Reflections on a public forum

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Pierre
Reflections on a public forum
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**Updated 8/24**

Gso Day of Discussion: Some post-discussion reflections

I would like to thank everyone who came out and discussed together in such an open manner. As we discussed, too often these days working people like all of us are not given the opportunity to have discussions of such quality and subject matter. We hope that everyone enjoyed the presentation, as well as the rest of our input on the subjects. We surely enjoyed the time and would like to thank everyone for the diverse array of perspectives brought to the table. As always we would like to encourage further input on any of the subjects we touched upon. We encourage it and we hope to be able to meet in person to discuss again on a future date.

There were many things said which were of particular interest. On the subject of the Occupy movement, we briefly discussed its influences and predecessors worldwide. A few of us suggested that there were many elements which had agendas separate from the interests of the demonstrators involved with Occupy. But we also said that it was possible some of these elements may have had "genuine intentions." It was pointed out that the Occupy movement did not "come from out of nowhere." Some of us agreed we had been waiting for a very long time, often wondering "when is it going to happen."

We highlighted various obstacles we saw through our participation in the Occupy movement.  We agreed that there were some differences in the movements in each particular country, but the demonstrations were there nonetheless. It was pointed out that many of the people attempting to "Occupy" had real life obligations, many times 2 or more jobs. One participant suggested the occupiers weren't prepared enough. She pointed out how in the beginning no one knew each other. The question was posed, "How can we have a part-time uprising?" What can we do to strive further? 

We mentioned that we had seen these social movements reach out to the working class explicitly many times, but questioned the deeper meaning of these events. Some examples of the more radical and focused actions of the US Occupy movement were given, such as the strikes events on the West Coast and examples of demonstrations made in solidarity with them.

It was of course also noted that part of Occupy was the defiance. It was the rejection of the state absorbing all aspects of civil life. It was about reclaiming the space. It was against fighting against our dehumanization.

In a broader scope, the discussion also touched upon various other issues. One friend said that "things are destined to get worse." And he then pointed to the fact that people are losing everything from their insurance to their houses. He pointed out how people were unfairly unemployed, and that we should never underestimate "the importance of community." Thats what our leaders are "most afraid" of happening. 

It was pointed out that democracy was really an "inverted totalitarianism", and that the Democrats are now merely the center right, and many elements of the GOP the far-right. We discussed how so much of the energy put into the Occupy movement is increasingly diverted into the electoral circus by politicians, non-profits, and so on.

The mixed work and educational experience of people today was noted. One member of the discussion said she thought Americans were "not united enough", and that the consciousness was too uneven. We briefly discussed the changing nature of work, and also the mechanization of labor. The discussion touched on the subject of the loss of manufacturing in the US, outsourcing for cheap labor, low wages, and repression for worker action.

The discussion touched upon issues of surveillance and security by the state. Specifically violent manifestations of this, i.e. Drones used domestically, Heat-ray Dispersal Units used on protestors, etc. It was pointed out that the prison system in the US was disproportional compared to the rest of the world, and that there was much unfair detention and sentencing.

There was debate on the question of the role of the Unions. It was suggested they were "the only organization and tradition" of the American working class for the last 30 years. The question was posed, who else was fighting for the workers? However, others counterposed and suggested that Trade Unions had in fact become an obstacle to the revolutionary working class in the last 30 years. The role of unions in “Right to Work” states was put into question. What is the qualitative difference, if any, in the role of Unions in these States where laws discourage workers from uniting?



One participant shared her personal experience regarding three decades of being a union representative. She stated she genuinely and sincerely cared about the working class, and working people making social change--- yet she was penalized for it. She shared with us how she had been a member of quite a few unions, always motivated by real concern for her fellow workers. It was pointed out she had earned nothing to show after all these years and investment. She compared herself to associates in the field who put their personal interest before fellow workers. Why did they have a pension, and she not? Why were her “radical” ideas shunned and discouraged? Needless to say, the discussion was quite lively and passionate. There was much life experience to be shared from all sides of the fence on the issue.

Once again, it meant a lot for everyone to come out and contribute to what turned out to be a very productive discussion group. We of course highly encourage any more feedback from anyone who might have anything more to say on any of the issues highlighted in the above brief summary. And if there is interest, we would hope to get this think-tank together again.

 

Fred
It's all interesting stuff.

It's all interesting stuff. But who were these people, and did you reach any concrete conclusions?

Pierre
There were a handful of

There were a handful of participants at the discussion. Two-thirds of the group did not have much background in the working class movement, aside from their limited experience with Occupy. The rest of the group had been involved with the unions, one individual for thirty years.

While I myself have reached some conclusions, I am awaiting the input of the discussion participants to complete this wrap-up (which I've updated above) in order to draw conclusions in a more collective way.

I wonder, reading this what conclusions did you have comrade? If any?

Fred
I will try and answer, but

I will try and answer, but cannot at the moment.

Fred
There seem to be so many

There seem to be so many loose ends, as if people aren't really sure what they're talking about, and half-formulate questions which go nowhere. It's like there's an elephant in the room that no one wants to be the first to mention. Americans are "not united enough" "consciousness is too uneven". But what should we be "uniting" about, and what is meant by "consciousness" in this context? Does "uniting" mean "solidarity" does "consciousness" mean " class consciousness" or what? Why weren't any of the issues contained in the apparently harmless concepts grappled to the ground and discussed properly? Similarly,about the long standing and long-suffering union representative: she was penalized and had nothing to show for all her "investment" in improving the lot of the working class! What did she expect? Her "radical" ideas were shunned. But what were her radical ideas? Why weren't they discussed? "Needless to say the discussion " (about what exactly) "was lively and passionate" and life experience was shared! We'll have to take that on trust.

Then there's. "things are destined to get worse" that's a good starter But what things and why, and what can we do? And why are leaders afraid of community - assuming they know what's meant by "community"? It is of course all too easy to pick holes in other people's hard work, and written descriptions of said efforts, and to fail to grasp what was being achieved in an unusual situation among a collection of diverse experiences. But I wonder why no one mentioned that the system in which we live is actually collapsing world-wide, and looks as if it may not be around for ever, contrary to the ideology it perpetuates which sees it as eternal. That's why things are destined to get worse, and why community - and all that is contained in this concept, which so terrifies "leaders" - is the only possible solution to the destiny of things getting worse.

Now I realize we've had this conversation before; that it has been discussed before on here, about how you can't talk with American workers about how capitalism can't afford reforms, and the trade unions are all shits: because American workers aren't ready for this and we must bide our time blah blah. Presumably the same can be said for former occupiers and other discontents who turn up for ad hoc meetings as described above. Don't push the envelop too hard: ignore the trumpeting elephant. But I think humanity - including those across the Atlantic - is made of sturdier stuff, and can very easily face down the scary tiger, if given half a chance.

But that's just my opinion, and is perhaps what happened in the meeting anyway, for which account we must thank p_p for taking the trouble to write.

Pierre
Some very good points here. I

Some very good points here. I think we should consider the relatively low level of class struggle in America over the past 30 years. These "half-formulated" questions reflect a proletariat who is struggling to rediscover its revolutionary class identity. The fact that they are being formulated at all, even if halfway, is a reflection of the fermentation of class consciousness.

This public forum was a chance for the organization to listen and get a feeling for the degree of this maturation. We did talk about decadence (although, not thoroughly), we talked about class consciousness, and we were very specific about who we were talking about; the working class. However, workers have their own "autodidactic" way of sorting these things out. "Things are getting worse/will continue to get worse" is an unconscious acknowledgement of the lack of proletarian combativeness, etc.

I should probably include something that says this in the wrap-up. Thank you

Fred
p_p writes: "However, workers

p_p writes: "However, workers have their own "autodidactic" way of sorting these things out." Didn't "autodidactic" used to carry a pejorative overtone as in "oh, well, she's self-taught, and never had a proper education!". But, with regard to the working class and it's coming to consciousness, perhaps we have to be self-taught, and educate ourselves; for who else can do it for us? In capitalist society we are all consumers of the bourgeoisie's ideas and suffer from their education system. This system tells us what to think, what to say, to do, what to expect from life (not much!), what counts as leisure and amusement, what films to like, celebrities to adore, how to be passive and so on. If we accept all this uncritically we become unable to imagine any existence different from, or beyond, the one we're in. Yet, in so far as we can see that this society is not exactly perfect, and we understand from moments of struggle, or sudden warm feelings of solidarity and of temporary release from the steely grip of daily existence under bourgeois rules, that there is something better around somewhere if only we could reach it, we do have and we do generate ideas quite different from those propagated and held respectable by the bourgeoisie. In fact we are, as a class, producing ideas about a new way of running society, of living and working together for the benefit and enrichment of us all, where my development depends on yours and yours on mine and everyone else's, and all this is quite foreign to the bourgeoisie and it's way of competitive thinking and it's way of educating, which means that the international working class is and has to be, by definition, a self-taught class. We are educating ourselves for communism. This solves the question of who educates the educator, and it is something the bourgeoisie will never understand as long as they remain committed to their foolish and short-sighted system,where all that matters is outdoing everyone else and making a profit as in some childish game. So, long-live the autodidactic way of sorting things out, and may the revolutionary party find it's own emergence soon.

Fred
Trying to think about what is

Trying to think about what is meant by saying "workers have their own "autodidactic" way..." of sorting things out, as p_p says above, and sensing that while "autodidactic" may not be exactly the right word, at least it distinguishes a proletarian attitude to life clearly different from that of the bourgeoisie - for whom existence is reified, commoditized, and packaged in advance, like a box of chocolates, with experiences just waiting to be sampled - I recalled that C. Mir in the article called "Mass Mobilisations", in discussing the alien nature of city streets under the auspices of the bourgeoisie, had this to say.

"When the masses take over the streets for “another use” – assemblies, massive discussions, demonstrations – they can become a space of freedom. This allows the workers to begin to glimpse the social force it is capable of becoming if it learns to act in a collective and autonomous fashion. It sows the first seeds of what could be the “direct government of
the masses” through which it educates itself, frees itself from all the rags that this system sticks to its body, and finds the strength to destroy capitalism and construct another society."

The key words here, as they relate to "autodidactic" are: "it educates itself"; "frees itself" from the filthy rags of the old system; introduces "another use" for our urban centers; and thus glimpses itself as a new social force incubating an entirely novel and experimental kind of socialized humanity. So different is this world view from that of the bourgeoisie, that it is difficult to pin it down in words until we start to have it in practice. But it was there in 1917 in Russia, as described by numerous writers, and it's there, implicitly, in p_p's account above, as people struggle for words and to get their ideas out, and to bring something new into being. And as class consciouness ferments.

Fred
I think it's a shame that

I think it's a shame that this thread has fizzled out, and not just because it allowed me to go on endlessly about "auto didacticism" (though self-indulgence is fun if boring for others) but because it went a little way towards answering the giant question implicit in this statement from Amos. " If we are going to defend ourselves from capitalist repression and austerity, we are going to have to affirm our solidarity and unity across all divisions." This from the end of his current article on the site. Nothing to argue with in there Amos, and you are absolutely right. But it's much easier said than done, isn't it? And sometimes I wish somebody would have a brain wave or something, and make some sort of concrete suggestion about how exactly we do "start affirming our solidarity and unity across all divisions.". I had thought vaguely that this was what p_p was doing in his meeting above, or what Peter Pan was doing when he asked questions like what do the very active workers in parts of Turkey think about the horrors in Syria. It would be ( could be) very nice to know. We all know what official ICC posters think about Syria, for example, but what about ordinary working guys living next door? Could the Turkey/ICC section not make an effort to tell us? Couldn't p_p do some kind of follow-up on his experiences with tbe group he was working with. So many things on the forum seem to die a sudden death, as posters go lusting after whatever is the latest thing. Isn't this a pity? Doesn't anybody agree? Couldn't we pursue some things more earnestly as a group? Or are we all working in our separate individual compartments?

jk1921
Its not clear to me Fred,

Its not clear to me Fred, just what you are asking for? The ICC has very limited resources--that in itself should tell you something about the state of the class struggle. That said, how would you like the ICC to devote its energy? You seem to want it to report on the opinion of the "guy next door." Didn't Marx caution us against taking the opinion of this or that individual worker, or group of workers, as indicative of what the proletariat is as a class? Shouldn't this be what the ICC, or any other revolutionary organization, focuses on?--applying the Marxist method to analyze the development of the captialist crisis and the class struggle rather than doing public interest stories? I am sorry if I misunderstood you.........

Fred
You misunderstood me jk, but

You misunderstood me jk, but it's my fault too. By "guy next door" I meant the apparently active workers in Turkey, and the ICC revolutionaries, and maybe others not ICCers, who live there and are adjacent to troubled Syria. The ICC in Turkey write, for me, warm and not-at-all academic articles about what workers there are doing, and sometimes quote what they say and what their thinking is. I think this gives us insights into the, largely subterranean so ICC says, development of consciouness. A very important issue. Now Peter Pan asked for information on workers thinking about events in neighboring and Islamic Syria. I think too that this matters, and it doesn't require an in-depth fully researched article from the Turkish comrades, just a reply. I think we need to talk to each other more, as members of a class only just re-emerging from years of nothingness - apart of course from our organized revolutionary groups who are everything. If were are applying the Marxist method then we need to have more than just the economy and it's technical analyses to apply it too, and what Turkish and other workers do, or say, could be important for our thinking. In the same way p_p came up with tbe idea of "auto-didacticism" as a particularly proletarian mode of thought. It caught my eye. I tried to respond. I got no response, which is disappointing. Maybe my response was rubbish or pointless, in which case I need to be told. Maybe it was such a breakthrough as to leave folk stunned. But no response is the worse response, if we're trying to forge our unity, our thoughts, and work for the development of the class struggle, which Amos said we need to do. But we have to start somewhere, even with small steps. And why was Rosa suddenly left high and dry, and not actively encouraged to say more and visit this site
more often? If as you say jk, the ICC only has limited resources then someone like Rosa should be actively and positively
egged on. Dont you agree? Libcom overall may be a daunting prospect, but as a model for genuine inter-personal
communication - excluding the vitriol that is - it's quite good. On here we might learn from them. If we can't begin
"affirming our solidarity and unity across all divisions" on our own forum - is it our own forum?- how are we going to do it
elsewhere?

What is the aim of this forum; what is its overarching concept? Sometimes it comes across as all bits. Sometimes it comes across as good news reporting distilled from various bourgeois news sources and with a revolutionary zest added in. Sometimes it reports directly on workers' struggles: but there don't seem to be enough of them to go round at the moment. If the overall aim of the forum was to try and relate all posts, somehow, to workers' struggle, I think that would make sense, and if people bit their tongues and tried to respond to each others efforts, not matter how tiresome, that might encourage more people to "have a go" (jk won't like that). And then there's things like the current thread on Luxembourg's economics. (I haven't looked at it today yet.) I know this is important, and I know it's one place where ICC members tend to congregate and TALK OPENLY TO EACH OTHER, and I know it relates to the crisis - though surely nobody can doubt the crisis now, knowledgeable about what Luxembourg said or not - but why isn't any of this stuff related more closely, somehow, to the
class itself? If this is possible?

I suppose jk that what i am asking for, is for things to be more orientated directly to informing the class struggle, even if it seems like there isn't any. But there is! It's subtle and hidden perhaps; but it's there if we look. I want the various sections of the ICC - including the new one in Peru we were all so pleased about some weeks back - to keep us informed about what they, and the workers in their parish are doing. If only brief notes. I think we are bigger, better and stronger than we think, and we should show it.

jk1921
Hi Fred, Did you see the

Hi Fred,

Did you see the article on the class struggle in Canada? That was an attempt to report on what workers in Canada have been up to the last year or so. That article received no comments or questions at all. Why is that? I don't know. Does every article have to evoke a discussion? Does every comment require a reply? At what point does a thread die? These are all questions that aren't necessarily specific to this forum, but to internet communication itself, I think.

I share your frustration sometimes Fred--I too post comments and questions that seem to go nowhere, but perhaps this is only an appeareacne as it has caused others to think, even if they don't repsond in writing?

I agree that it would be good if there were diverse voices here, like Rosa, but I imagine she/he will be back when they feel able, have the time, or are moved to respond to something they read at some point.

I think you are right that the forum comes across as "bits and pieces," but doesn't this have its advantages? It seems much better than LibCom where it seems like everyone has some axe to grind with someone else.

Fred
I very much appreciate your

I very much appreciate your friendly and helpful response jk. I think I did start reading the Canada article once before, but gave up! I didn't give up this time but went through to the end. Henk is to be commended for his hard work and excellent article. But it is extremely long, very packed with riveting stuff, and deals with a variety of different topics; like the function of the left in opposition; the nauseous confusions emanating from the unions; the struggles of tbe workers themselves, and their gradual development of consciouness as they weigh up tbe forces against them; and also Henk' analysis of what's going on, and his advice to workers about how they might better proceed given the strength of bourgeois manipulation in the midst of which workers try to eke out a living. It's all good, and Henk does a commendable job of holding it all together. It certainly doesn't come across as "a loose baggy monster" as Henry James described Dickens' novel "Our mutual friend".

But it does ( my opinion)so overpower the reader with it's high voltage content, that it's difficult to know in what area you might risk a comment, or how to select your subject. Might it have better achieved the impact and attention it deserves if it had been a series of smaller articles appearing over a number of days/weeks? That would have kept the site more active with new material for readers than happens if we only get an occasional massive block-buster. But this is in no way to detract from Henk's writing; or Ana's articles too which occasionally seem to fall in the same "here comes a block-buster" trap.

I don't think every article needs to evoke a discussion jk, but it would be nice if they did, and set out to get one. If you're going to take the trouble to research an article, surely you can look forward and are entitled to some response towards it?

Why do threads die? Some from exhaustion; some because they have limited personal appeal - which doesn't mean they're no good; some because a strange blockage appears to get at them, like an unnecessary condom, which inhibits their further growth and fuller development; and some I suspect, because their extended prolongation requires thought that we're not prepared to give at the moment, for various reasons. Finally, I am not completely bought by the"bits and pieces aren't so bad, are they?" argument.

So thanks for replying comrade jk.