is any indication of what is possible (or what is already happening) then we should be keeping our eyes open for workers taking direct action against being exploited as proletarian bus drivers AND now as movers of portable Zionist propaganda.  Additionally, we should pay attention to Arab, Muslim, and Sikh workers who are struggling on the shop floor – particularly in the custodial sector in San Francisco.  International solidarity must – and already is – going beyond symbolic statements and becoming a material force where workers refuse the alienation of work and the imposition of Zionist propaganda and symbols within the labor process.
Props to comrades for putting in the work – intellectually and on the streets.

A Classwide Appeal in Response to Racist Ads on MUNI

It is time to view attacks on workers and oppressed populations not as isolated events, but as calculated measures in maintaining the rule of the global ruling class. We must envision strategies for fighting back that put us not in categories of victimization, but in solidarity with the international ranks of the working class. City expenditures on ads and public relations campaigns exceed millions of dollars, yet they enforce austerity and tell us they will close down our public schools and take away our benefits. The historical moment demands we respond to these attacks on a class-wide basis! Riders, drivers, students, and workers across sectors and communities must unite!

Racism on MUNI and the class-wide support we need

SEIU Local 87, a service workers union, is devising a new contract with the ABM Corporation, in which basic benefits are being jeopardized. In the last couple weeks, rank and file leaders have stood up against these attacks and even been arrested in civil disobedience. Many janitors involved in this union are from the Arab community. Unveiled last week, SFMTA approved MUNI ads, paid for by Pamela Geller and the American Freedom Defense Initiative to run on the side of our city’s buses. These ads come at the time that we have seen numerous hate attacks targeting Arabs, Muslims and Sikhs; there have been at least 8 incidents in the past 10 days across the country. Last week, after the second attempt in a month, an Islamic Center in Missouri was burned down. In the same week, four days after US congressman Rep. Walsh proclaimed in a public speech that “radical Muslims are trying to kill Americans every week”, a Mosque in a Chicago suburbwas shot at with a high-velocity air rifle while 500 worshippers were insidefor evening prayers during the Holy month of Ramadan. On the same day this advertisement ran on San Francisco buses, a mosque in Ontario, California found the limbs of a dismembered pig on the building’s front steps. And right here in the Bay Area, this past Thursday marked the fourth time in the last eight months that a Hayward mosque was targeted by vandals, this time resulting in one person injured. The ads on MUNI read:

“In Any War Between the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel, Defeat Jihad.” 

Today, MUNI drivers are exposed to draconian disciplinary measures like security cameras on the buses and threats of firing for taking a certain number of sick days or breaks even if it falls well within the quota outlined in the contract. The practices of management attempt to control resistance and create a culture of fear that has its roots in 1976 when workers organized in response to the City’s attempt to take away their right to strike.

In a moment that necessitates a response from the transit workers sector, we can draw lessons from MUNI’s past, and how solidarity across race, ethnicity and industry, in addition to challenging the union bureaucracy, secured the rights we have today that are again being threatened!

The 1976 San Francisco City Workers strike and 38 day MUNI shutdown

This strike is relevant as it raises important questions and answers in regards to the social forces workers have at their disposal in a struggle against the city government, and what it would take for those forces to be successful.

Proposition B had just been passed in November 1975, and had opened up unions to wage struggle because it erased a 30 year old city charter provision that pegged wages for city workers to private industry wage levels.

Craft workers, such as park and recreation, gardening, cleaning, electrical, plumbing, and other maintenance and repair workers shut down their worksites in resistance to pay cuts and city government schemes to isolate and crush the craft unions. In response, MUNI drivers shut down a railway system already coming to a halt due the inactivity of its electricians and mechanics, blocking the flow of workers, goods, and profit – the very heart of this exploitative capitalist system.  City workers did this despite the city-imposed wage gap that encouraged scabbing and disunity between workers. A few years prior to the strike, riders and drivers worked together to establish a new route near the Alemany projects/public housing, this action was in deliberate opposition to the racism involved in the route planning of MUNI at that time.

It is obvious that the city of San Francisco values contracts with corporations over first amendment rights of its residents. In light of these racist and inflammatory ads on the side of MUNI, it is our responsibility, again to show broad based community and workplace opposition.

This advertisement was aimed at intimidating Muslim and Arab members of the San Francisco community, and in effect, an attempt to further intimidate the working class from organizing against the continual attacks on our rights and benefits!

We must challenge these tactics and come together in class-wide solidarity. We must promote a revolutionary internationalism that breaks with the ‘American Dream’ and the individualism of working for meager union benefits solely within one sector.

Imagine if Local 6 – IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) (in which a unit of IBEW works on the inside wiring of MUNI)  had opposed  management’s attempt to pin them against the carpenters union in terms of jurisdiction of work and pay grade into their own demands of their contract dispute earlier this year (in addition to their threatening a Golden Gate bridge blockade and strike on May 1st)? What if MUNI operators acted to support SEIU, and Unite Here – Local 2, who have been engaged in a fight against the Hyatt bosses all year? Imagine if MUNI operators coordinated with the Taxi drivers and the un-unionized shuttle bus drivers (most of which are from South Asian and Arab immigrant backgrounds) that drive tourists from the airport on the periphery of the city? Imagine if the riders, who work in different sectors and come from different backgrounds and faiths, joined the picket lines when transit went on strike?

Although the 76’ General Strike didn’t reach its greatest potential, these examples show us the tremendous strength in the united demands across sectors of workers and affected communities in the city.

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2 responses to “Class Struggle Against Zionist Propaganda

  1. “what we should be focusing on is finding the instances of workers struggle on the shop floor.”

    I find this statement somewhat offensive or misguided. In general, it is representative of the opportunistic behavior I see typical of Marxist tendencies. The Muni ads are RACIST. I understand that there is also an intersecting issue related to class. However, I don’t appreciate the trigger response of the Marxist to look at every “-ist” incident and try to co-opt it into an issue about class struggle. In this case, I don’t even think it is the best way to address the Muni ad problem.

    I also don’t understand this “shop floor” language. Many Marxists I know like to impose their beliefs on others from the outside, although they themselves do not actually work on the “shop floor.” Is that what is happening in this case? Do your members intentionally take “shop floor” jobs in order to definite themselves as part of the working class, or to use it as an opportunity to organize the working class from within? If you are trying to liberate the working classes, why would you become a part of it? This seems like another example of the kind of opportunistic or manipulative behavior I see coming from Marxists, especially those who are white.

    This comment is coming across as more accusatory or aggressive than I originally intended. I am just frustrated that it seems like Marxists take every problem and try to twist it into a class struggle issue for their benefit. Sometimes issues need to first be acknowledged and analyzed for their racism and oppression in the context of racism. It can be a confusing and convoluted leap to turn everything into a class issue, and I think can feel very alienating to people in other oppressed groups besides the working class.

    Finally, I’m not sure why you mentioned Sikh workers in this post, since Sikhs aren’t the target of the ad. Unless your point is that the ad targets any “other” besides Jews. Are you confused about who Sikhs are? Or are you lumping them with Arabs and Muslims, because many Americans do? Why should Sikh workers organize with Arab and Muslim workers any more than another kind of brown worker would?

  2. Frank, your characterization of the argument presented in the blurb that precedes the flyer comes off partially as a strawman, and in that regard not very helpful. However, you raise some points that I’d like to press you to further elaborate in order for us all to learn.

    First off, to clarify, you write: “The Muni ads are RACIST.” Agreed, in a general sense. More specifically, as the piece points out, they’re reflective of a particular form of racism – Zionism, which the piece clearly alludes to. Further, the substance of the actual document in discussion CLEARLY calls out the racism. Look at the title. Look at the first section. Did you even read the flyer? It’s not clear at all by your post, which comes across, as you put it, as coming from a place of aggression and frustration rather than principled engagement and inquiry. Please step your game up.

    Secondly, you write: “I also don’t understand this “shop floor” language,” and then follow with accusations of opportunism, all of which are abstract and not very helpful. In order to support you in understanding what this “shop floor” language means, please take a (perhaps) hypothetical example: imagine rank and file MUNI operators refusing to drive the bussess with the Zionist propaganda and, instead, putting those busses back and going about their workday by driving busses without the racist ad. This is an example of workers using their agency on the shop floor (aka, at the workplace) to counter Zionism. Not through issuing statements, or donating funds to philanthropic organizations, but by direct action at the point of work where the racist ads find their home.

    Thirdly, you write: “It can be a confusing and convoluted leap to turn everything into a class issue, and I think can feel very alienating to people in other oppressed groups besides the working class.” In response to this I want to pose what is an opinion: the most strategic sector of workers to focus on are those that come from oppressed communities (or “groups”) and who find themselves proletarianized in various ways: directly through the wage relation as employed workers, as employed workers in unionized sectors, as unemployed or precariously employed workers, etc. In these contexts, workers from oppressed communities find ourselves in relation to various communities of workers – both in situations where cross-community relations are built in holistic ways, as well as in racially tense ways. Paying attention to workers of color, and workers from other oppressed groups, is important because it can help us see the ways in which various sections of the proletariat are already breaking down divisions, and it can also help us to see how divisions are produced and reproduced so we can strategize in how to combat such divisions. It’s less about “turning everything into a class issue” than it is about focusing on how class relations bring together and keep people separate in ways that reproduce the total social system of capital, including all of its manifold oppressions and alienations.

    Fourthy, while Sikh workers aren’t the targets of the ad, the ad exists in a climate of white supremacy and islamophobia that racializes Sikhs, Muslims, and Arabs in similar ways to the extent that the ruling class and ideologically backwards sections of the petty bourgeoisie and proletariat attack all three groups relatively indiscriminately. Perhaps this is incorrect, in which case I’m open to being challenged. But I think that the whole thing with racial formation is that it homogenizes religious, ethnic, and national identities to form a targeted “other.” If we consider the paragraph above, then Sikh workers also have strategic positions within capital’s division of labor (as truckers, for instance) that can be sites of resistance against racial oppression as well as class exploitation.

    Please consider the way in which your argument was addressed in its totality, and consider how you may add more rigor to further comments by addressing the actual arguments in the flyer rather than reacting with strawman arguments. It would be a much appreciated contribution.

    Mara.

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