Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cross-post: When life hands you lemons you make…a revolution?

Our comrade reflects powerfully on our oppression, and the organization we’re gonna need to destroy it.  A reminder to bring us down to earth: oppression and exploitation aren’t abstract concepts.  They suck our life from us, steal our health, stretch us thin…………..and the difference gets made up by the strength and dedication of mothers and caretakers, of those in the working class who struggle to support themselves and their communities.  For more analysis and reflections on the lived class struggle check out her blog Kissing in the Dark!

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A few days ago I had to have two of my back molars pulled, because I do not have health care and cannot afford the services (root canal and crown) to save them and prevent infection. This came after waiting nine hours at Highland Hospital just to be seen. I got there at 5:30am in order to get on the new client emergency services list, and I was still number 22 (they only take the first 45). Some people got there as early as 4:30am in order to get seen. This incident occurred two days after my wallet got stolen (with my new EBT card inside) making it the newest incident in a long line of irritating and problematic events that keep popping up in my life and testing my spirit and drive.

When I was sitting in the Highland Hospital dental clinic in the early morning waiting with all the other working-class sick people for some rushed and inadequate care, I noticed a beautiful little girl sitting with her mother. It reminded me of my own adolescence sitting in over-crowded health clinics with my mother, who was determined to keep her four children healthy despite the lack of health insurance at her exploitative restaurant job; despite the lack of help from her dead-beat ex-husband; despite the lack of help from a capitalist system that relies on profit extracted by people’s labor at the expense of their health.

I look at these working-class mothers and their children, who are up before the sun rises in order to get 15 minutes with a doctor (if they’re lucky), and I am reminded that the economic crisis is settled on their backs. It is their commitment to the survival of themselves, their children and their communities that sustains them all; certainly not this barbaric, teeth yanking system. When prices rise despite high unemployment and wage cuts, it is often the women who must find ways to feed their families. When schools, daycare centers, and after school programs close, it is the mothers who must find education and safe places for their children to be at when they are at work. When health clinics close and affordable healthcare isn’t an option it is the women who keep their children warm  while they sit in emergency room clinics hoping to be seen.

This is why I am offended by these complacent, bourgeois phrases that attempt to blame the working-class for the lower standard of living they must endure at the hands of capital. Phrases like ‘lift yourself up from your boot straps’ and ‘when life hands you lemons you make lemonade’ fail to see the contradictions within a system that is organized around a division of labor that has built in unequal social relations. These phrases instill in the working-class this incorrect idea that they are the ones to blame for their lack of upward mobility and comfort, and that if they just work hard enough they can achieve it. People are working hard everyday, and they aren’t going nowhere and this is exactly how it is suppose to be. Capitalist society is organized around a class of paid and unpaid workers, who are exploited through the wage; and it is the unwaged worker, such as the unemployed, and the unpaid labor, such as gendered domestic work, that supports the exploitation of the waged worker. We must all participate in this system in some capacity in order to get a paycheck/money to survive. The only way we will achieve any kind of liberation and relief from such an oppressive organization of society is not by working harder, but by smashing such a system of forced labor that steals our life away and keeps us sick. We must re-create the system, the productive forces, and the concept of labor to embody the creativity and the collective survival of the people. This is the historical task of the oppressed.

As the capitalist economy continues to descend into crisis the working class, who are already socialized in the workplace and in unemployment lines, must become organized and armed with revolutionary theory and political clarity on the system, and how reforming it will not lead to our liberation. The working-class must understand their historical task through understanding the system and their role in it and their role in changing it. In Georg Lukacs’s brilliant book,History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics he speaks to the practical and revolutionary functions of theory and consciousness within the class. He writes,

“Only when a historical situation has arisen in which a class must understand society if it is to assert itself; only when the fact that a class understands itself means that it understands society as a whole and when, in consequence, the class becomes both the subject and the object of knowledge; in short, only when these conditions are all satisfied will the unity of theory and practice, the precondition of the revolutionary function of the theory, become possible.” (3)

The working-class is a class in and of itself that is a part of the society we live in; they are one part (a huge part) of the objective conditions. When the working-class begins to study capital and understand the way society functions they begin to see themselves as this class of people with a particular function in the system that was created through a historical process. When the class begins to want to change these objective conditions as a subjective force, thus seeing itself as the subject and object of history, is when they can begin to make history through revolutionary means. This is when the class, the oppressed, becomes a fighting class for itself. In order for this to happen we need an organization of revolutionaries dedicated to developing other worker militants, who can spread such ideas among the class to reproduce revolutionary theorists and militants within the class. This is where Lenin’s system of reproducing professional revolutionaries that he theorizes about in What is To Be Done is incredibly useful and still relevant today; especially when most Leninist/Trotskyist organizations fail to do so. Lenin asserted that the working-class  has embryonic consciousness of the inequality of the system through their lived experiences, but this doesn’t automatically result in all of the oppressed becoming dedicated revolutionaries committing their lives to overthrowing the ruling class, and emancipating humanity. This class consciousness must be supported and advanced by revolutionaries trained in such ideas, as well as the historical situations that inspire the masses to move. He illustrates this point well here, and when he refers to social-democrats he is referring to socialists. The way I would use that term today would be to describe liberals not socialists.

““We have become convinced that the fundamental error committed by the ‘new trend’ in Russian Social-Democracy is it’s bowing to spontaneity and its failure to understand that spontaneity of the masses demands a high degree of consciousness from us Social-democrats. The greater the spontaneous upsurge of the masses and the more wide-spread the movement, the more rapid, incomparably so, the demand for greater consciousness in the theoretical, political, and organizational work of social democracy.”(53).

This is true to me based off of my own class experience. I grew up poor as a woman of color. I watched my father get harassed by the police and my mother work several minimum wage jobs to support us, while dealing with my fathers emotional and physical abuse. I believed that the system was racist, and sexist and allowed serious class divides to exist between the rich and the poor. I also believed in the righteous struggle by the oppressed and considered myself a socialist by high school. But my socialism wasn’t theoretically informed by revolutionary theory and history enough to stop me from supporting John Kerry in 2004 and Obama early in 2006. I repped the Black Panthers, but saw potential in reformist and bourgeois politicians. These contradictions were based on a combination of my own contradictory consciousness and lived experience. When I begin to get exposed to Marxist thinkers, and read Marx and other revolutionary theories, histories and biographies, the fuzzy line between revolutionary and reformist politics begin to sharpen. I saw the contradictions within the system that would only be resolved through the revolutionary change in that system and the destruction of capital. It is this transformation within myself that reaffirms Lenin’s thesis to me and makes me committed to such a project. The people need political clarity; clarity that they will not receive from bourgeois education or their workplace. This clarity comes from the conditions we live in; the theory we study; and the determination and movement of the working masses and their organizations.

Ive grown tired of lemonade; give me my freedom!

What’s Next in the Struggle for Oscar Grant?

The outcome of the verdict for Johannes Mehserly, the cop who murdered Oscar Grant, left people with feelings of outrage, disappointment, and defeat, and rightfully so. We live in a world where police can kill innocent and un-armed people, have it captured on video, and still get off. The fact that Mehserle was convicted at all should be seen as a partial victory for the black working-class of Oakland. That victory was largely due to the black and brown Oakland youth who took the streets, and made the system listen to them as they bashed in windows of banks, corporations, and other sources that profit off of the exploitation and murder of black and brown people. When the day of the verdict finally arrived on July 8th we found ourselves in a similar place: angry in the streets with no real outlet to fight back. Our options were dismal, chaotic rioting on one end, and non-profit sponsored apolitical, non-violent speak-outs on the other end. Im not against rioting or community expression, but none of these options represent a concrete and effective way for people to resist, a way to flex their power as people and workers, while simultaneously striking back against the bourgeois state that relies on the police to repress our resistance through murder and incarceration

The day of the sentencing is November 5th, which is three months away. People are still angry and we have plenty of time to do something about it, but what? We have tried a variety of tactics from symbolic rallies and marches to riots/rebellions, and nothing has managed to bring justice for Oscar Grant, and the Black working-class yet. It’s time to try something different. A huge jumping off point for this is the recent involvement of the Longshoremen who are a part of the ILWU local 10. So far the Oscar Grant struggle has been organized mainly by activists, and community members with no involvement by organized labor. The longshoremen have a reputation of being one of the more militant unions. They have shut down the coast numerous times for political reasons: apartheid in South Africa, Mumia, and most recently for Palestine. The longshoremen also have majority Black membership, and their reps have experienced state violence on the job and during actions. All these things have fueled their own interest to get involved in the Oscar Grant struggle. They recently had a meeting, which they opened up to the public, to discuss the planning of a protest on Saturday October 23rd, where two major outreach committees were created to try to mobilize the community and other sectors of labor. This demonstration has the ability to bring in 1000’s of workers and community members if the organizers build it right.

So you are probably wondering how this demonstration is different from any other symbolic protest. It will be another permitted, Saturday afternoon action that probably won’t change a thing. There is some truth to that, but this demonstration is deeper than it seems initially. First of all there is potential to shut down the ports that day, because the Longshoremen work Saturdays. If the ILWU is able to mobilize all their members and locals to the demonstration that day, then there will be a work-stoppage, and that is significant in its own right. Politically this demonstration represents an opportunity for us to bring in people from different struggles and sectors of labor and the community. The most active struggles right now have been for Oscar Grant, Immigrant Rights and the Budget Cuts. All of these struggles have been disconnected from each other in key ways, which has been a huge weakness of the organizers in these struggles, because not only are we stronger when we are united, but these struggles are organically connected. They all share the same enemy: the racist, sexist capitalist system.

When black and brown youth walked-out to protest the budget cuts during March 4th this past year they made that connection. They weren’t just talking about budget cuts and their schools; they were talking about police and incarceration. They understand that when 90% of the Oakland bailout budget goes to killer cops and not schools that the budget cut movement should be a part of the Oscar Grant movement. Did I mention that 90% of the bailout money went to OPD? Why aren’t we making these connections? When Arizona passed the racist, anti-immigrant law SB 1070 Oakland youth took the streets again walking-out on April 30th, a friday, to protest a system that oppresses the black and brown working-class. At the bottom of all three of these struggles is the violence of the state, both direct and structural, being aimed at working-class communities of color.

With organized labor being at such a low level in this country it is a qualitative advancement in the Oscar Grant struggle to have the ILWU get involved. It also moves us closer to making these connections between the struggles so we are stronger and more united as a class. We need to reach out to other sectors of labor to have them turn out as well. AC transit workers in Oakland are already upset over their contracts and there has been “labor unrest”–workers even directly intervened in the work process by ‘sicking out’ in large groups; the Oakland teachers union, OEA, went on strike April 29th and most likely will go on strike again this fall; high school students have walked out twice; immigrant communities have protested in SF and in Oakland for May 1st and again against the implementation of SB 1070; MUNI drivers in SF are upset over their contracts while the city tries to pit drivers (who, it should be noted, make significantly less than SF pigs) and riders against each other. There is huge potential to have a mass convergence of organized and un-organized labor, youth, activists, and community members to come out on October 23rd to protest a system that takes money out of our schools and into a racist police system that criminalizes and murders immigrants and black people; to protest a system that continually exploits and doesn’t take care of its workers who drive buses, BART, clean up our streets, our businesses, and teach our children. Not only would this be a day where we can all get together and share our struggles, but it will also be an important day to help build up November 5th.

Due to the work of hundreds of in the Bay Area, the underlying unity of these struggles is starting to take shape explicitly. We know October 23rd is not enough. We know that no conviction or sentence for Mehserle would represent true justice while the racist violence of the state continues to terrorize black and brown communities. We know that we have little chance at dignity and justice in a world with few opportunities and intensifying austerity. We also know that by coming together in the thousands to take direct control of our city, we have a real chance to go beyond partial victories, to fight back effectively against the budget cuts and pigs of all kinds, against the violence of the state in all its forms. This Fall, no struggle needs to stand alone. Justice–November 5th.

Lessons from the Struggle: Oscar Grant Rebellions of 2009

Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?

Click here for pamphlet.

Every day now Oscar Grant is in the news.  Mehserle is waiting for his verdict and most people’s thirst for justice will not be satisfied with a manslaughter verdict.  It’s not clear what’s going to happen the day of the verdict, but tension is rising and the issues are being talked about everywhere.  Will there be rebellions in multiple cities throughout the country?  Will struggles on the streets be better organized than January 7th and 14th 2009? In 2009’s Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity? we wrote:

“One can imagine how the response to the Oscar Grant murder might have become the seed for a new militant organization in Oakland. People were angry and they were ready to take action. A city-wide walkout, one day strikes, and a mass unpermitted snake march were all possible.
Why didn’t anything more militant take place in January 2009? The possibility was there, but what was missing? . . . There was no organization.”

This is still the dilemma faced by citizens, youth, students and workers who are angry with the situation but also frustrated without a way to act against this injustice that feels effective and political. The city, nonprofits and radio stations use abstract notions of love and positivity as the categories angry people should vent through.  They are also arguing that the murder of Oscar Grant and the rebellions of the 7th and 14th of January are two sides of the same coin of violence.  The rebellions were not violent to any individual – only property.  To say that the ‘life” of property is equivalent to Oscar Grant’s life is an insult, meant to throw sand in our eyes so we don’t see the political nature of a government engaging in systematic state-sponsored racist murder. Until an organizational force can be built to prepare for coming struggles against the government’s unjust nature (the cause that inspired the formation of the Panthers), the murders will continue.  Check out our pamphlet on the rebellions of last January, and let’s think about what lessons we can bring into this next cycle of struggle.  

The graphically-designed pamphlet is here

Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?

The murder of Oscar Grant set Oakland on fire, but who put the fire out?
The working class people of Oakland, their consciousness set ablaze, found an inadequate set of organizational tools at their disposal to do the work that deep down we all know has to be done – confront the state (government) and its underlying property relations.

The primary organization available to them was a coalition of nonprofits; the secondary organizational tool was a self-labeled revolutionary communist
organization. Both played prominent but ultimately problematic leadership roles while Oakland youth lacked cohesive theory and organizational
structure through which to effectively challenge their oppressors.

Using the Oscar Grant episode as a case study in the role of political leadership in the Bay Area, we hope to reveal the most glaring shortcomings
of the left today. We believe new leadership is necessary, and hope that this document can contribute to its emergence.

I. State Sponsored Racism: Then and Now
II. The Struggle Begins
III. CAPE, Nonprofits and the State
IV. RCP and Revolutionary Organizing
V. A Victory?
VI. Lack of Organization and Lost Opportunity

Continue reading

It’s Dark But It’s Promising, This Marxist Feminist Ground

After an anti-budget-cut organizing meeting last spring, I told a Marxist party militant that I’d heard he argued “feminism is bourgeois.”  He explained that it’s bourgeois because it seeks to end oppressive social relations without overthrowing capitalism, and that of course he’s for equal rights for women but the school of thought known as “feminism” is not going to be helpful in making that happen.  Sadly enough this incorrect (and I might add patriarchal) perspective is not new to “marxists.” Not only does this class-reductionist claim ignore the way capitalist social relations effect gender social relations (which feminism addresses), but it also erases the long history of Marxist, radical or materialist feminists that actively critique capitalism.  Since the ’70s lots of feminists have left Marxism behind, many seeing the work of Marx and his various successors as unhelpful to liberation from patriarchy or even supportive of gendered hierarchies; this strangely parallels the way this Marxist party militant failed to see the vital necessity of feminism in our struggle today.  Are these dynamics changing?  Are revolutionaries less patriarchal today?  Are feminists becoming more interested in revolutionary anti-capitalism?

Kloncke, a feminist blogger and friend of AS, has been guest-blogging at Feministe recently and doing some honest exploration of her experiences with feminism, Marxism and the recent Marxist Feminist group started by an AS militant.  There are a lot of interesting responses in the comments at Feministe, including some Marxists who take up a  lot of space debating where we should really be “patiently explaining.”  Kloncke’s post is a good example of the sort of humble questioning and careful pedagogy that we’re all going to need if we hope to bring revolutionary theory to the current and coming self-organization of the class.  Check it out, and share some thoughts on feminism and Marxism in this time of crisis!

[To commenters: Kloncke laid out a Buddhist-influenced comment guide here that asks us in summary to ” (1) Abstain from snark; (2) Prioritize the positive; (3) Honor our bodies; (4) Be honest(ly); and (5) Get friendly with silence.”  While this may seem hippy-dippy to some of our more hard-boiled economic determinists, I think it’s both wise and helpful for getting into these complex subjects together.  Try it out compas!]

It’s Dark But It’s Promising, This Marxist Feminist Ground

by Kloncke

Among the searchlights of critical thinking, feminism is one heck of a beam, right?

For a while there, my Women’s Studies classes served up mind-fuck after delicious mind-fuck: teaching me how to pick apart and expose the essencelessness, the cultural and historical contingencies, of so many “natural” or “obvious” patterns. Feminism also gave me a keen eye for harm: especially the kind of harm that results from apparent ‘progress.’ Those invisible, or supposedly inevitable ‘externalities’: one group getting saved while another gets screwed. Feminism was like this twin engine for understanding reality: extreme possibility and extreme constraint. Exciting, for sure. Made me feel like I had a good grip on the truth.

But after a while my feminism hit a block. I just didn’t know what to do with it anymore. Jessica Valenti describes the same sense of dissatisfaction with the academic side of things in Full Frontal Feminism:

When I started coming home from grad school with ideas and theories I couldn’t talk to [my mom] about, academic feminism ceased to be truly useful for me.

…[A]cademic feminism isn’t for me. I like activism.

Continue reading

SB 1070: Battle at the Grassroots

 In 1994 California right-wing forces pushed proposition 187. The goal was to criminalize immigrants and deny them access to schools and hospitals. It was formally struck down as unconstitutional, but the real reason that it didn’t pass was the serious resistance from Latino youth, workers and community members. Young LA Chicanos were mobilizing heavily against 187, organizing an array of walkouts and protests.  At UCLA there was a growing student militancy for Chicano Studies Programs. The Proposition 187 Generation provided a key source of battle-tested activists, which developed organizational skills in conducting walkouts, labor and community organizing that succesfully stopped the implementation of187. Such activists became key in shaping and organizing May 1 2006.  Jan Brewer's Nanny 

Leading up to the sub-prime crisis, banks focused on sending “specialists” to Black and Latino churches to sell the sub-prime loans that have become so infamous. These were key targets for the banks, demonstrating the racialized approach of capital in its pursuit for profits. Now as the crisis has hit, and American capitalism does not need all of its massive workforce, it has a solution to reduce its workforce through racism and anti-immigrant policies.  Arizona is leading the attack with states across the country looking at Arizona as a model. Much respect and solidarity goes to the comrades in Bring the Ruckus for being key in organizing resistance to SB 1070 in the belly of the beast. The following is an article of the struggle developing in Arizona.

SB 1070: Battle at the Grassroots

By Joel Olson

In the struggle over the notorious anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, anti-working class law SB 1070, a person might be tempted to see this as a conflict that plays out among the elites of Arizona politics: legislators, governors, sheriffs, newspaper editors, judges, lawyers, and nonprofits. This view would be understandable, but wrong. The real battle is at the grassroots.

On the one hand, there is a strong nativist movement afoot in Arizona that is overwhelmingly white, mostly over the age of fifty, and largely male. They fear that “illegals are invading” and causing all manner of mayhem, from home invasions to overcrowded emergency rooms to automated voices forcing them to “press 1 for English.” They are represented by the Tea Party and local politicians such as State Senator Russell Pearce. Their goal is to hound and harass all “illegal aliens” out of Arizona—and if they have to check the papers of every brown-skinned person in the state to do it, fine. “Attrition through enforcement,” Pearce calls it. That phrase is now written into Arizona law. At their demand, SB 1070 turns every cop in the state into an immigration officer, practically requires racial profiling, and denies the freedom of Arizonans to associate with whoever they please, documented or not. With the passage of 1070, nativists are confident that they control the territory.

But what happens when you hold a Tea Party and a bunch of “illegals” show up?

Continue reading

Between a Trot and a Hard Place: The Debate Within Our Movement

As we get further from March 4th and various groups put out their analysis, we see emerging differences in political line. Some of the primary differences we’ve seen emerge [discussed in our Post-March 4th analysis] stem from our criticisms of the Trotskyist tradition. Recently, Unity & Struggle (U&S), a group we consider to be aligned with our general political orientation wrote a response to two of the Trotskyist responses to our piece put out by Labor’s Militant Voice – LMV and Socialist Organizer – SO. We think U&S’s response piece very clearly illustrates some of the emerging differences that distinguish us from the existing Trotskyist groups. These differences center on the following questions:

How should marxist militants understand the political character of unions? How should militants relate to unions, their leadership and their rank and file? Many Marxists agree that union bureaucrats have been bought off, but there are often disagreements as to why.

How should disciplined revolutionaries relate to, and work within coalitional spaces? How important are general assemblies as organizational forms for the working-class’ political self-activity?

Is there a need for revolutionaries to have independent spaces and organizations outside of both coalitions/united fronts and general assemblies? Or are general assemblies and united fronts the only true legitimate spaces for working-class self activity? If not, what should independent political organizations look like?

How should a marxist ‘cadre’ type organization relate to such a space or organization? Should we help build them to the exclusion of participating in united fronts? Are these forms of organization mutually exclusive?

Furthermore, can the problem facing the working class today be summed up by Leon Trotsky’s assertion in the opening line of his famous work, ‘The Transitional Program’, which states that:  “the world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of leadership of the proletariat”? And, if so, does this mean that the problem facing revolutionaries today is primarily the task of substituting ‘bad leadership’ [read: union bureaucrats] for ‘good leadership’ [read: correct-line trotskyist revolutionaries], or do revolutionaries need to orient in radically different ways that consciously avoid reproducing the same hierarchical structures of authority present in capitalism?

These are all questions that we were thinking about when we wrote our Crisis and Consciousness piece, which analyzed March 4th and the movement that lead up to it.

Unfortunately all of us in AtS are not merely armchair intellectuals [we got jobs and other political work ya’ll!] and thus it has taken us a lil’ while to engage with all the responses that have been put out.

We are also taking time to respond to the Trotskyist responses in a way that moves beyond March 4th, and which moves us in the direction of a more fleshed out articulation of our position on many of the above issues, as political questions in general.

In the meantime, we think people should seriously engage with the piece written by our Seattle comrade from the group  Unity and Struggle.

We were psyched to read U&S’s response to the responses to our piece, because we have been heavily influenced and inspired by the work they do. U&S is a great example of the class-struggle left we describe in Crisis and Consciousness, and we had them in mind when we wrote it. We believe their response to the two Trotskyist responses to our piece (one by Labor’s Militant Voice – LMV and the other by Socialist Organizer – SO), is a very straightforward and accurate, cursory overview of the debate thus far. As we’ve mentioned,  U&S shares many of our critical disagreements with the Trotskyist tradition and its current incarnations.

We look forward to continuing these debates, as they help us develop our own understanding of ourselves and the existing left. We are a new formation and we are trying to develop a fresh analysis of the current conditions, while trying to avoid many of the political mistakes made by revolutionary militants in the past.

We plan to put out more in-depth and detailed analysis on the questions raised above, for which we are studying, reading and discussing with our political milieus. We welcome you to become part of this debate as it unfolds.

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The Debate on Strategy in the Anti-Budget Cuts Movement

As an anti-budget cuts organizer in Seattle, I am excited by the important debates Advance the Struggle (AS) has raised with their piece Crisis and Contradictions: Reflections and Lessons from March 4th. I basically agree with the perspective that AS is putting forward;  it confirms and advances a lot of the perspectives that my comrades in Unity and Struggle have been developing, especially with our anti-budget cuts work with Democracy Insurgent in Seattle, with ella pelea! in Austin, and our comrade’s work at Berkley.  For those who don’t know, Unity and Struggle is a revolutionary organization animated by a belief in the self-emancipation of oppressed people; for more info, check out the “About US” section of the Gathering Forces blog.

I would consider Unity and Struggle and a lot of the milleiu around Gathering Forces to be part of  the “class struggle Left” tendency that AS outlines and calls for; like AS we are attempting to chart a third path that is independent from both the centrists (the “we need to meet people where they are at” folks) and the adventurists (the “Occupy Everything Demand Nothing” folks).  We appreciate the chance to dialogue with AS and other  like-minded activists around the country and we also appreciate the chance to have principled debate with comrades from the other two tendencies.

The response pieces written by Socialist Organizer (SO) and Labors Militant Voice (LMV), raise some important challenges to this third tendency and highlight some key differences between us and the centrist tendency.  It is important to note that LMV’s piece raises important critiques of SO’s piece and I engage with those here  – I have no intention of lumping them together.   I offer my notes on these responses  in the hope of furthering the debate.

Continue reading

Chop From The Top Music Video

Social movements don’t just struggle against the system but build culture around theJabari Shaw performing Chop from the Topmovement itself.  Jabari Shaw’s Chop from the Top song is a product and a contributing factor to the budget cut movement. The song connects with issues that plague communities of color throughout the country: murder rates being high, graduation rates being low, meanwhile administrators yell about budget deficits, while being unwilling to cut from their own privileged positions.

Crisis and Consciousness: Reflections and Lessons from March 4th

Crisis and Consciousness:

Lessons and Reflections from March 4th

Tables of Contents

  1. Introduction to March 4th
  2. October 24th Compromise
  3. City committees: Oakland and LA, Class Struggle Left Committees
  4. San Francisco: Center Wins Over Left
  5. UC Berkeley vs. UC Santa Cruz: Campus Committees Choose Focus
  6. UC Davis and CSU Fresno: Central Valley Consciousnesa
  7. Seattle: Worker-Student Power
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
    1. Canada Community College
    2. UC Berkeley marches to Oakland
    3. Youth lead in Oakland
    4. CCSF

I. Introduction

Spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward. But just as the first breath drawn by a child after its long, quiet nourishment breaks the gradualness of merely quantitative growth – there is a qualitative leap, and the child is born.

– Hegel

March 4th provides us with a snapshot into the strategic and theoretical frameworks used by the Left to understand, develop and radicalize consciousness; we begin to see patterns emerge as this consciousness is translated into working class action, and we begin to ask ourselves what is needed to learn from these actions and begin developing a revolutionary consciousness and practice to address the ongoing crisis of capital. Continue reading

How To Not Capitulate to Union Bureaucracies: March 4th and the AFSCME 444 Resolution

On October 24, 2009, 800 students and workers met to decide how to work together against the budget cuts. It was decided that March 4 would be a day of strikes and a day of action. This formulation of “strike and day of action” was incredibly ambiguous and has had consequences for the movement, mainly coming in the form of most unions passing watered-down resolutions that say nothing of a strike but abstractly support March 4 as some type of day of action. Concretly this has led to unions to tell their members that March 4 will be like any other day of work except there will be an after work rally at 5pm in downtown SF. A movement of workers pushing for strikes in unified way could be the real beggining of a resistance that produces confidence and concsioussness against these attacks, but this has not materialized for several reasons.

Fundamentally there is a lack of worker militants in major workplaces who have the type of influence needed to push for strikes.  The result is that the various left-organizations have been trying to work around this problem by acting as substitutes for absent worker militants. This lack of worker militants, combined with a hesitancy on the part of leftists to push for militant methods of struggle in fear of being marginalized, has not done much to change the composition of left politics in California . . . With that said there is one seriously notable exception, and that is the AFSCME 444 resolution.

The resolution clearly states that the union should push for, contribute resources to, and participate in a strike. If the militant left was stronger, we could have thousands of copies out in the hands of union members and may have already pushed for several locals to endorse the resolution.

Unfortunately, many of the left organizations that claim to be for a strike have been unwilling to propose such a resolution to their respective unions due to a fatalistic logic that such unions will automatically reject the resolution, so trying to pass it will only create political isolation. Such logic misses the point. Proposing a strike to the unions will open up the discussion of the merits and importance of strikes as methods of struggle to the ranks and expose the political nature of the leadership of such unions who will reject the resolution.

As of now, only East Bay Carpenters local 713 and Oakland chapter of Association of Raza Educators (ARE) have endorsed such resolutions (Oakland go!) with many other unions endorsing a watered-down resolution that ignores the call for a strike.

The left should give the worthy credit to the militants in Labors Militant Voice for creating and pushing the resolution amongst AFSCME and the Carpenters Union.  Other groups who call for strikes but dont really push them should begin to think critically about their own contradictions. Political clarity in labor struggles is central as bureaucracies, whether they be unions or the state, will coopt ambigious and contradictory political messages. We should give credit to AFSCME 444 resolutions for shining light on our path of struggle and not falling in this trap.

Read the resolution here:  https://advancethestruggle.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/444_mrch4th_res.pdf

Racial Unity in the Class Struggle

Most people don’t openly say this, but it’s generally assumed that an activist should only organize their own racial community and not any others. It is commonly accepted that whites should not organize communities of color due to them reproducing white supremacy. These

Racial unity amongst bay area militants.  Is this SF State or Berkeley?

The photo shows representatives of the Asian, Black, and Chicano/Mexicano student organizations at Berkeley (that is Richard Aoki on the left, whose life is documented in the recently released film “Aoki”)

are questions and concerns we should take seriously but with the conscious goal of working through the racial contradictions rather than accepting them as they are. The process of building unity amongst the working class will find its most difficult hurdles in confronting race and racism.

The picture to the right is of three different militants, from three different racial groups, coming together in struggle.  Many have pointed out that the budget cut movement is largely White activists, but the reality is that the budget cuts impact communities of color far more. Therefore it’s important for communities of color to continue entering this struggle, and in large part this means bringing in issues that pertain specifically to one’s racial community. For example, many Black activists against the budget cuts bring up the racist murder of Oscar Grant. In their political mind these issues are not different but stem from the same system.

Let’s return to the positive aspects of the 1960s, and the quest for racial unity in order for the struggle to deepen by simultaneously challenging the particular issues in each racial community with the major issues that we are all subjected to through the budget cuts and the general breakdown of capitalism.

Everything Touched by Capital Turns Toxic

In the article below, written by Gifford Hartman, capital’s war against the ecological is couched within a rich history of class struggle in California.  California’s economy transformed from its early days as center of raw mineral extraction (primarily gold and, later oil), to one based on agriculture, and then became the site of the pioneering suburban sprawl model of housing development. The earth was abused and re-abused through every cycle of accumulation right along with the indio slaves, mexicano laborers, chinese contract workers, okie migrants,  black longshoremen, and the rest of us who were drawn by the dynamic economy at the Pacific rim of  US imperialism.

Crisis in California: Everything Touched by Capital Turns Toxic

I should be very much pleased if you could find me something good (meaty) on economic conditions in California…. California is very important for me because nowhere else has the upheaval most shamelessly caused by capitalist centralisation taken place with such speed.

– Letter from Karl Marx to Friedrich Sorge, 1880

Shantytown USA

In California toxic capitalist social relations demonstrated their full irrationality in May 2009 when banks bulldozed brand-new, but unsold, McMansions in the exurbs of Southern California.

Across the United States an eviction occurs every 13 seconds and there are at the moment at least five empty homes for every homeless person. The newly homeless are finding beds unavailable as shelters are stretched well beyond capacity. St. John’s Shelter for Women and Children in Sacramento regularly turns away 350 people a night. Many of these people end up in the burgeoning tent cities that are often located in the same places as the ‘Hoovervilles’ – similar structures, named after then President Herbert Hoover – of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The tent city in Sacramento, California’s state capital, was set up on land that had previously been a garbage dump. It became internationally known when news media from Germany, the UK, Switzerland and elsewhere covered it. It featured in the French magazine Paris Match and on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the US. Of course this publicity necessitated that Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s governor, and Kevin Johnson, mayor of Sacramento, shut it down. When we visited in March 2009 to investigate, we met Governor Schwarzenegger and Mayor Johnson there by chance. Johnson told us the tent city would be evacuated, saying, ‘They can’t stay here, this land is toxic.’

Almost half the people we spoke with had until recently been working in the building trades. When the housing boom collapsed they simply could not find work. Some homeless people choose to live outside for a variety of reasons, including not being allowed to take pets into homeless shelters or to freely drink and use substances. But most of the tent city dwellers desperately wanted to be working and wanted to be housed. In many places people creating tent encampments are met with hostility, and are blamed for their own condition. New York City, with a reputation for intolerance towards the homeless, recently shut down a tent city in East Harlem. Homeowners near a tent city of 200 in Tampa, Florida organised to close it down, saying it would ‘devalue’ their homes. In Seattle, police have removed several tent cities, each named ‘Nickelsville’ after the Mayor who ordered the evictions.

Yet in some places, like Nashville, Tennessee, tent cities are tolerated by local police and politicians. Church groups are even allowed to build showers and provide services. Other cities that have allowed these encampments are: Champaign, Illinois; St. Petersburg, Florida; Lacey, Washington; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Reno, Nevada; Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Oregon. Ventura, California recently changed its laws to allow the homeless to sleep in cars and nearby Santa Barbara has made similar allowances. In San Diego, California a tent city appears every night in front of the main public library downtown. Continue reading

Justice For Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?

UPDATE: You can donate to our efforts of spreading this analysis to Oakland youth by using the donation button on the right of the page (email us your name and address if you want to receive pamphlets by snail mail). Every single dollar helps since we’re not sponsored in any of this. If you’re interested in distributing, please continue to email us at Bay.Strikes@gmail.com so we can get in touch. ¡Orrrale!

This is Advance the Struggle’s analysis of the Oakland rebellions of January

Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?

Click here for pamphlet.

’09 and the crisis of leadership which accompanied them. The piece speaks for itself, so I’ll leave you with a link to the graphically designed PDF version, as well as a text-only version in this post.

Click here to download PDF!

Post your comments and feel free to provide critical and/or appreciative feedback!

And please email us if you would like to get physical copies of the pamphlet to distribute (they’re also available at Bay Area progressive bookstores)

bay.strikes@gmail.com
Continue reading

Fred Hampton: Marxist or Nationalist?

 

revolutionary proletarian internationalist

revolutionary proletarian internationalist

Big L

Writes:

How can racial oppression and white supremacy be defeated?  Is it through a nationalist struggle against a colonial enemy?  Are these paradigms of struggle accurate and strategic enough in 2009?  As far back as 1969 Fred Hampton saw the struggle against racism as being rooted within the struggle against capitalism:

“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you do’nt fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.”

Usually the Black Panther Party is described as a “Revolutionary Nationalist” organization, but militants like Fred Hampton demonstrate clearly that some of the most important Panthers had more of a multiracial marxist consciousness. 

Fred Hampton summed his politics up clearly:

“We ain’t gonna fight no reactionary pigs who run up and down the street being reactionary; we’re gonna organize and dedicate ourselves to revolutionary political power and teach ourselves the specific needs of resisting the power structure, arm ourselves, and we’re gonna fight reactionary pigs with INTERNATIONAL PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION. That’s what it has to be. The people have to have the power: it belongs to the people.

We have to understand very clearly that there’s a man in our community called a capitalist. Sometimes he’s black and sometimes he’s white. But that man has to be driven out of our community, because anybody who comes into the community to make profit off the people by exploiting them can be defined as a capitalist. And we don’t care how many programs they have, how long a dashiki they have. Because political power does not flow from the sleeve of a dashiki; political power flows from the barrel of a gun. It flows from the barrel of a gun!

These politics represent a movement beyond simply  nationalism into a complicated, race-conscious proletarian internationalism.  Hampton’s words inspired militancy and advanced struggles in 1969, and are still refreshing today. 

An important task of marxists today is making a fresh analysis of racial/national oppression which avoids mechanically applying Lenin’s “Self-Determination” theses, while also avoiding simplistic and equally mechanical “class is more important than race” logic. 

For an important contribution towards this analysis, refer to the work of Adolph Reed Jr. found here on the A/S blog

Read Fred Hampton’s speech “Power Anywhere Where There’s People” in full: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/fhamptonspeech.html

Interview w/ Nepali Student Leader

manushimain-1Manushi Bhattarai is part of the Maoist ticket that swept the student elections at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu – Nepal’s largest university. Here she discusses the revolution, recent political developments, the international situation and the role of young people with Ben Peterson.

http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=4213

How Does Race relate to Class? A debate

Professor Adolph Reed Jr debates three other professors, Steven Gregory, Maurice Zeitlin and Ellen Meiksins Wood, about how race and class relate to each other. This debate represents a historical problem in the American Marxist movement. Many different progressive and revolutionary movements in American history were never able to overcome racial differences to create class unity in key historic class struggles. Arguably the two most important strike waves in working class American history, 1877 and 1919, ended in defeats. Intra-racial fighting was a central problem that helped lay the ground work for the defeats of the strike. Eugene Debs, one of American labors great socialist leaders once openly stated, “We see it as a class issue rather than a race issue.” Debs colorblind socialism differed with racial theorist WEB Dubois who remarked in that same time period; “That the white heel is still on the black neck is simply proof that the world is not yet civilized. The history of the Negro in the United States is a history of crime without a parallel.” With that said, read this outstanding debate that will challenge simplistic notions of both race and class.

A PDF of this debate How_does_Race_relate_to_Class includes the following contents:

1.    UNRAVELING THE RELATION OF RACE AND CLASS IN AMERICAN POLITICS Adolph Reed, Jr.

2.    CLASS, RACE, AND CAPITALISM Ellen Meiksins Wood

3.    ON THE ‘CONFLUENCE OF RACE AND CLASS’ IN AMERICA Maurice Zeitlin

4.    THE ‘PARADOXES’ OF MISPLACED CONCRETENESS: I THINKING THROUGH THE STATE Steven Gregory

5.    REJOINDER Adolph Reed, Jr.