In this series of posts we are attempting to make public some debate that we are having inside of AS around workplace organizing, the union structure and how to approach them. In the comment thread John Desalin posted some questions that led to a longer response from another voice within AS that we are posting here for discussion, and transparency about any differences in AS around this question. Looking forward to more engagment from the comrades!
John Desalin said:
I’m glad an actual discussion is going on, and not a dogmatic rehashing of the theses of some obscure communist organization from the 1970s. We are in a new era of recomposition of the militant labor movement, and I for one welcome fresh thinking. That said, the first piece I think fell short of my expectations.
A key contradiction in the first text was a conception of a union that seemed to be more ideal than one rooted in late or decadent capitalism. Here, it is almost as if the author is saying “On one hand, they hold no hope for socialist revolution” while on the other they are elevated to becoming a possible offensive weapon against capital. I don’t see how this contradiction is resolved in the text at all. I was left wondering what exactly is the limit of the union in terms of whether or not we can see any transformation of its very structure as having a correlative impact on its functioning; apparently not.
The Fish replied:
I did not read the first piece in the same way, as containing an unexamined/unresolved contradiction….I more saw it as describing an objectively-existing contradiction, built into the union-form within capitalism. Perhaps this relates both to a certain vagueness (or more charitably purposeful simplicity) in the article and different assumptions on both of our parts.
As a somewhat tangential aside, I see no clear political differences between these two pieces, and it seems kind of funny to characterize these different methods of presentation as a “debate”, but hey let’s engage what comes up.
I thought it’s a basic aspect of Marxism, from Marx to Lenin to Luxemburg to Gramsci etc. etc., that unions CAN be an offensive weapon against capital (please see all union struggles for wage increases, union-based general strikes in Egypt, union-based struggle for the 8-hour work day). But that they also are NOT the organs through which the working class will make a revolution (see any critiques of the limitations of syndicalism, anarcho-syndicalism in the Spanish Revolution, the IWW as a viable society-wide revolutionary organization.) I assume we agree that a revolution is not the only kind of offensive against capital. Continue reading
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.
Posted in Flyers, Resistance News, Resources, Uncategorized, US Labor
Tagged austerity, class struggle, Economic crisis, labor, Strike, transit workers, Unions, working class
Striking clerical workers carry pickets outside the APM Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles. (David McNew / Getty Images / November 30, 2012)
To our fellow workers,
We understand that this Wednesday, December 5, you will be voting on a contract for your labor at the Port of Oakland. We do not know the details of this contract, and only you can decide if what they offer is worth your labor at this point in time. However, as people who have and will continue to fight alongside you, we would like to respectfully ask that you consider some points before you cast your ballot.
The entirety of this letter is to argue that you are in a position of great power in this situation that is unparalleled in recent history.
The strike action taken at the Port of Oakland on Tuesday, November 20 was powerful. The Port Commission was undoubtedly shaken by your willingness to withhold your labor, the fierce support of your coworkers on the ports, and the larger community. The fact that they wanted to revisit negotiations after nearly a year shows that they do not want this type of tactic to continue or to escalate. This is still the most powerful weapon that an organized workforce has. We were glad to help organize and carry through two shut downs at the Port of Oakland last year. This collaboration and solidarity is quite obviously a threat to those who profit from the work that we do.
A while back a comrade of ours posted a serious response to a controversial (or at least controversially-titled) piece we put out last year: Power to the Jews and Therefore to the Class. We’re just catching on to it (trippin!) and appreciate the thoughtful engagement. Here’s a sample of the more combative section:
There are genuine problems with the AS post and the following comments (presumably by AS members or supporters) which are largely contained in the lack of a historical perspective that prevents them from seeing the specificity of Zionism and the centrality of Palestine in its overthrow. Insofar as this historicity is concerned, I tend to agree with the ISO save for their “one state solution” prescription which I would counter with not a state but a “single democratic polity.” This is of secondary importance here.
Check out the rest of their blog post :slash: slogan, “MAKE THE GENERAL STRIKE IN ISRAEL AN INTIFADA!” We’ll be engaging the post over there, so if you’re interested link on.
Posted in Debates
Tagged austerity, budget cuts, class struggle, colonialism, general strike, imperialism, internationalism, israel, labor, nationalism, occupation, palestine, racism, workers, zionism