Category Archives: Debates

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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No to the Democrats, the Spearhead of Attacks on Public Education and Teachers Unions

Even leftists and revolutionary minded people who are critical of Bernie Sanders have put forward the idea that, despite his limitations and the problems with his politics, he’s still defending the public sector morScreenshot 2015-11-16 at 9.43.16 PMe so than other presidential candidates. However, this position fails to take into account Sanders’s position on standardized testing, punitive measures against public school teachers, and the fact that he has in various ways supported both Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race To The Top education policies. We present the Class Struggle Education Workers leaflet critiquing Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s positions on public education because it concisely presents the problems with their positions. Click image for newsletter.

Riots, Freeways, and BART Stations: Reflections on How We Attack White Supremacy

This reflection was written by a comrade of the Advance the Struggle crew on November 29th, a day after the Black Friday shutdown of the West Oakland BART Station.  It was not published because it provoked some internal debate and discussion within our crew that we wanted to have prior to putting it out online.  

We offer it here in its rough and unfinished form as an artifact of what some of us were thinking of in the beginning of the national rebellion against the non-indictment of the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  

Riots, Freeways, and BART Stations: Reflections on How We Attack White Supremacy

The police execution of Mike Brown is not simply another example of black youth experiencing a state sponsored murder.  In addition to the tragedy of another black life stolen by the white supremacist state, Mike Brown’s death has called into being a nationwide movement against police brutality.  This movement has further impressed upon many people’s consciousness the delegitimization of the state that the murders of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and others have left.  Further, the rebellions and direct actions that have been carried out by individuals, communities and organizations have demonstrated an expansion in the repertoire of resistance tactics that new and experienced militants are willing to carry out in order to disrupt the white supremacist capitalist economy and its racialized state.

So far, the two main forms of militant action that people have taken have been street rebellions characterized by informal, decentralized and evolving leadership structures as well as targeted direct actions featuring highly organized, formal and centralized leadership structures.  The rebellions that happened in the streets of Oakland on the the three evenings after the announcement of the non-indictment of Darren Wilson were examples of the former, while the Blackout Collective’s shutdown of the West Oakland BART Station is an example of the latter.

Both sets of actions were successful in disrupting sections of the economy during the holiday season, inflicting high value damage to a capitalist economy during its peak season.  Further, both actions played a role in developing the leadership capacities of young black militants, and secondarily other militants of color and white militants, though in very different ways.  Reflecting on these experiences may help us to begin thinking through how we can build upon the successful acts of resistance we’ve taken, and move forward together in continuing our organizing operations.

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Should Anarchists Make Demands on the State?

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Occupy Oakland rally in front of Lakeview Elementary school. Photo Cred: https://oaklandnorth.net/2011/11/19/occupy-oakland-marches-again-sets-up-tents-in-new-downtown-site/

The global movement of the squares (Taksim in Turkey, Syntagma in Greece, Tahrir in Egypt, OGP in Oakland, etc) against capitalist austerity, displacement, and overall inequality has pushed activists around the world to consider important questions of revolutionary strategy.  One of the central contradictions that tended to be posed between “radicals” and “liberals” was that of whether or not to make demands on the state, capitalists, or other institutions.  There have been many anti-state communists/socialists, anarchists, and others who have advocated the perspective that demands should not be made on ruling class institutions.  There is good reason for skepticism and antagonism toward programs of demands, as they have at times been used by more liberal, social-democratic forces to limit the politics of struggle into reformist channels.  

This recent cycle of struggle that we’ve participated in has brought to light some of the limits of “demand-lessness.”  While Occupy Oakland was at its peak, for instance, there was a move by the Oakland Unified School District to close 5 elementary schools, as well as the passing of a “West Oakland Specific Plan” which lays out a program for continued gentrification of a historically (at least since the 1930s*) black neighborhood.   What if there had been a more concerted effort to defeat some of these attacks on black and brown proletarian communities?  Would this have been a reformist deviation from an otherwise militant struggle?  Or could it have been a way of bringing in larger layers of proletarians into struggle against some of the effects of white supremacist capitalism?   It is in this context that Wayne Price, noted anarchist writer and activist, has written a useful essay arguing in favor of anarchists raising a program of demands.  We re-post it here for your consideration and commentary.  

Should Anarchists Raise a Program of Demands?

by Wayne Price

http://anarkismo.net/article/26648

This essay is slightly expanded from one which was rejected by a US anarchist magazine for political reasons. It deals with a disagreement among activists: Should we propose that the movement raise a program of demands? I think that anarchists should, but with a more libertarian-democratic version than the liberals and state socialists. The essay is followed by a response to the political points raised by the editors of the anarchist journal.
During the height of the Occupy Wall Street encampments, a dispute broke out among activists. Various liberals and state socialists advocated that the movement raise a program, a set of demands on the capitalist class and the state. This approach was opposed by a number of anarchists. Given the economic situation, the program-raisers typically called for full employment policies, such as public works projects providing useful services, to be paid for by taxing the rich and cutting the military budget.

While many anarchists vehemently opposed to the Occupy movement raising demands, others were for a more libertarian-socialist approach to raising programs (as I am). To some degree this disagreement among anarchists reflects a long time split, or more precisely, a polarization, since the alternatives are not sharply either/or. Since Proudhon, one anarchist pole has primarily advocated building alternate institutions within capitalist society. These might be worker or consumer coops, bike clubs, community gardens, or block associations. These anarchists hoped that community Occupations would be such “dual power” institutions. These would gradually expand to take over—and replace–the economy and state. Such activities do not lead to making demands on the state or the ruling class—except maybe to be let alone.

From the other viewpoint, all these things are good in themselves and worth supporting, but as a strategy for changing society, they are limited. Most likely they do not threaten the system (can they really replace the auto industry with an alternate national transportation system, or replace the armed forces with a popular militia?). If they do threaten vital institutions, the state will crack down on them. As the state disbanded Occupy encampments all over the country.

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What is AS up to right now?

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Working on developing a communist theory and practice

We’ve had a wave of activity hit our blog in the past month due to the debates around “the union question.”  Due to this, we’ve been bombarded with many people’s quality positions regarding the question of whether or not, and how, to intervene in unions.  We’ve also received some critiques that the wave of blog posts around unions was not theoretically and historically rigorous enough.  We can only agree with this critique and acknowledge the limitations of our current position as a group to immediately churn out analyses that meet the academic standards of some of our graduate school comrades.

With that said, we’d like to emphasize a few points about where AS is at as a collective, as well as where our current thinking is at so that we can clarify for folks near and far. Continue reading

Union Debate: Jocelyn and James Respond

Jocelyn and James submitted a piece that challenges the notion that an orientation towards the unions is productive for contemporary revolutionaries based off a serious analysis of the shifting nature of modern capitalism.  Advance the Struggle apologies for the title, “a lost cause” as an introductory title. We would like for the audience to read this response to get more clarity on Jocelyn and James’ position on the unions. More submissions to come.  

We appreciate the engagement with our piece. There has been a breadth of engagement in the comments on Advance the Struggle’s blog that we are unable to address in the time and space provided, but are grateful for the height of the debate. We apologize for comments left unaddressed, but we plan to respond to much of what’s left unsaid (especially Nate’s challenging points) in subsequent writing. Also we tried to address multiple questions in our responses to particular questions. Other comments seem to reflect a lack of thorough reading or misreading of our piece, and we urge their authors to give our piece a charitable reading before attempting to engage.

We are responding in three parts: the first addresses misunderstandings or mischaracterizations, the second addresses a few of the questions raised in the comments sections, and the third is a series of general responses which help elucidate the purpose of the piece. All of this points to a need to critically interrogate the present moment in its generalities and particularities, toward concrete activity. We staked out a clear theoretical domain, as a position piece requires, but it was our intention to raise questions rather than make pronouncements. The discussion so far has borne this out very well.

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