Category Archives: News Analysis

Notes on ILWU Local 4 Lockout

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.

Continue reading

Defend and Transform Public Education

As the struggle against austerity at City College of San Francisco heats up, this reflection by an Advance the Struggle militant attempts to spark a discussion on how revolutionaries relate to and broaden the horizons of anti-austerity struggles. It is not enough for us, as we build for resistance to budget cuts, to call for the mere “defense” of public education systems under a crisis-ridden and decadent class society; it is crucial we discuss how a conscious and organized worker/student/community movement can make concrete gains within the institution to begin transforming it into a base of ongoing struggle. Towards this end we put this out there. 

Defend and Transform Public Education

The ACCJC, the accreditation commission pushing for a deep austerity program at City College of San Francisco, placed March 14th as the deadline for the college to “show cause”, i.e. prove why it should not be closed down. If the CCSF officials give in to the Commission’s blackmailing, the budget cuts would be implemented the Fall 2013 semester.

As of now, the forces resisting remain too small to defend the school, much less to mount an offensive and make gains. A large part of CCSF’s constituency is unaware that their school, along with their economic and social aspirations, are dangerously close to being destroyed and gutted by the ruling classes needs for higher profitability. For those who are aware, the prevailing understanding is that the City College system is inefficient, outdated, and bureaucratic, thereby implicitly supporting the ACCJC’s demands for an end to such “nuisances” such as the democratic control professors exercise in electing their chairs, Ethnic Studies courses, faculty salaries, and the (at most) semblance of “shared governance” between faculty/staff, students, and administrators. The Commission seeks to narrow the Mission Statement, increase the amount of administrators, and place extra resources into a reserve pool. The implications are that by investing less in the reproduction of students’ labor-power (many of whom already sell their existing labor-power at low rates in order to get through school), the rate of profit for the capitalist class might be higher; the end to any pretense of “shared governance” aims to destroy any future resistance to these measures. The Commission (ACCJC) is, like the CIA, in the business of fomenting bogus “crises” in public institutions that then justifies their authoritarian control and implementation of steep austerity plans.

The latest event was last Thursday, February 28th. Several hundred people lined up along the campus in support of the teacher’s struggle against wage cuts and lay-offs. Around the same time, the Board of Trustees held an open meeting at a nearby building, which several of us attended. At first, the Board aimed to keep public comment until the very end of their meeting, which was to last several hours and therefore make it impractical for most students and community members to speak out. After heckling from the crowd demanded public comment to be moved to the top of the agenda, folks lined up and spoke out against the Board’s plan to to acquiesce to the ACCJC’s demands. Some begged the Board for mercy while others addressed the crowd and called out the Board as the sell outs and agents of austerity that they are. The most radical speeches made it clear that an alternative existed to the budget cuts and that it’d take a serious and militant confrontation with the system to make it into a reality.

67026_535686303139008_422217619_n

A massive amount of outreach needs to be done to win over a lot more people to the struggle. Teach-ins are being organized around the different campuses throughout these next two weeks. Our analysis needs to situate this struggle in the context of a global capitalist onslaught on proletarian living conditions and political organization, coupled with the many inspiring and insightful examples of resistance to this process, such as the student strike in Puerto Rico, Chile, Quebec, Bay Area 2009/10 and 1968, etc. Basically, we need a class war analysis that can polarize students, teachers, workers, and community members around common interests in both fighting this round of austerity, and turning the attack against us into an attack against the racist, sexist, capitalist system. If the small but emerging movement continues along the lines of pandering to the Board of Trustees or City Hall under the illusion that we are on the side same, we will not be able to harness the direct and militant political activity that emerges when people understand the actual causes of the problem and who their real friends and enemies are.

Continue reading

Testing, Schools and Class(room) Struggle

The American Government puts legal requirements on educational “standards,” that focused on developing high test scores through the k-12 systems. The standards and testing is to train students to become disciplined obedient workers, loaded with racist, sexist and xenophobic content. A movement has started in Seattle, Washington challenging such tests. We welcome Mamos206 new piece, In the wake of the testing boycott: a 10-point proposal for teacher self-organization that seeks to offer a programmatic perspective of struggle for teachers across the country. This movement, and proposal, links the content of the classroom with class struggle outside of the classroom. Mamos206 argues, “without  a sense of collective labor struggle, multi-cultural educators will only be able to go so far in implementing an anti-racist curriculum; we will start to compromise with the white supremacist system in order to keep our jobs unless we know that our coworkers are prepared to strike over it.”  This central point is laying the groundwork for a political strike, differing from most economic trade-union strikes.

130206_map_protest_FS

This proposal offers key positions that are key in developing class struggle in education. One is a clear position against union busting. Two is recognizing that the Seattle Educator’s Association voted to support the boycott in a resolution but not much real practical support.  What stands in the way in broadening this struggle is a set of reactionary laws that hold unions back. As a proposal Mamos206 is proposing to form committees that are independent of the union and anti-union groups. Such committees “can choose to defend the union when it’s under attack from the right wing; for example” but also “we should not wait for the union to defend us, our students, or their families.” Continuing this piece argues that the “committees should work in coalition with union reform caucuses like Social Equality Educators to accomplish specific tasks together.  However, they should maintain their autonomy and should not get sucked into efforts to run for union office.” Mamos206 brings us back to what such class struggle politics means in the classroom, “Instead of simply fighting for our own narrow interests, teachers should realize that our own freedom, creativity, and well-being is linked with everyone else’s, and our best option is to join these movements, making our classrooms and schools hot beds of creative struggle.” As thousands and thousands of social justice minded young college educated people become teachers, the reality of the schools set in real quick. public school teaching, especially in working class violent environment isn’t a walk in the park. Many teachers become burnout after a few years and either become cog in the educational wheel, or leave the industry.

We welcome Mamos206 proposal as an important step forward for the organization and politicization of teachers across the US. This is a solid first step of combining a social justice perspective in the classroom with a class struggle perspective outside of the classroom.

In the wake of the testing boycott: a 10-point proposal for teacher self-organization

28FEB

The teacher, student, and family boycott of the MAP test  in Seattle is an inspiring event that has the potential to generate a new wave of organizing in and around public schools.  The boycott signals the possibility of a movement for creativity, not control and learning for life, not labor.

However, for these possibilities to come to fruition, teachers need to organize ourselves so that we can continue to take bold direct action.  We need to unite with students, their families, and the rest of the working class to create more actions like this one.  If we simply return to the same old activist patterns of proposing resolutions at union meetings or lobbying politicians then we will miss the historic possibilities this moment opens.  In that spirit, here are a few proposals for how we can move forward.

Continue reading

Unions, Ecology and the Contradictions of Our Time

There is a contradiction between workers’ immediate self interest and the broader and more long term interests of other parts of humanity and nature. Forced to sell our labor power to survive, we are deprived of any real ability to control the economy. We love under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Given nothing but lemons, the proletariat – even relatively well-paid parts of it – can only hope to make lemonade. This unfortunate fact leads to many complications in what, to the average radical, seems should be a simple formula of class struggle: class against class.

In fact, both major classes in the USA host struggles within themselves that sometimes make it seem like sections of the enemy class are more friendly to the interests of the proletariat than other proletarians are! For example, Ford hired black workers at a time when black migrants from the South sought economic opportunity and social freedom in the North, only to find that white workers did not welcome them in their jobs. To the black worker, Ford may have appeared more friendly than the white worker. WWII led to a great expansion of industry and unprecedented demand for labor, thus convincing millions of US workers of all colors that the war was a good cause. Meanwhile, US workers in uniform were conquering the globe for imperialism, just as their prior generation had in WWI. In the aftermath of one particularly militant strike, one famous robber baron once boasted that he could hire one half of the working the class to kill the other half (referring to professional strikebreakers). And of course let us not forget that, as Maria della Costa oted, there has never really been a truly “general” strike because even if all the men stopped working, the women still had to cook and clean the home.

APM-Terminals-Apapa-Named-Best-Terminal-Operator-of-the-Year-in-Nigeria

It is a normal function of the capitalist division of labor to combine the proletariat as a class facing the same condition of propertylessness in an uneven manner, causing a tendency for workers to fight one section at a time. The uneven character of the class struggle, allows for victories to be gained in isolation from other sectors, and this way perpetuating the selfish interests at the cost of those sections of the class who stand idle.

Today, many parts of the industrial proletariat have been convinced that growing the economy is in their self interest, and therefore support harmful development projects. This makes it hard for radicals, with our all-around consciousness gained primarily through university education in the social sciences and liberal arts, to identify with workers as workers. After all, worker consciousness tends to focus on wages which are one part of capital. We hate this part of ourselves, of our class, that is dependent upon and under the dictate of the bosses.

There are two clear contemporary examples of blue collar workers supporting the bosses’ vision of the world, plan for development and growing the economy. In these we see the union leadership endorse capitalist projects, presumably with the overriding support from the rank and file.

Continue reading

ILWU Local 4, How Do We Defend?

Written by an Oakland teacher and member of Oakland Educators Association. This an introduction to a flyer calling for a rally of ILWU local 4 workers in Vancouver, Washington taking place March 8th. 
ilwu

In this flyer, the “defense of the union” really means “help the union reach a collective bargaining agreement with the bosses.”  I think that a collective bargaining agreement is better than none.  I’m not convinced that not having a legal recognition of a union and a legal agreement helps workers break from legalism in some type of automatic way.

Certainly in my union, the OEA, being under state-imposition has not lead to any type of worker agency being expressed in radical ways.  Quite to the contrary, it’s lead to further demobilization and increased incorporation of the union structure into a company union institution that simply rubber stamps the dictats of the administration of the OUSD.  Again, in my situation a legally binding agreement between the union (leadership + workers) and the state that actually contained demands around working conditions, class size, etc would create (and be created by) conditions where teacher workers are taking direct action, pushing the boundaries of the union structure by directly working with parents, students, and non-unionized workers to discuss working conditions of all school workers and school community.  This is what should be built.

I have a feeling that to really reach a collective bargaining agreement, the ILWU would need to be organizing all sectors of the waterfront to be in collective discussion and strategizing about conditions at the ports and about how their interests intersect against those of the bosses.  Key in this is discussing how their interests have not intersected.

In keeping with this thought experiment, if the ILWU reached an agreement, what would be next?   Chest beating about how “American” workers kept their jobs, and reproduction of divisions among all port workers?  Simply defending the union (aka, reaching collective bargaining agreement with the bosses) does not answer these questions.  Any type of “defense” that we consider and potentially engage in must begin by addressing BOTH the capitalist attacks and the internal contradictions of the waterfront proletariat.

Union Debate: Unions a Lost Cause for Revolutionaries

Our Friends with Benefits: On the Union Question” — is a position paper on unions written by Jocelyn Cohn and James Frey of Unity and Struggle. Advance the Struggle is pleased to repost this document. It argues the state has subsumed the role of unions, making revolutionary interventions  for their transformation a dead-end. This position calls into question the revolutionary potential of the existing structure of unions; not the question of union leadership as what the Internationalist Group argued. Consider the following quotes from their piece, “It is the very limits of the trade unions to begin with, their structural incapacity to perform any function other than capitalist protectionism of certain workers, which has led to their destruction in the face of a rapidly changing social relations of production.” This means that revolutionaries have a different set of work ahead, one of  “seizing on contradictions and expanding them to a level where control of political power can be grasped by the working class.” Continuing with the role of revolutionaries, “The call to expand unions is similarly a faulty argument. Revolutionaries struggling for the benefits of unionized workers, and to preserve industries and workplaces that are unionized, will find themselves necessarily in competition with the rest of the class.”

Many argue this is the new reality of our situation after the 70s and 80s capitalist restructuring. This document goes a bit further stating that, “Throughout their history, unions have existed as companies in and of themselves, with investment interests, employees, and a necessity to produce value through the exploitation of their own workers.” They conclude the need for political work to be completely outside the union form, including not engaging in the defense of unions against capitalist attacks, “There are many who argue that the best way to organize in a unionized shop is to defend the union, and work to change its structure, or that working independently of the union and within the union are not contradictory. But given our above findings, it is clear that any threat to the hierarchical, alienating, and bureaucratic structure of unions is a threat to unions as a whole, whether it is from the ‘right’ or the ‘left’.”

This thought provoking argument is not entirely new and we can link such a framework with the KAPD of Germany in the 1920s, who split from the Comintern over several questions including the union one. What is fresh about such an argument is the focus on class composition, and the development of the state structuring of unions. On the one hand, we cannot dismiss this argument and must engage its central points. On the other, we must test such a framework in real world politics. Taking this framework to the Longshore, Washington ILWU struggle, the Wisconsin upheaval, or the Chicago teachers’ strike, how do revolutionaries in such situations seize — “on contradictions and expand them to a level where control of political power can be grasped by the working class”? Answering this question contributes to resolving this debate. With that said, we would like to introduce this essay as one of the great contributions to the union discussion.

Our Friends With Benefits: On The Union Question

Introduction

As communist workplace organizers serious about praxis, the authors find ourselves debating the strategic importance and political composition of trade unions in the United States. We find what could be called “the union question” to be in fact a number of questions surrounding the composition of capital in general, capital in its in its present incarnation, as well as the composition of trade unions and their relationship to capital and the state. Most immediate to our investigation is the question of how this arrangement can be interpreted by revolutionaries, in the workplace and outside of it. After engaging these questions it is our finding that working explicitly within the existing trade union structure to defend, change, or strengthen them is not a compliment to working toward consolidating class-wide organizations capable of effective revolutionary struggle, but rather that these two objectives stand in irreducible antagonism.

graphsurplus

I. The Historical Context

The use of rebellion, for the purpose of developing capital with ‘renewed energy and vitality’ is not new and not confined to women.  For capitalism to co-opt every aspect of struggle, to renew itself with our energy and our vitality, and with the active help of a minority of the exploited, is central to its nature.

Selma James, “Women, the Unions, and Work” 1972

We understand that this debate is re-emerging from the relative torpor it has enjoyed since the 1970s due to the ongoing transformation of the processes of production and reproduction in the United States. This shift is alternatively referred to as “neoliberalism” and “austerity”, but these terms are emblematic of a deep-seated shift in the relations of production, the novelty of which is done no justice by comfortable buzzwords which claim its content as already definable.

Historically speaking, we find the roots of the transformation which comprises our present epoch in the 1950s and 1960s. In this period the state took on the role of regulating the value of labor power through public welfare and unemployment programs which kept unemployed people from uniting with the rest of the working class and allowed for a flexible workforce that could work seasonally and in many jobs, as well as through certain wage and benefit protections provided through Collective Bargaining Agreements and shifts in labor law, which simultaneously coerced workers into de-skilled, repetitive, and unrewarding factory jobs,  and kept a caste of workers slightly above another while styming at least some labor unrest. Most importantly, it kept worker activity contained by union bosses at least as much as by company bosses.

Continue reading

On Race and Revolution: An Ongoing Discussion

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

Introduction

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)[1].  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.

emory-douglas-08This 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.

Continue reading

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.

Classroom Struggle with their latest Newsletter!

The TEACH Committee (formerly Occupy Oakland Education Committee) has been in existence since Nov. 2011. From their inception they have led marches for public education, created & circulated curriculum with class struggle content, built resistance to rampant union busting by Oakland Unified School District, and led an occupation of a shuttered elementary school from which they ran a free People’s School summer program.  This committee, composed of unionized and non-unionized educators, organize independently from hierarchical institutions (namely unions) while also intervening within unions to advance the struggle for quality public education.
They offer their 4th and latest Newsletter which is now called Classroom Struggle. This publication is comprised of articles on: the decision behind the name change, the effect recent elections had on public education in Oakland, the importance of contracts for education workers, analysis of teacher strikes in Sri Lanka and Namibia, and an after-school worker experiential piece. All these articles appear on this committee’s blog —  classroomstruggle.org (formerly education4the99).  Issues 1-3 are also archived as well education struggle articles from around the web. Thanks and ALL POWER to the PROLETARIAT!
Please Print and Distribute!

From Mexico City comrades: Free All Political Prisoners!

By now, you’ve probably seen some of the pictures and videos posted showing the resistance of Mexican rebels against the imposition of the PRI’s presidential candidate Peña Nieto.  263680_379192225506067_17136490_n

We’ve done a quick and rough translation of a statement put out by the Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (LTS), a Trotskyist group in Mexico who do quality militant work intervening in social movements and participating in workers and student struggles.

(See their red flag youth contingent 45 seconds into this youtube clip)

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X70aizK87Ww%5D

We’ve posted work that they’ve engaged in before, specifically their work in the struggle against gender oppression through the organization Pan y Rosas.  We send out solidarity to all comrades struggling on the frontlines against the Mexican state and by extension against yankee imperialism!

Click here to see the original in spanish on the LTS website.

Stop the incoming PRI government’s repression, co-signed by the PAN and the PRD

Immediate and Unconditional Release of All Political Prisoners Arrested on December 1st!

Today, thousands of young people, teachers and political and social organizations – such as the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Earth took to the streets to express our repudiation of the inauguration and imposition of PRI presidential candidate Peña Nieto, who comes to the presidency amid a scandal of electoral fraud. Early on, the Federal Police attacked the protesters with rubber bullets, tear gas, water tanks, batons and shields, leaving more than a dozen seriously injured, particularly to comrades Juan Carlos Valdivia and Francisco Quinquedal, who are  hanging between life and death. We denounce the lie that the comrades were hospitalized due to injuries by firecrackers.  The truth is that the wounds were caused by rubber bullets shot at protestors by  the police and are the responsibility of the new incoming government, the fraudulent President and federal police.

After the repression in San Lazaro, protesters were violently suppressed near the Zocalo by Mexico City police who acted alongside undercover military personell, both of whom arbitrarily arrested more than 100 protesters, under the threat of Mexico City’s PRD chief of government, Marcelo Ebrard. They face charges with sentences ranging from 5-30 years.

The violent crackdown by the Presidential, Federal, and Mexico City police, shows that the “national pact” that the arriving parties in Congress:  they are trying to keep “order” over the youth and social movements to implement the miserable plans demanded by the employers and the government of the United States. This is the “democracy for the rich” that the imposition of the new president has promised and delivered.

As the League of Workers for Socialism, we vigorously repudiate the repression and demand the immediate and unconditional release of all detained comrades. In addition we call on working class organizations that claim independence from the political parties, the CNTE independent, EMS and UNT to launch a broad call for unity of human rights organizations, intellectuals, trade unions, political and social movements, indigenous and peasant organizations, in order to implement a major campaign to release the political prisoners and denounce the repression, to free our comrades from the hands of the state, with the cryl of an injury to one is an injury to all! It is essential that these measures prepare the conditions to launch a national strike for the release of the compañeros. At the same time, we hold the Federal and city government responsible for any attack that may occur to our comrades who are already mobilizing to support the political prisoners.

Free all political prisoners!

Stop repression of youth and social fighters!

For a national mobilization against the reactionary agreement of Congressional parties!

135271_498567453498136_1006356063_o

 

The bourgeois media says Egypt is ‘back in business’, but the people say strike!

While the world had its eyes on an inflammatory film made to mock the Prophet Muhammad, The US Chamber of Commerce was brokering a midday Cairo brunch in the Four Seasons between American and Egyptian businessmen.

The US Consulate in Cairo has been the target for many actions before this moment – in response to the Iraq War, in protest of the Mubarak regime’s relationship to the US, etc. This time the trigger might have been the film, but concurrent actions happening across the country prove that Egyptians have a much broader agenda.
Continue reading

Indonesia: First general strike in 50 years

The International Marxist Tendency – a Trotskyist organization – has printed an important article about the general strike that is unfolding in Indonesia. We normally do not repost other marxists groups literature, but we thought it important to highlight the explosive class struggle that is currently taking place throughout the world.  As committed internationalists, it is important that we study the developments of Asian and Pacific Islander class struggle, with the political aspirations to develop direct links with workers and to spread the revolutionary potential that these strikes hold.

The Indonesian economy is the world’s sixteenth largest by nominal GDP. Therefore, we can see the clear implications that this strike can have on the world economy.

These struggles have direct effects on our own political terrain as well.  The ILWU struggle is bound up with trade with Asia. Chinese class struggle could change the whole global political landscape. In the US there is a rising xenophobia against China that we must begin to prepare to challenge with internationalism.

For further coverage see:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2012/10/201210333637274537.html

http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/jakarta/labor-groups-to-hold-mass-protest-in-greater-jakarta/547827

Indonesia: First general strike in 50 years

Written by Ted Sprague Tuesday, 02 October 2012

Tomorrow, October 3, will witness an important event in the history of the labour movement in Indonesia. For the first time in 50 years, Indonesian workers will carry out a national general strike which will involve an estimated 2 million workers in 21 different cities. Three demands serve as the basis of this general strike: increases in the official minimum wage, an end to all outsourcing arrangements, and universal national health care for all.

This general strike is not something that falls from the sky. It is the culmination of the radicalization process in the workers movement for the past one year. Radical actions of hundreds of thousands of workers who have gone on strike and blockaded industrial areas and major highways; the leadership of the workers in the movement against the fuel price increase this March that forced the government to back down; the largest May Day rally with 160,000 workers on the streets, followed by the formation of the MPBI (Council of Indonesians Workers and Labourers) that united 5 million workers; all these form a continuing process that leads to this general strike.

Workers have also started to fight for demands that go beyond the confines of their factories, from workers in Gresik, an industrial area in East Java, who fought for free education for the people to all-Indonesia workers’ actions against a fuel price increase this year. Workers’ struggles have gone beyond “day-to-day demands in the factory” to “day-to-day demands of the wider masses”. This in turn will touch on the questions of politics and power. To win “day-to-day demands in the factory”, it is normally enough for workers to strike in the said factory to press the boss. However, to win “day-to-day demands of the wider masses” (free healthcare, free education, etc.), the struggle has to be brought to a wider political stage. It is here that the question of state power is posed, where economic struggle is linked to political struggle. It is also here that workers find their leadership role in the struggle for the general well-being of the masses.

The Indonesian working class has gone through a number of important phases in the past 50 years, ones which are filled with ebbs and flows, advances and retreats:

1. Period of Glory (late 50s to early 60s)

The labour movement is at its peak in the late 50s and early 60s, with SOBSI as the largest workers’ federation at that moment, claiming a membership of 3 million workers, even more than any federation or confederation today.

2. Defeat (1965)

In 1965 the labour movement suffered its biggest defeat, destroyed physically and ideologically in the hands of the New Order regime.

3. Rebirth (mid 1980s)

The shift in the Indonesian economy from oil-gas exports to manufacturing in the mid-1980s created a new layer of proletariat. This new proletariat, thrown into the factories in their thousands, was one of the forces that shook the Soeharto regime. The number of recorded strikes in the 1990s increased significantly, from 61 in 1990 to 300 in 1994.

4. Reformasi (1998)

The 1998 Reformasi Movement, even if it didn’t bring about a fundamental change, opened the democratic gateway for the workers. Independent trade unions mushroomed in the aftermath of 1998. Meanwhile, SPSI workers, awakened by the Reformasi, also started to shake this New Order trade union. (The SPSI, the state sponsored union and the arm of the regime in the workplaces, was until 1998 the only recognised workers’ organisation.) The stranglehold of the SPSI was weakened and splits took place. In this period, workers were re-learning their long-lost fighting traditions.

This general strike will be the next phase in the history of the Indonesian labour movement, a turning point whereby the working class becomes a real political force that is not only recognized and respected by the wider masses but also feared by the ruling class. Workers with their national strike, for the first time will enter the national political arena. In the eyes of the toiling masses, they will no longer just be “tens or hundreds of workers in factories demanding wage increases”, but they will be seen as the Indonesian working class who fought for the welfare of the whole people of Indonesia. In the period of Reformasi, this position was held by the students who became an extension of the voice of the people. Today workers will start claiming their historical role as the class that leads the struggle of the whole of the oppressed masses.

The complete victory of capital over labour during the Soeharto dictatorial regime made the Indonesian capitalist class somewhat arrogant. For the past 50 years since the destruction of the labour movement, they have never felt seriously threatened by the working class. They even believe themselves that there is no longer any such thing as the working class, that there are no longer classes in society, in other words a “bourgeois classless society” has been attained. This national general strike will wake the capitalists up from their sweet dream and make them learn to fear once more the might of the working class.

One thing that has to be noted by all revolutionaries is the fact that this general strike has been initiated by the MPBI, which can be generally described as a reformist or even yellow trade union. This emphasizes once again the fact that when the workers move they will use whatever organizations they have in their hands, regardless of how reformist or even corrupt their organization or the majority of their leaders are. The bulk of the workers are still in these reformist organizations. It is therefore the task of revolutionaries to orientate to these organizations. Attempts to isolate oneself in red trade unions will only separate the revolutionaries and their ideas from the wider layer of workers.

Statements of support from many red trade unions for this general strike, and even the involvement of some of them, are a correct step. This step has to be deepened and should not stop here. The task of the most advanced workers is to orientate toward workers whose consciousness is lagging behind, no matter where they are. We have to be able to work in any workers’ organizations, from the reddest ones to the reactionary ones if need be. There shouldn’t be obstacle in principle raised against working in reformist workers’ organizations.

This first general strike will not immediately bring about successes. Like a baby who is learning to stand for the first time, it will fall numerous times. But we know that at the end of the day the baby will stand, and then walk, run, and jump. Also when the baby stands up for the first time, the world will look very different to him/her. This general strike will shake the consciousness of a wide layer of workers. They will start seeing beyond their factory gates, that out there are millions of workers whose fate and interests are the same as theirs. They will start seeing themselves as a class for itself. They will start seeing themselves as the class that can – and must – lead the struggle of the whole oppressed people.

The Indonesian working class has begun to stand up and walk upright with confidence. Those who in the past denied the revolutionary potential of the workers are now faced with hard facts. They can no longer close their eyes to the might of the working class. And for those who will still continue to deny the role of the working class after this general strike, we will leave them to the dustbin of history as the workers move forward toward their historical task: the overthrown of capitalism and the building of socialism.

De costa a costa, los trabajadores inmigrantes latinos luchan contra la explotación demandando dignidad

(English version here.)

Ellos nos espiaban e intimidado nosotros, todo porque estamos luchando por la dignidad.

Limber Herrera

-Almacén trabajador

Image

Trabajadores de almacén en un centro de distribución de Walmart marcho 50 millas de Los Angeles

La administración Obama publico estadísticas en enero de 2011, diciendo que hay 11,5 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados en los EE.UU. 59% de este grupo son mexicanos, que es de 6,8 millones de personas. Inmigrantes salvadoreños se encuentran en una posición distante de segundo lugar, con 660.000 indocumentados que residen en este país. En California, hay 2,83 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados, en Texas, casi hay 1,8 millones, 740.000 hay en Florida, y Georgia hay 440.000, doble el populación desde 2000. Dentro de la economía capitalista, algunos trabajadores se encuentran en un posición de trabajo que no es esencial para la formación del valor económico. Otros trabajadores se encuentran en los lugares de trabajo que son fundamentales para la producción de valor económico. Otros trabajadores están en trabajas que son centrales al valor de la producción. si los trabajadores en una librería independiente salen en huelga, amenazan al capitalista. si nos fijamos en la industria de la constuccion sin sindicatos, vinculados con el capital financiero, y dependiente en el trabajo indocumentada. Continue reading

From Coast to Coast, Latino Immigrant Workers Fight Exploitation and Demand Dignity.

(La versión en español está aquí.)

They spied on us and bullied us, all because we are fighting for dignity.

Limber Herrera

-Warehouse worker

Warehouse workers at a Walmart distribution center march 50 miles to LA

The Obama administration issues statistics that in January 2011, there was 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the US. 59 percent of this group is Mexican, which is 6.8 million people. El Salvadoran immigrants are in a distant second position, with 660,000 undocumented residing in this country.In California, there are 2.83 million undocumented immigrants, in Texas, almost 1.8 million, in Florida 740,000, and Georgia 440,000 (doubling in numbers since 2000). Within the capitalist economy, some workers are located in position of work that is not central to the formation of value. Other workers are in workplaces that are central to value production. If workers at an independent bookstore would to go on strike, it would exactly threaten the capitalist. If we look at the non-union housing construction industry, it’s both linked with finance capital as well as dependent on undocumented cheap dispensable labor. A strike in this industry would have serious meaning. The independent truckers at the ports are majority immigrant drivers, mostly with some type of permission to work. US capitalism has adapted itself to immigrant labor because it is cheap and disposable. This labor dependency is linked with industries that are central to important components of capitalist production. In order for American capitalism to squeeze all the unpaid labor it can from the immigrant working class, it must vilify, criminalize, oppress, and control the work process. Xenophobic laws (anti-immigrant laws), racism, nationalism all feed into this process.

Continue reading

The Content of Politics: Social Movements and their Interlocutors in Post-Apartheid South Africa

— Zachary Levenson

Originally appearing in Against the Current 160, Sept/Oct 2012

A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN continued stuffing an old tire with bits of straw, refusing to stop as two younger men pleaded with her not to ignite it. She didn’t seem to take them seriously, presumably because one of them was wearing a Democratic Alliance (DA) shirt, the reigning party in the Western Cape and largely despised by black voters. It was hard to hear the substance of the debate over the chanting of struggle songs and vigorous toyi-toyiing, not to mention the crowd shouting down officers in an SUV marked “Anti-Land Invasion Unit.”(1)

It was only after a well-known leader of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign told her that a fire would provoke arrests that she relinquished the kindling. With the burnt asphalt of Symphony Way easily visible from the previous few days’ protests, it seemed obvious where this was going, but this time no tires were torched; the critics of the tactic won out.

Instead, residents of Blikkiesdorp and Tsunami formed a line and continued dancing, blockading the thoroughfare through Delft South on the eastern periphery of Cape Town just east of the airport.

This was one of hundreds of so-called “service delivery protests” that have occurred over the past decade in South Africa. As the post-apartheid promise of housing for all — a guarantee enshrined in the country’s constitution — proved to be empty rhetoric, residents in shack settlements around the country have begun to demand change.

With grossly inadequate access to potable water and sanitary toilets in major metropolises including Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, not to mention the unlikelihood of legal electricity connections, the number of such protests has grown remarkably over the past few years, combining demands for municipal service provision with disgust over the dysfunctionality of post-apartheid housing delivery.(2)

According to analyses now circulated around the internationalist left, South Africa has the highest per capita number of uprisings of any country, a rapidly intensifying “rebellion of the poor” marking it as the “protest capital of the world.”(3)

But even if a purely quantitative analysis of these gatherings suggests escalating unrest, does their content match the hype? While certainly one can find instances of cumulative organizing and the emergence of sustained challenges to a rapidly degenerating welfare state, can these protests reasonably be described as “rebellions”?

I asked the woman who was prevented from lighting the tire what she was hoping to achieve and why she thought this might be an effective tactic. She told me that all of this — the blockade, the tires, the confrontation with police — was an effort to attract the ward councilor for Delft South.

Trying to Get Attention

Hardly a rebellion in the standard sense then, this was actually an attempt to engage an elected official, as heterodox as it might appear. According to numerous residents with whom I spoke, the councilor had never set foot in Blikkiesdorp despite having been in office for the better part of a decade. All they wanted, I was told, was to get answers.

Lest this be dismissed as an isolated incident, I witnessed similar modes of engagement by peri-urban shack residents across the country. Last November, 700 members of the youth league of Abahlali baseMjondolo, reported to be the country’s largest shack dwellers’ organization, marched on Durban’s City Hall through the pouring rain, and I marched with them. Continue reading