Discussion:
Camejo and Shawki/ISO and so it goes...
(too old to reply)
hoodoorus
2004-10-24 23:18:30 UTC
Permalink
While I can appreciate some enthusiasm for what the Nader/Camejo ticket has attempted to do for independent progressive politics this year, I've had a few go rounds with the ISO as a member and have long thought them worthy of the occasional drubbing they get. I can appreciate much of what the ISO does, they're a good place for a lot of folks to get their first exposure to marxist ideas. That's where I started out. I think they're great with students, but their work with rank and file workers is pretty rank and doctrinaire. They've grown up a lot, let them grow up some more. You note that they are probably the second largest socialist tendency after the CP, and maybe this is so. But I believe this comes less from their integrity then it does their tendency to simplify complex questions in much the same way the CP does. I've been watching them for a little over twenty years now, so I don't think I'm being too harsh here.

That state capitalist business of theirs is too much to swallow, and I tried for many years. They've yet to satisfactorily explain how the state forms taken by the Bolsheviks were in any way different then the nationalized forms assumed by the revolutions in, say, Cuba or China. Yet Cuba and China are state capitalist according to them, always have been, but the Soviet Union under Lenin, even given its high levels of substituionism of the Bolshevik party during the Civil War, was not state capitalist. Somehow the line the Bolshevik party had at the time made the Soviets not state capitalist, if we look at Tony Cliff's assessment of the period. It's the same sort of legerdemain one sees in the RCP, in their explanation of how the Soviet Union was socialist under Stalin, but not so under Khruschev. I just don't think that kind of politics is honest. I think they're trying to sidestep the actual errors and complexities of worker's states, prettify the errors of Leninism, and as a Leninist, I don't think that's okay. And while that might seem irrelevant, or hair splitting, I think it's a trifle of a decisive significance when it comes to the way that workers in the United States will struggle on the question of the history of worker's states. It's going to be a question that arises as we struggle to build a mass labor formation, and I think it demands a more rigorous clarity than the ISO is offering. And the only reason I'm raising this is that you almost make them seem victims of the Brit SWP in your posting, but near as I can tell, there's just as much hackery in the organization run by Shawki, Smith and comrades. Their current sucking up to Noam Chomsky, who is notoriously anti-Leninist, is nothing short of disgusting. Chomsky re-discovers the imperialist wheel, repeats outright slanders of the Bolsheviks (and make no mistake, they were wrong many times, but they weren't criminals or putschists, as he presents them), and then admits he's never studied the period. Just where do the ISO think they're going with him? Hacks, pal. They're hacks.

M. Hureaux, Seattle
-------------- Original message --------------
Last night I attended the 8pm plenary of a northeast regional conference
organized by the International Socialist Conference up at CCNY. Ralph
Nader's running mate Peter Camejo spoke first, followed by ISO leader
Ahmed Shawki.
The ISO is probably the largest socialist group in the USA today, next
to the CP. It is a "state capitalist" formation that broke with the
British SWP about 4 years ago in a classic instance of Comintern-type
meddling. After the ISO had raised some innocent questions about how
other sections were being funded (at least to my eyes), it was
stigmatized as "not understanding the lessons of Seattle" and either
expelled or browbeaten until forced to detach itself from the SWP's
international organization.
It has been rather successful over the past few years in general
socialist outreach and participation in the mass movements. The
chairperson at the plenary announced that 500 people had shown up for
the conference. To my eyes most seemed to be under 30 and included lots
of college students. I was also struck by the presence of more than a
handful of African-Americans. My guess is that the desire to be
connected to a socialist formation overrides Black nationalist and
separatist impulses in a period of rising capitalist crisis--especially
when the traditional "radical" Black movement has become an appendage of
the Kerry campaign.
Camejo's talk was a combination of his stump campaign speech and
observations geared to the socialist audience, which was obviously as
fond of him as the American SWP rank-and-file was back in the period
before he was expelled for challenging the party's sectarian course.
The campaign portion of his speech focused on the cognitive dissonance
aspect of support for Kerry. You have a situation in which the beliefs
and desires of the people voting for him runs counter to his professed
goals around a range of questions, including most importantly the war in
Iraq. Camejo drew big laughs and applause when he tried to imagine how
Kerry supporters reassure themselves in private conversations. They
probably tell each other that Kerry is lieing when he says that he seeks
victory in Iraq and that he will pull out after being elected. This will
be the first time in American history when a politician becomes more
popular for telling more lies.
The openly socialist portion of his speech addressed what Peter saw as
mounting contradictions in the world capitalist economy. I certainly
hope that the ISO will transcribe and publish his remarks because I can
hardly do them justice. He pointed to the likelihood that the United
States has either reached the Hibbert curve or will soon do so. This
means that the rate of economic growth will be slowed by energy
shortages. We are also facing a situation in which home ownership has
become a kind of savings plan for most working people, as house values
increase as a result of cheap mortgage rates induced by low inflation
rates. When rising energy costs leads to an inflationary spike, home
values will begin to sharply decrease. The consequence might be massive
consumer default and bankruptcy.
Both Shawki and Camejo emphasized that in a period of deepening economic
crisis, it will matter little to the average working person what Peter
Coyote or Medea Benjamin wrote in 2004 (who now apparently regrets
supporting Nader in 2000). For somebody facing eviction or unemployment,
they will remember who defied the TINA political consensus framed by the
2-party system and who stood up for working people, not left-of-center
celebrities. This has been the main reason people such people voted for
Nader. It is also the challenge to the Green Party, to decide whether it
will be a middle-class party that compromises with the billionaire
war-makers in both parties or one creating alternatives to the system.
For those who think that the Green Party will be the vehicle for the
ultimate social and economic emancipation of the USA, Camejo made it
clear that it will be another party more deeply rooted in the working
class. However, it would be a big mistake not to get involved with the
Greens today, despite its conflicting tendencies. The debate that is
going on in the Greens is important for future developments. To further
that debate, Camejo announced the formation of a Green Caucus for
Democracy and Independence. It is opposed to the Electoral College type
rules that allowed a non-entity like David Cobb to become their
Presidential candidate. It also insists that the Greens should run
*against* both Democrats and Republicans, as was the original mandate.
Last night was the first chance I heard to hear Shawki speak. In
comparison to the SWP leaders I remember with some ambivalence, he comes
across as a much more modest figure. I suspect that his relative youth
in and of itself would have to make him less cocky. In a pitch perhaps
to veterans of 1960s type sects like me, he emphasized that it is not
inevitable that socialist groups will heap recriminations on critics of
the party line. He believed that the ISO was conscious of such problems
and would avoid them. My own take on the matter is that this is a
question of methodology rather than good intentions.
Shawki had some interesting observations on an ABB-like outlook popping
up in Europe, as elements of the left begin to face the same pressure
that it faced in the USA. For example, the revolutionary parties in
France got 10 percent of the vote the last time it ran a united left
ticket. Now some party leaders are questioning that approach. They are
weighing the possibility of throwing their support behind the SP on a
"lesser evil" basis. Although Shawki did not mention any names, I was
convinced he was speaking of Trotskyist figures deeply embedded in
academia like Daniel Bensaid. In Italy, the CP/Refoundation made it a
point to reject the Olive Tree coalition of left and bourgeois parties a
couple of years ago. Now it has decided to embrace such a coalition.
As the extreme left lowers its profile and as the left-center and
traditional right parties continue to attack the living standards of
working people, it is inevitable that the extreme right parties will
begin to gain in influence as they use radical sounding demagogy.
Although we are obviously not in as extreme a crisis as in the 1930s,
this kind of "lesser evil" logic has been historically proven to lead to
the triumph of fascism. It is incumbent on radicals to avoid this
temptation and speak up as forcibly and as visibly as possible for a
class alternative to capitalist politicians and programs.
--
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org
_______________________________________________
Marxism mailing list
Marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
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hoodoorus
2004-10-24 23:18:58 UTC
Permalink
While I can appreciate some enthusiasm for what the Nader/Camejo ticket has attempted to do for independent progressive politics this year, I've had a few go rounds with the ISO as a member and have long thought them worthy of the occasional drubbing they get. I can appreciate much of what the ISO does, they're a good place for a lot of folks to get their first exposure to marxist ideas. That's where I started out. I think they're great with students, but their work with rank and file workers is pretty rank and doctrinaire. They've grown up a lot, let them grow up some more. You note that they are probably the second largest socialist tendency after the CP, and maybe this is so. But I believe this comes less from their integrity then it does their tendency to simplify complex questions in much the same way the CP does. I've been watching them for a little over twenty years now, so I don't think I'm being too harsh here.

That state capitalist business of theirs is too much to swallow, and I tried for many years. They've yet to satisfactorily explain how the state forms taken by the Bolsheviks were in any way different then the nationalized forms assumed by the revolutions in, say, Cuba or China. Yet Cuba and China are state capitalist according to them, always have been, but the Soviet Union under Lenin, even given its high levels of substituionism of the Bolshevik party during the Civil War, was not state capitalist. Somehow the line the Bolshevik party had at the time made the Soviets not state capitalist, if we look at Tony Cliff's assessment of the period. It's the same sort of legerdemain one sees in the RCP, in their explanation of how the Soviet Union was socialist under Stalin, but not so under Khruschev. I just don't think that kind of politics is honest. I think they're trying to sidestep the actual errors and complexities of worker's states, prettify the errors of Leninism, and as a Leninist, I don't think that's okay. And while that might seem irrelevant, or hair splitting, I think it's a trifle of a decisive significance when it comes to the way that workers in the United States will struggle on the question of the history of worker's states. It's going to be a question that arises as we struggle to build a mass labor formation, and I think it demands a more rigorous clarity than the ISO is offering. And the only reason I'm raising this is that you almost make them seem victims of the Brit SWP in your posting, but near as I can tell, there's just as much hackery in the organization run by Shawki, Smith and comrades. Their current sucking up to Noam Chomsky, who is notoriously anti-Leninist, is nothing short of disgusting. Chomsky re-discovers the imperialist wheel, repeats outright slanders of the Bolsheviks (and make no mistake, they were wrong many times, but they weren't criminals or putschists, as he presents them), and then admits he's never studied the period. Just where do the ISO think they're going with him? Hacks, pal. They're hacks.

M. Hureaux, Seattle
-------------- Original message --------------
Last night I attended the 8pm plenary of a northeast regional conference
organized by the International Socialist Conference up at CCNY. Ralph
Nader's running mate Peter Camejo spoke first, followed by ISO leader
Ahmed Shawki.
The ISO is probably the largest socialist group in the USA today, next
to the CP. It is a "state capitalist" formation that broke with the
British SWP about 4 years ago in a classic instance of Comintern-type
meddling. After the ISO had raised some innocent questions about how
other sections were being funded (at least to my eyes), it was
stigmatized as "not understanding the lessons of Seattle" and either
expelled or browbeaten until forced to detach itself from the SWP's
international organization.
It has been rather successful over the past few years in general
socialist outreach and participation in the mass movements. The
chairperson at the plenary announced that 500 people had shown up for
the conference. To my eyes most seemed to be under 30 and included lots
of college students. I was also struck by the presence of more than a
handful of African-Americans. My guess is that the desire to be
connected to a socialist formation overrides Black nationalist and
separatist impulses in a period of rising capitalist crisis--especially
when the traditional "radical" Black movement has become an appendage of
the Kerry campaign.
Camejo's talk was a combination of his stump campaign speech and
observations geared to the socialist audience, which was obviously as
fond of him as the American SWP rank-and-file was back in the period
before he was expelled for challenging the party's sectarian course.
The campaign portion of his speech focused on the cognitive dissonance
aspect of support for Kerry. You have a situation in which the beliefs
and desires of the people voting for him runs counter to his professed
goals around a range of questions, including most importantly the war in
Iraq. Camejo drew big laughs and applause when he tried to imagine how
Kerry supporters reassure themselves in private conversations. They
probably tell each other that Kerry is lieing when he says that he seeks
victory in Iraq and that he will pull out after being elected. This will
be the first time in American history when a politician becomes more
popular for telling more lies.
The openly socialist portion of his speech addressed what Peter saw as
mounting contradictions in the world capitalist economy. I certainly
hope that the ISO will transcribe and publish his remarks because I can
hardly do them justice. He pointed to the likelihood that the United
States has either reached the Hibbert curve or will soon do so. This
means that the rate of economic growth will be slowed by energy
shortages. We are also facing a situation in which home ownership has
become a kind of savings plan for most working people, as house values
increase as a result of cheap mortgage rates induced by low inflation
rates. When rising energy costs leads to an inflationary spike, home
values will begin to sharply decrease. The consequence might be massive
consumer default and bankruptcy.
Both Shawki and Camejo emphasized that in a period of deepening economic
crisis, it will matter little to the average working person what Peter
Coyote or Medea Benjamin wrote in 2004 (who now apparently regrets
supporting Nader in 2000). For somebody facing eviction or unemployment,
they will remember who defied the TINA political consensus framed by the
2-party system and who stood up for working people, not left-of-center
celebrities. This has been the main reason people such people voted for
Nader. It is also the challenge to the Green Party, to decide whether it
will be a middle-class party that compromises with the billionaire
war-makers in both parties or one creating alternatives to the system.
For those who think that the Green Party will be the vehicle for the
ultimate social and economic emancipation of the USA, Camejo made it
clear that it will be another party more deeply rooted in the working
class. However, it would be a big mistake not to get involved with the
Greens today, despite its conflicting tendencies. The debate that is
going on in the Greens is important for future developments. To further
that debate, Camejo announced the formation of a Green Caucus for
Democracy and Independence. It is opposed to the Electoral College type
rules that allowed a non-entity like David Cobb to become their
Presidential candidate. It also insists that the Greens should run
*against* both Democrats and Republicans, as was the original mandate.
Last night was the first chance I heard to hear Shawki speak. In
comparison to the SWP leaders I remember with some ambivalence, he comes
across as a much more modest figure. I suspect that his relative youth
in and of itself would have to make him less cocky. In a pitch perhaps
to veterans of 1960s type sects like me, he emphasized that it is not
inevitable that socialist groups will heap recriminations on critics of
the party line. He believed that the ISO was conscious of such problems
and would avoid them. My own take on the matter is that this is a
question of methodology rather than good intentions.
Shawki had some interesting observations on an ABB-like outlook popping
up in Europe, as elements of the left begin to face the same pressure
that it faced in the USA. For example, the revolutionary parties in
France got 10 percent of the vote the last time it ran a united left
ticket. Now some party leaders are questioning that approach. They are
weighing the possibility of throwing their support behind the SP on a
"lesser evil" basis. Although Shawki did not mention any names, I was
convinced he was speaking of Trotskyist figures deeply embedded in
academia like Daniel Bensaid. In Italy, the CP/Refoundation made it a
point to reject the Olive Tree coalition of left and bourgeois parties a
couple of years ago. Now it has decided to embrace such a coalition.
As the extreme left lowers its profile and as the left-center and
traditional right parties continue to attack the living standards of
working people, it is inevitable that the extreme right parties will
begin to gain in influence as they use radical sounding demagogy.
Although we are obviously not in as extreme a crisis as in the 1930s,
this kind of "lesser evil" logic has been historically proven to lead to
the triumph of fascism. It is incumbent on radicals to avoid this
temptation and speak up as forcibly and as visibly as possible for a
class alternative to capitalist politicians and programs.
--
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org
_______________________________________________
Marxism mailing list
Marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
http://lists.econ.utah.edu/mailman/listinfo/marxism
paul bunyan
2004-10-25 22:25:06 UTC
Permalink
I think they're great with students, but their work with rank and file workers is >pretty rank and doctrinaire. They've grown up a lot, let them grow up some >more. You note that they are probably the second largest socialist tendency >after the CP, and maybe this is so. But I believe this comes less from their >integrity then it does their tendency to simplify complex questions in much the >same way the CP does. I've been watching them for a little over twenty years >now, so I don't think I'm being too harsh here.
M. Hureaux, Seattle
Re: not being good with workers? Well maybe, if you omit the solidarity work and a dozen meetings they helped organize for the 5 Charleston, SC longshore workers, "The Charleston 5" who were facing felony charges and possible imprisonment at the hands of the state of South Carolina. The dozen meetings I mentioned doesn't count the times a leader from the affected International Longshoremen's Association local, Local 1422 spoke at their national and several regional conferences. Also if you admit how many solidarity rallys, they organized on a local level for various strikes and other labor struggles.

Simple explanations? There is something to be said for the concept of KISS (keep it simple, stupid).
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Josh Saxe
2004-10-25 23:37:05 UTC
Permalink
Paul Bunyan on the ISO's working class orientation:
"Re: not being good with workers? Well maybe, if you omit the
solidarity work and a dozen meetings they helped organize for the 5
Charleston, SC longshore workers, "The Charleston 5" who were facing
felony charges and possible imprisonment at the hands of the state of
South Carolina. The dozen meetings I mentioned doesn't count the times
a leader from the affected International Longshoremen's Association
local, Local 1422 spoke at their national and several regional
conferences. Also if you admit how many solidarity rallys, they
organized on a local level for various strikes and other labor "

This is classic middle-class Trotskyist "working class work."
Drooling over left-AFL-CIO "labor leaders" when they can be persuaded
to speak at your events. Organizing solidarity rallies, which is all
fine and good and necessary, but much different than building a base
among workers or having a serious intervention in a struggle (like the
leftists in P-9 for example or the revolutionaries who led occupations
in Argentina). I went to an anti-FTAA rally the ISO organized at the
San Diego/Tijuana border a couple years back, they had bureaucrat
after bureaucrat after platform speaking to the predominantly student
crowd, which the ISOers called "getting labor involved." These same
bureaucrats dump the workers money into the pockets of politicians and
push "teamwork" and advertise the bosses business for him with the
workers money.
Besides courting the labor leadership and trying to get left labor
officials to speak at their events, the ISO *says* they don't do
working class work, they openly *say* they are consciously oriented
towards the students, this all comes out of their analysis of the
period. At least that's what cadres told me last time I spoke to
them.
That said I think it's interesting how successful the ISO has been -
more than any other formation they have benefitted from the last 6 or
so years of increasing activity amongst students. For the first time
in my political life it seems like in them there is a revolutionary
formation qualitatively larger than a little sect.
As to the oversimplification of politics - every group needs a public
face that's intelligible, and how can we really know what the internal
life of the ISO is, and whether they oversimplify within their
internal discussions (although I guess the guy who made the comment
was an insider)? My big fear with the ISO and the reason I don't join
them is that I wonder if they will go down the road of the SWP - they
will build a large predominantly student organization unable to
reorient in a rational way towards workers, that's not committed in
terms of its resources to the working class, but will go to whichever
social layer is "active" at a given moment.
-Josh
Tom O'Lincoln
2004-10-26 00:41:05 UTC
Permalink
I was diligently ignoring the sectarian swipes at the ISO until I saw the
denigration of their presence at the Charleston 5 rally. This has some
relevance to me.

In 2001, 40 of us were arrested at a left conference outside Jakarta.
Fortunately one of us had a working cell phone and soon we had solidarity
around the world. Most of it was token, but one message was substantial --
a motion of solidarity from a mass meeting of workers in Charlston. It was
those "drooling" ISO "hacks" at work. We wished there were more like them.
Joaquín
2004-10-28 23:29:24 UTC
Permalink
Paul Bunyan writes about the ISO: "not being good with workers? Well maybe,
if you omit the solidarity work and a dozen meetings they helped organize
for the 5 Charleston ..."

I think if you talk with some of the more experienced ISO leaders they will
admit work in the union movement hasn't been their strong point. My
understanding is they focused their attention on student/academic millieus
quite consciously as a way of developing what they viewed as a very
important goal, an ideological "socialism from below" current. That meant
subordinating and sacrificing union work. Remember, this grouping was 100
people or less in the 1980's.

As a result, their work in the union movement has been inconsistent and not
well-thought-through; I have heard some of their functioning criticized
quite cogently as going in the direction of a left-oppositionist
"resolutionary socialism" that tends to isolate them from such rank-and-file
formations as exist, and the political currents that are functioning in the
union movement more successfully that are closest to them in ideological
outlook.

Joaqu?n



-----Original Message-----
From: marxism-bounces at lists.econ.utah.edu
[mailto:marxism-bounces at lists.econ.utah.edu] On Behalf Of paul bunyan
Sent: Monday, October 25, 2004 6:25 PM
To: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition
Subject: Re: [Marxism] Camejo and Shawki/ISO and so it goes...
Post by hoodoorus
I think they're great with students, but their work with rank and file
workers is >pretty rank and doctrinaire. They've grown up a lot, let them
grow up some >more. You note that they are probably the second largest
socialist tendency >after the CP, and maybe this is so. But I believe this
comes less from their >integrity then it does their tendency to simplify
complex questions in much the >same way the CP does. I've been watching them
for a little over twenty years >now, so I don't think I'm being too harsh
here.


M. Hureaux, Seattle
Re: not being good with workers? Well maybe, if you omit the solidarity work
and a dozen meetings they helped organize for the 5 Charleston, SC longshore
workers, "The Charleston 5" who were facing felony charges and possible
imprisonment at the hands of the state of South Carolina. The dozen meetings
I mentioned doesn't count the times a leader from the affected International
Longshoremen's Association local, Local 1422 spoke at their national and
several regional conferences. Also if you admit how many solidarity rallys,
they organized on a local level for various strikes and other labor
struggles.

Simple explanations? There is something to be said for the concept of KISS
(keep it simple, stupid).
_______________________________________________
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Marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
http://lists.econ.utah.edu/mailman/listinfo/marxism




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Carrol Cox
2004-10-29 00:05:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by Joaquín
Paul Bunyan writes about the ISO: "not being good with workers? Well maybe,
if you omit the solidarity work and a dozen meetings they helped organize
for the 5 Charleston ..."
I think if you talk with some of the more experienced ISO leaders they will
admit work in the union movement hasn't been their strong point.
(I have no opinions or knowledge whatever about ISO, but my focus here
is elsewhere.)

Paul's statement and Joaquin's exists in separate realms: "X is green."
"Not true. Y is blue."

The CPUSA (and other left groupings) did not try very hard to work with
the AFL in the 1930s. They gave their energy to creating the CIO.

"Unionized" workers make up a minuscule part of the u.s. working class,
so "working with unions" is not quite the same as "working with
workers." Since workers make up such an overwhelming proportion of the
u.s. working class (as Marx predicted would be the case in capitalist
societies), it is nearly impossible to do any political work at all
without working with workers. There are scattered afl-cio locals in
which leftist political work is possible, but for the most part useful
political activity at the work place probably will occur in drives to
organize sectors of the working class not now organized in unions -- and
quite possibly the AFL-CIO will be more of a barrier than a help.

Marxists have no crystal ball (Mao), and one cannot really predict in
what sectors of the working class the next political explosion may come,
or what current unions, if any, will be involved in that explosion (or
"punctuation" to the present rough equilibrium, to use Gould's phrase
from biology). " At the present time, work building mass organizations
around current issues (war, health) is probably more promising, and even
more apt to lead to important union work, than work within union locals.

Carrol
Lance Murdoch
2004-10-29 03:20:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Carrol Cox
" At the present time, work building mass organizations
around current issues (war, health) is probably more promising, and even
more apt to lead to important union work, than work within union locals.
You think working for universal health care (never mind single payer)
is probably more promising than work within union locals?

How about working for nationalization of all American oil companies,
wouldn't that be even more promising? And why stop there?
Carrol Cox
2004-10-29 04:27:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lance Murdoch
You think working for universal health care (never mind single payer)
is probably more promising than work within union locals?
Working in any struggle that happens to come along! Revolutionary
movements emerge from mass popular struggles. As I said, we have no
crystal ball. Who three years and two months ago would have guessed that
there would be an anti-war struggle emerging within a month? The core
point is that nothing much for over 60 years has come from work in
unions. My wife was active in her APWU local for nearly 20 years
(president for 4 years); busy work. Before that she worked for several
years attempting to organize clerical workers at ISU. No political
results emerged from that either.

Something like a union movement will have to emerge sooner or later
(Marx's general arguments in _Wages, Price and Profit_ still hold), but
to make unions as they now exist a major part of marxist political
activity is simply quite silly.

Carrol
Josh Saxe
2004-10-29 07:10:02 UTC
Permalink
Junaid wrote:
"Frankly, some of this self-flagellation going on here, which sounds
all noble and revolutionary
on the surface, along the lines of, "did the workers abandon the left
- no! - the left abandoned
the workers!" doesn't hold any value beyond cheap sloganeering. It's
actually a page out of right-wing
American anti-intellectualism - the dismissing of serious discussion
of the adoption of religious
fundamentalism and support for imperialism in the "American heartland" ..."

The is a problem in the structure of your small but questionable
argument here. You say it's historically inaccurate to say the left
abandoned the working class. Not only that, it's cheap sloganeering.
Your evidence? : That the claim is actually a page out of right-wing
American anti-intellectualism - the dismissing of serious discussion
of the flaws of the American working class, the romanticization of
workers, etc. That last sentence is interesting, but has absolutely
no relevance to a refutation of the historical claim you're arguing
against. I'd appreciate it if you'd rework this, it would make an
interesting discussion to which many of the older subscribers to
marxmail could contribute: did the left, in the 1960's/70's, "abandon
the working class"?
As far as I know, it's generally accepted that the largest part of the
revolutionary left that grew up in the movements of the 1960's and
'70's saw at least the white working class as not warranting too much
attention - either white workers had joined the labor aristocracy,
were petty-bourgeois, were fascist, or were, at best, backward
elements to be drawn behind other social layers. If you disagree,
please provide an historical argument, because without that, what
_you_ are doing is sloganeering. Incidentally, the more interesting
question here is if the left did, mainly at least, abandon the
workers, what were the consequences for the 1980's and 1990's? I
certainly felt them in the CA grocery strike, where among 70,000
workers there wasn't even a tiny group of revolutionaries able, from
inside the ranks, to propose another, more militant direction for the
struggle which might of out of sheer momentum changed the mood
substantially here in Los Angeles.
You say leftists are prone to dismissing discussions of problems with
the consciousness of American workers. Discussion of how reactionary
some workers have become? I am more than open to it, as are all the
other serious Marxists I know personally. Discussion of the role of
race, constructions of whiteness, constructions of masculinity,
exoticizations, feminizations of people of color, in the minds of
white male workers and in the formation of the American
class/race/gender power structure? I am in favor of all that, I
engage in it - but again, how does taking an honest look at the
consciousness of workers speak directly to or answer the question of
what our relationship as revolutionaries should be to them, how much
resources we should direct towards them, what relationship the New
Left should have had to them, whether it's true they were "abandoned",
and whether that was right? Real analysis is necessary here, it would
be interesting to engage in it collectively on this list.
Lastly let's go over again this snippet of Junaid's prose:
"[leftist rhetoric mirrors right wing fundamentalism in] the
dismissing of serious discussion of the adoption of religious
fundamentalism and support for imperialism in the "American heartland"
as just more
fancy-pants liberal elite talk that bears no relevance to the "real" people"

Ok, here we can get into a discussion that might prove constructive.
Why does a section of the working class support the war on terror?
What is the specific, ideological content of this notion - "support
for the war on terror" - as it exists in the minds of workers, how
does it differ from middle-class support for the war, how does it vary
based on race, gender, geography, job position, earnings, etc? We can
start the discussion by deconstructing liberal notions of mass
politics which assume a uniform appropriation of discursive symbols on
the part of classless "free agents," a framework you adopt in your
blanket claim that there is "support for the war on terror" among
American workers implicitly identical to middle class support for this
war.
Public political discourse in America draws from a vast reservoir of
signs that refer to a more or less commonly held body of meaning for
those in the power-laden spaces of the discursive "mainstream"- that
is the talking heads on TV, news broadcasters, commentators, etc.
These agents assume a uniform appropriation of the symbolic systems
they produce among the population, and through polls, voting, etc,
assume there is a democratic discussion going on in society at large
amongst liberal free agents who all draw from that same body of
meaning in registering opinions. In fact, the body of signs that make
up mainstream politics are reappropriated in quite different ways by
the receivers of popular culture. A black man's construction of
"freedom" has historically been much different than a white man's in
American history, and black support for "fighting communism" in the
1950's revolved around that different notion of freedom. A worker's
appropriation of "a war for freedom" is different than a Senator's.
"The war on terror" as a political slogan and discursive sign may
refer to a solid knot of meanings for a middle class student, and a
very different group of meanings for a working class family. Their
statements of "support" in a gallup poll mean nothing to the pollster
if he does not understand the referent with which the worker pairs
that sign.
All can be summed up pretty simply: A poor filipino worker's support
for Bush (a circumstance I have encountered many times!) does not
indicate the same set of political meanings as a middle-class
student's support for Bush. A white, Southern textile worker's
support for the war on Iraq does not refer to the same knot of meaning
in the mind of Bill O'Reilley. Indeed, West Virginia workers may be
considerably less "backwards" than people of Junaid's persuasion might
think, but to find out, we'd have to talk to them either way.
I have had long discussions with many workers of all backgrounds who
want to bomb the shit out of Iraq. But the worker is thinking about
defending herself from terrorism. A student at UCLA is often thinking
about geopolitics and the need to protect oil and empire.
-Josh
Carrol Cox
2004-10-29 14:37:37 UTC
Permalink
I'd appreciate it if you'd rework this, it would make an
Post by Josh Saxe
interesting discussion to which many of the older subscribers to
marxmail could contribute: did the left, in the 1960's/70's, "abandon
the working class"?
No.

Carrol
M. Junaid Alam
2004-10-29 00:30:02 UTC
Permalink
Carrol's point - lucidly expressed in the title - is exactly the one I was trying to make,
about the MWM. But one fact missing from all this criticism of the ISO seems pretty relevant:
namely, the ISO actually exists in some numbers, whereas every group that heralded 'turn to
industry' or whatever was wiped off the face of the political map. I don't think the ISO
pretends to have some mass base in the unions or any specific sector of workers, but their
short-term political perspectives about the direction of the American left are pretty sound,
and they have a lot of dedicated young people.

Frankly, some of this self-flagellation going on here, which sounds all noble and revolutionary
on the surface, along the lines of, "did the workers abandon the left - no! - the left abandoned
the workers!" doesn't hold any value beyond cheap sloganeering. It's actually a page out of right-wing
American anti-intellectualism - the dismissing of serious discussion of the adoption of religious
fundamentalism and support for imperialism in the "American heartland" as just more
fancy-pants liberal elite talk that bears no relevance to the "real" people, who heroically
sling their hoes over their shoulders after wiping the soot off their jeans and head home
in rugged pickups.

Again, we have all these problems because we don't have a realistic picture of just what and who the
American workers are, so some of us hide behind the idealized proletarian image and others pin their
hopes on some catastrophic "crisis" to create revolutionary conditions for us. These are dangerous
illusions.
SysOut
2004-11-16 12:59:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by M. Junaid Alam
Again, we have all these problems because we don't have a realistic
picture of just what and who the
American workers are, so some of us hide behind the idealized
proletarian image and others pin their
hopes on some catastrophic "crisis" to create revolutionary conditions
for us. These are dangerous illusions.
As a fifty year old in Europe, i have just started up being active in a
marxist party.
Standing in picket lines, outside unemployment offices, handing out
leaflets, but
above all, LISTENING and talking, has been a wake up experience and it
has been doing
this that I have really begun to understand some of what Lenin says about
revolutionary activity.

To understand the immediate problems and put that in a political context
is the task at hand.

And of course many of the workers, and sadly the union representatives
don't want their issues politicised - they suspect you of opportunism
and abusing their situation.

That is where the hard work has to be done - wiith patience,
perseverance, stamina and enthusiasm. The young students in our party do
it very well, as well as the older experienced union activists in our party.

I, not being either, am a bit useless.

It is not easy for a marxist "intellectual" to do - yet it is precisely
what the "intellectuals" must do in order to learn from experience,
one's own experience.

Yes, of course, the worker's are at the heart of the matter !!!

They have more power in their little finger than the whole of the U.S.
military
- if they only knew it. - and if we only listened .


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andypollack
2004-10-29 04:54:04 UTC
Permalink
In 1998, the last year for which official figures are available, there were 24,000 workers in the US who suffered reprisals for exercising the right to freedom of association, reprisals severe enough that the NLRB issued a "back-pay" or other remedial order.

24,000. Assuming some of them worked in the same workplace, and even if most of them worked in small workplaces, that still means hundreds of thousands of workers were involved in organizing struggles in that year alone which led to these reprisals. That's not a movement?

Nothing much in 60 years? Have you ever heard of SANE, the first antinuke group, founded by a union? Have you ever heard of DRUM? PATCO? The miners' strike in 1978? DRUM?

One last of hundreds of possible examples: US Labor Against War. The most important part of today's antiwar movement.

It's embarrassing to have to even answer this line of argument on a Marxist list.
Post by Lance Murdoch
You think working for universal health care (never mind single payer)
is probably more promising than work within union locals?
Working in any struggle that happens to come along! Revolutionary
movements emerge from mass popular struggles. As I said, we have no
crystal ball. Who three years and two months ago would have guessed that
there would be an anti-war struggle emerging within a month? The core
point is that nothing much for over 60 years has come from work in
unions. My wife was active in her APWU local for nearly 20 years
(president for 4 years); busy work. Before that she worked for several
years attempting to organize clerical workers at ISU. No political
results emerged from that either.

Something like a union movement will have to emerge sooner or later
(Marx's general arguments in _Wages, Price and Profit_ still hold), but
to make unions as they now exist a major part of marxist political
activity is simply quite silly.

Carrol


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M. Junaid Alam
2004-10-29 16:39:20 UTC
Permalink
What the heck was this?

I didn't write any of it, and "no" hardly qualifies as much of a response, anyway...

:

==============
I'd appreciate it if you'd rework this, it would make an
Post by Josh Saxe
interesting discussion to which many of the older subscribers to
marxmail could contribute: did the left, in the 1960's/70's, "abandon
the working class"?
No.
===============


Carrol
Carrol Cox
2004-10-29 17:56:10 UTC
Permalink
Post by M. Junaid Alam
What the heck was this?
I didn't write any of it, and "no" hardly qualifies as much of a response, anyway...
My error.

John Saxe wrote it. I fucked up my editing. He quoted you, but the part
I was replying to was his, not yours. From my post, with correction
Post by M. Junaid Alam
Junaid wrote: [THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN DELETED - cbc]
I'd appreciate it if you'd rework this, it would make an [clip]
I think a simple "No" is a reasonable reply to John Saxe's post. His
question (a) posited a single entity, "The left," which did not exist in
the 1970s, and in fact does not exist now, and (b) was simply silly,
there being no one answer to it. Leftists and organizations which I knew
and/or worked with in the '70s were focused on "the working class,"
though clearly then as now there were sharp disagreements over who or
what constituted the working class. Finally, "Abandon the working class"
is a ridiculous phrase (and hardly the focus of any possible
"interesting conversation"), since it implies both a unified left _and_
a narrow conception of "the working class." No interesting or useful
conversation can emerge from such.

Carrol

P.S.: If John is thinking of the Weatherman tendency in SDS, the
question is still ridiculous, since their numbers were so small. Lenin
once observed that anarchism (ultra-leftism) is the price the working
class pays for its sins of opportunism. The Weathermen were an obvious
illustration of that.
paul bunyan
2004-10-30 18:10:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by Josh Saxe
This is classic middle-class Trotskyist "working class work."
Drooling over left-AFL-CIO "labor leaders" when they can be persuaded
to speak at your events. i.........). My big fear with the ISO and the reason I don't join
them is that I wonder if they will go down the road of the SWP - they
will build a large predominantly student organization unable to
reorient in a rational way towards workers, that's not committed in
terms of its resources to the working class, but will go to whichever
social layer is "active" at a given moment.
-Josh

RE the ISO's work in Defense of the Charleston 5. Are you saying, helping to build a campaign to defend 5 rank and file workers, who were facing felony charges and possible prison sentences up to 5 years is "drooling over left AFL-CIO leaders?" If so, please explain. I don't understand that position. Some ISOers are students, some aren't. Those on campus, work with students. Those who are working full time jobs relate with co-workers. I see no problem with trying to unite class conscious students and workers.



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Josh Saxe
2004-10-31 01:19:33 UTC
Permalink
"RE the ISO's work in Defense of the Charleston 5. Are you saying,
helping to build a campaign to defend 5 rank and file workers, who
were facing felony charges and possible prison sentences up to 5 years
is "drooling over left AFL-CIO leaders?""

No I am not saying that. It is solidarity work. Let me reiterate my
point, but also I want to make it clear that I respect the ISO and
consider it one of the most important revolutionary groups and
whatever criticisms I have hopefully will be received as humble and
respectful.
I think the most important thing for the left right now vis-a-vis the
American workers is to build revolutionary groups in the key
industries so that when the opportunity for struggle arises we will be
able to have say and even initiative in determining how it unfolds,
and in the medium-run we will be able to really challenge the retreat
of the American workers since the 1970's. Let's take the Southern
California UFCW strike this year -- it was a very important fight
because it had a big impact amongst the whole working class in this
area. The strike was run by the UFCW leadership in such a disgusting
and bureaucratic way that everyone I know who was involved became
disillusioned with the union leadership. But out of 70,000 workers,
not one group of revolutionaries (including my own) had a group of
militant workers inside the grocery stores who had won the trust and
confidence of a substantial group of workers. This would have been a
requirement to challenge the union leadership and lead the strike in a
totally different direction, which could have produced a victory,
momentum in the labor movement, and, more importantly, changed the
mood amongst many social layers in Los Angeles considerably. Until
the left finds a way into the working class, to the degree that we
have a _say_ as to the tactics used in big, decisive struggles, there
are going to be more big struggles that end in defeat and betrayal
because for workers no one has a way out of social crisis but the
revolutionary left. (Look at the role the rev. left played in 1934,
turning around the retreat of 1919-1934, and the incompetency of the
AFL leaders in addressing this retreat).
There is no substitute for that small group of militant workers,
which, when the union leadership calls a mass meeting and recommends
voting for a sell-out contract, challenges the bureaucrats and calls
for militant action. The ISO doesn't disagree with me here, but it is
a question of where work, energy and resources are directed, it's a
question of priorities. Solidarity work is great, and we have an
obligation to do it, and I'm sure the ISO did a great job with the
Charleston 5, but it is not a substitute for that main task, which I
haven't seen the ISO really take on, but I would be happy to be proven
wrong. But what's worse than not really engaging this work is
inviting the labor leadership up onto the platform with
anti-globalization activists and socialists and calling that "getting
labor involved" when those leaders don't invest a penny for mobilizing
workers for those rallies and sell their members out all the time -
unfortunately, I have seen the ISO do this. I think this just comes
out of the ISO not really having a sense of how much most
rank-and-file union members hate those union leaders they fete on the
protest platform.
Josh
Octob1917
2004-10-31 01:46:52 UTC
Permalink
In a message dated 10/30/2004 6:21:38 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
joshsaxe at gmail.com writes:
I think the most important thing for the left right now vis-a-vis the
American workers is to build revolutionary groups in the key
industries so that when the opportunity for struggle arises we will be
able to have say and even initiative in determining how it unfolds,
and in the medium-run we will be able to really challenge the retreat
of the American workers since the 1970's.


If only it were that simple. Everything you say is right, but something
called objective conditions tend to get in the way. I too was involved in
mobilising around the UFCW strike and found the same apathy, bad leadership and lack of
militancy that you did. The so called revolutionary parties and groups in the
US simply have failed to win the trust of the workers, which perhaps isn't
that surprising when you consider how misdirected many of them are in their
approach. The emphasis of every group I've come into contact with is on
international issues, such as Iraq and Palestine, and loosely connecting them with
social and economic injustice here at home. It should and needs to be the other way
round - ie, the emphasis on social and economic injustice at home and
connecting that with imperialism overseas. Indeed, the reason why the Left has been,
and still is, largely irrelevant is due to a failure to connect with US
workers on the issues which define their lives on a daily basis. The vast majority
of workers are too consumed with worrying about their jobs, healthcare, their
children's education, etc., to pay much attention to the plight of the Iraqis
or the Palestinians, and our approach should reflect that.

In truth the US Left, such as it is, lacks what it takes to lead anything.
That is why the revolutionary militancy you mention will have to come from among
the ranks of the workers themselves, or from within the oppressed
communities. Our role, I submit, is to fall in behind such movements, rather that trying
to lead them. That is why the MWM and initiatives like it are so important
and, I believe, the only real hope of anything approaching a cohesive, militant
and effective counter to the status quo.

As for the ISO, their position on Cuba alone completely discredits them as
far as I'm concerned. In my experience, they spend most of their time organising
on campuses, and in LA, despite their regular presence in oppressed
communites with newspapers and literature, their cadre remains predominatly white and
middle class. Paternalism is no substitute for real solidarity. The ISO, the US
Left in general, is guilty of an intellectual elitism which repels workers.
The harsh but simple fact is that at this point in time we represent no one
except ourselves.

Respectfully


Joe
Ilyenkova
2004-10-31 03:17:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Josh Saxe
But what's worse than not really engaging this work is
inviting the labor leadership up onto the platform with
anti-globalization activists and socialists and calling that "getting
labor involved" when those leaders don't invest a penny for mobilizing
workers for those rallies and sell their members out all the time -
unfortunately, I have seen the ISO do this. I think this just comes
out of the ISO not really having a sense of how much most
rank-and-file union members hate those union leaders they fete on the
protest platform.<

Agreed. But are there any left groups free of illusions in the labor
bureaucracy (not counting the Sparts and the SEP)? That said, you're absolutely right.
With few exceptions-- the ILWU, a few UEW locals-- the disconnect between
union leadership and members has never been greater in my 55 years. I consider
the District Council of my own union, of which I've been a local officer, as
little better than dues theives, an opinion shared by all the members except the
current officers who function as local agents for the DC.
Post by Josh Saxe
As for the ISO, their position on Cuba alone completely discredits them as
far as I'm concerned. In my experience, they spend most of their time
organising
on campuses, and in LA, despite their regular presence in oppressed
communities with newspapers and literature, their cadre remains predominately
white and
middle class. Paternalism is no substitute for real solidarity. The ISO, the
US
Left in general, is guilty of an intellectual elitism which repels workers.
The harsh but simple fact is that at this point in time we represent no one
except ourselves.<

This is too cynical by far. No doubt it's the case that the Marxist left in
the US lacks roots in the working class. You constantly harp on this truism
while suggesting that the fault lies entirely with intellectual elitism on the
part of left groups. Assuming for argument's sake that you're right, is the
antidote some kind of merging with the masses and waiting for some organic
leadership to emerge from oppressed groups, while in the meantime ignoring the
international aspects of an increasingly globalized and interconnected capitalism?
Is a populistic anti-intellectualism any better then a dilettantish
intellectualism?
Which brings up the ISO. I think the verdict is still out on this tendency.
The reason we're even discussing them is their success in organizing on the
campuses. Louis isn't inventing this-- on the campuses right now, the ISO is it.
They've done an amazing organizing job around the Campaign to Abolish the
Death Penalty; the defense of the Charleston 5; and, the movement against the
imperialist invasion and occupation of Iraq. They have one foot in the reality
that you demand-- the ongoing daily struggles of the world working class and its
social allies. The challenge for the ISO is to plant its other foot in that
reality by breaking with the Cliffite state capitalism theoretical tradition.
ISO rank and filers know the theory doesn't hold water, can't account for
what's happened in the former Soviet bloc, and poses obstacles for comprehending
and relating to struggles like the one in Venezuela and defence of the Cuban
workers state. Yeah, it's neat for appealing to middle class college students but
from what I hear, the youth they've recruited are the 1st to know they must
break out of the campus ghetto. That takes more than an act of political will.
It takes deeper theoretical development.
Since the 1970s, the IS tendency in the US has done significant pro-working
class work. In the feminist movement and the CLUW (Coalition of Labor Union
Women) IS women were a significant presence connecting womens' issues with class
issues. The Campaign Against the Death Penalty and their work in the
Charleston dockers defense has certainly brought them into contact with the oppressed
minorities. Louis Proyect noted a significant prescence of African-Americans at
the recent conference in NYC. I heard from people at the workshop on the
wrongfully convicted that African-Americans outnumbered white participants.
I agree partially with Joe-- to attract people like myself the ISO must make
a genuine break with the State Capitalist tradition because it will keep them
locked into a sectarian and economistic methodology.
M. Junaid Alam
2004-10-31 03:51:08 UTC
Permalink
"

I agree partially with Joe-- to attract people like myself the ISO must make
a genuine break with the State Capitalist tradition because it will keep them
locked into a sectarian and economistic methodology. "

I don't adhere to state-cap thought, even when I was an ISO member I found it totally
unconvincing, and it seemed like a cop-out, a way of avoiding a difficult historical
question. But I have to say I completely disagree with the notion that this is of any
real significance in terms of the ISO broadening its appeal. Who really cares about this
whole argument about whether state x or y is deformed or bureacratic or state-cap except
a handful of old Communists and Trotskyists? Obviously that includes some people here,
but when you talk about critical issues that will broaden appeal, we can't be talking in
terms of what the ISO needs to do to get any one of _us_ on board. We're already Marxist.

Frankly I think the opposite tack needs to be taken. No more litmus tests on 500 different
issues relating to 1917 and Lenin and when the "real" worker's state was democratic or not.
That is the kind of thing that can only turn people off. You shouldn't have to agree to taking
one side or the other on a whole checklist of ancient arguments that bear little or no relation
to modern-day political problems Americans face. I may argue with a guy over Cliffite state
capitalism when we are just sitting around and shooting the breeze, but I'll be damned if that
becomes a barrier when it comes time to defend someone or some group that is oppressed, ie.
workers, women, minorities, foreigners, being persecuted anywhere.

"
No doubt it's the case that the Marxist left in
the US lacks roots in the working class. You constantly harp on this truism
while suggesting that the fault lies entirely with intellectual elitism on the
part of left groups. Assuming for argument's sake that you're right, is the
antidote some kind of merging with the masses and waiting for some organic
leadership to emerge from oppressed groups, while in the meantime ignoring the
international aspects of an increasingly globalized and interconnected capitalism?
Is a populistic anti-intellectualism any better then a dilettantish
intellectualism?"

I agree with this completely. Too much breezy and facile one-sided dismissal is going on here.
Again, I refer to the Yates article I posted earlier to put the issue of the working-class *in
its proper context*. Abstract rhetoric about how heroic and righteous the working-class is, and
how misguided and messed up left activists are is a caricature of both sides. The interesting thing about
the argument heaping all blame on left activists is that it mirrors the right-wing argument that
leftists are all a bunch of latte-elite-limousine liberals. It's the same kind of smarmy argument
that paints a broad brush and is pretty meretricious once you get beneath the surface of it.
hoodoorus
2004-10-31 04:51:17 UTC
Permalink
It's not an unimportant point. If you propagate the idea that every effort workers have made to build socialism has collapsed into state capitalism, you are saying that history teaches us that every effort the working class has made to lead itself has reverted to capitalism. From there, it's not a big leap to the question, "Why bother?"


-------------- Original message --------------
Post by Ilyenkova
"
I agree partially with Joe-- to attract people like myself the ISO must make
a genuine break with the State Capitalist tradition because it will keep them
locked into a sectarian and economistic methodology. "
I don't adhere to state-cap thought, even when I was an ISO member I found it
totally
unconvincing, and it seemed like a cop-out, a way of avoiding a difficult
historical
question. But I have to say I completely disagree with the notion that this is
of any
real significance in terms of the ISO broadening its appeal. Who really cares
about this
whole argument about whether state x or y is deformed or bureacratic or
state-cap except
a handful of old Communists and Trotskyists? Obviously that includes some people
here,
but when you talk about critical issues that will broaden appeal, we can't be
talking in
terms of what the ISO needs to do to get any one of _us_ on board. We're already
Marxist.
Frankly I think the opposite tack needs to be taken. No more litmus tests on 500
different
issues relating to 1917 and Lenin and when the "real" worker's state was
democratic or not.
That is the kind of thing that can only turn people off. You shouldn't have to
agree to taking
one side or the other on a whole checklist of ancient arguments that bear little
or no relation
to modern-day political problems Americans face. I may argue with a guy over
Cliffite state
capitalism when we are just sitting around and shooting the breeze, but I'll be
damned if that
becomes a barrier when it comes time to defend someone or some group that is
oppressed, ie.
workers, women, minorities, foreigners, being persecuted anywhere.
"
No doubt it's the case that the Marxist left in
the US lacks roots in the working class. You constantly harp on this truism
while suggesting that the fault lies entirely with intellectual elitism on the
part of left groups. Assuming for argument's sake that you're right, is the
antidote some kind of merging with the masses and waiting for some organic
leadership to emerge from oppressed groups, while in the meantime ignoring the
international aspects of an increasingly globalized and interconnected
capitalism?
Is a populistic anti-intellectualism any better then a dilettantish
intellectualism?"
I agree with this completely. Too much breezy and facile one-sided dismissal is
going on here.
Again, I refer to the Yates article I posted earlier to put the issue of the
working-class *in
its proper context*. Abstract rhetoric about how heroic and righteous the
working-class is, and
how misguided and messed up left activists are is a caricature of both sides.
The interesting thing about
the argument heaping all blame on left activists is that it mirrors the
right-wing argument that
leftists are all a bunch of latte-elite-limousine liberals. It's the same kind
of smarmy argument
that paints a broad brush and is pretty meretricious once you get beneath the
surface of it.
_______________________________________________
Marxism mailing list
Marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
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M. Junaid Alam
2004-10-31 05:25:55 UTC
Permalink
"It's not an unimportant point. If you propagate the idea that every effort workers
have made to build socialism has collapsed into state capitalism, you are saying that
history teaches us that every effort the working class has made to lead itself has reverted
to capitalism. From there, it's not a big leap to the question, "Why bother?""

I think there are a number of issues here to be disentangled. First of all, you can't decide
the importance of any question, or your answer to any question, based on whatever
other conclusion it may or may not lead to, absent other arguments and contexts. So if you
oppose state-capitalism theory, you should oppose the thing on the empirical and analytical
grounds and the strength of your own counter-argument, not the idea that, "well,if people
believe this, then they'll believe that, which may lead to this other thing" - because
obviously the state-cap people, who are in the ISO, aren't exactly asking "why bother."
That's the whole point here. They are asking the same questions we are asking, politically,
in terms of what is to be done and how is it to be done in the US, very little of which,
quite frankly, is informed by state-cap theory.

The other problem, even if we assume for a moment the validity of your A leads to B leads to
C logic holds for, perhaps, non-ISOers interested in joining the ISO, conclusion C can be
drawn regardless of whether you adhere to state-cap. Soviet
Marxism is dead, full stop. Every socialist revolution _has_ been defeated, and we _do_ have
a full-scale, worldwide restoration of capitalism _today_, excepting Cuba and NK, neither of
which are models or guides for American socialism. I think it was Wallerstein who said capitalism
has defeated three major oppositional movements in the 20th century: fascism, communism, and
social-democracy. So whoever is going to come to the conclusion that 'resistance is futile'
can arrive it at from a hundred different paths, not just that of state-cap.

Moreover we well know that the worldwide conquest by capital has not resulted in utopia. So
just because the system is widespread, I don't see how that translates into serious people
assuming that that means opposing it is hopeless. The more established it is, the clearer
it can be seen that it does not fulfill the promises offered by its rhetoric. Paul Baran said
something rather profound about this, specifically in relation to the predominance of capitalism
in America and the lack of a promising force ready to overturn it; namely, that if a man is struck
by a debilitating disease, the fact that we have not yet come up with a cure does not make that
disease any better or desirable - it only makes finding the cure more urgent.
paul bunyan
2004-10-31 19:30:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ilyenkova
. The challenge for the ISO is to plant its other foot in that
reality by breaking with the Cliffite state capitalism theoretical tradition.
ISO rank and filers know the theory doesn't hold water, can't account for
what's happened in the former Soviet bloc, and poses obstacles for >comprehending and relating to struggles like the one in Venezuela and >defence of the Cuban workers state. class
issues. .
.....I agree partially with Joe-- to attract people like myself the ISO must make
a genuine break with the State Capitalist tradition because it will keep them
locked into a sectarian and economistic methodology.
If the State Capitalist tradition is an impediment for growth for the ISO, why is the ISO, outside of the Social-Dem tendencies one of the largest groups on the US left (the CP may be larger, I don't know)? By comparison the tendencies with the traditional Trotskyist theories of "workers states" or uncritical support of the Cuban leadership have either dissolved or are only shells of their former selves (SWP, Sparts, and Socialist Action come to mind).


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Octob1917
2004-10-31 19:35:54 UTC
Permalink
In a message dated 10/30/2004 7:52:52 PM Pacific Standard Time,
mjunaidalam at msalam.net writes:
I agree with this completely. Too much breezy and facile one-sided dismissal
is going on here.

I'm baffled by this statement, to be honest. If you could enumerate for me
anything of substance the US Left is doing, or has done recently, to offer any
meaningful resistance to the ongoing assaults by the ruling class at home
and/or abroad I would be grateful. My dismissal is based on empirical fact, along
with my experience of revolutionary/socialist organisations and the outstanding
work they are doing in Scotland and in the occupied Six Counties of Ireland.

There is absolutely no militancy here, nobody risks anything, and that in the
end is what it takes. I say it again, the organised Left in the US has
succeeded only in repelling workers, due in large part to an intellectual snobbery
responsible for substituting paternalism for solidarity. This talk about
inserting revolutionaries into factories, etc., is just puerile, romantic nonsense;
as if that could even be considered given the reality of the present state of
the US Left and its lack of coherence and, again, militancy. Every leader I've
come across is not a worker, rather a professional intellectual, occupying a
sinecure on some university campus or other.

The only hope is a new formation arising out of the nascent MWM movement or
an organic leadership arising out of the oppressed communities. The potential
for revolutionary consciousness is already there, reflected in the amount of
resources and energy the state expends in colonising black and Latino youth, in
keeping blacks on the bottom rung of the economic ladder, and in attacking and
destroying anything approaching unity in those communities for fear of where
it might lead.

By concentrating on international issues, the US Left have ipso facto
abandoned the struggle at home. Calling demos around the occupation of Iraq while
ignoring the ongoing occupation of Compton and Harlem, etc., is demonstrative of
a subconscious chauvinism and elitism. No white Left group enjoys any
credibility in any black community, not one. Surely it is prudent to ask why?

Until this changes I'm convinced that in this country bourgeois campaigns for
reformists electoral candidates like Ralph Nader will continue to masquerade
as revolutionary work.

Joe
Josh Saxe
2004-10-31 21:27:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Octob1917
I'm baffled by this statement, to be honest. If you could enumerate for me
anything of substance the US Left is doing, or has done recently, to offer any
meaningful resistance to the ongoing assaults by the ruling class at home
and/or abroad I would be grateful.
I am part of a very small group called Labor's Militant Voice:
http://www.laborsmilitantvoice.com/. We recently organized a
successful campaign to stop a few hundred families on Section 8
housing from getting evicted through a campaign of militant
demonstrations and direct action. Down here in L.A. me and another
comrade along with a group at a community college are organizing
against a racist business, we helped a group of undocumented grocery
workers *try* to organize, and helped build for an immigrant rights
march in an immigrant neighborhood. I'm sure other people can furnish
other examples, but how about you (I'm not being sarcastic)? I've
always thought it might be constructive to discuss the nuts and bolts
of actual organizing on this list to a greater degree.
Post by Octob1917
There is absolutely no militancy here, nobody risks anything, and that in the
end is what it takes. I say it again, the organised Left in the US has
succeeded only in repelling workers, due in large part to an intellectual snobbery
responsible for substituting paternalism for solidarity. This talk about
inserting revolutionaries into factories, etc., is just puerile, romantic nonsense;
as if that could even be considered given the reality of the present state of
the US Left and its lack of coherence and, again, militancy.
What do you want us to risk? I will risk whatever is necessary,
please, first explain what "risking" is and then tell me how it will
advance the movement and if I'm convinced, I promise I'll do it. As
for militancy, what are you talking about, can you tell us how we can
be more militant? I disagree that we've repelled workers, but I agree
with your thrust that building roots in working class communities
should be a priority.
Post by Octob1917
The only hope is a new formation arising out of the nascent MWM movement or
an organic leadership arising out of the oppressed communities. The potential
for revolutionary consciousness is already there, reflected in the amount of
resources and energy the state expends in colonising black and Latino youth, in
keeping blacks on the bottom rung of the economic ladder, and in attacking and
destroying anything approaching unity in those communities for fear of where
it might lead.
What do you mean by organic? If it means developing outside of
contact with the organized left, that means there's nothing for us to
do there, so you are recommending we throw ourselves into the "nascent
MWM movement", which is "the only hope." Do you really mean this?
Aren't there other ways to intervene? Just living in a working class
community I know there are many ways we could organize a fight - but
it's really tough, also, and organizing has to be balanced with
building a revolutionary core, both those tasks are really really hard
in this period. People, by and large, don't want to fight. We have
to drag them. Even one group I know that throws almost all its
resources into working class work has come up with almost nothing
after a long long period.
Post by Octob1917
By concentrating on international issues, the US Left have ipso facto
abandoned the struggle at home. Calling demos around the occupation of Iraq while
ignoring the ongoing occupation of Compton and Harlem, etc., is demonstrative of
a subconscious chauvinism and elitism. No white Left group enjoys any
credibility in any black community, not one. Surely it is prudent to ask why?
My organization enjoys credibility in working class communities who we
have fought for, for example, the mostly black community where we
organized opposition to the Section 8 cuts.
Post by Octob1917
Until this changes I'm convinced that in this country bourgeois campaigns for
reformists electoral candidates like Ralph Nader will continue to masquerade
as revolutionary work.
Joe it would be more constructive to offer ways forward, it seems like
you are just trying to tear people down. I think a lot of people on
this list actually are serious activists looking for a way forward. I
thought the point of this list as a political project was to try to
open dialogue and avoid waxing indignant, heroic, moralistic,
outraged, etc, when we disagree. I can tell you that I am often
shocked and disgusted with arguments put forward on this list, but the
point is to swallow our pride and just try to talk, I think. We can't
judge one another by some text on a screen, we can only digest and
discuss the ideas - judging comes out of actually working and fighting
with someone, let's save our rage for our comrades who come late to
meetings and don't come through with their assignments =)
Comradely
Josh
Post by Octob1917
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Louis Proyect
2004-10-31 21:49:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by Octob1917
I'm baffled by this statement, to be honest. If you could enumerate for me
anything of substance the US Left is doing, or has done recently, to offer any
meaningful resistance to the ongoing assaults by the ruling class at home
and/or abroad I would be grateful.
We would actually be grateful if you stopped attacking the US left,
which operates under very difficult circumstances. It was this nonstop
denigration of the US left that led to Tony Abdo getting the boot from
here. I know from experience how tough it is to belong to a left group.
Although I have major criticisms of the way they operate, I believe that
all of these groups are doing important work. Even the SWP, which I
despise, does some very good trade union work.
Post by Octob1917
There is absolutely no militancy here, nobody risks anything, and that in the
end is what it takes. I say it again, the organised Left in the US has
succeeded only in repelling workers, due in large part to an intellectual snobbery
responsible for substituting paternalism for solidarity.
The left in the USA does not repel workers. They are just largely
ignored. In most factories where radicals operate, they are generally
regarded with bemused indifference.
Post by Octob1917
The only hope is a new formation arising out of the nascent MWM movement or
an organic leadership arising out of the oppressed communities. The potential
for revolutionary consciousness is already there, reflected in the amount of
resources and energy the state expends in colonising black and Latino youth, in
keeping blacks on the bottom rung of the economic ladder, and in attacking and
destroying anything approaching unity in those communities for fear of where
it might lead.
The big question facing us if and such an upsurge occurs is whether the
left will be up to the task. Unless it comes to terms with the
sectarianism and dogmatism that has plagued it in the past, we will
squander our opportunity.
Post by Octob1917
By concentrating on international issues, the US Left have ipso facto
abandoned the struggle at home. Calling demos around the occupation of Iraq while
ignoring the ongoing occupation of Compton and Harlem, etc., is demonstrative of
a subconscious chauvinism and elitism. No white Left group enjoys any
credibility in any black community, not one. Surely it is prudent to ask why?
No left group has a base of support in any sector of the working class,
white, black or Chicano. This is only partially the left's fault. The
main problem is that we are not in a period of rising class struggle.
Post by Octob1917
Until this changes I'm convinced that in this country bourgeois campaigns for
reformists electoral candidates like Ralph Nader will continue to masquerade
as revolutionary work.
I have no idea what "revolutionary work" means. This sounds like the
sort of empty phrase-mongering that thankfully appears very infrequently
on Marxmail.
--
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org
paul bunyan
2004-10-31 21:33:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Octob1917
There is absolutely no militancy here, nobody risks anything, and that in the
end is what it takes. I say it again, the organised Left in the US has
succeeded only in repelling workers, due in large part to an intellectual >snobbery responsible for substituting paternalism for solidarity.
"Nobody risks anything?" Oh really? Being blacklisted from employment or run off jobs isn't risking anything? Those who were fired on and wounded with rubber bullets and wooden dowels by the Oakland cops at the Port of Oakland, April 7 of last year weren't risking anything? If being in favor of workers having the right to organize and everyone having access to employment housing and health care is intellectual snobbery, fine, so be it.

This "left bashing" gets a bit tiresome. I suspect it's a case of the need to hit out at those closest to us. How do you figure the Left is responsible for over 60% of the population in the US believing a connection between Iraq and the events of 9/11/01? Is it possible the US media may bear some responsibility for this? We can only reach so many people with the Left press, and labor and left intenet lists, such as this.

I'm not saying we don't make mistakes. I've sure as hell made my share! I'm saying that a more decent and humane society is not possible without activist who are striving toward this goal. To trash such people, regardless of what tendency they support is a greater outrage than any mistakes they may make.

Arundhati Roy recently suggested shutting down sites of multinational corporations, on an international basis, by mass civil disobedience on the same day. I would add a friendly amendment. Rather than go after the usual suspects such as Haliburton and Bechtel, I would suggest mass action to shut down outlets of the US press, in this country, and their international outlets, and present a list of demands for more fair coverage. No, I don't think the media would retreat, initially, at least, but the press sure as hell couldn't ignore such actions.


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M. Junaid Alam
2004-10-31 21:48:41 UTC
Permalink
I'm baffled by this statement, to be honest. If you could enumerate for me
anything of substance the US Left is doing, or has done recently, to offer any
meaningful resistance to the ongoing assaults by the ruling class at home
and/or abroad I would be grateful. My dismissal is based on empirical fact, along
with my experience of revolutionary/socialist organisations and the outstanding
work they are doing in Scotland and in the occupied Six Counties of Ireland.

There is absolutely no militancy here, nobody risks anything, and that in the
end is what it takes. I say it again, the organised Left in the US has
succeeded only in repelling workers, due in large part to an intellectual snobbery
responsible for substituting paternalism for solidarity....

Every leader I've
come across is not a worker, rather a professional intellectual, occupying a
sinecure on some university campus or other....
By concentrating on international issues, the US Left have ipso facto
abandoned the struggle at home. Calling demos around the occupation of Iraq while
ignoring the ongoing occupation of Compton and Harlem, etc., is demonstrative of
a subconscious chauvinism and elitism.

========

Well, you say you are "baffled" about why I would say your analysis is one-sided, and then
you go on making general assertions that are nothing but one-sided.

Forget about the "US Left" for a moment, whatever that may be. Heard plenty about them.
What are the workers _themselves_ doing? Very vague references about solidarity and so forth
were made - solidarity in what, exactly? Point to me one case where the mythical proletarian
heroes are themselves fighting imperialism abroad or capitalism
at home en masse - after all, if the "US Left" is to be derisively dismissed as a bunch of petty-bourgeois,
then it should be quite easy to forget about them and focus on the "truly" revolutionary
working-class's own militancy.

Where are the workers "risking anything" in political action? What "meaningful
resistance" are they offering up to the status quo? Union militancy? What strategies have
the unions prepared over the past ten years to cope with free trade and outsourcing and
privatization? Their numbers are dwindling and their political clout diminishing. The last
hurrah was probably SEIU's Stern saying a Kerry victory would stifle needed internal reforms
before he was quickly whipped into line. The level of action and planning in the unions
in relation to the existential crises their members face is nothing to write home about.
Let's not kid ourselves here.

This nonsense about how the US left has abandoned class struggle at home because they
favor international issues by default completely ignores how this situation came about
in the first place. Maybe you haven't noticed, but the real chauvinism problem in America
is the one that's been drilled into your fantasy heroes, who eagerly support and enlist
in the very wars that comprise the international "issues", as you lightly phrase the murdering
of hundreds of thousands of people abroad. Those people abroad aren't getting massacred
by magical fairies falling from the sky - they are being killed by American workers, predominantly
poor ones and minority groups. So that is a tough, concrete, contradiction that's not
exactly easy to work around when it comes to domestic struggle. If you're anti-war, you're
a traitor, a commie, a towel head, etc. - and not goign to be liked by many workers in the
South or Midwest in particular. That's a concrete fact no amount of dissembling can cover up.


So you see things are not as easy as just waving the hand and sniggering at left activists.
The fact of the matter is that you are operating on outdated concepts and outmoded formulas.
Reality is not so simple as you would like it to be. You substitute real analysis of the concrete
realities of the political landscape with two caricatures: (1) some nebulous, vaguely-defined
group of people who you contemptuously dismiss and deride, namely the left activists, and (2)some
magical, untapped group of workers ready to spring into pro-socialist action if only
the (1) knuckleheads would stop being so snobbish. These are caricatures because they are
not based on any economic or historical analysis, but a bunch of adjectives and castigating
of personal subjective traits at (1), mostly betraying nothing more than your own frustration.

The fundamental problem lies in your total inability to grasp what the face of working America is.
When you complain that "Every leader I've come across is not a worker, rather a professional intellectual,
occupying a sinecure on some university campus or other," well, I hate to break it to you, but it's not
Manchester England 1860. In Marxist terms, the proletariat consists of a lot of professionals,
salaried workers, skilled labor, intellect workers, that whole section referred to as the middle class in
non-Marxian terms. The group of workers that the world proletarian evokes - steel mills, coal mining, auto
manufacturing - has rapidly diminished through automation and outsourcing. The protests and social movements
are mainly led by and composed of these middle-class people. I'm not sure why you want to punish them for it,
what are they supposed to do, stop existing? Even academics are workers, not just unanchored boogeymen
on whom you can blame the passivity of other workers.


The cleavage of the "proletarians" into "working class" and "middle class" has consequences that cannot
be ignored by any serious person. The middle class is more receptive to ideas that empowered movements over
the last 40 years, namely, gay rights, women's rights, minority rights - social ideas. The working class
views the middle class with some jealousy and the middle class views the working class with some contempt. All
of this comes out when the name-hurling begins, ie. "limousine liberals", and "redneck", which the right-wing
has used extremely skillfully to aggravate the antagonisms. So now we have the phenomenon where the working-class
votes Republican because of religion and "cultural issues" where it agrees with the right - down with the fags,
the niggers, the uppity women, to distill the thing to its essence, and not waste time 'changing the names of things as though
it changes the things themselves.'

All I am saying is you can't blame all our problems on middle-class people, as if they're supposed to feel
guilty that they're middle class in the first place, and as if they can move things forward when the
working class itself isn't moving forward. The divisions between the two camps are real and substantial,
even though obviously in the last analysis their economic interests should be one and the same. The funny thing
about politics, though, is that it isn't about "in the last analysis", it's about figuring out how to make the
last analysis relevant in the eyes of the agents who are supposed to end up on the same side of it. And you don't do
that by whining and ranting about professors or whoever else you feel like projecting your inability to grasp the
crux of the matter.
Josh Saxe
2004-11-01 07:10:02 UTC
Permalink
I hate to seem like I am picking on Junaid, because we have clashed a
good deal in the past, but I think there are so many problems in his
Post by M. Junaid Alam
Point to me one case where the mythical proletarian
heroes are themselves fighting imperialism abroad or capitalism
at home en masse - after all, if the "US Left" is to be derisively dismissed as a bunch of petty-bourgeois,
then it should be quite easy to forget about them and focus on the "truly" revolutionary
working-class's own militancy.
What do you mean by "fighting capitalism"? I have seen workers do
some incredible things, and I have been active between 1998-2004, a
period of severe retreat. I saw a big janitors strike (a victory), a
big grocery strike (a defeat), when I was a kid, on TV, the LA riots,
many many smaller strikes, many fights that didn't boil over into a
strike but involved big risks to people's livelihoods - I have seen
many many more workers risk their livelihoods and families than I have
seen students risk their middle-class cushy futures.
Post by M. Junaid Alam
Where are the workers "risking anything" in political action? What "meaningful
resistance" are they offering up to the status quo? Union militancy? What strategies have
the unions prepared over the past ten years to cope with free trade and outsourcing and
privatization?
Ok, another problem, I have seen this throughout your recent posts.
You stand so far back from the working class that it becomes an
extremely simple, blurry analytical object, the workers are so
enmeshed with the union bureaucrats that they can all be dismissed
with a phrase. Between 1929-1934, when the resistance to the
depression offensive on living standards was up in full force, would
you have said - "What 'meaningful resistance' are they offering up to
the status quo? Union militancy? What strategies ..." - Because it
was true, the AFL leaders were by and large not offering a way out of
the crisis, only the CP, the Musteites, and the SWP could do that in
the general strikes of 1934. I am arguing we are seeing 1919-1934 in
slow motion for the working class today, and only the revolutionary
left reconnecting with their natural social base, workers, will offer
a way out. To put it another way, NOT building a base amongst the
working class means leaving the workers under the influence of John
Sweeney, the Catholic church, the Democratic Party, etc, and produces
outcomes which you use to justify not prioritizing working class work.
Post by M. Junaid Alam
[The unions'] numbers are dwindling and their political clout diminishing.
And this is used as a justification for the left NOT being there when
it comes to the working class. The working class is being pummeled,
employers have decided not to accept unions but to smash them, no one
in the working class is offering a real way out, and this is why the
left should not prioritize working class work. Pretty ironic.
Junaid, I don't know you personally, but I wonder if you talk on a
regular basis with workers in your area, or try to organize them? I
have felt an incredible anger amongst workers that is prone to explode
and the question is who will be there with credibility and clout in
those communities to suggest a way to resist - that the unions are
getting the shit kicked out of them and no one is offering another way
is WHY the working class must be our utmost preoccupation in this
period.
Post by M. Junaid Alam
This nonsense about how the US left has abandoned class struggle at home because they
favor international issues by default completely ignores how this situation came about
in the first place.
Fighting imperialism means organizing in working class communities -
not doing that is not a Marxist approach to fighting imperialism.
It's ABC, as you say. The working class is the only social layer that
can give the imperialists a black eye in their belly and the only
class that can destroy them. Maybe this goes back to our analysis of
Vietnam - do you agree with the thesis that it was the black movement
(the vanguard of the working class), the working class soldiers, and
the Vietnamese who beat imperialism, or was it pacifist marches?

Maybe you haven't noticed, but the real chauvinism problem in America
Post by M. Junaid Alam
is the one that's been drilled into your fantasy heroes, who eagerly support and enlist
in the very wars that comprise the international "issues", as you lightly phrase the murdering
of hundreds of thousands of people abroad.
I'm sorry but this is just offensive and not worth addressing - when
talking about consciousness you need to site real conversations with
real people in real places, that's all we can hope for on this list to
get a better sense of what workers are thinking, otherwise I will
assume you poll working class thought and consciousness by reading the
liberal press which is complicit in the literally deadly attacks on
workers. In my conversations with workers they have ABSOLUTELY not
"eagerly supported and enlisted" in the murder of "hundreds of
thousands of people abroad." Give me a break.
Post by M. Junaid Alam
If you're anti-war, you're
a traitor, a commie, a towel head, etc. - and not goign to be liked by many workers in the
South or Midwest in particular. That's a concrete fact no amount of dissembling can cover up.
Epistemological question: How the hell do you think you know what
workers think? These are human beings you are talking about here, for
one, and they are THE domestic victims of American history, they are
the ex-slaves, the immigrants from colonized countries, poor whites
descended from indentured servants, and they are YOUR class, if you
are a revolutionary, and you are not showing them respect.
Post by M. Junaid Alam
The fundamental problem lies in your total inability to grasp what the face of working America is.
Please Junaid, I have been struggling with this question for years,
apparently you can answer it, will you discuss it in a future post?
What IS the "face" of working America?
Post by M. Junaid Alam
The group of workers that the world proletarian evokes - steel mills, coal mining, auto
manufacturing - has rapidly diminished through automation and outsourcing. The protests and social movements
are mainly led by and composed of these middle-class people. I'm not sure why you want to punish them for it,
what are they supposed to do, stop existing?
No - BUT, as Marxists, we have to remember where power comes from,
again, the ABCs. A group of middle-class people in Cuba mobilized the
peasants and workers in not because they measured them against a moral
litmus test of whether they took "radical action" or had "radical
consciousness" but because of their social power and their raw
experiential anger and desires. In America, the Marxist position on
the anti-war movement would be that mobilizing in the ghettoes, the
big, important workplaces, the ports, amongst the rural poor being
recruited into the war effort, in the ranks of the troops on the
ground here in boot camp and there in Iraq, is how we stop the war.
No exceptions. Have we forgotten this in our joy over the big, mostly
middle-class, basically pacifist anti-war/anti-Bush demonstrations?
Students can play a big role in this mobilizing of the oppressed, as
can intellectuals. But adapting to a middle-class protest movement,
even bending our theory to call it a "working class" demonstration, is
liberalism - let's call it for what it is.
Post by M. Junaid Alam
Even academics are workers, not just unanchored boogeymen
on whom you can blame the passivity of other workers.
That's questionable - we could debate it for days, but it obscures the
key question, which is to orient to a much different social layer -
the "academics are workers" line serves to justify self-satisfaction
with a predominantly petty-bourgeois protest movement that is seen by
most workers as something not of themselves.

So now we have the phenomenon where the working-class
Post by M. Junaid Alam
votes Republican because of religion and "cultural issues" where it agrees with the right - down with the fags,
the niggers, the uppity women, to distill the thing to its essence, and not waste time 'changing the names of things as though
it changes the things themselves.'
Ridiculous, disrespectful and not worth responding to.
Josh
Brian Shannon
2004-10-31 22:20:36 UTC
Permalink
In a message dated 10/30/2004 7:52:52 PM Pacific Standard Time,
mjunaidalam at msalam.net writes: I agree with this completely. Too much
breezy and facile one-sided dismissal is going on here.

To which Octob1917 at aol.com replies:
I'm baffled by this statement, to be honest. If you could enumerate for
me anything of substance the US Left is doing, or has done recently, to
offer any meaningful resistance to the ongoing assaults by the ruling
class at home and/or abroad I would be grateful. My dismissal is based
on empirical fact, along with my experience of revolutionary/socialist
organisations and the outstanding work they are doing in Scotland and
in the occupied Six Counties of Ireland.

There is absolutely no militancy here, nobody risks anything, and that
in the end is what it takes. I say it again, the organised Left in the
US has succeeded only in repelling workers, due in large part to an
intellectual snobbery responsible for substituting paternalism for
solidarity. This talk about inserting revolutionaries into factories,
etc., is just puerile, romantic nonsense; as if that could even be
considered given the reality of the present state of the US Left and
its lack of coherence and, again, militancy. Every leader I've come
across is not a worker, rather a professional intellectual, occupying a
sinecure on some university campus or other.

The only hope is a new formation arising out of the nascent MWM
movement or an organic leadership arising out of the oppressed
communities. The potential for revolutionary consciousness is already
there, reflected in the amount of resources and energy the state
expends in colonising black and Latino youth, in keeping blacks on the
bottom rung of the economic ladder, and in attacking and destroying
anything approaching unity in those communities for fear of where it
might lead.
_________

"puerile, romantic, nonsense":
--such as the non-de-plume of Octob1917?

"meaningful resistance to the ongoing assaults by the ruling class at
home/or abroad":
--and the massive demonstrations against the Iraq war, tempered now as
always during U.S. elections when the non-ruling class candidates
groups are so small

"the only hope is a new formation arising out of the nascent MWM
movement or an organic leadership arising out of the oppressed
communities":
--i.e., we sit on our hands and "hope"; god forbid that we either
become academics or "inserted revolutionaries"

"every leader I've come across is ... a professional intellectual,
occupying a sinecure on some university campus or other":
--indeed, there are spokespersons who have academic positions, but no
one in the U.S. considers them as leaders, nor in fact do they consider
themselves as such. Most of the real leaders here did go to college and
got some degree or other, as do 50% of U.S. residents, but are in no
ways academicians. If you want to criticize some ex-lawyers, present
and former teachers, and many computer tehnos, you might have a point.
Please name a single such sinecured leader. BTW, I do not consider
writers whom I respect such as Chomsky, Lynn, Brenner, etc., as
leaders, nor would they ever claim to be. The one who comes closes is
James Petras, but he is retired from academia. His leadership is
achieved by his writing, but he does not claim to be a leader
"on-the-ground"

from Brian Shannon, one time user of the non-de-plumes of utopian and
Touraine
Lou Paulsen
2004-10-31 22:31:17 UTC
Permalink
Joe writes,

The only hope is a new formation arising out of the nascent MWM movement or
an organic leadership arising out of the oppressed communities. The
potential for revolutionary consciousness is already there, reflected in the
amount of resources and energy the state expends in colonising black and
Latino youth, in keeping blacks on the bottom rung of the economic ladder,
and in attacking and destroying anything approaching unity in those
communities for fear of where it might lead.

By concentrating on international issues, the US Left have ipso facto
abandoned the struggle at home. Calling demos around the occupation of Iraq
while ignoring the ongoing occupation of Compton and Harlem, etc., is
demonstrative of a subconscious chauvinism and elitism. No white Left group
enjoys any credibility in any black community, not one. Surely it is prudent
to ask why?

- - - - - - - - - - -

Me:

You are raising some valid points about the importance of the emergence of
revolutionary leadership from the oppressed communities, and about the
importance of dealing with the war at home as well as the war abroad.

I just think you go too far, possibly from lack of information, if you
assert that everyone in the socialist parties, without exception, has failed
to see these points before now. I can mostly speak only for my own party
and things I know about personally; others may have other data.

To start off, you appear to be assuming that every left group - including my
own party, I suppose - is a "white Left group". It's really not correct to
bleach us all with the same brush in that fashion. The idea that comrades
of oppressed nationalities should exercise leadership at all levels of the
revolutionary party has been central to our own practice in WWP for years,
and it might be true for other parties as well. Half of the members of our
secretariat are not white. Our candidates for office are not white. The
writers for our paper are of all nationalities. Anyone who thinks this is
tokenism is quite mistaken.

In any case, in Chicago, I can think of several other left groups that enjoy
some credibility in the Black community and other oppressed communities.
The RCP has a history of organizing in public housing projects. The ISO has
done a lot of work against the death penalty and police torture. The
struggles against police brutality and other forms of repression have gone
on pretty much in conjunction with the antiwar movement. And while we are
discussing the oppressed communities, we really can't forget the
Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities which have been the
targets of intimidation, arrests, "disappearances", deportations, and state
terror for years now. I think the left parties have been pretty much united
in opposing this aspect of the war at home and linking that struggle with
antiwar work.

Next, you mention the MWM as an example of the kind of emerging leadership
you want to see. You're quite correct, or in agreement with me, anyway,
about the significance of the MWM. But if you look through the material on
the WWP website (www.workers.org) , you can see that we haven't been blind
to that significance either and have been devoting a lot of resources to
helping advance the MWM.

You take the left to task for ignoring the needs of the workers and
oppressed here and focusing exclusively on the Iraq war. Of course we have
to be internationalists, as Malcolm X said, and to come to the defense of
victims of our own imperialist government. We also have to organize in
defense of the workers and oppressed here, and I agree that it is a bad
mentality to ignore that or separate one from the other, but not everyone
has that mentality. Look at the work that was done by ANSWER in Los Angeles
in support of the supermarket workers' strike, for example. In fact, if you
are taking the MWM as an example, the MWM leadership did not dismiss the
antiwar movement as irrelevant. They reached out to the antiwar movement
and to the left and called on it to support the MWM, and some sections of it
responded. See this website for example:
http://www.antiwar4themillionworkermarch.org

We are perhaps not much in disagreement about the things that need to be
done, but I don't think we are starting from zero as it sounds as if you do.

In the struggle,

Lou Paulsen
Member, WWP, Chicago
gabriel ross
2004-11-01 00:31:09 UTC
Permalink
If Chomsky, West, Zinn,Ehrenreich et al do not consider themselves leaders;why do they continue to give advice to rest of Left on how to vote and on who has the right to stand for office ? Maybe their academic positions, speaker fees, and book royalties have something to do with their view of the Bush threat. Red Gabe

Brian Shannon <Brian_Shannon at verizon.net> wrote:In a message dated 10/30/2004 7:52:52 PM Pacific Standard Time,
mjunaidalam at msalam.net writes: I agree with this completely. Too much
breezy and facile one-sided dismissal is going on here.

To which Octob1917 at aol.com replies:
I'm baffled by this statement, to be honest. If you could enumerate for
me anything of substance the US Left is doing, or has done recently, to
offer any meaningful resistance to the ongoing assaults by the ruling
class at home and/or abroad I would be grateful. My dismissal is based
on empirical fact, along with my experience of revolutionary/socialist
organisations and the outstanding work they are doing in Scotland and
in the occupied Six Counties of Ireland.

There is absolutely no militancy here, nobody risks anything, and that
in the end is what it takes. I say it again, the organised Left in the
US has succeeded only in repelling workers, due in large part to an
intellectual snobbery responsible for substituting paternalism for
solidarity. This talk about inserting revolutionaries into factories,
etc., is just puerile, romantic nonsense; as if that could even be
considered given the reality of the present state of the US Left and
its lack of coherence and, again, militancy. Every leader I've come
across is not a worker, rather a professional intellectual, occupying a
sinecure on some university campus or other.

The only hope is a new formation arising out of the nascent MWM
movement or an organic leadership arising out of the oppressed
communities. The potential for revolutionary consciousness is already
there, reflected in the amount of resources and energy the state
expends in colonising black and Latino youth, in keeping blacks on the
bottom rung of the economic ladder, and in attacking and destroying
anything approaching unity in those communities for fear of where it
might lead.
_________

"puerile, romantic, nonsense":
--such as the non-de-plume of Octob1917?

"meaningful resistance to the ongoing assaults by the ruling class at
home/or abroad":
--and the massive demonstrations against the Iraq war, tempered now as
always during U.S. elections when the non-ruling class candidates
groups are so small

"the only hope is a new formation arising out of the nascent MWM
movement or an organic leadership arising out of the oppressed
communities":
--i.e., we sit on our hands and "hope"; god forbid that we either
become academics or "inserted revolutionaries"

"every leader I've come across is ... a professional intellectual,
occupying a sinecure on some university campus or other":
--indeed, there are spokespersons who have academic positions, but no
one in the U.S. considers them as leaders, nor in fact do they consider
themselves as such. Most of the real leaders here did go to college and
got some degree or other, as do 50% of U.S. residents, but are in no
ways academicians. If you want to criticize some ex-lawyers, present
and former teachers, and many computer tehnos, you might have a point.
Please name a single such sinecured leader. BTW, I do not consider
writers whom I respect such as Chomsky, Lynn, Brenner, etc., as
leaders, nor would they ever claim to be. The one who comes closes is
James Petras, but he is retired from academia. His leadership is
achieved by his writing, but he does not claim to be a leader
"on-the-ground"

from Brian Shannon, one time user of the non-de-plumes of utopian and
Touraine
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Joaquín
2004-11-01 02:14:16 UTC
Permalink
Paul Bunyan writes, "If the State Capitalist tradition is an impediment for
growth for the ISO, why is the ISO, outside of the Social-Dem tendencies one
of the largest groups on the US left (the CP may be larger, I don't know)?"

I don't think it can be reasonably argued that *any* position on these sorts
of questions is an impediment or contributor to growth of a left group in
the U.S. in an immediate way.

I don't believe the big majority of ISO members have delved deeply into the
historical and theoretical issues involved. It is simply accepted. And this
isn't an issue like tactics in fighting imperialist war or even the national
question in the United States, where the direct individual and collective
experience of a group of comrades provides a material grounding for
discussion. Arguably, those of us who were active in politics for at least a
few years before 1989 have at least some personal feel for what the
existence of the USSR meant in world politics.

But political groups TODAY do (or at least should) have members of their
political committees to whom the struggle against apartheid in southern
Africa and Cuba's role in that is something they have learned about, if at
all, in historical readings.

I happen to be in a group where a whole bunch of people have theoretical
positions akin to those of the ISO. The practical political effect seems to
be vanishingly small. Some of these comrades took a hyper-critical position
on the "crackdown" in Cuba a year and a half ago that others of us disagreed
with. The ISO, if I remember right, took a political position more aligned
with my own than with those in my group who are closer to them on the
historical and theoretical issues.

At some point, groups on the revolutionary socialist left are going to have
to decide to dump a whole lot of these questions as "line" political
questions, because quite evidently they are not, not for revolutionaries in
the United States, and because they lead to a degradation of Marxism as a
theory, a science.

The *scientific* development of Marxism *requires* unfettered freedom of
scientific inquiry. To make the class character of the USSR an article of
faith in a political organization contradicts this. And, yes, the USSR is
what this is all about, and, moreover, the USSR in the 1920's. The
"analysis" of the other countries was simply pouring new content into the
same old soviet molds, no matter how ill-fitting.

In this, we should look to Marx's critique of the Gotha Program, which is a
scathing indictment of theoretical muddle-headedness, like this idea that
EVERYONE on the U.S. left has that Marxists should be for "public"
(state-controlled) schools.

In his cover letter on the critique, Marx suggests a practical course of
action, that the fusion should have been based on a practical action program
for the new party, not a program essentially expounding a degraded version
of Marxist theory.

Of course, that was because Marx actually agreed with the FIRST POINT made
in the Communist Manifesto about how communists ought to operate in the
political arena, namely: "The Communists do not form a separate party
opposed to the other working-class parties," whereas we today operate on the
basis that the whole reason for being of our very own Truly Revolutionary
Party is to prevent especially the younger comrades from falling into the
abysmal trap of joining the True Revolutionary Party.

Things have come to such a pass that in the most recent split, between the
WWP and the PSL, both sides agree that their programmatic political
differences (if any) aren't even worth explaining to anyone else.

The multiplicity of well-nigh-indistinguishable organizations that infest
the U.S. left (indsitinguishable from the point of view of a
militant/combative/revolutionary-minded worker or student) are a plague that
*needs to be erradicated.*

And part of exterminating this plague is groups getting rid of articles of
faith about what happened nearly 100 years ago in a country that doesn't
even exist any more. Not because someone's position isn't right (with so
many different groups with so many positions it would be astounding if one
of them hadn't hit on "the" truth, at least by accident) but because these
positions aren't useful. Their practical political import is to justify and
maintain the sectarian division and fragmentation of the revolutionary
socialist left in the United States.

Joaqu?n
Joaquín
2004-11-01 02:50:34 UTC
Permalink
Octob1917 writes, "No white Left group enjoys any credibility in any black
community, not one. Surely it is prudent to ask why?"

1) The use of the term "white left" is arrogant and chauvinist. This is a
statement that says that Blacks, Latinos and other people from oppressed
communities play no role in the organizations that they belong to.

2) No Black left group enjoys any credibility in any Black community; no
Chicano left group... ; no Puerto Rican left group ... All these statements
could have been made (provided Octob1917 had any real knowledge of
conditions in the U.S. on the ground, which s/he quite evidently does not).

"Perhaps it is prudent to ask" why someone claiming to be a leftist is so
blind to the fact that the U.S. imperialist ruling class has political and
ideological hegemony in the United States, and the fact that this hegemony
is much stronger in this country than elsewhere. An inquiry into the subject
would undoubtedly stumble across the role the United States plays in the
world imperialist system. Which leads directly to the next point.

3) "By concentrating on international issues, the US Left have ipso facto
abandoned the struggle at home." This is imperialist economism. The struggle
abroad IS the struggle at home. Latinos make up something like 7% of the
U.S. citizen population but about 15% of the front-line troops in Iraq.

4) "Until this changes I'm convinced that in this country bourgeois
campaigns for reformists electoral candidates like Ralph Nader will continue
to masquerade as revolutionary work." This is empty phrasemongering, much
like the counterposition of "international issues" to "the struggle at
home."

Joaqu?n
RRM48
2004-11-01 14:27:55 UTC
Permalink
'Hoodorus sees defeatist logic in State Capitalist theory. Otherwise, judging
by the lack of response on the list to those who've weighed in with such
certainty that the question is irrelevant and scholastic I'm concluding that this
is the tacit opinion of the Marxism list. Call me a sectarian scholastic but
it really says something that this list is populated by a bunch of very bright
people who have either forgotten or chosen to ignore the ABCs of historical
materialism. The home page that the moderator maintains is a useful resource. As
a discussion vehicle the list is worse than useless-- it's dreary. When the
day comes that a pro-democracy movement pops up in Cuba with more acceptable
credentials than the current crop of restorationist dissidents we'll see how
scholastic and irrelevant the question is.
Unsubscribing.
Ilyenkova
andypollack
2004-11-01 16:08:19 UTC
Permalink
I just wanted to thank Josh for this response. (It's so scathingly powerful that I'm hoping Junaid will be able to prove his quotes were taken out of context, because otherwise he's got a lot of rethinking and research among real workers to do.)

-- Josh Saxe <joshsaxe at gmail.com> wrote:
I hate to seem like I am picking on Junaid, because we have clashed a
good deal in the past, but I think there are so many problems in his
Post by M. Junaid Alam
Point to me one case where the mythical proletarian
heroes are themselves fighting imperialism abroad or capitalism
at home en masse - after all, if the "US Left" is to be derisively dismissed as a bunch of petty-bourgeois,
then it should be quite easy to forget about them and focus on the "truly" revolutionary
working-class's own militancy.
What do you mean by "fighting capitalism"? I have seen workers do
some incredible things, and I have been active between 1998-2004, a
period of severe retreat. I saw a big janitors strike (a victory), a
big grocery strike (a defeat), when I was a kid, on TV, the LA riots,
many many smaller strikes, many fights that didn't boil over into a
strike but involved big risks to people's livelihoods - I have seen
many many more workers risk their livelihoods and families than I have
seen students risk their middle-class cushy futures.
Post by M. Junaid Alam
Where are the workers "risking anything" in political action? What "meaningful
resistance" are they offering up to the status quo? Union militancy? What strategies have
the unions prepared over the past ten years to cope with free trade and outsourcing and
privatization?
Ok, another problem, I have seen this throughout your recent posts.
You stand so far back from the working class that it becomes an
extremely simple, blurry analytical object, the workers are so
enmeshed with the union bureaucrats that they can all be dismissed
with a phrase. Between 1929-1934, when the resistance to the
depression offensive on living standards was up in full force, would
you have said - "What 'meaningful resistance' are they offering up to
the status quo? Union militancy? What strategies ..." - Because it
was true, the AFL leaders were by and large not offering a way out of
the crisis, only the CP, the Musteites, and the SWP could do that in
the general strikes of 1934. I am arguing we are seeing 1919-1934 in
slow motion for the working class today, and only the revolutionary
left reconnecting with their natural social base, workers, will offer
a way out. To put it another way, NOT building a base amongst the
working class means leaving the workers under the influence of John
Sweeney, the Catholic church, the Democratic Party, etc, and produces
outcomes which you use to justify not prioritizing working class work.
Post by M. Junaid Alam
[The unions'] numbers are dwindling and their political clout diminishing.
And this is used as a justification for the left NOT being there when
it comes to the working class. The working class is being pummeled,
employers have decided not to accept unions but to smash them, no one
in the working class is offering a real way out, and this is why the
left should not prioritize working class work. Pretty ironic.
Junaid, I don't know you personally, but I wonder if you talk on a
regular basis with workers in your area, or try to organize them? I
have felt an incredible anger amongst workers that is prone to explode
and the question is who will be there with credibility and clout in
those communities to suggest a way to resist - that the unions are
getting the shit kicked out of them and no one is offering another way
is WHY the working class must be our utmost preoccupation in this
period.
Post by M. Junaid Alam
This nonsense about how the US left has abandoned class struggle at home because they
favor international issues by default completely ignores how this situation came about
in the first place.
Fighting imperialism means organizing in working class communities -
not doing that is not a Marxist approach to fighting imperialism.
It's ABC, as you say. The working class is the only social layer that
can give the imperialists a black eye in their belly and the only
class that can destroy them. Maybe this goes back to our analysis of
Vietnam - do you agree with the thesis that it was the black movement
(the vanguard of the working class), the working class soldiers, and
the Vietnamese who beat imperialism, or was it pacifist marches?

Maybe you haven't noticed, but the real chauvinism problem in America
Post by M. Junaid Alam
is the one that's been drilled into your fantasy heroes, who eagerly support and enlist
in the very wars that comprise the international "issues", as you lightly phrase the murdering
of hundreds of thousands of people abroad.
I'm sorry but this is just offensive and not worth addressing - when
talking about consciousness you need to site real conversations with
real people in real places, that's all we can hope for on this list to
get a better sense of what workers are thinking, otherwise I will
assume you poll working class thought and consciousness by reading the
liberal press which is complicit in the literally deadly attacks on
workers. In my conversations with workers they have ABSOLUTELY not
"eagerly supported and enlisted" in the murder of "hundreds of
thousands of people abroad." Give me a break.
Post by M. Junaid Alam
If you're anti-war, you're
a traitor, a commie, a towel head, etc. - and not goign to be liked by many workers in the
South or Midwest in particular. That's a concrete fact no amount of dissembling can cover up.
Epistemological question: How the hell do you think you know what
workers think? These are human beings you are talking about here, for
one, and they are THE domestic victims of American history, they are
the ex-slaves, the immigrants from colonized countries, poor whites
descended from indentured servants, and they are YOUR class, if you
are a revolutionary, and you are not showing them respect.
Post by M. Junaid Alam
The fundamental problem lies in your total inability to grasp what the face of working America is.
Please Junaid, I have been struggling with this question for years,
apparently you can answer it, will you discuss it in a future post?
What IS the "face" of working America?
Post by M. Junaid Alam
The group of workers that the world proletarian evokes - steel mills, coal mining, auto
manufacturing - has rapidly diminished through automation and outsourcing. The protests and social movements
are mainly led by and composed of these middle-class people. I'm not sure why you want to punish them for it,
what are they supposed to do, stop existing?
No - BUT, as Marxists, we have to remember where power comes from,
again, the ABCs. A group of middle-class people in Cuba mobilized the
peasants and workers in not because they measured them against a moral
litmus test of whether they took "radical action" or had "radical
consciousness" but because of their social power and their raw
experiential anger and desires. In America, the Marxist position on
the anti-war movement would be that mobilizing in the ghettoes, the
big, important workplaces, the ports, amongst the rural poor being
recruited into the war effort, in the ranks of the troops on the
ground here in boot camp and there in Iraq, is how we stop the war.
No exceptions. Have we forgotten this in our joy over the big, mostly
middle-class, basically pacifist anti-war/anti-Bush demonstrations?
Students can play a big role in this mobilizing of the oppressed, as
can intellectuals. But adapting to a middle-class protest movement,
even bending our theory to call it a "working class" demonstration, is
liberalism - let's call it for what it is.
Post by M. Junaid Alam
Even academics are workers, not just unanchored boogeymen
on whom you can blame the passivity of other workers.
That's questionable - we could debate it for days, but it obscures the
key question, which is to orient to a much different social layer -
the "academics are workers" line serves to justify self-satisfaction
with a predominantly petty-bourgeois protest movement that is seen by
most workers as something not of themselves.

So now we have the phenomenon where the working-class
Post by M. Junaid Alam
votes Republican because of religion and "cultural issues" where it agrees with the right - down with the fags,
the niggers, the uppity women, to distill the thing to its essence, and not waste time 'changing the names of things as though
it changes the things themselves.'
Ridiculous, disrespectful and not worth responding to.
Josh

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mjunaidalam
2004-11-01 17:10:31 UTC
Permalink
Josh's panting over my post and Andy's amusing NTY-esque editorializing on it -
"Scathingly powerful!" reveal more about their own dogmas and
inconsistencies than anything I myself wrote. Josh, your method by now is
pretty much routine: first, dismiss all empirical and historical evidence,
then, point to this or that strike or activity that did happen 80 years ago or
8 days ago as if it's some kind of counter-point to the general trend revealed
by history, and for the finishing move, rant about how something I wrote
disguists or angers you,et al.

You didn't respond to what I wrote, you responded to the emotions of what I
wrote brought out in you, and I can't be held responsible for that. It's utter
nonsense for you to say that I advocate not working in unions or whatever else
along those lines. What I did was point out some incontrovertable facts:
workers are the backbone of any major war machine and are fighting the war, it
creates an objective political contradiction; and you can't harp on the
middle-class for lack of radicalism or type of radical one-sidedly if the
working-class itself is at a low ebb of struggle too. You read some "moralism"
on my part based on my description of political realities, and then try to
create new facts based on your own moralisms, ie. left activists are morons
because they can't find the golden touch to connect with the ready-to-be-saved
workers.

I'm not interested in sitting around, wasting time arguing against formulas with
zero applicability and relevance in the modern period - you can't just prattle
on about "workers" without recognizing that they are divided among themselves
along serious lines, at the very least into two main groups because of the US
position in the global economy, "middle class" and "working class". There are
social and cultural cleavages that not only exist but have been blown out of
proportion between them for rightist purposes of division. Pretending they
aren't there is ludicrous.

It's interesting that you really had nothing at all to say about the crucial
point here, which is that social movements have been led by the middle class,
that is, advancement for minorities, womens, and gays, and this is all held in
some contempt by no small section of the white working class. You also had no
comment on the realities of the international division of the masses of people
on the planet, in terms of core and periphery, developed countries and poorer
countries. You can't just toss aside all non-directly class issues, because we
live in the real world with national, racial, and historical contours, Josh, not
an asbtract computer read-out of the dynamics explained by Marx, as if they
are operating in some vacuum and not in the real world. Marxism is a tool for
understanding reality, not a substitution for reality.

I don't know how you can honestly sit there and say it's "Disguisting" when I
say there's serious religious fundamentalist anti-gay, anti-black, anti-Islamic,
and anti-women's currents in the working class. I've seen all those
manifestations personally so don't tell me they don't exist. The disguisting
thing is that they exist and they should be fought! I don't think we disagree
there. But don't tell me it's disguisting to point out the truth. And then
don't speechify about how I'm "moralizing" by pointing out the truth.

You resort to your usual anecdotal method of addressing major questions on this
point vis. the war, too, "well the workers *I* talk to don't support the war" -
as if this represents totality when it obviously does not. LA isn't exactly
what the rest of American looks like - between LA and NYC lies a wide swath of
America where support for this war runs very high. Sure, public opinion is
mounting against the war NOW, in no small part thanks to the groundwork laid by
the "petty bourgeois's" anti-war movement, who you so love to scapegoat as the
reason why the worker's aren't storming heaven's gates, and also because of the
actual resistance of the Iraqi people. Without these elements this'd be another
GWI and sanctions - a lot of enemy civilians dead and sanctions killing many
more, with no one really giving a damn, except, again, some section of your
hated "petty bourgeois."

Don't blame me for laying out reality just because you choose to cling to fairy
tales. I think it's better to recognize reality and work with it in mind than
have false expectations and constructions. It'd be one thing if I was
sitting here saying American people are all a bunch of bought-off hopeless
reactionaries, but I am *decidedly not*, and anyone saying so is deceiving
himself. In 48 hours I'll be talking to the head of a local of the General
Electrician's Union, who's against the war, and asking him what he and his
fellow workers think about the war, what their concerns are about the draft
vis. their sons and daughters, what we can do to help, effective strategies for
left-worker solidarity all around, etc.

I don't claim to be any kind of leader or hero of any sort, but I wouldn't be
doing this, or endorsing MWM, or trying to publicize anti-war GI issues more
vis. Left Hook, if I actually am what you say and think I believe, namely some
kind of ultra-left moralist. No, I am as much for socialism as anybody else, I
just don't confuse future hopes with present realities and wishful thinking for
the harsh truth.
Josh Saxe
2004-11-01 19:56:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by mjunaidalam
workers are the backbone of any major war machine and are fighting the war, it
creates an objective political contradiction;
No, you said the workers are "eagerly enlisting" in a war that's
killing "hundreds of thousands." Sounds like you're living in
Germany, August 1914, not modern America where anyone can tell you the
poverty draft, high unemployment, lack of decent jobs, has led to a
mood of widespread apathy and discontent within the armed forces.
Post by mjunaidalam
and you can't harp on the
middle-class for lack of radicalism or type of radical one-sidedly if the
working-class itself is at a low ebb of struggle too.
I'm not harping. Again: I'm saying the way forward, the "what is to
be done" for the middle-class activists of the anti-war movement, is
to organize at the big workplaces, in the big ghettos, at the ports,
at industrial distribution centers, at the airports, in the government
office buildings, that is, amongst the oppressed - because that's the
way we as Marxists give imperialism a black eye and in the end form a
base that can destroy it. The only way. This is ABC shit - the
middle class, given its social position, has very little power, it can
mob the streets in protest marches, but it cannot stop wars, it cannot
overthrow capitalism, it must reach out into the working class or be
irrelevant to the revolutionary struggle, that's what revolutionary
middle-class people have done in every revolution of the 20th century.
Post by mjunaidalam
You read some "moralism"
on my part based on my description of political realities, and then try to
create new facts based on your own moralisms, ie. left activists are morons
because they can't find the golden touch to connect with the ready-to-be-saved
workers.
It's not a matter of a "golden touch" - but it does take skill to
organize workers, and the working class certainly isn't begging naive
pampered college students to come hand it a way forward. But with
effort things can be accomplished. Four well-trained organizers in
SEIU can be dropped off in a small town with a big hospital,
employing, say, 1000 workers, build a committee of dozens of workers,
and organize the shop, in spite of firings and interrogations of
workers. Even in this period, it happens all the time. But that
takes skill - drop your average grouplet of Trotskyists off in that
same town and they will make a disaster of that hospital or just be
laughed out of the smoke-break area. That in a microcosm is the
problem of the left and the working class. We don't need a magic
touch but we need to be serious about learning about a life that's
foreign to us (if we're middle class), learning the dynamics of
organizing in a context where if you fuck up the consequences can be
life-threatening, etc, etc, or else we will never be taken seriously
by workers, and by and large, we aren't right now. That means
prioritizing working class work and accepting that we will fail again
and again at first because the left does not have good working class
organizers yet, they are the property of the unions and the soft-left
NGO types like ACORN.
Post by mjunaidalam
you can't just prattle
on about "workers" without recognizing that they are divided among themselves
along serious lines, at the very least into two main groups because of the US
position in the global economy, "middle class" and "working class".
Agreed - when did I disagree? I disagreed with this statement: "So
now we have the phenomenon where the working-class votes Republican
because of religion and "cultural issues" where it agrees with the
right - down with the fags, the niggers, the uppity women, to distill
the thing to its essence, and not waste time 'changing the names of
things as though it changes the things themselves.'"
Anyways, however reactionary you think the working class is, it
doesn't matter, because if you are against the war, and you're a
Marxist, go organize the war industries where the bombs are made, go
organize in the military training camps, in the ghettos where the
military gets its cannon fodder, it shouldn't matter to you if the
workers are reactionary or not, the task of middle class
revolutionaries is to organize those with power.
Post by mjunaidalam
It's interesting that you really had nothing at all to say about the crucial
point here, which is that social movements have been led by the middle class,
that is, advancement for minorities, womens, and gays, and this is all held in
some contempt by no small section of the white working class.
If that's true (the contempt part), and I don't know that it's true
for the working class any more than it is for other sections of
society, okay. But a huge problem with your twiddling with this
category "the working class" is that you accept bourgeois caricatures
for who the working class is. Herbert Gutman pointed out that in the
late 19th century 80% of workers were immigrants or the children of
immigrants in America (the very "minorities" you say the working class
is against form a huge PART of the working class, and have defended
themselves just fine without the middle class). You say the working
class holds "some contempt" for advancement by women - Hello? Most
women are workers, and most workers are women. Many gays are workers.
So your point here is a bit nonsensical - you imagine the American
worker as a burly white guy who watches football and drinks Budweiser
- a bourgeois caricature on the scale of black-face minstrels in
antebellum New York.
Post by mjunaidalam
You also had no
comment on the realities of the international division of the masses of people
on the planet, in terms of core and periphery, developed countries and poorer
countries.
Ok, let me comment on it: it's a central, deadly fact of the modern
world - we need to organize against it - the only class in the U.S.
that poses a considerable threat to imperialism is the working class,
that is, communities dependent on wage-labor for survival but not
solely reliant on that wage labor - and to challenge imperialism our
base must be in these communities. The core-periphery dynamic has a
lot to say about the make-up of the metropolitan working class, which
in the big financial centers of the United States maintains ties to
the home countries and is superexploited based on the apartheid
citizenship system. The periphery exists in the core, in a sense.
This is all a side issue to some extent, but there, I have a "comment"
on it. I don't get what else you want, but it is an interesting issue
to bring in and a component of the discussion of the nature of the
American workforce and its social position in the world
political/economic system.
Post by mjunaidalam
You can't just toss aside all non-directly class issues, because we
live in the real world with national, racial, and historical contours, Josh, not
an asbtract computer read-out of the dynamics explained by Marx, as if they
are operating in some vacuum and not in the real world. Marxism is a tool for
understanding reality, not a substitution for reality.
Good point: Ok I will work harder and try to be less dogmatic, it's
been my biggest struggle. Now want to get to the actual ideas I'm
putting forward?
Post by mjunaidalam
I don't know how you can honestly sit there and say it's "Disguisting" when I
say there's serious religious fundamentalist anti-gay, anti-black, anti-Islamic,
and anti-women's currents in the working class. I've seen all those
manifestations personally so don't tell me they don't exist.
What was disgusting was your caricature:
Junaid wrote:
"So now we have the phenomenon where the working-class
votes Republican because of religion and "cultural issues" where it
agrees with the right - down with the fags, the niggers, the uppity
women, to distill the thing to its essence, and not waste time
'changing the names of things as though
it changes the things themselves.'"

Josh
andrew c pollack
2004-11-01 22:58:59 UTC
Permalink
What's "NTY-esque"?
By the way, perhaps part of the problem is Junaid's labeling of
nonmanufacturing workers as "middle-class." Does that mean the
negotiations and picket lines I've been on while a clerical worker and
teacher, or in solidarity with healthcare workers, insurance workers,
etc., etc., were "middle-class" activities?
Scathingly yours,
Andy
Post by mjunaidalam
Josh's panting over my post and Andy's amusing NTY-esque
editorializing on it -
"Scathingly powerful!"
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