wisconsin, the class struggle in the US blah blah blah

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Santiago Rolento
wisconsin, the class struggle in the US blah blah blah
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whats up.

wisconsin is going nuts and there has been some talk about general strike between the union bosses. what are people's opinion about this? it certainly is qualititatively different than the usual drug addled college kids throwing rocks at military bases or smashy smashy insurrectos waging the "social war:" against the g8 summit. me and some folks from my area are going to drive to madison for some days to see what's up. are there any cool left coms hangin out in madison right now?

Beltov
Wisconsin

Yes, the movement in Madison is very significant. Looks like it's spreading to Ohio and Indiana too. As for left coms hanging out in madison, you'll be the first. There are some people from Libcom around. I've just emailed you about this...

 

soyonstout
the movement in WI, as far as I know.

Isn't there an ICT comrade there?  I suppose one of us could/should contact the ICT to confirm this.  Also, Will Barnes, who debates with Internationalist Perspective, Goldner, and Hieronymous from libcom went down there earlier and wrote this piece about the movement there.  And yes, the libcom thread about the events has some people mentioning they headed up there, although I think many are centering their activity around the IWW, who in my opinion, don't have a solid position against  the 'business unions' and what to do about them the way the ICC/ICT and some other anarchists do.  The Madison IWW are focused on a statewide (might be wrong about that, could be regional, or maybe they want to it be bigger than that?) general strike.  An IWW UK cde has written: "As I'm sure most people have heard, in the American state of Wisconsin the government has introduced a bill to strip public sector workers of their rights to collective bargaining. Of course, us in the IWW have no love for the trade unions, but this represents a vicious and coordinated attack on the working conditions and living standards of public sector workers that will ripple through the private sector as well. Plus, Wisconsin has historically been a bastion of organized labor. If the bosses can do this there, similar measures are sure to follow elsewhere.  The Madison, Wisconsin IWW along with local labor councils has begun calling for a one-day general strike in the state to oppose this. Public sectors workers, who've been without the right to strike for the past 40 years, have already begun taking action. Teachers have staged sick-ins and students have walked out in support. There's been occupations of the capitol building with tens of thousands of protestors supporting them from the outside. It is time to build on this momentum!"

To my mind, we've seen how effective the one-day general strike is in Europe (i.e., not effective at all), and thinking that the low level of class struggle in the US justifies trying something that never works in Europe as an 'intermediary' or however it is justified is wrong.  Overall the unions in WI may be shifting toward taking 'radical' postures to allow their members to blow off steam and then be weakened to the point of accepting that 'there is no alternative' to cuts to save the state's bond ratings.  The unions have switched from agreeing to every concession but one (their extinction and the end of their dues revenue streams) to refusing all concessions but workers should be under no illusions about this.

Still, this is one of the biggest movements involving the working class that we've seen in the US in recent years, and it's definitely worth intervening in.  The best thing I think communists can do though is try to provoke some discussion and reflection about what it would really take to defeat a national initiative to make public sector workers pay for  the insolvent states and why the public sector has gotten so separate from the private in terms of being viewed as privileged, etc. (why did we allow the private sector to get so screwed?  how can we re-unite with them in this struggle?), and to try to combat the unions' liturgical repetition of the same unthinking slogans and provoke some real discussion and reflection.

According to WSWS there were some teachers defying back-to-work orders from their union a few days ago too.  So there may be growing attempts to go beyond the unions that could use some encouragement.  Good luck, Rolento!

-soyons tout

jk1921
Have you seen our article on

Have you seen our article on the situation here: http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2011/02/wisconsin ?

 

 

Pants (not verified)
madison area

If any left-communists are going to be in the madison area, they can contact me via email through the website here. I'm an ICT comrade and I know the city and the area quite well. I'd welcome the chance to work with other comrades here.

Devrim
pm?

Pants wrote:

If any left-communists are going to be in the madison area, they can contact me via email through the website here. I'm an ICT comrade and I know the city and the area quite well. I'd welcome the chance to work with other comrades here.

I don't think that this website allows user pms. Could you put a link to it on the ICT page, which does?

Devrim

Santiago Rolento
Hey mr. pants I have no idea

Hey mr. pants I have no idea how to msg you. If you see this email me to [email protected]. i dont care if that email is spammed by spambots anyway

Fred
Was there truly all that much

Was there truly all that much class struggle in Wisconsin, or wasn't it all "blah blah blah"? Massive struggle within bourgeois confines. A struggle against the threatened loss of the right to collective bargaining! Oh my! This"right" once so generously bestowed by the ruling class in their selfless concern for the conditions of the living conditions of the working class, is now threatened with removal; and the unions ( the rabidly red agents of the bourgeoisie when it comes to fooling workers) are of course on the workers' side. (lol) And this is happening in Wisconsin: "the great bastion of organized labor"! Oh my my! Organized labor? Yes, but organized for whose purposes? Not I think the working class. Given all the Union jiggery-pokery going on, given the support of the Democrats, with all their radical passion for their bourgeois unions, and given the equally passionate attacks against their bourgeois unions by the republican side - isn't all this a living demonstration of true democracy at work: the two faces of the bourgeoisie working in balance to bewilder the oh so easily fooled working class?- surely the only organization the class needs is it's own self- organization, beyond the manipulation of the bourgeoisie and it's unions? If this was to happen then we really would be able to refer to Wisconsin as "a great bastion of labor" and an advanced outpost of proletarian rebellion. But not now. Ah well! Maybe one day in the future?

But were the very enthusiastic left communists able to finally meet up I wonder, and were they able to bring any members of the striking class to their senses regarding the role of the treasonous unions? Maybe not this time. But this is a useful rehearsal for next time. And at least a few teachers pointed the way forward by defying "back to work" orders from their union; which seems to regard them as so many lackeys and stinking toe rags! But the unions are against the working class, let's not forget that.

mhou
There was a legitimate

There was a legitimate worker's uprising, outside the control of the trade unions, in Wisconsin in 2011. Worker's who belonged to a union showed they would disobey them, baby steps toward acting as a class. It's true that the weight of trade unionism and left-liberal ideology via the AFL-CIO and Democratic Party recuperated their struggles and channeled them down bourgeous-legimitizing paths, there was something there. The debates between IP and Will Barnes (posted on the IP website) are  very good on this.

The story goes that the General Strike discussion (which was covered in the national media during the events) was initiated by a lone IWW member calling on the central labor council (SCFL), in a CLC meeting during the uprising, to promote a general strike in Wisconsin, 2 motions to that effect passed the SCFL- the trade unions immediately came out against it and fought any strike talk. Unlike Europe and elsewhere where 24 or 48 hour general strikes are routine, called and run by the trade unions, etc. general strikes in US history have been thoroughly proletarian in content, our violent class war history in the US contributes to this environment. It was the result of a pro-revolutionary worker engaging in the class struggle and bringing the history and weapons of the working-class into the dialogue of the struggle. I don't think this is a bad thing, or symptomatic of a trade union guiding the class down mediated and legal paths.

jk1921
agree

mhou wrote:

There was a legitimate worker's uprising, outside the control of the trade unions, in Wisconsin in 2011. Worker's who belonged to a union showed they would disobey them, baby steps toward acting as a class. It's true that the weight of trade unionism and left-liberal ideology via the AFL-CIO and Democratic Party recuperated their struggles and channeled them down bourgeous-legimitizing paths, there was something there. The debates between IP and Will Barnes (posted on the IP website) are  very good on this.

 

I agree with mhou here. In the US, the Wisconsin events have come closest to something we recognize as "autonomous class struggle" since the onset of the latest economic crisis. The events surrounding the Occupy Movement are far more difficult to characterize. Yes, its true that this movement was quickly recuperated into a defense of the unions and the Democratic electoral circus, but there was clearly something there in the early stages that scared the begeezes out of the main factions of the bourgeoisie, even if this gave the unions the opportunity to prove their value to the national captial.

Fred
This is excellent news mhou

This is excellent news mhou and jk, perhaps more should have been made of it. That something recognizable as close to "autonomous class struggle" didn't grab the left communist headlines in quite the way the Occupiers did, is a pity. (but maybe it did and I missed it.)

mhou wrote:
Unlike Europe and elsewhere where 24 or 48 hour general strikes are routine, called and run by the trade unions, etc. general strikes in US history have been thoroughly proletarian in content, our violent class war history in the US contributes to this environment. It was the result of a pro-revolutionary worker engaging in the class struggle and bringing the history and weapons of the working-class into the dialogue of the struggle.
.

How can I find out more about "our violent class war history in the US" which I've never heard of before? And how does the second sentence in the quote above beginning "It was the result of..." relate to 'our violent class war history', or maybe it doesn't? I am not being deliberately pernickety here, but would really like to hear more! Maybe the US is going to be ahead in the race for revolution after all, leaving Europe behind. But it's strange that articles by Internationalism comrades don't seem to take this line, or maybe it's all implicit? Please elaborate.

Fred
ICC wrote: One of the most

ICC wrote:
One of the most significant struggles in the recent period, however, has been the mobilisation of public sector workers in Wisconsin, USA, which has crystallised the mounting frustration of the American working class.

This quote is from the article. "The bourgeoisie fears the contagion of revolt". The contagion appears to have eased off a bit lately. Or maybe it's gone subterranean like the slow maturation of consciousness? Either way let's hope it returns soon in a more virulent form.

mhou
Quote:How can I find out more

Quote:
How can I find out more about "our violent class war history in the US" which I've never heard of before?

The IWW's bookstore has several books about the Western mine wars around the turn of the century; I'd highly recommend Stalinist-Titoite Louis Adamic's book, "Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence in America,"- it goes back to the founding days of the US and the rudimentary trade unions to the gangsterism of the early American Federation of Labor, violent anarchist groups (around Johann Most, the propaganda of the deed proponent who was influential on the 'Haymarket Synthesis'), etc. Unlike Western Europe, the class struggle in the US has, up until the 1950's, been racked with extreme violence and a reluctance on the part of employers and the state to willingly engage in the direct mediation of class struggle into legally defined and acceptable routes: although this is eventually what happened, there has always been a greater reluctance to combat trade unionism in the US than in Europe, which manifests itself in the example of the general strike: while in Europe it may be lefty sloganeering to call for general strikes (like the Trots do, asking the trade union leaders to do it over every thing imaginable), whereas in the US, where there has always been such reluctance to accept corporatism and a history of violent repression up to the 1940's, no such thing as a union called and run general strike for 24 or 48 hours; in my mind a general strike, in the US, only means direct class struggle outside the control of the unions- because it is not accepted practice here.

The history of IWW members and CIO organizers being literally tarred and feathered, lynchings up to the 1930's and 1940's of trade unionists in the South, the states of Colorado, Nevada, Montana, etc. were the site of pitched battles between armed workers (who often dynamited intransigent mine owners' operations) and vigilante groups and private armies, the phenomenon of the Black Legion in Detroit/industrial Midwest. Labor's Untold Story, a history of American unionism and class struggle written by the Communist Party USA dominated United Electrical Worker's in 1955, has many individual instances of open class warfare in the US- particularly in the era of the Pinkertons. In one anecdote, a salesman for innovative crowd control weapons (in this case gas grenades and gas grenade launchers to use on crowds- like the ones in use today and so familiar at the G8 summit protests and Occupy Oakland's forcible evacuation) would go around to factory owners and if a strike was underway, would use it as an opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of the weapon to the owner. The private business of strikebreakers, vigilante's, private security forces, labor spies, labor snitches, crowd control policing techniques and technology, etc. is rooted in the war like atmosphere of American class struggle.