Tag Archives: strikes

Two Talks by South African organizer: Mineworker Strikes, Class Struggle after Marikana

 

You’ve probably heard about the class struggle unfolding over the past few months in South Africa. An unprecedented wave of wildcat strikes has all but shut down much of the mining sector since August, with workers resisting wage cuts, layoffs, and hyperexploitative working conditions. When the South African Police Service massacred 34 strikers in broad daylight, the workers were not deterred; instead of backing off, the strikes spread across the entire mining sector, with iron ore and gold miners joining their platinum mining comrades in struggle against the multinationals that own and profit from these oppressive conditions. Now the struggle has spread into Namibia, Botswana, the Western Cape, and elsewhere, and strikers have self-organized workers’ committees across the platinum belt.

So what does all of this mean for class struggle in South Africa? How are these workers’ committees being organized, and why is this (as the Financial Times recently claimed) potentially the most effective strike wave to hit South Africa since the demise of apartheid?

Mazibuko Jara, a long-time organizer from South Africa’s Eastern Cape and one of the founders of the Democratic Left Front, will be giving two presentations on this new wave of class struggle:

On Thursday, Nov. 15, he will be speaking at a forum organized by UC Berkeley’s Center for African Studies at 4 pm (575 McCone Hall). While admission is free, we highly encourage people to make donations to the strike fund for these unprotected workers’ committees. Please give generously; every last dollar will help prolong this struggle.

On Friday, Nov. 15, Mazibuko will be speaking at La Peña in Berkeley (3105 Shattuck Ave) at 7 pm. Admission is on a sliding scale of $5-20, but please give as much as you can: every dollar raised will go to the workers’ committees. Additional donations are highly encouraged.

We hope to see you at one or both events. A luta continua! Forward to a living wage for all workers!

Turning the Tide: 1st Issue of Bay Area Port Workers’ Newsletter

Cover of Port Workers Newsletter

Click on this image to view or download the newsletter.

We published Occupy, ILWU EGT and the Coming Class Battles to point out the limits of a militant alliance between Occupy and ILWU rank-and-file.  As the former came into being as a radical force with its own wild contradictions, and the militancy of the latter carried a tradition of struggle from 1934  to the present, there still needs to be a framework for port class struggle.

Occupy, ILWU EGT and the Coming Class Battles offers a critique of 1) social movement unionism, 2) surplus population insurgency, and proposes to form class-wide committees, which we also call multi-sector committees.  A rank-and-file newsletter that contains articles written by port workers is a first step towards bridging the craft divides in the port. It breaks jurisdictional logic ingrained by existing unionism, orienting towards the whole space of the port. The idea is to lay the basis for a multi-sector unity that offers serious leverage against the employers and a potential model for workers in struggle throughout the US.

This newsletter is a product of combined work between different tendencies of revolutionaries, the Occupy Oakland Labor Solidarity Committee, and workers from different parts of the port.

Enjoy, and bring it down to the docks in your city!

Notes Towards a Critique of Maoism by Loren Goldner

The below piece was originally posted in the hot-off-the-presses latest edition of Insurgent Notes, an excellent Communist journal published by some of our comrades.

In this moment the US revolutionary left is attempting to rebuild from being murdered, exiled and corrupted into practical nonexistence.  As part of this process, we have to take a hard and utterly nondogmatic look at the history of various revolutionary traditions…..unfortunately this is not very common.  What is more common, and infinitely more boring and useless, is a gutter-level political culture that includes one-sentence name-calling summaries of traditions and idealized versions of ones’ own, leading to brain-dead strategic thought often based in knee-jerk rejection.

BUT

We are also not going to win by implementing broad left unity, or by rejecting theory and strategic thought as “academic” or “overintellectualized“.  This could only work if our ideas for approaching the world, and the strategies we make with them, don’t matter for whether our struggles win (if only for a few years) or are drowned in blood.  I’ve yet to hear someone directly defend this thesis, but by all means the comment thread is open for you if you’re interested!

What nondogmatic means in this case is MORE intellectual, in the sense of a deeper look into the reality of complex historical events, figures, strategies and tactics.  It also means “No Cheap Shots“, i.e. we’re trying to learn about the applicability of certain ideas to reality, and the consequences of their use, rather than GET someone in some kind of boxing-like debate.

The following piece is an example of the kind of sharp debate that we need, and the readable historical summations of different tendencies we’ll need to develop and debate in order to understand our history and its impact on today.

The Fish

Introduction by an Advance the Struggle Comrade:

A Marxist critique of Maoism

Were living in a historical moment where anarchism, Trotskyism and Maoism have not proved to be powerful revolutionary systems nor totally obsolete. They hang on to the left. Become reproduced in a variety of ways. Maoism in particularly is an important movement. It claims to be the most serious Marxist movement that is grounded in a non European setting. Such a dynamic makes Maoism an attractive force for young militants of color who align themselves with third world struggles. The Black Panthers were highly influenced by Maoism and Fanon. Movies often depict Panthers selling the Mao’s little red book. The key inspiration for the Panthers, Malcolm X, also was influenced by Maoism. In his Message to the Grassroots, 10th Nov, 1963: Malcolm states: 
“…The Chinese Revolution — they wanted land. They threw
the British out, along with the Uncle Tom Chinese. Yeah,
they did. They set a good example. When I was in prison, I
read an article — don’t be shocked when I say I was in
prison. You’re still in prison. That’s what America means:
prison. When I was in prison, I read an article in Life
magazine showing a little Chinese girl, nine years old; her
father was on his hands and knees and she was pulling the
trigger ’cause he was an Uncle Tom Chinaman, When they had
the revolution over there, they took a whole generation of
Uncle Toms — just wiped them out. And within ten years
that little girl become [sic] a full-grown woman. No more
Toms in China. And today it’s one of the toughest,
roughest, most feared countries on this earth — by the
white man. ‘Cause there are no Uncle Toms over there.”…

As 1500 strikes take place in China everyday, and China being a center of global capitalist accumulation within the world system, many in the Chinese left will try to redevelop Maoism. We need a clear analysis of the political character of Maoism from a marxist perspective. One that can trace its historical development from 1911 to the present. With that said, we welcome Loren Goldner’s essay, a Marxist critique of Maoism.

***

Note to the Reader: The following was written at the request of a west coast comrade after he attended the August 2012 “Everything for Everyone” conference in Seattle, at which many members of the “soft Maoist” Kasama current were present. It is a bare-bones history of Maoism which does not bring to bear a full “left communist” viewpoint, leaving out for the example the sharp debates on possible alliances with the “nationalist bourgeoisie” in the colonial and semi-colonial world at the first three congresses of the Communist International. It was written primarily to provide a critical-historical background on Maoism for a young generation of militants who might be just discovering it. —LG.

Maoism was part of a broader movement in the twentieth century of what might be called “bourgeois revolutions with red flags,” as in Vietnam or North Korea.

To understand this, it is important to see that Maoism was one important result of the defeat of the world revolutionary wave in 30 countries (including China itself) which occurred in the years after World War I. The major defeat was in Germany (1918–1921), followed by the defeat of the Russian Revolution (1921 and thereafter), culminating in Stalinism.

Maoism is a variant of Stalinism.[1] Continue reading

Health Care Workers on Strike for the Whole Class

A striking public health worker at a demonstration outside the Ministry of Health headquarters in Kenya’s capital Nairobi (REUTERS)

On September 12th of this year, 3,000 Kenyan public doctors and health workers voted to strike in solidarity with medical students demanding to be paid for their volunteer hospital work.  This is the second time in one year health workers have staged a strike.  On Friday the health workers called off the strike, with some initial indications that it’s a serious victory for the Kenyan working class, health workers and consumers both.  (We’re also hesitant to crow victory too quickly in these complex situations.)

From allAfrica.com:

After talks with the union officials, Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o announced that he had revoked all disciplinary measures that the government had taken on the medics for taking part in the strike.

At a joint press conference with union officials at Afya House on Thursday evening, Nyong’o said the government would also release the salaries that had been withheld from the striking doctors.

The meeting agreed to set up a committee that would address the doctors’ grievances, which included demands for fastracking of a return-to-work formula that had been signed to end a similar strike late last year.

Kenya is a country in which politicians make about $130,000 a year, while doctors receive a $36,000 a year salary that doesn’t even let them visit private clinics. Health workers in Kenya struggle to meet the needs of their poor and working-class patients with a dire lack of basic resources like drugs and surgery tools. In the meantime, Kenyan legislators hop on flights to America or Europe to kick it with their imperialist puppet masters and get their surgeries and check ups.

Continue reading

The bourgeois media says Egypt is ‘back in business’, but the people say strike!

While the world had its eyes on an inflammatory film made to mock the Prophet Muhammad, The US Chamber of Commerce was brokering a midday Cairo brunch in the Four Seasons between American and Egyptian businessmen.

The US Consulate in Cairo has been the target for many actions before this moment – in response to the Iraq War, in protest of the Mubarak regime’s relationship to the US, etc. This time the trigger might have been the film, but concurrent actions happening across the country prove that Egyptians have a much broader agenda.
Continue reading

De costa a costa, los trabajadores inmigrantes latinos luchan contra la explotación demandando dignidad

(English version here.)

Ellos nos espiaban e intimidado nosotros, todo porque estamos luchando por la dignidad.

Limber Herrera

-Almacén trabajador

Image

Trabajadores de almacén en un centro de distribución de Walmart marcho 50 millas de Los Angeles

La administración Obama publico estadísticas en enero de 2011, diciendo que hay 11,5 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados en los EE.UU. 59% de este grupo son mexicanos, que es de 6,8 millones de personas. Inmigrantes salvadoreños se encuentran en una posición distante de segundo lugar, con 660.000 indocumentados que residen en este país. En California, hay 2,83 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados, en Texas, casi hay 1,8 millones, 740.000 hay en Florida, y Georgia hay 440.000, doble el populación desde 2000. Dentro de la economía capitalista, algunos trabajadores se encuentran en un posición de trabajo que no es esencial para la formación del valor económico. Otros trabajadores se encuentran en los lugares de trabajo que son fundamentales para la producción de valor económico. Otros trabajadores están en trabajas que son centrales al valor de la producción. si los trabajadores en una librería independiente salen en huelga, amenazan al capitalista. si nos fijamos en la industria de la constuccion sin sindicatos, vinculados con el capital financiero, y dependiente en el trabajo indocumentada. Continue reading

“That’s Why I’m a Communist” – Trade Unions, Social Struggle and the State in South Africa


My mother was a kitchen girl//My father was a garden boy//That’s why I’m a communist//I’m a communist//I’m a communist! – Popular apartheid-era song still sung today

The recent armed conflicts between miners and police in South Africa are part of a long legacy of class struggle against the capitalist state.  Recently we in AS along with our comrades in La Pena 2nd Gen organized a forum to tap some of our comrades’ knowledge on the incredible history of South African working-class resistance, both against apartheid and against the neoliberal African National Congress.

The first presentation “The Birth of the Modern Trade Union Movement in South Africa”, by former Black Panther Gerald Smith, is a very useful initial overview of South African history from a class struggle perspective; it’s also a more specific history and analysis of Black labor militancy in the 1980s under apartheid.  Learn something from his dynamic speaking style!

The second presentation, “Social Struggles and the Capitalist State in South Africa since 1994”, by UC Berkeley PHD student Zachary Levenson, focuses on post-apartheid history.  Levenson recently returned from 6 months in South Africa and describes the terrain of struggle and nature of the capitalist state after apartheid.

Check it out and tell us what you think!

From Coast to Coast, Latino Immigrant Workers Fight Exploitation and Demand Dignity.

(La versión en español está aquí.)

They spied on us and bullied us, all because we are fighting for dignity.

Limber Herrera

-Warehouse worker

Warehouse workers at a Walmart distribution center march 50 miles to LA

The Obama administration issues statistics that in January 2011, there was 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the US. 59 percent of this group is Mexican, which is 6.8 million people. El Salvadoran immigrants are in a distant second position, with 660,000 undocumented residing in this country.In California, there are 2.83 million undocumented immigrants, in Texas, almost 1.8 million, in Florida 740,000, and Georgia 440,000 (doubling in numbers since 2000). Within the capitalist economy, some workers are located in position of work that is not central to the formation of value. Other workers are in workplaces that are central to value production. If workers at an independent bookstore would to go on strike, it would exactly threaten the capitalist. If we look at the non-union housing construction industry, it’s both linked with finance capital as well as dependent on undocumented cheap dispensable labor. A strike in this industry would have serious meaning. The independent truckers at the ports are majority immigrant drivers, mostly with some type of permission to work. US capitalism has adapted itself to immigrant labor because it is cheap and disposable. This labor dependency is linked with industries that are central to important components of capitalist production. In order for American capitalism to squeeze all the unpaid labor it can from the immigrant working class, it must vilify, criminalize, oppress, and control the work process. Xenophobic laws (anti-immigrant laws), racism, nationalism all feed into this process.

Continue reading

Blood Shed of the Innocent – Sounds of the South

Artists from political hip-hop collective Sounds of the South

With the chorus of ‘eighteen years and we’re still the victim’ this song from political hip-hop collective Sounds of the South represents in English and native tongues the hypocrisy of the post-Apartheid regime in South Africa. The African National Congress was a political party central to ending apartheid, making use of political strikes as one of its most powerful tactics. This tactic must be used here in the USA. But without a communist goal, all the best tactics in the world will loop back to capitalism and all its horrors.

Nelson Mandela was the first black president of South Africa under the ANC but its plain to see the dictatorship of capital still reigns supreme. The National Union of Miners has always been a pillar of the ANC, but today they work hand in hand with capitalists to put down workers’ righteous struggle. With our own black president, with our own popular “Democratic” party, and with our own sell-out unions, we in the US feel South African proletarian pain.

Dying for a Raise: Mumia on the Marikana Massacre

March on 9/5/12 against the murder of 34 strikers – copyright Alexander Joe AFP/Getty Images

(Audio at Prison Radio).

The Massacre in Marikina, South Africa, of striking mine workers has caused dismay and disbelief the world over.

Thirty four miners were slaughtered, and 78 others wounded by a hail of police gunfire.

How could this be in today’s South Africa?

How could this happen in a post- apartheid South Africa?

How could this happen in a predominantly Black government, led by the African National Congress (ANC)?

 

The spectacle tells the tale: black police, clad in blue overall uniforms, were called by the Lonmin Mine Co. officials, to stand against Black miners holding a wildcat strike demanding better wages and improved working conditions.

 

Miners at Lonmin Platinum are paid on average R4, 000 (=$480 U.S.), and were demanding a raise to R12, 500 (=$1,500) per month.  These strikers, several thousand rock-drill operators, were trying to live and raise families on $120 –per week!

 

When they refused police orders to disperse from a nearby hill, the cops attacked them with automatic weapons fire.

Who do you think they worked for: their people – or the mine operators and owners?

Whom did they serve and protect?

 

In Marikana, in South Africa’s North West Province, lies a mine boasting one of the world’s richest veins of platinum.  Indeed, South Africa is home to some 80% of the world supply of platinum, one of the world’s most precious and strategic metals.

 

And striking miners are dying for a pittance, while owners and investors are making billions!

 

The cops of capitalism serve those who can afford their services.

 

Period.

 

Marikana, North West Province, South Africa joins Sharpville for police and state massacres of Africans.

 

Just as Sharpeville sparked resistance, let Marikana now do the same!

 

–© ’12 maj

Windy City Fights Back: Chicago Teachers on Strike

Chicago Teachers On the Street, photo credit Debra Lane

On Monday Chicago teachers went on strike, notably under the influence of two US Trotskyist groups: the International Socialist Organization and Solidarity.  This is an inspiring large-scale working-class action, and a modern test of many different things: the traditional Trotskyist approach of gaining the formal leadership of big unions, the viability of public sector strikes in the current climate, the question of whether workers will break the legal limits imposed by Taft-Hartley and other US Labor Law, as well as the relationship between the workers

 

withdrawing their labor and the people they serve.

Get it Chicago educators and supporters!

Check out Solida

rity’s live blog coverage of the strike.

 

If anyone gets new reportbacks / analysis, drop em in comments we’d love to see em.

Jazz and the Class Struggle

The Fillmore District in San Francisco was at one time known as “the Harlem of the West Coast.” Its Black population was the base for a vibrant jazz scene that was at the vanguard of a revolutionary culture. Jazz was the product of ancient currents of African music, filtered over centuries through the unique conditions of the Southern US’s plantation economy in which all surface-level traces of the slaves’ autonomy was eliminated and replaced by the dominant White capitalists’ cultural mode. African drums, languages, clothes, language, and symbolism were taken from them and replaced with Anglo counterparts. Despite being coerced to adopt them, African slaves manipulated the Anglo cultural forms to further their own content, inherently (due to their totally proletarian class status and African epistemological roots that were quite opposed to the bourgeois intellectual method) revolutionary.

An analysis of jazz (far beyond the capabilities of this author or the scope of this post) can reveal one of the more accessible examples of dialectics in our history, for it assumed a form that was quite different from its content; jazz’s formalism is always pregnant with improvisation. Jazz was the first Black musical form that European Americans fully participated in, and along with the synthesis of European and African musical styles, came a social synthesis that was a cultural powder keg fueling one of the most militant eras of class struggle in history – the Great Depression and WWII. Black Power, Jazz, and Communism grew up together.

Today, jazz is largely a distorted and fetishized commodity for rich people (white and black) to  consume in a manner so as to say “society is in harmony and despite my put-together and classy airs, I am in sync with the salt of the earth folks whose daily struggle gives them – ahem, I mean us – so much soul.” The disconnect between jazz’s racial and class origins and its current status can be seen in one Bay Area institution called Yoshi’s. This author has had the privilege of winning pairs of tickets to the best jazz venue in the Bay several times (hint: listen to KPFA’s music hour on weekday AMs) and been dazzled by the luxury of the place. Both Yoshi’s locations (Oakland and SF) are centerpieces of redevelopment projects that have been pretty hostile to the local proletarian populations.

The most recent example of Yoshi’s bourgeois character is its lack of sympathy for a workers’ struggle at the Hotel Frank in San Francisco, where Yoshi’s sends its out of town performers – even when it means crossing a picket line.

Of course, jazz is not dead. There are quite a few genuine jam sessions throughout the Bay with participation from musicians who struggle daily to pay bills as workers with day jobs or unemployed. There is one brilliant flautist in Oakland who can be found playing at BART stations and has a Marxist analysis as sharp as anyone’s. Advance the Struggle ourselves even have the honor having a talented jazz pianist in our ranks. And of course, jazz has spurred a whole lineage of musical forms that have taken turns at the forefront of revolutionary upsurges in the US and around the world, from rock n roll to hip-hop.

Just as jazz is not dead, it goes without saying that neither is class struggle. The ILWU local 10 is at its militant best once again, as it fights legal persecution for taking workplace action in solidarity with the workers of Wisconsin on April 4th.  This SFBayview article is a great collection of info on the April 4th action and their employers’ lawsuit.  Come through tonight to an emergency organizing meeting to defend local 10!  Here’s the meeting info:

Local 10 located near Fisherman’s Wharf at 400 North Point St., corner of Mason, Thursday, April 14, at 7 p.m., in the Henry Schmidt Room.

Lastly, we would like to take this opportunity to promote a show and talk on Friday night called “Jazz and Black Power” at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley this Saturday 8-10pm:

This Saturday from 8:00pm to 10:30pm, La Pena (3105 Shattuck Berkeley) will host a night of Jazz and the Black Power Movement. Come and listen to 5 member band Jazz group Luv U Down and commentary by ex Black Panther political activist Gerald Smith on Jazz’s connection to the Black Power movement. General tickets are $12 and student tickets are $10.

Worker’s Control and the Revolutions in North Africa

By a comrade on the struggles in North Africa, this isn’t an “AS line” on these inspiring but far-away events; what it is, is a gutsy opening to discussion of the tasks of the revolutionary working class.

credit: Leil-Zahra Mortada

“Combining contradictory tasks—patriotism and socialism—was the fatal mistake of the French socialists. In the Manifesto of the International, issued in September 1870, Marx had warned the French proletariat against being misled by a false national idea; the Great Revolution, class antagonisms had sharpened, and whereas at that time the struggle against the whole of European reaction united the entire revolutionary   nation, now the proletariat could no longer combine its interests with the interests of other classes hostile to it; let the bourgeoisie bear the responsibility for the national humiliation—the task of the proletariat was to fight for the socialist emancipation of labour from the yoke of the bourgeoisie…..

Although the socialist proletariat was split up into numerous sects, the Commune was a splendid example of the unanimity with which the proletariat was able to accomplish the democratic tasks which the bourgeoisie could only proclaim. Without any particularly complex legislation, in a simple, straightforward manner, the proletariat, which had seized power, carried out the democratisation of the social system, abolished the bureaucracy, and made all official posts elective.” (Lessons of the Commune, Lenin)

“Essentially, the problem was that the left thought it should simply tail after the working-class and other oppositional activity, rather than intervene and propose and alternative strategies.  They believed that they should avoid having ideological arguments with various currents within the working class.  In practice, this meant that the left ended up taking its lead not from the most advanced but from the most backward sections….” (Revolutionary Rehearsals)

The Class Struggle has become more open now than ever. Nobody knew where the spark might come from. But we all know that the contradictions are becoming more pronounced, the antagonisms sharper. The explosion and the open struggle is now to be found in Northern Africa (it is mostly being referred to as a shake up of the Arab World. We find this term just as correct for obvious reasons).

Tunisia began it on January 14.

And the recent explosion folks are talking about? Egypt.

We have all heard about the massive protests resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of police, many police vehicles being set on fire in response, and government buildings attacked. The uprising is being called spontaneous and leaderless, but this explosion has a precedent in Egypt: the lessons learned through their preceding struggles makes the Egyptian people more capable of leading themselves forward as they intervene in history, and to plan actions without relying on a figurehead or predetermined formula for protest.

In 2008 there were militant strikes led by women in the textile factories that grew into 2 days of riots. In 2003, 50,000 Egyptians protested against the Iraq War. In 2000, the biggest demonstrations since the 1977 bread riots went down in solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada. So we see the combination of political and economic struggles over the period of many years, throughout the course of which, thousands of leaders and intellectuals were produced from amongst the humble masses. A generally heightened degree of consciousness is burned into the minds of millions as a result of sustained waves of protest and strike. As consciousness grows and the country becomes more focused on a common goal, solidarity builds and leaps in the social relations and culture can occur. Women are publicly participating in the large militant protests to a degree that many observers say is unprecedented. The shifts in gender relations in Egypt, like this whole explosion of militant activity, is rooted in far more mundane every day struggles, with heightened peaks represented by women taking the vanguard in the struggle at the workplace during the textile strikes.

Add to this brew of organic proletarian political praxis the intentional intervention by militants of various political persuasions–from the Islamist, to the trade unionist, to the feminist, and revolutionary marxist–and the practical struggle becomes mixed up in the daily stew of theoretical debate. These are the situations that capital tries desperately to avoid by implanting apathy, cynicism and miseducation into the hearts and minds of the downtrodden across the globe.

Egypt is one of Africa’s most developed countries and has a very deep cultural past, rooted in ancient African civilization, the Muslim empire that brought science to much of the world, including Europe, and in modern times a venerable legacy of class struggle and national independence. The upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt are having their impact now on Sudan where a student-driven movement to oust the president (charged with war crimes against the people of southern Sudan) and for economic demands is growing.

The uprising (“intifada,” in arabic) in Egypt is NOT to be underestimated. It must be remembered that Egypt is not just a Muslim country, it is African, and this continent has as much potential as the “Arab world” to explode into revolutionary upheaval. Egypt is where Obama decided to give his speech to the Muslim world, and is a central player in politics across the African continent. And, of course, Egypt is one of the most dependable allies that the United Stated of America has, which complicates the politics of US intervention and gives the Egyptian working class more wiggle room to maneuver.

What do people in Egypt want? They want an increase in wages, an end to increasing food prices, an end to unemployment, and political freedoms. To win these, they will have to smash out the whole capitalist box that imprisons them.

The protest in Egypt started on Tuesday, January 25. They were organized by activists and militants, in large part with electronic means of communication: Facebook, twitter, and cell-phone text messages. The Protests of Tuesday were already being hailed as the biggest sign of discontent towards the Mubarak in the 30 years it has governed Egypt.

Then came Friday, January 28. With the Tunisian people in their minds and heart, the Egyptian people moved forward, facing repression the entire way: Twitter, Facebook, txt messaging, are all currently disabled in Egypt.  Still, Friday indeed brought many to their feet–and with that, revolutionary struggle unfolded all over the different news mediums, all around the globe.

Friday was the biggest day of protest! It was obvious that these were no mere demonstrations, there was a revolution happening before the eyes of the world. Technology and communication can now show more clearly a revolution when it happens. This should not be taken for granted. All of Egypt’s oppressed and miserable came forth and, in no exaggeration, did battle with the 30 year-long regime of the NDP (National Democratic Party), the party of Hosni Mubarak, Dictator of Egypt for 30 years. A big and important factor in this battle was the public and active presence of women,showing how crisis can call deeply ingrained norms into question.

One of the most interesting events that was communicated out of Egypt was the vacillation of the Armed forces, their desire to be taken up by the revolutionary masses.   Indeed this event makes it again clear: society in Egypt is beginning to be turned on its head.  This event must not be taken lightly, for one thing that should be known, as a Professor from Harvard said, most of the people in the armed forces are conscript. They are ordinary folk.  Rumours are even swerving around that there was confrontations between the Military and the Police on the ground.  The military of the Bourgeois now turns on it.

It is not hard to guess that the vast majority of the people out on the streets of Egypt (and not just in the Capital, Cairo) are proletarian.  People who sell their hours of labour in exchange for a small wage.  But it would be a little hard to guess to as to who is leading the movement and holding formal leadership.

Is it the Unions? The Muslim Brotherhood (who are the largest oppositional group to the Regime in the country)? Mohamed El Baradei (a well know Nobel prize winner and in opposition to the Regime)?  It is not clear.  Nobody has (can?) take formal leadership.  There is no institution to take the place of the current oppressive Egyptian State .

And for this reason, we must look back to Tunisia.  For it is Tunisia who Egypt follows, and therefore it is most urgent that we say to the Egyptian proletariat, “look again”.

It must be understood that Tunisia is leading the assault in the Arab world against the economic hardships and lack of political representations.  We must not be taken a hold by bourgeois media and forget about Tunisia. We cannot get lost in their hysteria.  There is a modern time connection between Tunisia and Egypt that has deepened with the modern revolutionary conditions.  Indeed, Tunisian activist and militants were telling folk from Egypt how to have better on-the-ground tactics through the internet!! What great political leadership! Egypt needs more; that is why we say, look to Tunisia’s District Committees! District Committees which have sprung up in Tunisia and are in essence Workers Councils! Those Councils which are reminiscent of the network of Councils from Paris 1871!  It has happened before and it becomes reality once again; and anyway, if in Tunisia they are not workers councils, we nonetheless point out that it is councils that are needed and that these are “forces created by the revolution…at the initiative of the masses”**. The interest of the proletariat should not be lost among the interest of other social classes within these councils!

Workers’ councils are not some fantastic, romantic thing that we advocate because we fetishize the Russian Revolution as some moderate critics might allege. Workers’ councils are the logical outcome of sustained, widespread, militant proletarian action and pop up across the globe at some time or another when struggle reaches a certain pitch. The case of the Iranian revolution offers a historical example that might in some ways foreshadow events to come in Tunisia and Egypt. The book, Revolutionary Rehearsals (Haymarket Books, 1987) describes the emergence of workers’ councils in Iran, known as shoras, and how they displaced the government-controlled unions and became a basis of militant power that confronted the SAVAK, the secret police:

“Within the oil and other established industries, workers with direct traditions of organization (or with parents or close relatives who had passed on their experience), played a leading role in founding the workers’ shoras. When the newer industries whose workforces were mainly recent rural migrants, the emergence of the shoras owed little either to previous working class traditions or to the influence of the organizations of the Left. In these industries, the workers’ recent experience of developing and running insurrectionary strike committees, together with their hatred of the Shah’s SAVAK-imposed syndicates provided the main impulse behind their formation of shoras.” (pg. 143)

On January 17th, it seems, similar committees sprung up in Tunisia to defend the proletariat and the Tunisian revolution (not yet socialist). These District Committees seem to have sprung up spontaneously and only on the will of the proletariat.  What other factors were involved is too difficult to figure out as of this moment.  Point is they are an established fact and they represent workers and the community in general organizing themselves and defending the revolution in Tunisia. If we are misinformed as to their true nature, nonetheless, there is some kind of bottom-up organizing in Tunisia that has enough potential to affect the quality of government that results from this great upheaval. Here is an example of what Tunisia’s District and Regional Committees are  fighting for. This is from the “Call by the Siliana Wilaya [Department] Committee to Protect the Population — Siliana, Jan. 16, 2011″ posted on the Socialist Organizer website (http://www2.socialistorganizer.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=424&Itemid=1):

The committee works to:

– Recognize the moral and material rights of our martyrs and to honor their memory by bringing their killers to justice and giving their names to squares and public places.

– Defeat the ruling party (RCD) and all its structures, including its militia, and freeze its assets, and restitute to the people all the goods and property that were stolen from them; and to prosecute all those responsible for the political, financial and administrative corruption.

– Recognize the poorer regions, especially Kasserin, providing them the right to development and the equitable distribution of wealth for the creation of jobs.

– Fight any propaganda that distorts and obscures the reality of facts in all regions, particularly in the region of Kasserin, and which attempts to sow hatred between regions.

– Establish a Government of National Public Salvation, chaired by a nationally recognized, independent personality, known by all for his/her integrity. This government will be composed of people who are not involved in the political, economic and social worlds of the ruling party.

The government must guarantee the election of a Constituent Assembly for the purpose of adopting a new Destour [Constitution — Ed,] that breaks with the old regime. Long live the revolution of the Tunisian people! Glory to our martyrs! Long live the fighting Tunisian people!

These committees represent a positive step forward in organizing the main forces of the revolution; the working class and its allies. But, as we can see, a specifically proletarian program for proletarian control of society is not part of this agenda, despite the fact that as SO says, many union activists are playing active roles in them. Still, the working class is allied with, and perhaps subordinated to the middle classes and opposition sections of the bourgeoisie. Now then, the Egyptian working class must look at these committees in Tunisia, build similar institutions, and fight for the power within them to guide themselves for a totally reorganized economy that workers plan and control, ie socialism, a workers state, that is, a network of councils that can smash the State.

Even though Tunisia’s, and now Egypt’s, committees are at best embryonic but with the potential for more soviet-like forms to emerge, the case of Egypt holds a lot of potential for really revolutionary developments to take place. Already the vacillation of the armed forces, a de facto general strike, and the total participation of society in protest against the regime is qualitatively more significant even than the movement in Greece over the last year or two.

The reason for Egypt’s explosions can be said like this: it got an extra push to liberate itself, it got this push from Tunisia. Strike after strike in Tunisia.  With each one, and because of current economic conditions internationally, the Tunisians people’s consciousness grew and grows.  Yes that is the extra push Egypt needed.  As noted above, Egypt has an impressive history of labor struggle, but the peoples of Egypt were truly inspired by the action of the international proletariat, particularly the Tunisian Revolution. And this being a fact, we say to Egypt, “look again to Tunisia Brothers and Sisters!! For they have District Committees! History has not passed in vain! History has taught us that the networks of Workers Councils are to take the place of the Bourgeois State and indeed smash it! Assert your power the way the Tunisians have asserted theirs! By calling into place a network of Councils that can challenge the class power relations and further advance the international revolution!!”.

Comrades, this is the correct thing to do! The revolution in Tunisia is led by workers!! The General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) is the group that seems to lead the workers.  But it does not lead them to Socialism! It tails the movement, because it does not know Socialism, thus, it does not know the revolutionary program of the Tunisian Proletariat!! And only a socialist and revolutionary program can bring the peoples of Tunisia what they really want: indefinite economical and political stability. Are we wrong? No.  And we will point to the fact that members of the UGTT tried to enter into a coalition government that still retained the Ministers of the old regime, the type of class collaboration that spells the death of all revolutionary movements.  But these members ultimately left the coalition, and when they left, it was not because of their own enlightenment, it was because the Tunisian Proletariat barked at its top union officials and said “you fools! That is NOT what we demand!”. The bark came from the District Councils.

But the revolutionary workers councils that have existed before in the proletariat’s history are not romantic.  We do not create things in our minds and then try to fit reality accordingly.  We are Scientific Socialist.  Moreover, we are Internationalist.  And we believe that history has not passed in vain.  Thus we will recall the Workers Councils of Paris 1871, the workers councils of Russia 1905 and 1917, China 1927, the workers councils in Chile, in Poland,  etc. The Tunisian’s have councils and momentum.  Both of these are established facts.  Another fact; workers made the revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt and there should be few barriers to North African workers creating their own councils either. If this uprising is to surpass the merely democratic and nationalist reforms that are currently the main demands, and grow into a truly revolutionary movement for the ouster and oppression of the entire bourgeoisie – and not just one or the other of its figureheads – workers will have to create the organizational apparatus to exert their power politically and dictate the re-construction of society in their own image.

Of course, the Workers Council Network will be able to push the Bourgeois Regime only if the vanguard of the proletariat will lead it to.  There is no way around that.  There is no presumption here. But that is another piece of writing  altogether.

We urge Egyptians to follow in the steps of Tunisia! Bring forth the Workers Councils! Do not fear it! For your Brothers and Sisters of the same class have brought it to life before throughout history!  Your history! The working class history! A revolutionary History!

We do not hesitate in asserting that a network of councils dominated by the interest of the proletariat is to smash the oppressive State! Agitation in with this focus is correct!***

Comrades! Long live the international Proletarian Revolution!!

** “14th of January Front” statement. (http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/tunisia310111.html)

***We do not claim to have direct connections in Egypt or Tunisia.  Nonetheless, we are internationalist (by de facto, we are Marxists) and thus are compelled to give an analysis.

We’ll Ride Until the Wheels Fall Off: Prisoners as Proletarian Actors

Georgia – On December 9, 2010, thousands of Georgia prisoners struck – making it the biggest prisoner protest in the history of the United States. What does this mean? Prisoners across the Georgia penitentiary system collectively refused to cooperate with the system incarcerating them, to leave their cells, to work for free for the government. They organized to exert direct control over their bodies, their lives and their circumstances, something they could only do by acting in concert in the thousands. Since December 9, the initial strike day, thousands have continued their struggle against brutal, punitive, unjust conditions, standing up against extreme violence from the prison guard forces.

Despite its size, the unique thing about this prisoner resistance is that it uses the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of the proletariat: consciously and collectively withholding its labor power across the divisions created by bourgeois ideology and its division of labor. One prisoner put out the following statement:

…Brothers, we have accomplished a major step in our struggle…We must continue what we have started…The only way to achieve our goals is to continue with our peaceful sit-down…I ask each and every one of my Brothers in this struggle to continue the fight. ON MONDAY MORNING, WHEN THE DOORS OPEN, CLOSE THEM. DO NOT GO TO WORK. They cannot do anything to us that they haven’t already done at one time or another. Brothers, DON’T GIVE UP NOW. Make them come to the table. Be strong. DO NOT MAKE MONEY FOR THE STATE THAT THEY IN TURN USE TO KEEP US AS SLAVES….

Across and against the extreme racial antagonisms which exist throughout all of capitalist society but especially in the USA’s “corrections” system, prisoners of all colors united against a common enemy: the coercive, violent, exploitative force of their captors. Organized through existing networks of prison life, using cell phones purchased from guards (who profit from illicit trade with the prisoners – charging as much as $800 for a cell phone!), the strike has put forward intelligible, clear, justifiable demands – demands that many of us can identify with as exploited workers, but also demands that go beyond working conditions or wages to challenge the logic of incarceration in the US today.   The list and more below the fold:

Forgotten Classic: Workers’ Movements in the United States Confront Imperialism

The Progressive Era Experience

by David Montgomery.

 

This was the subject of one of Advance the Struggle’s first posts, which was reported to be viewed by only one person. How is that possible? It demands a re-release! As a new working class struggle simmers under the surface, we should educate ourselves by learning our labor history and seeking out the best traditions and authors in that discipline. David Montgomery was a machinist before he was a professor. He wrote Workers Control in America about how the Taylorized method of production was more than just a method for economic efficiency; it was a mode of control and domination over the labor process which undercut workers’ power and autonomy at the point of production.

US Special Forces with Iraqi Prisoners

US Occupation forces in Iraq: Does organized US labor benefit from imperialism?

Most view the organized labor movement as being a static, conservative body that was often hierarchical and racist. Much of it was. David Montgomery investigates the opposition and internationalism that nonetheless persisted in the bodies of organized labor at the turn of the century, illuminating a powerful counter movement with internationalist principals. The American Federation of Labor from 1886 to 1955 and the AFL-CIO from 1955 to the present have worked and do work with the CIA and US foreign policy, from the pragmatic view that helping maintain the US’s share in the world will produce jobs for US workers. This essay shows on the one hand that the Pan-American Federation of Labor was more a product of diplomatic imperialist maneuvering than of class solidarity, and on the other, that there was still a militant internationalist movement that cross-fertilized in US, Mexico, Cuba , Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Specifically in Mexico, where major US investments shaped the economy, Montgomery states, “anarcho-syndicalists enjoyed strong support on both sides of the border, and the path to union growth was opened by revolution.” Continue reading