Tag Archives: march 4th

To the Budget Cut Movement: No More Ignoring State Violence

by Rebelde

The anti-budget cut movement and struggle for public education in California over the last year has inspired worldwide resistance, and has brought in a lot of new people who have never organized or been political before. The March 4th movement provided an outlet for people to get involved and educate themselves about the budget cuts; it also created a base to build off for the next cycle of struggle. Since March 4th conferences have gone down and a new date for mass action has been picked: October 7th… but will October 7th be qualitatively different than March 4th? Will more sectors of society be brought in? Will struggle deepen and become more militant? As the economic crisis deepens and affects more and more people internationally, there is a real need for a militant perspective examining why the budget cuts are happening, who is causing them, and who is suffering from them.
So far the education sector has largely lead resistance to the cuts, on college campuses specifically, but these cuts go far beyond the universities. It is not just education that is being destroyed; social services, such as free and/or affordable healthcare are being cut; there are massive foreclosures and a lack of affordable or public housing; unemployment remains high. Anyone can see that these cuts aren’t just affecting students, but the working-class as a whole. While all these cuts are happening in the public sector the top corporations and banks were immediately bailed out by the Federal Government as soon as their financial instruments evaporated in the bubble pop. If it wasn’t clear to you before that this system was based off of exploitation and a class divide between the rich and the poor, massive bailouts to the capitalists and bankers while we are left to struggle for the basic necessities of life should make it clear.

Police attack people protesting the racist murder of Oscar Grant. - July 9th, 2010, Oakland

These budget cuts are also occurring during a time period of massive state violence to communities of color and queer people; the passage of the anti-immigration bill SB 1070 is causing and supporting more profiling of immigrant populations and ICE raids; the Oscar Grant movement has exposed the police’s continual assault against Black women and men that stems from the days of slavery; and there is consistent harassment and murder of queer and gender oppressed people. Is a budget cut struggle solely confined to defending education enough to really fight the cuts and the crisis? Is it enough for the people most affected by it to be brought in? No. We need a larger analysis that identifies the true enemy, the capitalist system, which relies on other systems of oppression (patriarchy, racism, & homophobia) to target and discipline people of color, women, and queer folks to keep divisions within the class that makes uniting and resisting harder.

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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.

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“We Are All Workers” say UW student militants

Custodians Unite To Fight

Illustration by an anonymous University of Washington custodian

The anti-budget cut movement has unfolded quickly in the past few months after a UC walkout on September 24th of 2009 served as a catalyst for the already existing but increasingly uncreative organizing around the budget cuts on universities and community colleges that’s been going on for years in California and across the country. The past years has seen a large shift from isolated local struggles that involved petitioning or the annual March On Sacramento to more concerted and united actions and tactics reaching out internationally.

The tactic of occupation had a domino effect, injecting the politics of struggle into a movement that is broadening to a larger working-class struggle against increased exploitation levied against working people because of the capitalist crisis. March 4th, the date decided by a CA Statewide Organizing Conference for a statewide strike and day of action against the cuts, has expanded to become a national day of action to defend public education. Here in California there has been a push to connect the education struggle with defense of social services like healthcare and public transit, workers fighting against layoffs and speed-ups, and struggle against the closing of homeless shelters.

This move towards a more working-class-focused struggle for education, jobs, and social services has diversified the face of the movement beyond that of the angry privileged college student who just wants classes and cheaper tuition.  A more diverse face, however, is a step behind organizational unity.

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What Could March 4th Look Like?

While we prepare to participate in the Northern/Southern California March 4th Coordinating Committee meetings tomorrow, let’s examine a strike of students and workers that happened a few years back at UC Santa Cruz.

Participants should recall the struggle that went down in the process of building for the strike: struggle amongst various Left tendencies, struggle with union bureaucracies, and struggle with student organizations to participate in the strike effort.  The results are clear in the short film Estamos Aqui.

What March 4th will look like is not yet clear.  Organizing efforts have been happening in Oakland, and folks in San Francisco are preparing as well . . . Meanwhile organizers in LA are taking steps towards establishing March 4th Committees.  It’s becoming clear that a strong left wing tendency has potential to emerge as March 4th organizers and organizations are recomposed.  Let’s keep it moving.