Category Archives: Uncategorized

Advance the Struggle News Brief

A common practice in our internal meetings is for a comrade to prepare a report on current events and present it in a 10 or 15 minute agenda point. This post was prepared from the report made in our last meeting.

 

Five IWW organizers were fired from Chicago-Lake Liquors in Minneapolis after a large group of workers there delivered a set of demands for higher wages to the bosses. They have held 2 informational pickets and are distributing fliers to customers in an attempt to get their jobs back. On May 4th, 2013, they held a hard picket and turned away ninety per cent of customers despite attempts by security and management to break the picket. There will be another big picket on the 24th of May. This seems to be the best possible way to deal with a situation of salts getting fired, short of a strike of the remaining workers or an occupation of the workplace.

Well-known Russian anti-fascist, Alexey Gaskarov, was arrested April 28th, just days before he was set to lead large protests. He is a member of the Coordination Council of Russian Opposition. The arrest came just days before he was going to be the head of a leftist, anti-fascist, block at protests marking the one year anniversary of the very large demonstrations last year against electoral fraud, which were violently repressed by the police. This is important in light of the large growth of fascist groups in Russia in recent years.

On April 25th, about 3000 anarchists marched in solidarity to Athens Indymedia and 98 FM that have been censored by the Greek State since April 11th. Six of the arrested protestors were charged with offending the Greek national flag by replacing it with the red and black flag of anarchism. The State censorship was carried out under the banner of combating terrorism, when in fact this censorship is simply an attack on independent media that has served as a center for organizing actions against the capitalist agenda in Greece. These protests are important because there have not been many large mobilizations against state censorship of the internet and media such as this one.

Hundreds of thousands of workers went on strike in Bangladesh on April 26th following the collapse of a garment factory there that claimed the lives of 1127 workers, making it the largest industrial disaster since the Bhopal incident. The plant’s workers were evacuated after cracks in the building were discovered, but then managers ordered them back to work the next day. Then the building collapsed with everyone inside. The building was owned by Sohel Rana, leader of the local Jubo League, the youth wing of the ruling Awami League political party. This suggests a close relationship between the bureaucracy of the state and the worst aspects of capitalism in Dhaka. Hundreds of thousands of workers protested and struck following the collapse, forcing factory bosses to declare a day’s holiday. Factories that tried to operate the day following the collapse were attacked by striking workers. Protesters smashed windows and destroyed cars at the headquarters of the main manufacturers’ association, demanding justice. A coalition of 18 parties led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party called for general strikes on May 2nd, following large protests and strikes on International Workers Day. It is problematic that a political party based on religion and nationalism is leading this co-optation of the workers struggle. Communists should support the development of internationalist, Marxist, revolutionary parties in Bangladesh that can lead a struggle for the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the abolition of the wage system. In recent years there has been a rising tide of worker militancy in Bangladesh where groups like the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity have faced brutal repression as they try unionize some of the 3.6 million garment workers employed in Bangladesh’s 5,000 garment factories. Research suggests that their average wages of 38$ US per month are not enough to provide adequate nutrition for even the one worker who receives them, let alone a whole family. Communists over seas should attempt to connect with embryonic workers organizations in Bangladesh to develop unity around an internationalist communist program, and find ways to materially support each other’s struggles.

Workers in England have been hit with a new bedroom tax and a cut in the council tax rebate. The Huddersfield Anarchist League made front page news after they had a protest at the town hall on the 21st of March, demanding answers from Labour party officials about whether the local Labour Council would haul people through the courts and evict people as a result of the policies. The policies mean that people on the dole (welfare) would have to pay 270 pounds sterling more per year, from the council tax rebate cuts alone. The bedroom tax has reduced the housing benefit for people with vacant rooms by an average of 23 $ US per week (1200$/year), driving some people to despair. In April, the Huddersfield group staged a protest in a Barclays bank. The bank manager set off the alarm and police came. Protesters staged an impromptu rally outside and had a positive response from the public, who actively participated in de-arresting two protesters that were targeted by the police during the rally. This shows some resonance in the working class for the program of this anarchist group. These worsening attacks on the working class highlight the need for organization that unites serious revolutionaries around the world to abolish the capitalist dictatorship that forces us to sell our labor as a commodity. The dispossession of workers from the means of subsistence by state protected private property forces us to sell our labor to capitalists in order to afford the necessities of life and alienates us from decisions about production, preventing us from rationally addressing issues such as disease, homelessness, starvation, or anthropogenic climate change.

In South Africa, the new Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is winning over membership in the platinum and coal mining sectors. Senzeni Zokwana, the head of the Communist Party (CP), called the union a group of, “vigilantes and liars”. He also accused the AMCU of business unionism, saying that the AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa owned five companies (the crowd greeted this assertion with shock and disbelief). Basically, the CP and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) feel threatened by the new union and don’t like its critical stance towards the ANC. The CP leader said that the NUM needs to serve its members more effectively to combat the new union. This is likely empty rhetoric, but it could indicate that the AMCU is pushing the NUM and CP to the left in some way. The growing AMCU just took a blow with the murder of the regional organizer of Amcu in the Rustenburg platinum belt who was shot 4 times in the back at a tavern on May 12th. He was just about to testify at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry about the massacre of 44 striking miners by police forces last year.

There will be a wildcat strike in South Africa by the Amplats miners on Monday May 20th by the same miners that struck for 2 months at the end of last year. These latest strikes are a response to the announcement of the layoff (retrenchment) of 14,000 workers made by Amplats in January, which was revised down to 6,000 after outrage from COSATU and the NUM. A leading member of the workers’ committee, Evans Ramokga, explained that the workers had been promised wage increases following their strike at the end of last year, but instead of wage increases they were greeted in January with news of these layoffs.

In Morelia, Mexico, on May 16th, students training to become teachers returned to the State four state police officers that they had held captive for 11 days. This returning of the officers was a precondition for the state to enter into negotiations with the students regarding their demands for the opening up of 1200 new teaching jobs. The students blocked streets on the 29th of April and took control of many buses and vehicles. They took the food and other necessities from the trucks and distributed them to the people. Apparently, the buses are being used by the students to transport themselves to the capital of the State. It seems that the buses were taken by the students from “la escuela normal indígena de Cherán”. Some of the issues that are decried in the pronouncement of the Organización de Normales Oficiales del Estado de Michoacán, which is a leading force to some extent in these protests and actions, are the following: reforms to the curriculum of the normal schools; the elimination of the telebachilleratos (a radio and TV educational program); and the current situation of diminution of matriculation in the universities due to the imposition of a new CENEVAL exam.

In their analysis the educational reforms are actually economic, labor, and political attacks whose only goal is the privatization of education. The curricular reform in the normal schools that the State wants to impose in 2012 completes the cycle of reforms that they have been imposing over the last 9 years.

This rough translation of some of the pronouncement gives an idea of their politics: (We reject the study plans based in competitions with competitive and productivist focuses, because they impede the harmonious development of education, and in their place we pose formative projects of teachers, that surge from the social necessities based in the linking of theory and practice, the discovery and construction of knowledge by way of creating climates of constant critique of inequality, strengthening capacities, abilities, skills and values of the human being needed to live with plenitude, coexistence…)

There were protests of about 10,000 people on the 15th of May against the education reforms that had a contingent of 200 electrical workers (who have been militant in recent years) and other workers joining the protest in solidarity. The protests were in the Zocalo in DF (Mexico City) and went towards the installations of Televisa Chapultepec where dozens of police formed lines against the protesters.

On the same day as the protests, the president had a big celebration of the primary school teachers of Mexico where he met with Juan Díaz de la Torre, president of the teachers union (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, SNTE) and 400 other teachers in attendance. That their union leader would meet with the president as such is a slap in the face to the movement against the educational reforms.

There were also strikes in the education sector in Spain, supported by Juventudes Socialistas de Martos among others, against “(the most conservative education reform that has been given in Europe)”. The reforms want to: segregate schools from a young age based on performance; eliminate Educación para la Ciudadanía which is a political / values education component in high schools that was created by the ‘socialist’ government of Rodriguez Zapatero; permit gender segregation in the classroom; and give greater emphasis to religion in education.

There has been a general strike in Bolivia for 10 days with the miners, teachers, health workers and factory workers at the head, with road blockages across the country. The strike is against the law of Pensions of the government of Evo Morales. The law, La Ley de Pensiones 065, requires workers to pay 97% of their rent, bosses to pay 3% and the government to pay nothing. Workers criticize the law because it would require the workers to be practically the sole financier of their pensions, which would come out to only 70% of the monthly salary they received while working. The law would also maintain 100% of salary pensions for military and police officers, a policy remaining from the Banzer dictatorship. Pensions in Bolivia currently range from 21$ to 29$ per month.  4,000 mine workers from Huanuni were at the head of the protests in the Plaza Murillo. The Church has called for the workers and government to end their ‘intransigence’ and come to some settlement, failing to clearly support the workers’ demands. Socialists from the Liga Obrera Revolucionaria-Cuarta Internacional are calling for the formation of a national strike committee to ensure the democratic participation of all the participating sectors and organizations in deciding how to overcome any obstacles to victory.

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.

All eyes on Vancouver, Washington. The ILWU Struggle Continues.

Below is text to a flier that is being circulated in response to the recent attacks on the ILWU.  Click the image below to see a full PDF version of the flier.  Please feel free to circulate   For our previous coverage on the ongoing ILWU struggle see here and here.  

ilwuvancouveras

Click the image above to get a full PDF version of the flier.

Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association (PNGHA) — a consortium of grain handlers that includes United Grain — locked
out 44 ILWU workers, of local 4 in Vancouver, Washington. This port ships over 5 million metric tons a year with United Grain Corporation being the main employer at this port, and the largest wheat exporter on the US West Coast. On December 21, 2012, 94% of 3,000 ILWU workers in the Northwest voted down a proposed contract by the PNGHA that made over 750 changes, including eliminating the power of the hiring hall. This PNGHA sponsored contract is inspired by the Longview Washington contract passed in February 2012. The Longview Washington contract is the worst contract passed in the whole history of ILWU, eliminating key components of worker power within the workplace and in ILWU local 21.

It is clear that the maritime capitalist, in this case, an alliance between United Grain Corporation and other companies who incorporated and organized in the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, aspire to crush the ILWU. As a response, the Longshore workers, with the whole working class, needs to organize an offense against such attacks. The concrete space of battle will be the picketlines at the ports of Vancouver, Washington. The potential solidarity longshore rank and file ILWU local 13 members in Los Angeles, local 10 in Oakland/San Francisco, local 8 Portland and local 19 in Seattle could do is central in shifting the power relations against the PNGHA’s sponsored attack.

An Injury to one, is an Injury to All

For the defense of ILWU local 4

For a Classwide Offensive against PNGHA

88oo School Bus drivers strike in NYC! NYC organizers reach out to SF!

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This flier was written by an AS comrade in San Francisco in light of the ongoing school bus drivers strike in New York City. Transit workers play a central role in the reproduction of our labor-powers on a day-to-day basis by moving working-class people to and from the sites of production and reproduction like our workplaces, schools, hospitals, groceries and other spaces we frequent to meet our needs. The current crisis of capital demands the continued disinvestment of the state in public commons like transportation, schools, and hospitals in favor of their destruction or replacement by privatized entities that provide the same services but at higher costs and lower quality. Since unionized workers continue to be a significant factor in these industries, the ruling class is on an offensive to remove these working-class organizations in so far as they represent an obstacle to continued capital accumulation, all at the expense of drivers, teachers, students, custodians, fast food workers, and all workers in general. Please aid our efforts to build rank and file solidarity and establish communication between rank and file workers in SF and NYC by printing this flier and distributing it to MUNI operators in San Francisco, or by joining us on one of our regular outreach sessions.

Flier NYC strike solidarity ATU 1181

 

From NYC to SF!

Many transportation workers are facing bosses that are attacking their benefits, eliminating seniority, adding restrictive work rules, speeding up the pace of work and so on. One way to respond to this is to roll over and keep quiet, accepting it without a fight. Another option is to organize and go on strike, which is exactly what 8,800 school bus drivers of Amalgamated Transit Union 1181 in New York City are doing as of Wednesday, January 16 at 6:00 am.

Continue reading

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!

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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.

9/14 – Emergency Rally Against FBI Repression

Please Spread Widely.

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Support Leah-Lynne Plante & 
all Grand Jury Resistors! 
Rally Against FBl Repression
Friday September 14th @ 4:30pm 
Ron Dellums Federal Building in Oakland 
1301 Clay Street 
(Behind Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza)
 
The FBI raids and Grand Jury investigations of our comrades in Portland are just two of many steps the State is taking to repress our dissent. Oakland will not sit back and allow this to happen.  It could be any of us.

Grand Jury Resistors Head Into Court, Expect Jail

From Portland comrades: Supporters will be gathering today in front of the Federal Court House in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington to express opposition to the secret grand jury investigating the anarchist movement, and to show their support for those refusing to testify.

This will be the third time Leah-Lynne Plante has been called before the grand jury.  Each time, she has publicly refused to cooperate.  She is expected to be imprisoned after today’s hearing.

“So far as I can see, the authorities are just using these hearings to intimidate people, create suspicion, and collect information that they can use to disrupt political movements,” said Leah-Lynne Plante, of Portland.  “It isn’t working.  None of the subpoenaed activists have testified, and the support we’ve received from the broader community has been really overwhelming.”

Yesterday hundreds of people from around the country faxed letters of protest to US Attorney Jenny Durkan, demanding she call off the grand jury investigation of the anarchist movement.  The “fax petition” read, in part:  “This case clearly shows that your office is persecuting political dissent. It is despicable that the US attorney and the FBI are harassing and intimidating this group of people for their political beliefs.”

For more information from the Portland folks, email The Committee Against Political Repression at nopoliticalrepression@gmail.com

 

Brecht on our main defect . . .

Bertolt Brecht was a German playwright and artist who influenced the world of theatre and cinema powerfully.  He also was a student of marxism and learned from his time studying with Karl Korsch.  Below we re-post a poem that was brought to our attention by a comrade in Atlanta.  Enjoy.

From A German War Primer

AMONGST THE HIGHLY PLACED
It is considered low to talk about food.
The fact is: they have
Already eaten.

The lowly must leave this earth
Without having tasted
Any good meat.

For wondering where they come from and
Where they are going
The fine evenings find them
Too exhausted.

They have not yet seen
The mountains and the great sea
When their time is already up.

If the lowly do not
Think about what’s low
They will never rise.

THE BREAD OF THE HUNGRY HAS
ALL BEEN EATEN
Meat has become unknown. Useless
The pouring out of the people’s sweat.
The laurel groves have been
Lopped down.
From the chimneys of the arms factories
Rises smoke.

THE HOUSE-PAINTER SPEAKS OF
GREAT TIMES TO COME
The forests still grow.
The fields still bear
The cities still stand.
The people still breathe.

ON THE CALENDAR THE DAY IS NOT
YET SHOWN
Every month, every day
Lies open still. One of those days
Is going to be marked with a cross.

THE WORKERS CRY OUT FOR BREAD
The merchants cry out for markets.
The unemployed were hungry. The employed
Are hungry now.
The hands that lay folded are busy again.
They are making shells.

THOSE WHO TAKE THE MEAT FROM THE TABLE
Teach contentment.
Those for whom the contribution is destined
Demand sacrifice.
Those who eat their fill speak to the hungry
Of wonderful times to come.
Those who lead the country into the abyss
Call ruling too difficult
For ordinary men.

WHEN THE LEADERS SPEAK OF PEACE
The common folk know
That war is coming.
When the leaders curse war
The mobilization order is already written out.

THOSE AT THE TOP SAY: PEACE
AND WAR
Are of different substance.
But their peace and their war
Are like wind and storm.

War grows from their peace
Like son from his mother
He bears
Her frightful features.

Their war kills
Whatever their peace
Has left over.

ON THE WALL WAS CHALKED:
They want war.
The man who wrote it
Has already fallen.

THOSE AT THE TOP SAY:
This way to glory.
Those down below say:
This way to the grave.

THE WAR WHICH IS COMING
Is not the first one. There were
Other wars before it.
When the last one came to an end
There were conquerors and conquered.
Among the conquered the common people
Starved. Among the conquerors
The common people starved too.

THOSE AT THE TOP SAY COMRADESHIP
Reigns in the army.
The truth of this is seen
In the cookhouse.
In their hearts should be
The selfsame courage. But
On their plates
Are two kinds of rations.

WHEN IT COMES TO MARCHING MANY DO NOT
KNOW
That their enemy is marching at their head.
The voice which gives them their orders
Is their enemy’s voice and
The man who speaks of the enemy
Is the enemy himself.

IT IS NIGHT
The married couples
Lie in their beds. The young women
Will bear orphans.

GENERAL, YOUR TANK IS A POWERFUL VEHICLE
It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men.
But it has one defect:
It needs a driver.

General, your bomber is powerful.
It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant.
But it has one defect:
It needs a mechanic.

General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think.

Bertolt Brecht

Raw reflections on a day in Anaheim

Comrade Mara writes:

Spending the weekend in LA preparing for a presentation with comrades allowed me to spend some time with the comrades in SULU (Struggles United/Luchas Unidas) and attend a demonstration against the Anaheim police department for their series of murders of working class latinos.

By now you’ve probably seen the photos of the heavily militarized police force present at recent demonstrations in Anaheim – fatigues, pigs hanging off the sides of trucks with weapons at their side, horses running into demonstrators, etc.  What follow are just some quick notes on thoughts that came to me as I spoke with the community, various revolutionaries, and considered the relationship between the resistance in Anaheim, the response of revolutionaries, and what I’ve been part of and seen in Oakland over the past few years.

Some of the maoists I spoke with (of the party building as opposed to social-democratic NGOish variety) immediately responded by going into the community where the murders took place and carrying out a door knocking campaign.  The residents were encouraged to send messages of solidarity on a banner which these maoists then brought to the demonstrations in front of the police department.  While the door knockers encouraged people to come out to the rallies and protests, not much else was proposed aside from buying newspapers and signing the banner.  Nonetheless, the immediate inquiry into the community is a move that could generate positive results if coupled with a more proactive program of struggle.

A variety of Trotksyist groups responded in particular by relating to the circle surrounding the families of the men murdered by the police.  This included forming a political bloc with them at public meetings and press conferences where the families, no doubt encouraged by people with friendly-to-the-state agendas, called out for the “violence” (e.g., property destruction and other militant tactics) to cease, because it would “not help in bringing [the victim] back.”   

ImageThe anarchists I spoke and marched with on Sunday were determined to carry out a march away from the police state once hundreds of people were gathered and rallied up.  As we’ve seen before, the simple chant of “march, march, march” was called out for a couple of minutes before a group of black clad, mostly younger, group of folks began marching toward Disneyland, the capitalist center of Anaheim.

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While the march ended up gathering several hundred of demonstrators to march in the streets, the march was quickly attacked by police mounted on horses who were able to anticipate the direction of the march and keep it contained within a single lane of the road.  The composition of the march included many community members, children, and revolutionaries which was very positive.

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The Value of the Lakeview Sit-in and People’s School for Public Education

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The eighteenth day of the Lakeview Elementary School Sit-in and People’s School for Public Education experienced a police raid that successfully shut-down the direct action. In the early morning, around 4:20am, police – led by Sargeant Barhin Bhatts, the officer responsible for shooting and killing an unarmed Raheim Brown in January 2011- gave an initial dispersal order and instructed all those looking to be arrested to sit in a designated area. Two Lakeview community members chose to be arrested, one – a parent of Lakeview and the other – an alumni and long time Lakeview supporter. All other supporters were allowed to gather their belongings and leave the premises without an arrest.

In response, the Education Committee of Occupy Oakland organized a rally just outside the front gates at Lakeview and a march to an undisclosed location for 5pm that evening.

The rally featured parents, teachers, and students who participated in the sit-in & People’s School. The program was a combination of calling out and shaming Tony Smith and the School Board for shutting down such a positive action, and also a call for people to get involved in the organizing against the austerity inspired policies of the Oakland Unified School District. There was a militant energy in the air coupled with smoke from dried sage provided by an indigenous elder supportive of the action. A long time Adult-Education teacher and veteran education activist credited our action with swaying the School Board to vote against a proposed 4 million dollar cut to Special Education. He made the point that this marked the first time in three years that the board voted against Tony Smith and felt this to be a contributing factor in shutting down our efforts.  Three candidates for the upcoming school board elections called on the crowd to support their campaigns to bring about a much needed change for Oakland’s Public Schools. Four students from the People’s School for Public Education called for an end to the police presence and for the people to continue using the building for its intended purpose – public education. More on this point later in the post. The student speeches were very inspiring and were met with loud cheering and applause. An education committee organizer wrapped up the rally with a call-out for everyone to continue actively supporting these types of actions.

After the last speaker, a recently fired OUSD teacher announced there would be a student-led march to Tony Smith’s house to confront him face-to-face and let his entire neighborhood know just who their neighbor is and what he’s all about.  The march was filled with militant chants in favor of “education not incarceration” along with music provided by the Occupy Oakland sound team. Upon arriving to Tony’s house there were calls for him to “reopen or resign” and a continuation of the rally started back at Lakeview. One of the students from the People’s School called on Supt. Smith to show his face. Despite him either not being there or else hiding behind the walls of his bourgeois home, it was nonetheless positive to see many of his neighbors outside their homes and supportive of our presence in that neighborhood. All in all it was a vibrant first volley in response to the police raid on the Lakeview Sit-in.

Now back to the political nature of this action and the reason why the sit-in was an extremely important step for the working class , i.e –  the use of the building.  The Use-Value of a commodity is defined as the qualitative aspect of value – its usefulness to people – as opposed to exchange-value – it’s worth in exchange for something else, like money – which denotes the quantitative aspect of value.   The parents, teachers, and students reopened the building, a commodity, for its use-value. The People’s School for Public Education was holding social justice classes. Members of the education committee were building a people’s library and were to planning to call it La Casita II (in honor of the parents who led a successful occupation to keep open a field house library on the grounds of Whittier Elementary on Chicago’s south side.) The grounds around the school were being used for lessons in gardening, drumming, sports, etc. etc. On Sunday July 1st  the building was opened up to the wider Oakland community. The education committee hosted a bbq/potluck followed by a movie screening of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman . All these were arguably qualitative leaps when compared to the day-to-day operation of the former Lakeview Elementary School. Once the state realized the building was being used not only for a People’s School but also as a community space for political education and culture – they quickly sent their armed thugs to smash the occupation and school.

The state, in this case Superintendent Tony Smith and the School Board, has no interest in Lakeview’s (or any of the other four elementary schools) use-value. These public schools are being closed because of the exchange value of their buildings and grounds. Next year Lakeview, located in an area with high property values, will host administrative offices. These offices will be housed there while a brand new administration building is completed. Once the new building is ready, the district will no doubt look to rent out Lakeview to a charter school or sell the property to a developer. Santa Fe Elementary, the last public school in Oakland’s 94608 zip code, is being leased to Emeryville. Lazear Elementary, whose parents and teachers were denied a charter by Oakland Unified after the district recommended this course to avoid closure, will be a charter school after all because the county granted them their charter and OUSD grudgingly allowed them the use of the building and grounds. Why grudgingly? Because the district intended to sell the property to Target, and the site was to become another corporate chain store. Thurgood Marshall and Maxwell Park are both being leased to Charter School organizations. These closures are not based on anything except Tony Smith and School Board wanting to generate revenue to balance a public education budget decimated by austerity. And it just so happens that this fits in with a nationwide trend to dismantle public education in favor of charter schools, which represent the transitional stages for the ruling class to privatize education across the country.

Use-value over exchange-value is why the Lakeview Sit-in is an extremely important action that should be publicized far and wide. The goals of this action were clear from the beginning – the people taking back what is rightfully theirs and using it for its intended purpose while demanding that the state stop closing neighborhood schools to balance their austerity budgets, stop union-busting, and fully fund free public education. Every urban center in the country that is being bombarded with the same ruling class privatization strategy should hear about the People’s School for Public Education.  The working class must continue and escalate these types of actions. Failure to do so will mean losing access to a major component of our own reproduction — Free Public Education .

Occupy Oakland Post-May Day: Strengths, Limits, and Futures

The Beginning and End of Occupy Oakland:

The article “Occupy Oakland is Dead,” posted on Bay Of Rage, covers the beginning and end of Occupy Oakland and captures many important points. The origins of Occupy Oakland lie in the first rebellion against the police murder of Oscar Grant on January 7 2009, making Occupy Oakland distinct from other Occupies. The insurgent student movement that fought austerity through building occupations shook up the liberal wing of the student movement that argued occupation as a tactic was akin to property destruction and thus destructive.

Occupy Oakland didn’t apply the logic of the 99% to the police, and was clear how and why the police were violent agents of the 1%. The centrality of food, health care, and shelter as “use-values”, useful items for human reproduction, within the camp symbolized and embodied the seeds of a world free of exploitation.

Incredible political events were launched as a result of Occupy Oakland: the November 2nd march on the port; the unpermitted march on November 19th to Lakeview Elementary as a direct response to the wave of school closures in Oakland; the December 12th west coast shutdown supporting ILWU struggle against EGT; and the January 28th move-in day to upgrade the content of the evicted camp with an actual building; the February 17th immigrant rights march against the firing of undocumented workers at Pacific Steel in Berkeley after an attack by ICE; the February 20th protest at the gates of San Quentin; a wave of neighborhood BBQs in West, North, and Deep East Oakland; and finally, completing its cycle of struggle, actions on May 1st.

Occupy Oakland captured the unfolding radicalism across the nation and upped the ante, with a fierce anti-state and anti-capitalist character.

The authors of the Bay Of Rage article argue, “It makes no sense to overly fetishize the tactic of occupations, no more than it does to limiting resistance exclusively to blockades or clandestine attacks. Yet the widespread emergence of public occupations qualitatively changed what it means to resist.” Occupy Wall Street generally, and its expression in Oakland in particular, opened up a space for newly politicized individuals, revolutionaries, and progressive people of diverse backgrounds to engage with one another directly across various political and identitarian divisions.  The engagement went beyond verbal interaction and took the form of direct confrontation with the state, reclamations of public space, and strategic interventions against the circulation of capital.  This by all means is true. But what is also true is every labor struggle Occupy Oakland engaged in was also lost, with the most notable example being the ILWU-EGT struggle and the Licorice Factory strike in Union City.

How do we make sense of a situation where, Occupy Oakland, a leading center of resistance, has lost every labor battle it has engaged in? How do we make sense of the limitation that Occupy Oakland’s central space, Oscar Grant Plaza, has been lost. Tahrir square, Plaza del Sol and Syntagma square were spatial centers that facilitated the generalization of rebellion, declaring war on the capitalist order.  What is a radical social movement left to do once it has lost its spatial center? Continue reading

Longview, Occupy, and Beyond: Rank and File and the 89% Unite!

This piece is written by the Black Orchid Collective in Seattle, with contributions from members of Advance the Struggle in the Bay area, members of Hella 503 in Portland, as well as friends in various cities.  We have all been deeply involved in Decolonize/ Occupy SeattleOccupy PortlandOccupy Oakland, and Occupy Wall St., including the Dec. 12th West Coast Port Shutdown. We have worked to build solidarity between the Occupy movement and the rank and file workers of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). This piece presents our critical reflections on these struggles so far. We welcome criticism and discussion.

Table of Contents:

I) Longview and Occupy: a warm autumn on the West Coast

II) Birth of the hip hop picket line: the Dec 12th West Coast Port Shutdown and the precarious proletariat.

III) From Dec 12th to Jan 6th: attempts at coastal solidarity, and divisions in Seattle

IV) Our response to Socialist Worker newspaper’s article

V) Workers’ Committees : a stronger fightback under capitalism, pointing toward revolution

VI) Solidarity is a Two Way Street

VII) Critiques of existing union structures

a) Question of Bureaucracy

b) Partial worker self-management under Capitalism, or Territorialism?

c) Labor Law as a Broken Truce

VIII) The Solidarity we actually need

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I) Longview and Occupy: a warm autumn on the West Coast

In Longview, Washington, multinational corporation EGT is attempting to operate a new grain export terminal by using non-ILWU (scab) labor.   In September, workers faced police in riot gear in order to stop scab grain from being delivered to EGT’s terminal.  Workers and their families have used their bodies to block trains bringing grain shipments to the terminal. When police beat them back, hundreds of longshore workers came back the next day and dumped the grain all over the tracks. Since then, Longview ILWU members have faced fines, injunctions on picketing, and ongoing police harassment and repression.

The Occupy movements in our cities have also blockaded the flow of capital with picket lines and barricades.  Both the Occupy movement and longshore workers have challenged what is considered common sense and legitimate under capitalism, opening up new possibilities for creative class struggle against the corporations who are destroying our lives. But attempts to bring these struggles together have been filled with tension.

Some members of the ILWU, including the international leadership, do not want the ILWU to work with Occcupy, while rank and file members and other leaders have reached out to us.  We have no desire to be caught in these debates among union members anymore than we unfortunately already are. Our intention is only to build broad solidarity with rank and file ILWU members who have asked for our support.

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Buenos Aires Subway workers punk capitalist bosses, state, and union leadership, winning major gains

In February 2005, the subway workers of Buenos Aires, Argentina, went on strike demanding an increase in wages amongst other things. This was a successful wildcat strike, conducted democratically by the workers through assemblies and elected delegates, without, for the most part, going through the official leadership or legal structures of the union. Below is a translation by an AS comrade of an article by the Socialist Workers Party of Argentina that tells the story of the victory. Below the translated article is a response by the translator to some possible critiques of the strike that another comrade raised semi-sarcastically. These responses are intended to spur further discussion and debate, so please chime in with your two cents in the comments section.

 AS is not monolithic and we struggle with our positions on many things. We see this as a sign of our openness, lack of dogmatism, and honest search for truth. This translation of an article by a Trotskyist group shows our sympathies for good work with good impacts on the working class’ revolutionary agency, no matter who is behind it, because we are not dogmatic sectarians. While we give props to all organizations and actors who contribute to the growing power of the proletariat, we do theoretically vacillate between support for state-recognized working class organizations like unions and rejection of them as co-opted vehicles that tie the working class to capital even as it appears to make “gains.”

Translated from http://www.pts.org.ar/spip.php?article814

The increases reaches 44% of payroll

Triumph of the Subway Workers

Friday, February 11, 2005

Socialist Workers Party of Argentina (Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas)

Article after the jump!

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rasta marxism

Unionism IS a Lost Cause

Steve-o’s post from yesterday raised some important questions regarding the approach Marxist militants take towards understanding and orienting towards the unionized sectors of the American working class.  A reader recommended that we post Loren Goldner’s essay on the questions of unions in capitalism, so we’re reposting it here to continue the discussion in the fullest terms possible.

Goldner’s essay, originally from the Insurgent Notes journal, makes the point that “in this epoch there is nothing positive for the class as a whole to be achieved through the unions,” while briefly touching on examples in which militants have participated in unions and fought with “a perspective beyond unions and of their supersession into class-wide organizations.”

Add your thoughts in the comments.

The Demise of Andy Stern and the Question of Unions in Contemporary Capitalism

by:  Loren Goldner

lrgoldner@yahoo.com

(This article originally appeared in Insurgent Notes No. 2 (October 2010 http://insurgentnotes.com)

For decades, since the beginning of the world crisis in the early 1970’s, militants around the world have groped for a way to turn the relentless attack on the global working class from defensive, usually isolated (however valiant) struggles into an offensive one. The rise and recent fall of Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for fifteen years, illustrate some of the issues at hand. They illustrate, as if through a glass darkly, that in this epoch there is nothing positive for the class as a whole to be achieved through the unions. Let’s first look at the specifics in order to arrive at a general perspective.

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