Tag Archives: labor

On the Union Debate: Abstract Political Differences, Concrete Questions of What Rupture Looks Like

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:

Comrades,

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.

Regards,

JD

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

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The Problematic of the Union in the U.S. – What is to be Done? (Part 2)

Many people reading the blog have only the read the first position paper on unions and not the second. We are releasing the second to make clear there are two position papers being discussed in Advance the Struggle. We wanted to share both so people can see the discussion going on. Please feel free to comment, and or critique both pieces.

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Revolutionaries, Unions and emerging Class Struggle.

“Trade Unions work well as centres of resistance against the encroachment of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerrilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class, that is to say, the ultimate abolition of the wages system.”  -Marx

Thesis:

So few revolutionaries are implanted in the landscape of over 14 million US union members,  making a key task the formation of revolutionary cells amongst the rank and file of unions, which would  engage in three types of political work; 1) day to day organizing and base building amongst the rank and file of that union, 2) form new working class organizations outside of the unions (like solidarity unionism or independent committees) and, 3) in rupturing  moments of capitalist attack, like the “Wisconsin moment,” to lead classwide offensives against capital.

  Continue reading

Classroom Struggle with their latest Newsletter!

The TEACH Committee (formerly Occupy Oakland Education Committee) has been in existence since Nov. 2011. From their inception they have led marches for public education, created & circulated curriculum with class struggle content, built resistance to rampant union busting by Oakland Unified School District, and led an occupation of a shuttered elementary school from which they ran a free People’s School summer program.  This committee, composed of unionized and non-unionized educators, organize independently from hierarchical institutions (namely unions) while also intervening within unions to advance the struggle for quality public education.
They offer their 4th and latest Newsletter which is now called Classroom Struggle. This publication is comprised of articles on: the decision behind the name change, the effect recent elections had on public education in Oakland, the importance of contracts for education workers, analysis of teacher strikes in Sri Lanka and Namibia, and an after-school worker experiential piece. All these articles appear on this committee’s blog —  classroomstruggle.org (formerly education4the99).  Issues 1-3 are also archived as well education struggle articles from around the web. Thanks and ALL POWER to the PROLETARIAT!
Please Print and Distribute!

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

An Open Letter to Members of the SEIU 1021 who work at the Port of Oakland

Striking clerical workers carry pickets outside the APM Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles.  (David McNew / Getty Images / November 30, 2012)

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.

Continue reading

Debate on Palestinian Liberation and Israeli Class Struggle

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.

“Socialism means freedom”… “no strike is illegal!”: Mineworkers, the ANC and the class composition of South Africa

“Socialism means freedom”… “no strike is illegal!”

by A.S. Read

Proletarians around the world should be looking at the situation that has unfolded in South Africa over the last three months. Some 80,000 mineworkers have engaged in wildcat strikes spanning the myriad mining industries from platinum to gold to iron-ore to diamonds and coal. And although the South African ruling class, led by the ANC, is doing everything in their power to promote the illusion of this labor struggle coming to an end (more on this below), on Nov. 10, 2012 miners from the Anglo-American Platinum mine in Rustenberg held a mass rally to build support for their two month long strike. Not only is this wave of labor strikes far from over, its been challenging writing an update as fresh news from comrades directly involved in this struggle comes daily and sometimes hourly. Thus I will attempt to provide as much content as possible in the form of an update. Before highlighting all the latest from the workers and their inspiring actions, its important to identify some important statistics from “post-Apartheid” S.A.

Ben Fogel, a militant in the Eastern Cape of S.A. recently wrote a piece on the autonomous organizing being done from a strategic perspective. The following is taken directly from that article and provides some important statistics: 

South Africa, despite 18 years of majority rule, continues to be one of the most unequal societies on an increasingly unequal planet and is in crisis. Around half the population, mostly black Africans, live below the poverty line.[2] Almost half of all black African households earned below R1670 a month in 2005–06, while only 2 percent of white households fell in that income bracket.[3] South Africa, as of 2011, ranked as the second most unequal country in the world after Namibia—according to the Gini measure.[4] Unemployment consistently hovers unofficially at around 40 percent, and among 18–25 year olds, it is now over 60 percent.[5] Millions of households, despite some improvements still lack access to basic services; the education system still equips most blacks for little other than a future as unskilled labor. This is despite the existence of the much lauded “progressive constitution” with a bill of rights which supposedly insures access to basic socio-economic rights.[6] Essentially South Africa is fucking unequal and black African working class and unemployed Africans continue to be the worst off.” 

Read the entire article here: http://insurgentnotes.com/2012/10/marikana-a-point-of-rupture/

This quote contextualizes a bit of the current class composition of S.A. and reveals a working class powder keg set to explode on the facade of “progressive” South Africa. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the ANC-led “black bourgeoisie” and all its governing structures: Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), South African Communist Party (SACP), National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and of course the media are all putting out unimaginable propaganda in the attempt to label this unrest as anything BUT class struggle. Continue reading