Category Archives: Raw Reflections

Irish Insurrection 1969


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We move from our last post which dealt with capitalist agriculture, specifically, dairy, to the topic of working class insurrection, specifically, Derry. The We Know What’s Up blog bring us a first-hand account of a militant of the Derry uprising in Northern Ireland in 1969.  Can a riot turn into a commune?

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Capital milking its system – poetry from a comrade

When I lived briefly in North Carolina and Wisconsin, I worked as a farm hand and fruit picker in some very prolific farming communities. I worked alongside Amish, immigrants, and high-end industrial farmers and made a point to jot down notes every day from my conversations and observations. A few years later, I came across my old notes, and rearranged them into a longer dairy capitalismstream-of-consciousness specifically about the Dairy-Industrial-Complex; a configuration of all the players involved in dairy production. The poem has no conclusion or clear ending; it is merely a commentary on the deterioration of health and food production for profit. This type of Industrial-Complex shows the absolute necessity for the complete unity of class struggle and ecological struggle.

In the Industrial-Complex, the global domino effect, in a global competition for greater profit, imported milk is condensed, canned, and distributed without charge to the poor countries of Mali, Niger, and Yap. The canned milk, though labeled “Nor forSale” in English, is sold in the local markets.
The amount of canned milk for sale worldwide depends on the economic conditions in North America, Europe and the South Pacific.
It depends on how much milk Nestle, Hershey or Kraft buys for their annual production and on the fluctuating value of the dollar, yen or Euro, which maintains its colonial ties to the CEFA in West Africa.
It depends on the consumption of milk in the rich countries; how hot the summer is and how much ice cream people eat.
It depends on the world’s annual yield of soybeans, one of the major competitors of milk products.
It depends on the consumption of corn for ethanol, for cow feed, for high fructose corn syrup.
It depends on Michelle Obama’s “War on Obesity” and the Department of Health’s concern for any diseases in raw milk.
It depends on the black market of raw dairy products, the costs of middle men, transportation costs and the popularity of whole foods stores.
It depends on the dairy subsidies and foreign aid appropriations made by U.S. congress; the food policies of the United Nations high commissioner for earthquake victims in Haiti and Pakistan; and the mercurial aid programs of religious and other private charitable organizations all over the world.
In the beginning, it started with the small farmer, bought out by a factory farm. The crops are then rotated annually- three years soy beans, one year corn, and again. The sprays; the pesticides.
It started with the land purchase. Forty acres and 30,000 cows, all walking around in their own feces; milking machines; tasers; small, confined spaces.
It started when the soil depletes and the factory farm moves to a different area. When a corporate hustler gives a high five to a politician who sells out their state’s land for a competitive profit.
And in the end, it changes the nature of the landscape, the culture of the towns, the priorities of local governments, monopolization of local economies. We see Walmart, green-washing, and cancer. The soil is sick and it runs off into the water. The people are sick and rush to Walgreens for prescriptions. The plants are sick- tomato and cucumber blight.
It ends with cultural phobias- bacteria is harmful and must be eliminated. Adding chemicals, taking out proteins, homogenization, pasteurization, skim, fat free; a culture of fat phobias.
When we get back to canned milk in Mali, we see advertisement. When Nestle suffers, they tell mothers that breast feeding is unhealthy. So buy our powdered milk products for life longevity, for child’s health!
A suffered profit perpetuates the war on the Global South, the class struggle, the prioritization of profit over decent milk in elementary schools, over growing cancer cells, over fractured communities, and brainwashed understandings of health.

Who you calling an Outside Agitator: Rebellion in Brooklyn

Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?

Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?

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 were arrested 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 terrorize and 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.
6) Develop organic leaders through democratic means from these movements so its moves beyond the “tyranny of structurelessness .”
7) Link with Ghettos and Barrios across NYC and beyond.
 8) Orient towards the unionized working class of color, who are sympathetic to this rebellion. As the majority of ILWU local 10, who is majority Black, was sympathetic to the Oscar Grant rebellion, they shut down the port on October 23rd, 2010.
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.

East Flatbush Rebellion, Not “Outside Agitators”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 
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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.