Monthly Archives: February 2013

All eyes on Vancouver, Washington. The ILWU Struggle Continues.

Below is text to a flier that is being circulated in response to the recent attacks on the ILWU.  Click the image below to see a full PDF version of the flier.  Please feel free to circulate   For our previous coverage on the ongoing ILWU struggle see here and here.  

ilwuvancouveras

Click the image above to get a full PDF version of the flier.

Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association (PNGHA) — a consortium of grain handlers that includes United Grain — locked
out 44 ILWU workers, of local 4 in Vancouver, Washington. This port ships over 5 million metric tons a year with United Grain Corporation being the main employer at this port, and the largest wheat exporter on the US West Coast. On December 21, 2012, 94% of 3,000 ILWU workers in the Northwest voted down a proposed contract by the PNGHA that made over 750 changes, including eliminating the power of the hiring hall. This PNGHA sponsored contract is inspired by the Longview Washington contract passed in February 2012. The Longview Washington contract is the worst contract passed in the whole history of ILWU, eliminating key components of worker power within the workplace and in ILWU local 21.

It is clear that the maritime capitalist, in this case, an alliance between United Grain Corporation and other companies who incorporated and organized in the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, aspire to crush the ILWU. As a response, the Longshore workers, with the whole working class, needs to organize an offense against such attacks. The concrete space of battle will be the picketlines at the ports of Vancouver, Washington. The potential solidarity longshore rank and file ILWU local 13 members in Los Angeles, local 10 in Oakland/San Francisco, local 8 Portland and local 19 in Seattle could do is central in shifting the power relations against the PNGHA’s sponsored attack.

An Injury to one, is an Injury to All

For the defense of ILWU local 4

For a Classwide Offensive against PNGHA

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Example of Good Union Negotiating

This piece is a reflection addressed to coworkers by a rank and file militant in the public sector after going through a negotiating process with the employer, East Bay Municipal Utilities District. This is a good example of how one should conduct themselves politically when engaging in struggle within the union form. Good demands, defiant approach, trying to link with other unions, extending interests beyond sector to be class-wide..

http://www.weknowwhatsup.blogspot.com/p/afscme-local-444-negotiations-assesment.html?m=1
Key quote:

The negotiating team recognized that gains are not really won at the table–it is the conscious and organized intervention of the membership that gets results. Historically, working people have made the most gains when we have relied on our own strength which means mobilizing our members and linking up with other unions and the communities in which we live and work and a solidarity committee was set for this purpose.

To the extent that this type of intervention is part of a bigger project of building rank and rile organization, the union is being transformed from a bureaucratic mechanism that stifles struggle, to a proletarian vehicle connecting struggles. If there were 1000 militants like this one in strategic workplaces (factories, schools, hospitals, mass transit, etc) in any given metropolitan area, we would see that the whole field of struggle would be more favorable for the working class. Continue reading

Discussion on Patriarchy and the Movement

As many of us know, there is patriarchy within our movements that need to be addressed. This is one forum in which these conversations are happening. You can livestream even if you are not in Portland! Information is on the poster below

Check out the Facebook event here:

anti-patriarchy

The Return of Lenin’s, “What is To Be Done?”

It’s worthy to point out that our comrades in Unity and Struggle have published a serious review of Lars Lih’s book on Lenin’s What is to be done. This review argues the strengths and weaknesses of Lenin’s, What is to be Done.

The article by Unity and Struggle begins by explaining how Lenin emphasized the importance of revolutionary theory, as vital for any revolutionary movement. This was a clear position Lenin openly advocated. What is to be done is often attacked, claiming it advocated socialist professionals to substitute themselves as the professionals to lead workers into victory. This bourgeois-anarchist critique of What is to be done ignores how Lenin advocated the development of workers as agents of revolutionary theory as a basis for such a movement. Lenin states, the workers “participate not qua workers, but qua theoreticians of socialism…they participate only insofar as they succeed to a greater or lesser extent in attaining a command of the knowledge of their century and in advancing that knowledge.” For workers to accumulate revolutionary knowledge, so they can lead revolutionary struggle is not a hierarchical centered perspective, but one that actually fosters a horizontal spirit of struggle. But the development of such theoretically developed revolutionary workers also forms the content for forming a revolutionary organization. The foundation of such an organization, a necessary body to coordinate struggle and train militants, was explained through an analogy of bricklaying work.

Lenin states,

When bricklayers lay bricks in, various parts of an enormous, unprecedentedly large structure, is it “paper” work to use a line to help them find the correct place for the bricklaying; to indicate to them the ultimate goal of the common work; to enable them to use, not only every brick, but even every piece of brick which, cemented to the bricks laid before and after it, forms a finished, continuous line? And are we not now passing through precisely such a period in our Party life when we have bricks and bricklayers, but lack the guide line for all to see and follow?…If we had a crew of experienced bricklayers who had learned to work so well together that they could lay their bricks exactly as required without a guide line…But it is unfortunate that as yet we have no experienced bricklayers trained for teamwork, that bricks are often laid where they are not needed at all, that they are not laid according to the general line, but are so scattered that the enemy can shatter the structure as if it were made of sand and not of bricks.

This activity, the formation of revolutionary militants is what needs to be done today. The economist and those partisans of spontaneity abandoned the revolutionary political training of the workers, particularly the advanced workers. Today, we don’t even have the revolutionary organizational force to offer such training, even if we agreed that is work that should be done. The formation of a new revolutionary organization needs to be able to train workers in revolutionary organizing, by first theoretically training them in marxist theory, then carrying out political work that directly flows from such theory. The young anarchist protesters find such a proposal disgusting. Action is what is wanted. But in our recent period of “actions,” capital has been able to oppress workers and movements without any real resistance. Such action is laughed at by the American capitalist. This is why Unity and Struggle’s article concludes with, “Lenin believes, militants must become institutional bearers that reproduce a common approach based upon a common theory. As militants reproduce this common approach, following Lenin’s bricklaying analogy, the masonry line is no longer needed.” In short, the movement of a Leninist approach of forming revolutionary theory in political practice, is an egalitarian act far from being guilty of what the bourgeois-anarchist critique claim. It is the concentration of working class power, and necessary political project to seriously engage in the revolutionary transition of capitalism. A new generation must struggle, and engage Lenin’s works, that focus on building revolutionary organization, in order to have the basic perspective to build a revolutionary organization today for our historical moment.

Lenin WITBDThe following essay was written awhile ago and sat around waiting to be fixed up. It can be read as a follow up to notes on Lars Lih’s important book, Lenin Rediscovered: What Is To Be Done? in Context. Only recently the essay was finally fixed up enough to post here.

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It is important to deal with Lenin’s concept of organization in WITBD. The point is not to elevate WITBD into a set of principles that can be abstractly and universally applied. Like any work, WITBD is a product of history. As Lih noted in the beginning of his book such an approach has been an evident enough problem in the history of “Leninism”. However, despite Lih’s attempt to downplay the importance of WITBD in subsequent bolshevik thinking about organization, Lenin’s work—including WITBD—continues to be a necessary reference point for rethinking the role of revolutionary groups and organizations in our own day. By restoring the detailed context of Lenin’s concept of organization and reestablishing its connection to Kautsky, Lih provides the basis to learn from and critique Lenin and Leninism. In doing so he makes WITBD alive again—a renewed and important departure point for thinking about revolutionary groups and organization.

As Lih argues, the importance of WITBD was found in its generalization of already existing practices in the Russian underground, codifying and synthesizing those practices into a broad whole. The generalizing character of WITBD is what continues to make it so valuable today.
Continue reading

Classroom Struggle Flier: Not One Cut!

OUSD Cuts Flier

Click on image to see full English version.

Click here for Spanish version.

We received the following leaflet from a group of Oakland educators called Classroom Struggle.  The leaflet outlines some information on a recent round of austerity in the Oakland Unified School District of 7.6million dollars.  Prominent among this round of cuts is the entire Adult Education program (which has been severely gutted in the past 3 years, going from $14million to $1million since 2010) and the entire GED program that OUSD offers.  There is a school board meeting this Wednesday where parents, adult ed teachers, classroom teachers in the OEA, and students will come to speak out against this round of cuts, as well as the entire austerity regime which the OUSD school board and Superintendent Tony Smith have been pushing for years.  Just last year, 5 elementary schools were set to be shut down.  On November 19th 2011, at the height of Occupy Oakland, a mass march of thousands helped politicize the issue of school closures, and was followed months later in June 2012 by an occupation of Lakeview elementary school.  Though the schools were eventually closed, the movement against austerity took a step further in politicizing people’s understanding of the cutbacks, and denouncing the role of Tony Smith, a superintendent often touted as being down with the people due to his name dropping of critical race theorists and other social justice related themes.  The struggle that may unfold against this round of austerity has this recent history as its jumping off point, but it will take ongoing organizing of parents, teachers, students, and other school workers at the workplace and community level to really push back on what OUSD is attempting to push down on working class communities of color in Oakland.  This flyer is one artifact of the unfolding organizing happening in real time that is offerred for your analysis and distribution.

Introductory Reader for Marx’s French Revolutionary Works

This post is dedicated to our comrade from Hawaii

Advance the Struggle Collective Reader

Click the image to get the printable reader

A new generation must learn Marxism to become revolutionaries. Friends and comrades have asked help in learning Marx’s work on French revolutions. These works are principally the Communist Manifesto, Class Struggles in France, 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, and the Civil War in France. Each one of these works is a classic concerning Marxism, dealing with the 1848 revolutions, and the Paris Commune of 1871.  Advance the Struggle offers this reader of selections from Chris Harmon’s book, A People’s History of the World.

This reader, about 80 pages, is an introductory work for Marx’s French revolutionary works. It is not an introductory reader for Marx’s critique of political economy, which includes the Grundrisse, Capital volumes I, II, and III, as well as theories of surplus-value. There will be a follow-up reader to help get through Marx’s critique of political economy.

Marx’s writings on 19th century French revolutionary struggle, and his “English” critique of political economic writings, are the two large bodies of work that need to be tied into an organic whole, to apply a common method to politics. The building of Marx’s Marxism, unifying his two large bodies of works, its “French” side with its “English” one, is a prerequisite for applying Marx’s Marxism as a unified method to the development of Marxism after Marx. The giants that were able to move the totality of Marxism forward were largely five historic figures; Luxemburg, Lenin, Gramsci, Bordiga, and Trotsky. Marxism has been suffocating due to being placed into frozen categories formed by particular Marxist ideologues, Trotskyism, Gramscism, and Maoism etc. We must burst asunder such categories to unleash the real development of Marxism beyond such narrow categories of thought.

More revolutionary readers will be coming soon.

Students, faculty, and community members occupy City College of San Francisco!

On Thursday, February 21st, City College of San Francisco students, faculty, and community folks began a day of action against the privatization of their school at the main Ocean campus by rallying, holding signs, and listening to speakers. This comes after weeks of organizing and outreach work by the SaveCCSF coalition which sprung up to rally students against this major attack. After the rally, folks marched into the Chancellor’s building to meet with the Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman and present their demands, just as she promised. To no one’s surprise, she was nowhere to be found. In addition to this, Board of Trustees representatives and lackeys waited at the stairs next to police officers to prevent students from climbing upstairs to confront the institution’s ruling class. This is because William Walker, the Board of Trustees Student Representative, snitched to the police about the plans to occupy the building, even after the student coalition allowed him in their meeting a few days before and called for the plans to remain confidential. Walker remained at the occupation throughout the night, sitting with the other admin henchmen and pigs,  acting like he’s on our side during the occupationists’ discussions by promising our voices would be heard during Board meetings if we emailed him.

Regardless, a core of about 20 students ended up gathering blankets, sleeping bags, and food to remain in the building throughout the night and into the morning. Different media outlets showed up to interview occupiers and police officers. Supporters arrived with pins, food, and other support materials. Several times, occupiers made a circle to discuss their feelings about the actions, talk about why they loved CCSF and joined the struggle, and share anecdotes about their history in this institution. In the intervals, music played, students danced and sang, and debated political approaches to the developing struggle.

The next major event is scheduled for a rally at the SF City Hall on March 14th where SaveCCSF will present its demands to politicians. The forces resisting austerity against CCSF remain very small and  much work needs to be done to build that support by winning over students, faculty, campus workers, and community members. In the weeks prior to rally at City Hall, teach-ins and other forms of outreach are scheduled in order to counter the ideological war the San Francisco Chronicle and the local bourgeoisie wage against the movement, claiming that something is fundamentally wrong with CCSF that requires an accreditation commission to “fix it” by gutting its programs, department, teacher and campus worker pensions and positions, and busting its unions.

The issue for revolutionaries , however,  is not simply how we numerically increase an anti-austerity movement, as important as that is. We need to develop a politic that seeks to expose the reactionaries allied with the privatizers, administrators, and ruling class servants and align school workers, students, and supporters with a militant, uncompromising line when it comes to defending CCSF. Our analysis needs to identify the structural and historical causes of this capitalist attack, and why only unified student and worker (including teacher!) unity can win against these attacks and make gains that increase the scope and resources for CCSF, in addition to implementing measures for them to increase their democratic control over the running of the school.