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
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.
With the recent protests and riots in Ferguson against the killing of Michael Brown by a white police officer, the issue of racial oppression has been thrust to the forefront of American popular consciousness. It is telling, that events in Ferguson happened 50 years after the Freedom Summer movement descended on Mississippi to fight black disenfranchisement by building black political power. Critical lessons were drawn from the Freedom Summer experience, such as the brutality of the state and it’s functionaries, the treachery of the Democratic Party towards black political demands, and the need to build independent political power and organization to challenge the structures of white supremacy.
Similarly, in Ferguson we have seen the deployment of the National Guard and the full repressive apparatus of the state to contain legitimate outrage by disenfranchised black residents over the killing of Mike Brown. Now that the larger protests have subsided, Democratic Party operatives are calling for a renewed voter registration drive for black residents in Missouri and the South to channel their rage into votes for the Democratic Party machine. But it is important to remember that this is the same party that houses both Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and his close political ally Jeff Roorda, a vocal police supporter and the man behind the Darren Wilson legal fund support page. We have to ask: is this the only option?
This event will shed light on the insights from participants in the Freedom Summer on these critical questions in order to help inform the struggle against racial oppression today.
Students from the Ad-Hoc Committee protesting war criminal Petreaus. Photo Credit: NYMag
We in Advance the Struggle write to express solidarity with the Ad-Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY (City University of New York), including members of the CUNY 6, who were brutally assaulted and arrested for protesting CUNY’s hiring of war criminal David Petraeus, along with the Liberate CUNY Front and the students suspended for defending the Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur student and community center. These comrades have not only exposed and resisted the increasing militarization of educational institutions in New York, but across the US. As we have seen here in California with the appointment of former director of deportation Janet Napolitano as President of the University of California system, and “anti-terrorism expert” Arthur Tyler as Chancellor of City College of San Francisco, this is a disturbing trend that must be stopped.
The repression faced by our friends and comrades in New York is the same type of repression faced here in California by university students up and down the West Coast. From Davis to Irvine and back up to Berkeley, students have organized against imperialist occupations in solidarity with Palestinian people, fought deportations, mobilized against fee increases and budget cuts; only to face direct repression by the UCPD, as well as legal attacks by UC administrators for speaking out and taking direct action against the likes of Zionists and many other forces of U.S. imperialism that get co-signed by the University of California system. All tactics used by the state and administration to silence resistance to these policies.
While ties between the imperialist war machine and American universities is nothing new, the ruling class’ ‘securitization’ of the university is a troubling shift in structure and function highlighting a changing terrain of struggle. ‘Securitization‘ in this sense means both the increased repressiveness of the university through its integration and collaboration with the capitalist state and the increased role of debt and financial markets in the life of the university. In the age of violent austerity that strips state universities of any public or democratic character; students are forced to take out higher loans to finance their education, which the university business managers then sell to Wall Street investors.
This shift in the role of university education highlights a changing terrain of struggle, making it important to defend and reclaim spaces where we can take a break from the grueling demands of competitive and isolating workloads, and as a place where we can form a community of resistance against the university system – which remains part and parcel of capitalist exploitation.
This resistance must continue and expand at sites of production, reproduction, circulation and in the streets to fight a system that glorifies and hires war criminals, torture apologists and deportation lackeys whose policies have killed, tortured, and destroyed millions of lives throughout the world; the same system forcing austerity cuts that destroy quality affordable public education and other social services for many working class and oppressed peoples.
Therefore, Advance the Struggle expresses full solidarity with our comrades in New York and around the world, who struggle against the advancement of US security and imperial military interests.
Drop all charges against the CUNY 6!
Drop the charges against Taffy and Khalil!
Petraeus and Napolitano off our campuses now!
Liberate CUNY and all campuses!
For united proletarian action against capitalism and imperialism!
On March 14th, Brooklyn had a rebellion against the NYPD killing of 16 year old Kimani Gray. He was shot in the back. The community of East Flatbush rose up and 46 people werearrested from the rebellion. As usual, the establishment is blaming the outside agitator for the rebellion. The usual forces who do this are politicians of color who have decade long roots in the established components of the “community,” accumulating political power to rise higher in the state power structure. These people are our political enemies for liberation.
In Oakland, the politicians of color, and the capitalist media, blamed outside white anarchist for the Oscar Grant rebellions. This was a joke. The anarchist could not pull off actions of such caliber. It was an organic rebellion made by largely the Black working class and dispossessed sections of society. It was youth of color who had enough. What did not exist in Oakland during the Oscar Grant rebellions, nor in Brooklyn with the Kimani Gray rebellions, is an organization that speaks to, and coordinates these particular rebellions. These rebellions are not to turn into non profit permitted protest, nor ideological stages for demagogues, but fluid anti-permitted actions that are organized by Black and West indie youth.
As austerity is forced on us and the welfare state is eroded, the state has become almost a solely disciplinary force; one that’s focus is to terrorizeand police the predominately black and brown surplus populations of the city in order to ensure the smooth functioning necessary for capital accumulation. With this in mind, struggles around police violence in communities of color will increase in number and importance. We have written extensively about these experiences and the lessons we have drawn from them, and would encourage others to check it out.
Here is a 10 point program to propose to our NYC comrades for the development of such a movement. These are the crystallized lessons we learned from the Oscar Grant movement.
1) Coordinate unpermitted struggles in the streets in general terms. No permits.
2) In particular, have successful snake marches that can make quick turns at moments notice against the state.
3) Have a spatial analysis of your landscape in order to do this.
4) Have general assemblies in the street, to deepen the participatory character.
5) Play music in the streets that keeps the energy going.
9) Politically struggle against the politicians of color, clergy and NGOs who will seek to co-opt this struggle for their own political capital.
10) Publicly advocate a revolutionary organization in these high times of struggle, to explain to the masses in struggle why spontaneous struggle is not enough.
Hopefully, this movement in NYC, coupled with an increase of organized rebellion that maintains an anti-statist character, armed with a vision of a building a revolutionary working class movement, a new force for liberation can emerge in NYC. With all that said, we would like to re-post Fire Next Time’s piece.
The following is a brief reportback from Will, a member of FNT who witnessed two of the last three nights of protests in East Flatbush following the police killing of 16-year old Kimani “Kiki” Gray.
The “outside agitators” are back!
The legend of the outside agitator has returned. Clowns like city councilman Jumanee Williams and the leadership of Occupy the Hood are fueling the myth that last night’s rebellions was led / caused by white people or outside agitators. I was there at last night’s rebellion, and let me tell you: there were fewer then 10 white people involved in a rebellion of hundreds of young Black militants. Last night was led by young Black militants. Period.
In Advance the Struggle’sNotes on ILWU Local 4 Lockout, it argued that an orientation toward Asian longshore is necessary in order to challenge the PNGHA and United Grain capitalist attack on ILWU. We are pleased to announce that Japanese National Railway union, Doro Chiba, has now entered the battlefield, organizing international solidarity for the longshore workers. They are mobilizing against Mitsui- United Grain, Friday March 15th. The Bay Area Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (TWSC) is supporting this international day of action, with a rally in San Francisco, Friday March 15th, 4:30PM at 1 Montgomery and Market.
Doro-Chiba asks ILWU members three questions, “Is our protest action against the Mitsui HQ meaningful for your current struggle? If so, what is your opinion about the optimal moment of our action? What are the most important demands?” These questions should be answered by the rank and file of the ILWU to generate a worker resistance with an internationalist perspective. The ILWU officialdom on the other hand is doing the opposite; they are channeling frustration against Japanese capital, or foreign companies that treat American workers badly. Organizing on an internationalist basis, with Japanese and other Asian labor organizations, is the first step to undercutting their anti-foreigner, xenophobic politics that the ILWU beaucracy is promoting.
All out for March 15! Now that San Francisco is organizing a solidarity rally on March 15th in conjunction with Doro Chiba, we call on labor solidarity activists to do the same in San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and Hawaii. The more the international solidarity develops contributing to the defense and support of ILWU local 4 rank and file, the more we can demonstrate the working class is in motion against the capitalist attacks that seek to destroy the power of unions, hollowing them out to pave the way for unchecked capitalist profit.
Several hundred ILWU members and supporters marched to Mitsui-United Grain’s Vancouver headquarters on March 8, 2013.
Bay Area Transport Workers Solidarity Committee (TWSC)
RALLY TODEFEND ILWU !
International Day Of Action
Stop Mitsui Union Busting and Concessionary Contracts
Fight the Lockout of ILWU by United Grain in the Port of Vancouver, Washington
Friday March 15, 4:30PM @ 1 Montgomery/Market Sts., SF
On March 15, 2013 there will be international actions and protests against the union busting lockout of ILWU Local 4 members by the Mitsui-owned company United Grain in the Port Of Vancouver, Washington.
Since the concessionary contract at EGT in Longview, Washington, other grain handlers have imposed a similar contract in NW grain ports after longshore workers voted 94% to reject it. The contract eliminated the union hiring hall, imposed a 12 hour day and allowed the replacement of union members if they stopped work for health and safety reasons. The other anti-union grain monopoly Cargill/Temco signed a separate agreement which includes many of these draconian measures which is being heralded by union officials as a “victory” because, they say, Cargill is American-owned. Longshore workers in Portland, the West Coast’s largest grain port, voted that concessionary contract down.
The Grain handlers capitalist coalition PNGHA and the UNITED GRAIN corporation, owned by Mitsui, are at war with ILWU. The crushing of ILWU is a serious defeat for the entire working class. In Vancouver, Washington, ILWU members now face there ninth day of being locked out. The ILWU’s political strategy so far has been to file an unfair labor practice grievance against United Grain Corp. complaining that a lockout is “extreme.” Grain handlers have long prepared for this situation, hiring security guards, and scabs -replacement workers- sub-contracted by union busting firm J.R. Gettier and Associates. On Longshore and Shipping News, a youtube is presented titled ILWU workers reach deal with U.S. company; Japanese company locks ‘em out.
In this, two ILWU workers talk about their situation as if American companies are good, and United Grain, run by a Japanese company named Mitsui, is bad. One of the workers stated, “We’re American workers, trying to get American jobs.” This presents itself as a practical problem for the Marxist left. One of the basic tasks of the revolutionary left is to push for a (working) class against (capitalist) class political perspective, armed with an internationalist view of linking with workers abroad. The West coast longshore is geopolitically and internally racially divided. Los Angeles ILWU Local 13 is largely Chicano, Oakland/SF Local 10 is majority Black, Portland, Seattle and the Northwest are majority White, with the latter having a long history of racism. Beyond the internally divided locals, there is no clear links with Asian Longshore. This international link would be key in isolating Mitsui and the PNGHA. Between ILWU on the West coast and Asian longshore workers, the volume of commodity trade is integral to global capitalism. Domestically, there is a one sided class war, by the capitalist, towards the working class, partly through the crushing of unions.
This video, entitled Wealth Inequality in America, demonstrates the extreme character of inequality of wealth in the US:
The video demonstrates the attacks on ILWU local 4 are getting channeled towards Japanese capital. This modern day xenophobia, which paints a foreigner as the enemy, is poison to the working class. This displaces the class antagonism onto a foreign other, instead of focusing on the common class enemy.
This PNGHA, United Grain capitalist offensive is based on the Longview, Washington ILWU local 21 contract signed in February 2012. This contract is the worst contract in ILWU history. In summary the contract attacks all forms of rank and file power. Below are six central points of the Longview contract.
1) Section Article II 5.05- the union losing the control of hiring hall
2) Article IX 9.01- No strikes or work stoppages of any sort
3) Article IX 9.02- Delegitimizing the variety of picket lines and conservatively narrowing the definition of acceptable picket lines
4) Article IX- 9.03- Requiring the union to behave as agent of workplace discipline to reinforce the capitalist valorization process
5) Article IX- 9.04- Framing the union and the company as a team that needs to unite in a world of competition.
Many in the left were proudly arguing that this contract was a victory for the working class. This includes official voices of Occupy Oakland, coupled with multiple “socialist” groups. The capitalist are quite fond of the contract as well. Pat McCormick, spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association — said, “We’d be happy to sign the agreement the union signed,” referencing the contract between ILWU Local 21 and Kalama Export Co. and Export Grain Terminal (EGT) in Longview. The content of the contract is the radical increase of the intensity of work, and the elimination of the power of the hiring hall, coupled with an array of changes favoring the boss’ power in determining the rules of the workplace. The PNGHA proposed contract, modeling itself off the Longview contract, contains over 750 changes in the contract. It was voted down by 94% of 3,000 Northwest longshore workers; thus, creating a tense stalemate in the Northwest.
The comment below serves as a brief reflection on the debate that has been initiated by the Fire Next Time network. As we have noted before, the role that race plays in marxist revolutionary analysis and organizing is severely limited. Rather than dance around the issue, it is important that we tackle it head on. This analysis takes positive steps in this direction. Scroll down to read the original post by Will. As always, feel free to join in on the debate!
I think the white left thinks it knows it all and does not bring the knowledge to help make leaders in working class communities of color. They keep the knowledge of liberation to themselves and argue their points over the internet . They make what they’re doing the center of everything and try to click up against you if you challenge them. So they have an informal hierarchy set up in their organizations . They pretend that their system is egalitarian in the discussion of revolution. All I see is a white male or female point of views posted online and at meetings! Example: Occupy Wall Street broke in two because the blacks and people of color (POC) felt their voices or their problems weren’t being addressed. It shows the lack of understanding by the left in how to deal with the problems plaguing POC communities. Even though I think some things in the Occupy movement were effective, like trying to cross links with the working class port workers and pointing out the social problems in society, they could not bridge with communities of color. Occupy Oakland is in one of the biggest POC communities in the USA, and they couldn’t build a base in these communities. I think to some of these fools it’s a video game because they have a choice to which side they can line up on.
Even though these problems exist in the white left, there are people playing positive roles trying to change the culture left behind by the old left. They recognize the changing racial and gender demographics of the working class. Also just like the white left the people of color have fell short of building a strong base in POC communities because of the past mistakes of the left like patriarchy, racism, state capitalism, and the lack of women and people of color in leadership roles or just being out of touch with the working class. I hope the new left learns from past mistakes so it can grow into a fighting force for liberation.
Part 2 of Developing Militants: the Left’s Minstrel Show and How College Educated Revolutionaries of all Colors Keep the Working Class Shucking and Jiving
The White revolutionary left is largely college educated young people. Whether they work at a cafe, wash dishes, teach in public schools, or drive trains, they share the common experience of a college education. Their experiences in college have profoundly shaped their politics in a variety of ways. Two particular sets of politics are race relations and relationship to revolutionary theory. These White College Educated Revolutionaries (WCER) have never broken from the experiences in college. Worst of all they unknowingly impose their particular college experiences on the revolutionary movement and particularly the working class whites and working class People of Color (POC). Lastly, People of Color College Educated Revolutionaries (POCCER) have played a crucial role in working with WCER in unknowingly preventing any working class leadership from developing.
This has resulted in a devastating consequence for potential POC working class revolutionaries. They are denied the very intellectual benefits which WCER have received. While WCER have all the best intentions, this is objectively white supremacy in motion. This results in the control of most organizations by WCER. The POCCER in particular are rarely in genuine leadership because of this dynamic and their own contradictory relationship to education and revolutionary theory. This results in a minstrel show where authenticity is defined by lack of knowledge of the past and the romanticization of someone’s experience. Fundamentally it says that theory, writing, and education is not for POC. White college educated revolutionaries control the movement and usually forefront only their experiences and expect POC and white working class people to conform to them.
I will expand on these points in this essay. This is one of the many crises of the revolutionary left today. Sadly, much of what I describe is done under the best of intentions. While it might sound like it at times, I do not believe there is a coordinated and evil plot to keep down working class people in the revolutionary left. I do not believe any of these WCER are white supremacists. They are serious revolutionaries. But they are revolutionaries who are the product of the general historical moment and their particular life experiences. Regardless of what they say and think, I am most interested in the objective results and process of their actions.
Will offers a serious response challenging the political framework of the debate regarding unions. Will’s piece argues that earlier discussions ignore how we are still trapped by the legacy of 1968 and do not explain the relationship that unions have with the state, coupled with ignoring larger philosophical issues concerning communism. These points have validity. Earlier arguments do not deal with such issues. That has to be done. What we have argued is that unions should be defended against capitalist attacks, and a classwide offensive should be pushed for.
are we trapped in 1917 or 1968? if so, what do we do about This basic position, one of general principle does not deal with specificities of situations, nor larger questions of how to create a marxism for the present. Such union documents did not answer the difficult challenges revolutionaries face in total terms, or engage in the question of communist philosophy, the question of 1968 and the role of the state. This is necessary to form a fully developed revolutionary model. But simply arguing that this has not been done does not help us get there.
Will argues that, “[the] lesson learned from Marx was that not only was he not transfixed on one moment or time but was able to see the developments of capitalism into the future. Lenin was able to do this as well and was able to strategically act on those developments in a way Marx could not.” Yes, this is true. It represents the revolutionary historical agency of marxism. To develop revolutionary marxism today includes theoretical engagement that challenges the limits of marxist theory, as well as taking political positions in the public sphere as an essential practical principle in order to give working class organizing a political direction against the state and capital.
The union question challenges the merits of both the “on the ground practice,” as well as the theoretical and philosophical system grounding for the marxism that created such a position. Or in the other words the question of unions is controversial as it begins to challenge the larger system of politics used to employ its analysis.
Communist philosophy matures when it engages political events; where class and political conflicts take place. These events make public positions necessary by self-identified revolutionaries. To be a revolutionary, one needs to be able to put forward clear public political positions in order to form revolutionary poles of attraction. Once a set of positions and principles have been established, then an organizational form, shaped around the agreement of its political content can attract and form militants that continue to organize deeper into the working class. Many of the philosophers mentioned, have only engaged in interpretation without defining a mode of struggle against the historically specific mode of control, and or character of its structure.
Our revolutionary marxism will be able to change the world by being clear of what political principles are unconditional to generate real political agreement amongst a broad body of left-wing militants, which will form the material force behind a serious mode of struggle. The process of advancing this project develops marxist theory, through the application of an analysis that can help guide a path of struggle. This hopefully partially answers Will’s final question, “What is the communist basis for these discussions?”
We’d like to hear other’s positions on Will’s serious questions, so please feel free to join in the discussion.
We need a moving theory that projects into the future.
As I have been reflecting on the debates over the trade union question, broader questions/ problems also seem to be connected. Below are some brief notes on what those other questions are.
1. The class faces a profound crisis and so does marxism. That warrants deeper investigations. The mainstream currents of 20th century communism have been a bloodbath (against peasants and workers), filled with playing not the vanguard role in fighting for communism, but actually developing capitalism. We are not immune to either of these problems. These stand as shocking counterpoints to probably all the expectations communists had in the beginning of the 20th century.
2. The Hegelian rupture: Hegel and Marxism were tied together for much of the 19th and 20th century. But 1968 stands as a potentially game changing event where Hegel is challenged on multiple fronts: Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Le Febevre, and potentially many others created a new paradigm which has to be taken into account. I used to take fairly uncritically works by David Harvey, Perry Anderson, Aijaz Ahmed, and Alex Callinicos which attacked the development of post-modernism and post-structuralism. I believe I could have been widely off the mark. Very unclear, but I believe to be crucial.
More importantly a return to philosophy is paramount. No discussion of that sort has occurred on AS. Philosophy is intricately tied to methodology. No discussion of method can occur without philosophy.
3. A new generation of militants ranging from the Johnson-Forest Tendency, to Walter Rodney-Frantz Fanon, to the Situationists tried to tackle the problems of 1968. That was the last highpoint achieved. Their strengths and weakness have to be rooted back into the cycles of struggle and the development of capital.
Forging a synthetic analysis of the 20th century cannot be trapped in Marx, Lenin, Luxemburg or any single moment or thinker. That will be the death of communism. We need a moving theory that projects into the future.
What are the antagonistic and complementary threads which connects Marx to Negri today and everyone in between.
Many people reading the blog have only the read the first position paper on unions and not the second. We are releasing the second to make clear there are two position papers being discussed in Advance the Struggle. We wanted to share both so people can see the discussion going on. Please feel free to comment, and or critique both pieces.
Revolutionaries, Unions and emerging Class Struggle.
“Trade Unions work well as centres of resistance against the encroachment of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerrilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class, that is to say, the ultimate abolition of the wages system.” -Marx
So few revolutionaries are implanted in the landscape of over 14 million US union members, making a key task the formation of revolutionary cells amongst the rank and file of unions, which would engage in three types of political work; 1) day to day organizing and base building amongst the rank and file of that union, 2) form new working class organizations outside of the unions (like solidarity unionism or independent committees) and, 3) in rupturing moments of capitalist attack, like the “Wisconsin moment,” to lead classwide offensives against capital.
(Editor’s Note: The 2nd piece in this post has been updated on a separate blog post. The original piece was a late draft.)
The Advance the Struggle Collective is currently engaged in high level discussion around the central political question of the unions and how revolutionaries interpret its history, its present, and how communist intervention can help develop a much-needed revitalized labor movement. The experience of the Chicago teacher’s strike, the battle in the Northwest over the fate of the ILWU, and the mass uprising of public sector workers in Wisconsin stresses both the need to defend unions from bourgeois offensives and the limitations of rank-and-file activity within actually-existing unions; on the other hand, the struggles of Wal-mart, Mi Pueblo, Hot & Crusty, and fast food workers reveals a strong rank-and-file desire for the unionization that might provide some dignity, security, and a greater platform from which to organize and increase rank-and-file confidence against the bosses. What’s the analysis and what’s the program?
In light of this, we are providing two separate pieces on unions written by AS comrades. We don’t pretend to have a uniform line on this important question yet, but we believe that by public, transparent debates we can create a healthy culture of revolutionary debate and dialogue, embracing differences while striving for higher levels of principled unity through our practice in the school of class struggle.
Our comrade Gerald Smith will be presenting tomorrow, Friday September 7th, 7pm @ La Pena (event sponsored by 2nd Generation La Pena). He’ll join Zach Levenson in presenting on the current situation in South Africa (see Zach’s piece which was posted a few days ago) and the history of resistance to apartheid and post-apartheid oppression & exploitation. Here are Gerald’s presentation notes for your study/discussion.
Apartheid—a system of legislated racial oppression which literally means apartness—grew out of the requirements of British mining interests at the end of the 19th century. After grabbing the land of the indigenous African population (thereby destroying the basis of their agrtcultural and pastoral, pre-capitalist economy) the colonialists consigned them to the role of migrant laborers hired only for short-term contracts and forbidden to settle in the vicinity of their jobs.
This poses a profound contradiction for the South African ruling class. Historically they (and their international investors) have paid only a fraction of the labor costs of their competitors. Their rate of return on invested capital has been proportionally higher—even after deducting the military and administrative costs of running a police state. This differential represents the ‘‘secret’’ of the vitality and dynamism of South African capitalism. The rulers of this bestial system, who have profited from it for generations, are determined to retain their competitive advantage and are adamantly opposed to granting real equality to the black population. But they are deeply divided over how to best protect their privileged position.
A key strategic question black workers in South Africa confront in their struggle for power is the ‘‘white question.’’ In North America ‘‘white supremacy’’ is primarily a form of false consciousness with which the master class deludes white workers into imagining that the racist oppression of blacks is somehow in their interests. In South Africa however, the white population as a whole has substantially benefitted from over a century of white supremacy in a direct material fashion. Whites are the object of considerable generalized hatred by the oppressed black masses. Nonetheless a revolutionary leadership of black workers would seek to ensure that the social polarization which must accompany the struggle for power occurs as much as possible along class lines—not racial or national ones. This is why communists have raised the slogan: Not black against white, but class against class.
The spirit of the 11-day 1984 San Francisco longshore boycott against South African cargo (in solidarity with the struggles of black workers and youth in Botha’s racist hell-hole) was continued on March 10, when twenty-five longshoremen refused to cross a militant picket line set up at Pier 80 in San Francisco. The Campaign Against Apartheid (CAA), a Berkeley-based student group, called for this blockade to prevent the unloading of the Nedlloyd Kembla’s South African cargo. The CAA timed the action at Pier 80 to coincide with a week of international labor protest against apartheid called by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).
The development of powerful trade unions rooted in South Africa’s black proletariat is one of the brightest chapters in the recent history of the international working class. Nowhere on earth have workers struggled against more desperate conditions or faced a more powerful, intransigent opponent. In the face of a fiercely racist state, armed to the teeth and supported by the overwhelming bulk of the privileged white population, black workers in the apartheid hell-hole have organized themselves into one of the most powerful trade-union movements in history and wrested a series of concessions from the white rulers. Their struggle has inspired workers and the oppressed around the world.
20 years ago today, there was a nation-wide rebellion against the police and private ownership of property. The incident that sparked this rebellion was the innocent verdict given to the Los Angeles Police Department pigs who beat Rodney King nearly to death while being videotaped by the relatively new technology of handheld videotape recorders.
In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Riots which began on April 29, we want to note some of the great music that came out of this rebellion. It has been said that if one is to learn about a peoples, one should look at their poetry and their songs. Advance the Struggle finds this true and believes that culture and art are going to be fundamental to a proletarian led Socialist revolution in the US. If we look around today (2012) and see the relentless police terror on Black and Brown people, coupled with the capitalist economic depression which is far worse than that of 1992, and we see all the positive organized resistance to it, we might start to believe that we are on the cusp of a pre-revolutionary situation. Looking back to ’92, things felt more like they were on the verge of a civil war – and one of the best ways to get a feel for that is through the powerful music that the riots produced.
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