Category Archives: Analysis/Theory

Chicago Teacher’s Strike: New Strategy for Class Struggle or Same Old Trade-Unionism?

 

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Note of Camaraderie to our Sisters and Brothers in Struggle

On the eve of the first important day in the 2016 primary election cycle, we offer a draft, never before published but still highly relevant, from a high point of struggle during the last presidential election cycle. The Chicago Teacher’s strike of 2012 was an important moment for the struggle against neoliberal “reforms” to public education, as well as for the trade union and working class movement as a whole.  As teachers in Oakland, California involved in efforts at building organization and struggle of parents, teachers, and students, we have been inspired and challenged by the solidarity that was demonstrated on the streets of Chicago during the strike, and we deeply respect the years of strategic work that went into organizing a base of teachers that was able to carry out such a strike.  The experiences of Chicago have provided an example of a higher level of militancy and struggle than we have seen in decades.  

CORE and the CTU deserve the most recognition for this.  As part of this recognition, we wish to deeply engage and scrutinize the strategies that were used to carry out the preparation, execution, and follow up from the strike.  Our engagement and scrutiny of these strategies comes from a place of wanting to carry forward at the highest level the struggle against neoliberal capitalist reforms from our location in Oakland; at times this will mean pointing out aspects of the strategy used in Chicago that we are critical of, while at other times it will mean putting forward some initial thoughts on alternatives grounded in our experiences in Oakland.  We come from a humble place of respect and camaraderie with our sisters and brothers in Chicago, and we hope that our engagement and scrutiny is taken as a sign of respect for the hard work put into the 2012 strike.

 

Introduction


Throughout the country we have seen repeated attacks on teacher unions; these attacks are occurring in the context of an all out assault on unions and working class people as a whole.  From Madison to Chicago to Oakland and beyond we have see Democrats and Republicans carrying out legislation that seeks to undermine the gains that workers struggles and trade unions have won for their members; we refer here to seniority, health care, wage increases, and positive developments in working conditions.  These gains have been achieved by the movement of working people getting organized formally and informally, in unions and without them at times.  All of these forms of movement, organization and struggle are part of what we refer to as class struggle.  
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‘#KillerCopsBuySneakersToo’: Athletes Fight Racism

 

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Eric Garner’s final words before being choked to death by police for selling cigarettes

Back in the 90’s Michael Jordan was asked if he would support Democratic Party challenger Harvey Gantt, who was running for a North Carolina senate seat against incumbent and strident racist Jesse Helms. Jordan refused and reasoned, “Republicans buy sneakers too”.  

Fast forward 25 years to Lebron James demonstrating a similar ambivalence when asked to take a position on the racist police killing of Tamir Rice. Tamir Rice was twelve years old when police officer Tim Loehmann shot him in the stomach for playing with a toy gun; he could have been wearing the latest Lebron sneakers as he was murdered.   In seven years, Tamir could have been Lebron James’ teammate.  

Tamir Rice was 12 years old when gunned down by police

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Race, Identity, and Solidarity in the Fight Against State Violence

Photo: 'Millions March' in Downtown Oakland

Photo: ‘Millions March’ in Downtown Oakland

December 13th and November 24th

The Millions March, a national solidarity event with the Black Lives Matter movement that took place on December 13th, compels me to address the political dynamics of that nationwide event in order to open a dialogue about the objectives and tactics of the movement.  At the beginning of the march, one of the leading speakers called on White Allies of Black people to refrain from speaking on the bullhorn and from marching at the head of the protest; the purpose of this rule was to ensure that black and brown voices were emphasized throughout the march – a theme that was present throughout the march and throughout this movement as a whole.

When we arrived at the Oakland Courthouse, the leaders urged black and brown protesters to stand together on the steps leading to the courthouse and for white protesters to remain at the bottom. When the list of speakers was over, the lead speaker of the march implied in her words that the march was over and that people should head back to the site of the initial convergence to engage in Healing Circles. As the mass of protesters began to move, a black protester announced to the marchers that the march was not over. Indeed, the majority of protesters remained on the streets of Oakland hours after the spectacle at the courthouse.

Now – let’s pause for a moment and rewind three weeks to November 24th, 2014 – the night of the non-indictment of Darren Wilson. On this night we also experienced a powerful display of black, brown and multiracial solidarity; this night, however, was slightly different than the Millions March.  People, more or less spontaneously, filled the streets the night of November 24th; during the beginning of the rally on 14th and Broadway, black protesters lead chants of “Black Lives Matter” while people danced in a circle; electricity filled the air as protesters carried out an unpermitted march from downtown Oakland to the 580 Freeway entrance on the north side of Lake Merritt; at some point in the evening, a brave group of young people took over the 580 Freeway, blocking the westward flow of traffic.  The people who carried out this first freeway blockade were a mixed racial group of people; black protesters were certainly represented in the mix, contributing to the dynamism of the action; brown, asian and white protesters also filled the gravel laden lanes of the highway.  All protesters were clear in their messaging: black lives matter, and police violence must end.

Our intention is to explore the way in which movements such as that experienced by us in the winter of 2014 can contribute to the development of a revolutionary situation in the US; further, we see the questions of racial empowerment, identity and solidarity to be of central importance in building movements against state violence and building revolutionary organizations.

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Logistics, Circulation, Class Struggle and Communism Reader

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Part of our regular practice together is engaging in short term studies of relevant questions coming up on the pro-revolutionary left.  One of our recent studies has been centered on the strategic importance of sites of capital circulation as places where pro-revolutionary activists and proletarians should focus our intellectual and practical energies.

We’re offering up a formatted version of various texts that have already been published as well as a powerpoint we’ve used among ourselves to help frame the texts.

The texts in question are from Endnotes, Mute, Degenerate Communism and Libcom.  We give props and appreciation to those authors and publications for putting out important theoretical and strategic pieces to help pro-revolutionary activists around the world clarify our thinking.

Let us know what your thoughts are if you’re studying similar stuff, ways in which you’ve formatted study packets, and other thoughts.

Reader and presentation after the jump.  Enjoy.

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Skype Series Event! Between Spectacle and Resistance: Reflections On Struggling in Greece Today (6/28)

Since 2011, countries around the world have had historic upsurges and have gained serious insight into the dynamics of anti-capitalist struggle in this period.  Advance the Struggle along with La Peña Second Generation proudly presents a monthly Skype series with revolutionaries from across the globe to discuss these massive social movements.  

The fourth session will involve militants from Greece who have been actively engaged in the anti-austerity movement, participated in the From the Greek Streets blog, and have contributed to the book Revolt and Crisis in Greece.  The event will take place on Saturday June 28th, 12:30pm at La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA).  Below is a description of the event and the leaflets for the series.  Hope to see you there!

Between spectacle and resistance: reflections on struggling in Greece today.

The event will include reflections on the current state of affairs of the wider antagonist movement in Greece today: its recent struggles, its shortcomings, its potential ways forward. What lessons do six years of continuous struggle against police and neoliberal repression leave us with? And what may be the potential ways forward?

CALL TO ACTION – MAY 1, INTERNATIONAL WORKERS DAY

We are excited to repost a call that was recently put out by militant Bay Area workers for an action on this year’s May Day.  After decades of sectoralism and business unionist strategies taken up by unions everywhere, it is important that we support militant rank-and-file movements that look to challenge the restrictive bourgeois laws and employer strategies that pit workers against each other.  See you out on May  Day!

CALL TO ACTION – MAY 1, INTERNATIONAL WORKERS DAY

United Rank & File Construction Workers Take A Stand on May Day

Join us as we return to a proud history of direct action to fight to protect our own livelihoods, to raise up and organize all workers and against laws that restrict us.

On May 1, International Workers Day, we will be gathering at 16th and Mission at 5am to protest the 2 Gate System. This is a system that contractors and developers have created in order to impose the restrictive, discriminatory and repressive anti-worker laws of the Taft-Hartley act on construction unions.

San Francisco appears, on the surface, to be recovering from the economic disasters of recent years. There are cranes all over town and buildings are popping up everywhere. The people building these buildings are unable to afford the luxuries that many supposedly offer. We are also growing further and further from the chance of ever living a reasonable distance from the city in which we work. Most of us have long been unable to afford to live within the limits of the city we built. We see new wealth coming into SF all the time and yet we have gotten modest or no raises.

Many of us are lucky to have collective bargaining. We look forward to contracts coming up during this building boom. It seems the time has finally come for us to get the raises that we have lacked in the last few years while the cost of living has skyrocketed. We are looking forward to the opportunity to dig out of the financial holes we are in after years of unemployment, losing insurance for our families, losing houses and having to raid our retirement accounts to make ends meet. Now, contractors and developers need us badly and will have to give us a decent raise next contract, right? Maybe not…

Historically in San Francisco a vast majority of building has been done by workers who together, through their unions, bargain with all of their employers for a fair and equal wage rate for all of the labor done by their craft. This is still the case but we see other employers winning work contracts in SF at an alarming rate. Building has increased suddenly in San Francisco but it has disproportionately increased for the non-signatory contractors. There is an unprecedented amount of building being done by contractors who do not agree to the standards of pay and conditions that workers have fought for.

This gives signatory employers (those who employ workers under collective agreements) a powerful bargaining chip as we go into negotiations during this boom. They will argue that they need to stay competitive or the “union contractors” (and therefore workers) will all lose jobs. “Staying competitive” they argue, means that they cannot give raises, may even need some back, in order to compete. Suddenly, the snowball that has killed all the reasonably livable jobs across the country is being rolled around in San Francisco, the last bastion of hope for a decent living for those of us with blue collars.

Ideally, to stop this snowball, we would organize all workers who are not yet in our organizations. We would use the power of withholding all labor on a jobsite until all employers were forced to enter the same collectively bargained agreement. We would like to make it perfectly clear that we see non-union workers as our sisters and brothers in the trade. We want them to have the same wages and conditions that we have. We do not want to compete with them but rather join them into our ranks so that we might work together to raise the living standards of all working people. We want all workers to rise together, as opposed to the arguments made by employers about being “competitive”.

Historically, organized labor has caused economic hardships for entities that take advantage of an unorganized labor force. They did this by standing in solidarity with any group of workers in dispute with their employer and withholding all of our labor until the problem is resolved. The 2 Gate System is one of a host of anti-worker laws that make the tactics that the unions were built on illegal. As yet, the Unions have been mostly unwilling to challenge or disobey these laws. However, through well-organized disobedience and subversion of these laws using the power of united labor action, these laws can be eradicated. We are working toward a day when our unions will do this. Do not be surprised that the leadership of the unions is officially unsupportive, they are not sure the working members want or are ready for the struggle that it will entail, we must show them by taking up the charge as workers.

Until then, the laws do not and cannot forbid you and me, rank and file workers, from going to these jobs and protesting them.

At this time in history, the future of the working class hangs in the balance and we in the stronghold of San Francisco must hold the line for ourselves and fight to turn the tide against the attacks against all working people.

Together, we will build solidarity and power, bring an end to unjust laws, and have a society that meets our needs.

WE ARE NOT AGAINST THE NON UNION WORKER

WE ARE AGAINST THE EMPLOYERS, DEVELOPERS AND CONTRACTORS THAT EXPLOIT THEM

WE ARE AGAINST THE DOWNWARD PUSH THAT EXPLOITATION HAS ON ALL OF US

WE ARE AGAINST LAWS THAT RESTRICT OUR ABILITY TO FIGHT

WE FIGHT TO ERADICATE ALL ANTI-WORKER LAWS AND SYSTEMS

SMASH THE 2 GATE SYSTEM – SMASH TAFT-HARTLEY

1 GATE, 2 GATES, or 10 GATES- PICKET LINES MEAN DO NOT CROSS

WOSP – The City of Oakland’s Plan for Gentrification: A Target For Anti-Displacement Activity

What follows is a critique of the West Oakland Specific Plan – WOSP – which the city of Oakland hopes will help in “developing” West Oakland and is attempting to pass in the coming weeks.  We offer this critique and brief thoughts on strategy in order to support the ongoing work of combatting displacement and gentrification that has been hitting the Bay Area for a long time.  Please add comments, questions, and critiques in the comment section in the spirit of deepening our collective discussion of anti-displacement analysis and strategy.

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Advertisement for Public Release of WOSP in Feb. 2014

Snapshot of the State and Capital in the Bay Area

If the Bay Area’s economy was compared to every other national economy in the world, it would be the 19th largest.  The Bay has the highest GDP per capita in the entire United States, and even outpaces London and Singapore.  It captures 40% of the entire flow of venture capital in the US (p11), which constitutes a higher amount of capital than that captured during the dot.com boom.  While the Bay accounts for only 2.4% of the total jobs in the US, it has 12% of the computer & electronics manufacturing, 10.3% of software development, and 8.3% of internet related jobs (p13.) Seven of the top 10 social media companies are here – Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Linkedin, Zynga, and Yelp.  In short, the Bay is home to one of the highest concentrations of capital in the world and mapping out the composition of capital is key for us to situate ourselves as we continue to engage in class combat. (Footnote #1)

The regional state is well aware of its place within the world economy.  Over the past years, city politicians from the greater Bay Area have come together to generate a 30 year strategy about how to restructure the region’s housing, employment, and transportation structures.  Plan Bay Area (PBA) was developed by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to carry out the tasks of determining how the state can support and facilitate the accumulation of capital throughout the region.  In order to grease the wheels of the local capitalist economy, the PBA aims to redevelop housing and transit throughout the Bay; New units are set to be built, new transportation “hubs” developed, and both of these projects are to be coordinated across single cities and the bay area as a whole.

PBA aims to align the various metropolitan areas of the Bay in their development of housing to match projected increases in employment.  Internet, computer and electronics manufacturing, along with professional, scientific and technical services are accounting for some of the largest contributors to job creation here.  PBA states that between early 2011 and late 2013 the Bay Area added more than 200,000 jobs, an increase of 7.5 percent that is well above the state’s average of 4.5%.  PBA is projecting that this area will continue to outpace the rest of California and the US in its share of job growth due to the heavy concentration of tech related industries which forms part of the economic base of Bay Area political economy.  (Footnote#2)

West Oakland Specific Plan – One Part of Capital/State’s Total Plan

We find ourselves in a city that’s clearly at the crosshairs of the system’s plans for intentional development and displacement: highly concentrated capital in the Bay Area and projections of millions of jobs being created in the next 10 years; a strategic plan by city politicians across the Bay to house these new high wage workers within its multiple cities; and the ongoing displacement of low wage workers and unemployed people.  This is the situation Oakland Mayor Jean Quan references when she states that she’s seeking to bring in 10,000 new residents to Oakland while saying nothing about keeping long term residents and working class people in Oakland. Continue reading