Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Comrades! Tovarishi!

This is the first post for a site dedicated to discussions and organizing around issues relating to the struggle of the working class for its own living conditions, the defense of its basic rights and preparations for a new and better future. In order to further these goals I invite discussions on a broad rang of topics relating to the political, social and cultural conditions of workers around the world. These topics include but are not limited to: war and imperialist aggression, the labor movement, class consciousness, the process of production under capitalism, the process of reproduction under capitalism,race and ethnicity, nationalism, internationalism, women's liberation, capitalism, anarchism, socialism, communism, Marxism, Leninism, Trotskyism, what is Stalinism, Maoism, Titoism, globalization, neo-liberalism, opportunism, and fascism. Seeing this list one may argue that a socialist bias exists. This is correct. This site is a discussion board for people interested in improving the lot of the mass of humanity by means other than the ballot box and the Democratic Party.

To further this goal I ask that a topic be posted or proposed for discussion. I or a participant who feels knowledgeable on a subject will suggest readings and an informed debate should take place. I would like to avoid jingoism and other means that short-circuit thinking. One example may be calling someone an opportunist without further qualification and discussion. Please offer logical arguments for the positions you take. I expect participants to hold the editor to the same standard. This is how we learn.

I look forward to interesting discussions.


Scott said...

GoodMorning Comrades,
Thank you for the invite.

I feel the need to direct our attention to the current NY transit strike and the call of the International Union for its Local members to return to work in spite of their decision to strike.

As we all know the labor bosses and aristocrats have bought into the capitalist system and are comfortable with their current level of representation in the body politic.

What hope do we have as working people if the supposed leaders of organized labor sell out the rank and file?

Is this what union leaders mean by solidarity?

Shame on them! And shame on anyone who supports their decision to leave their local members hanging in the wind.

bob frost said...

Perhaps I'm inadvertently defining the boundary b/w neo- and post-Marxist, but I really believe that we need to develop a more indigenous language to pursue an agenda we all pretty much agree on. Rather than the word, socialism (as dear to me as ever, I assure you), I'm trying out "active democracy."

Here's a recent foray to define that in a way that wouldn't raise red flags to most of our compatriots…

Active Democracy, a theory of grass roots democracy and empowerment. Voting in the US today means a surrender of popular power to the powers that be. This is very different.

For the 50% of American who do vote, it means that a vote represents a personal commitment to carry out the program promulgated by the candidate for whom one has voted. If one’s candidate decides to go to war, active democracy means that one has a personal responsibility to commit one’s family and fortune to win that war. If that same candidate initiates a policy to spy on its citizens, his/her supporters are obliged to reveal publicly the composition and location of all of their financial assets, to announce to the world the political and business contacts that they have made and maintained, and to invite the government to intercept and record all of their private communications.

If a voter’s candidate has advocated universal health care, it is that citizen-voter’s responsibility not merely to put a bureaucracy in place to address that task, but to dedicate a portion of her time to helping deliver health care services to those who need assistance in gaining access. If that candidate has committed herself to, for example, defending the right to control her own body, it is the citizen-voter’s responsibility, of course, to defendd that right in court, but in addition, to help those women whose rights are restricted gain access to the services they require to make that right active and real.

For the 50% who do not vote, it means given those dormant citizens a reason to vote by assuring that the issues that appeal to non-voters get addressed. For that to occur, democracy must yield concete results so that citizens can see that their concerns are not only being addressed by the usual apparatus of political power, but by an active, engaged citizenry as well.

Active democracy, in order to succeed, must extend the purview of civil society to new areas, including, not least of all, the economic realm of the nation. The basic rights of citizens to democratic participation, free speech, free exercise of religion, due process, and personal privacy and integrity shall no longer be surrendered in the workplace. Democracy as we have known it in the US for 216 years, shall not longer be limited to the “political” sphere, it must be extended to the economic. Just as we as citizens expect accountability on the part of those who hold political power, we have every right to expect accountability on the part of those who hold economic power. Just as we have the right to replace our political leaders when they cease to enjoy the support of the majority of voters, we must have the right to replace our economic leaders when their actions violate the will of the majority of citizens.

Active democracy is not in any way an echo of the statist socialism of the 20th century. It does not seek to replace the power of the people with the power of the state. It seeks, in the end, to replace most of the state with the active power, commitment, and solidarity of the citizens. A vote will no longer mean the surrender of a citizen’s power to a bureaucracy, or worse, to a security and police apparatus, but to an affirmation of a citizen’s power to control her community, workplace, and nation.

In order to face this vast new set of responsibilities on the part of the citizens, citizens must develop skill in using new technologies to speak, write, listen, read, and watch. Instead of a one-to-many system in which we are expected to sit passively while a president, elected by less than 25% of the citizens informs us of his decisions, we will converse and decide as a people to define what we want as a community and assure that our decisions are implemented.

Nicholas said...

On the New York Transport workers strike.

Comrade Scott brings up a good point about what is called the labor bureacracy. The labor bureaucrats are, in the Marxist view, parasites who lead the working class in name but in deed act in the defense of capital and the ruling class and order. They have become devorsed from the needs and wishes of the workers. In the case of the transport workers the labor bureaucrats broke down in the face of state prohibitions, capitalist resistance, "popular" commuter disapproval and negative press such as the following:

"The strike cost the city untold millions in police overtime and lost business and productivity at the very height of the Christmas rush and forced millions of commuters, holiday shoppers and tourists to carpool, take taxis, ride bicycles or trudge through the freezing cold. But the strike did not cause the utter chaos that many had feared, and traffic in many parts of town wassurprisinglylight(http://abcnews. go.com/US/wireStory?id=1435591)."

What the above quote shows is a biased neo-classical economic calculus of costs only in terms of business dollars and lost potential productivity. Nothing is mentioned about the daily exploitation and humiliation of the workers. The dangerous routes plagued by criminals and abusive commuters (Its New York remember)that they work in on a daily basis. The often off-the-clock and non contract specified work performed by transportation workers. Finally, Christmas is envoked as a convenient ideological battle axe against labor.

The rapid retreat by labor in a union town such as New York is another reminder of the historic low point in labor strength, working class power and class consciousness that the United States has been moving toward for many decades. This decline has, in large part, been aided by the labor bureacracy and their alliance with U.S. capital and imperialism.

For more information on these topics see:

Michael Goldfield, "The Decline of Oranized Labor in the United States" 1987 University of Chicago Press

Leon Trotsky, "Trade Unions in the Epoch of imperialist Decay"
http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky /works/1940/1940-tu.htm