Category Archives: Practical Skills

Union Debate: Mara Responds to Jocelyn and James

Below is a piece by Mara, a member of Advance the Struggle, in response to Jocelyn Cohn, of Unity and Struggle, and James Frey’s piece, Our Friends with Benefits: On the Union Question.”  This is another very serious contribution to the ongoing debate that has unfolded on this blog.  Considering the critical struggles currently occurring, we’d like to further encourage other groupings and individuals to put forward clear positions on how revolutionaries should relate to the unions in this historical moment.  Let’s continue this principled and thought provoking debate!

Mara

What I appreciate about this piece is it’s aim of historicizing the situation of unions today as being incarcerated within the logic of capital accumulation (keeping a set of workers working for capitalists; keeping workers divided against one another in competition over wages and benefits to the benefit of the capitalists) and state hegemony (restricting worker agency through bourgeois law, keeping workers organized in a legalistic and hierarchical manner that negates changes possible local by local).

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

However, I’ve read analysis like this before. There’s a whole reading list on Libcom that also features excellent analysis of such historical incorporations of unions under the wings of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois state. You can find that reader here.

What’s lacking in this piece is a serious engagement with the following question: Do we think that healthcare, education and transportation are important industries for revolutionaries to engage in? If so (and by no means do I think that there is agreement by the authors on this point), then how do we propose to organize alongside these workers (or as these workers for those of us who work in these industries) without interventions in the union? Our debate is back to square one, and revolutionaries from Latin America who we’ve talked to about these debates will continue to have puzzled faces and ask, “is this really what you all are debating? it seems very low-level”

The original positing of the question: how should revolutionaries relate to unions? was not stating, “Unionized workers are the most revolutionary.” Rather, as I understand it, it was saying – once you’re in a union, or once you have contact with unionized workers, what is to be done? This is the question that still needs to be answered, in my opinion, both by looking at the history of revolutionaries attempting to do so and by investigating current efforts to intervene within unionized workplaces.

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Classroom Struggle Flier: Not One Cut!

OUSD Cuts Flier

Click on image to see full English version.

Click here for Spanish version.

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

Revolutionary Organization Study Group Reader

“The building of a fighting organization and the conduct of political agitation are essential under any “drab peaceful” circumstances, in any period, no matter how marked by a “declining revolutionary spirit”; moreover, it is precisely in such periods and under such circumsstances that work of this kind is precisely in such periods and under such circumstances that work of this kind is particularly necessary, since it is too late to form the organization in times of explosion and outbursts; the party must be in a state of readiness to launch activity in moment’s notice.”

-Lenin (Where to begin, 1901)

Lenin’s quote is particularly meaningful in this historic moment. In 2007, global capitalism entered a structural crisis, while in 2009, students developed insurgent movements within the US. In 2011, the Occupy movement formed in hundreds of cities across the US. In 2013, the political landscape is changing what resistance means and how it is done. The hyper-individualistic and social-democratic political positions that dominated the US left in the 1990-2006 era are gone. A new era of revolt, and radicalization is beginning. The historical experiences of 2007 to the present, coupled with the structural crisis of capital that formed in 2007, has established the most favorable conditions for the building of a new revolutionary organization within the US since the 1960s.

The revolutionary left of the US, is deeply divided, ideologically hyper, detached from both the American working class, and militants in other countries (especially non-European ones). This disallows a clear proposal to emerge of how to build a revolutionary project in the US. The generation of revolutionary cadre of the 1960s have devolved in isolation, and adapting to retirement. This older generation is far more detached to the new generation of militants, compared to the multi-generational lineage of militants in other countries that are politically and organizationally linked.

At the same time, in the US, every city is developing small, loose, informal radical circles. Many are composed of politicized working class youth, alienated from American capitalism, and cynical about a prosperous future. Such radical working class youth are taught and treated to feel like the bottom, “scum”-like material of society. Such people are anything but the “scum” of society, but more the promising movement for a new society, one beyond capitalism.

Capitalism is in a phase of devalorization: where the necessary price of wage-labor is lowered, partly from the attacks by capitalist austerity, partly by an increase of technological efficiency, and partly by state sponsored oppression and incarceration. This process has steadily unfolded since 1973. The political program of unions has been a buffer of this process, representing a left-wing force of the devalorization process. Going to an important college, or getting a prestigious job, is becoming a reality for a much smaller and smaller group of people. In 1970, 20% of the workforce was involved in strikes and labor conflicts of some sort, now that number is reduced to 0.5%. No revolutionary group has been able to define the path to rupture this problem of capitalist control. But the historical moment is forcing the revolutionary left to debate the reality of their situation, due to a demand for a new unfolding revolutionary force to emerge. Capitalisms is decaying. Revolutionaries must ascend.

Instead of finding ways to adapt to this system, functioning through a perspective of opportunism, or divorcing yourself from society, being counter-cultural and isolated, the alternative is forming the beginnings of a revolutionary organization. This begins by one, or a few dedicated revolutionaries, who make the building of revolutionary organizations their top priority in life. Part-timers will not suffice in the genesis of the project, sorry. With that commitment, come skills. The practical and political skills one needs to develop to form a revolutionary organization are many. There are practical skills you need, like be able to write out agitational flyers and distribute them in working class places, in order to advance unfolding social movements or class struggles. There are political skills one must have, such as knowledge of Marxism, a theoretical system to analyze the contradictions of capitalism, the character of the state, and the possibilities of the historical moment. One must have social and organizational skills, such as collecting 20 people’s contacts from a meeting and do follow up emails and phone calls about the objective political tasks from that meeting. One must be able to speak publicly during key junctures, when the possibilities of the left and the advanced sections of the working class can merge into more radical unified acts against capital.

One must strive to organically combine all these skills in order to build a small revolutionary group from scratch. Such a revolutionary cell formed from scratch would be composed of militants, or political organizers dedicated to such a revolutionary project, trained in doing such political work, that can act as a unit. The study of key militants of the past, like Farrol Dobbs, Domitila, Elizabeth Gurly Flynn, Malcolm X, give a concrete understanding of the qualities such people were composed of. The possibility of small groups of militants who can act as unit, represent an ingredient needed for the formation of a much larger, more serious, national revolutionary organization. The American revolutionary left is far from building a national revolutionary organization, but it now confronts a landscape that has offered us some of the most favorable conditions to do so in 40 years. This shift in political conditions requires an intervention by revolutionaries to lay the groundwork for what could become in the next ten years.

Considering such conditions, Advance the Struggle proposes that small groupings around the country read this reader on revolutionary organization. Our comrades in Unity and Struggle put the first edition of this reader together, and members of Advance the Struggle edited it down. This reader is the basic theoretical and political interventions made by the most important Marxist of the twentieth century. Lenin, Luxemburg, Gramsci, Trotsky, and Bordiga stand as giants regarding the development of revolutionary Marxism. What we have today is a splintered revolutionary left that has latched on to crystallized traditions such as Trotskyism, Luxemburgism, Gramscianism, causing harmful splits within this dynamic, unable to unify this larger revolutionary body of thought. Such a body is tied together like ecology spread out through history. Each Marxist figure has challenged the existing totality of Marxism in that period, advancing the understanding of central marxist concepts: the revolutionary organization, the permanent character of accumulation, permanent revolution, revolutionary military strategy, historical materialism, and class struggle within the “advanced capitalist” countries.

The new generations of revolutionaries have a giant task ahead. Considering the famous position in Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, that “each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it,” we can point to a revolutionary beginning. This beginning is tasked with mastering the original categories of Marx’s Marxism, coupled with re-assembling the latter Marxist after Marx, into a unified logic boiled down to a defined method for working class application.  Being able to reassemble such a body of Marxist thought for our historical moment, will give us the framework to apply the Marxist method to advance struggle into revolutionary motion. This political activity and perspective is what is needed to rebuild massive revolutionary organizations that we once witnessed from 1864 to the 1930s. In that spirit, we offer a basic reader on some of the most important work that tried to accomplish such a goal. We would also appreciate any thoughts people have on the reader and what affects it had on them and their promising group.

Click on the image below to read!

ASRevOrgReaderCover

Longshore Workers in Struggle Against Maritime Capitalist


This flyer is an agitational tool for Longshore workers across the country. Longshore workers have a strategic position in challenging capitalism, both nationally and internationally. Since the Longview contract that was signed in February 2012, maritime capitalist have been viciously attacking both ILWU and ILA, the unions of Longshore workers. Feel free to distribute.

asportflier

 

 

First they came for the anarchists…..Grand Jury Defense Info

The US government has lately been stepping up the political repression, especially in the midwest and northwest.  Recently grand jury subpoenas have been sent out to the bay area animal rights and environmental movements.  Revolutionaries in the bay should be prepared, as in this author’s opinion it’s coming here next.  Luckily our comrades in the northwest have been organizing hard, and have provided us with some extremely useful and in-depth information.  For those that were unable to attend the recent information session down here, check out the audio from the event.  Just to emphasize: this is likely going to become practical information very soon, and the more people that understand the complexities, the quicker we’re going to be able to respond.

 

Preparation is safety, unity is strength!