Sunday, December 11, 2011

December 12: For Independent Working Class Action!

Why Workers Should Support the December 12
West Coast Port Shutdown, and What We Need To Do Next

The Occupy movement’s decision to shut down the ports on the West Coast on December 12 has been criticized by mainstream media, union officials, and even some labor activists who consider themselves progressive. They complain that Occupy does not represent union workers; that the port shutdown action has not been officially endorsed even by the ILWU, much less by the labor councils in the port cities; and that the action will hurt the people who work at the ports, who are part of the “99%.” They argue that if Occupy wants to support the labor movement, it should follow the instructions of the labor bureaucrats rather than acting on its own.

To this we respond: BULLSHIT! These criticisms ignore the fact that the present labor bureaucracy, hog-tied by its links to the Democratic Party and its craven fear of violating the oppressive Taft-Hartley anti-strike law, has demonstrated time and time again that it is incapable of fighting effectively for the interests of even those few workers who belong to a union, much less the interests of the working class as a whole.

That is why, having run out of patience waiting for the union leadership to take action in the face of the current economic crisis, the working class of Oakland took action on its own on November 2, and kicked Wall Street where it counts by shutting down the Port of Oakland! The union tops refuse to demonstrate our power through mass direct action, but the workers of Oakland showed that as a class, we can, and we will!

Workers Must Break with the Democrats

Yes, there is a class war going on, and the 99% did not start it. The corporate plutocracy has been waging an all-out war against organized labor for decades, to the point where 89% of workers no longer belong to a union. Their latest ploy is to blame public workers and their unions for the current structural crisis of capitalism—as if the demands of teachers, firefighters, and public health workers for a fair wage and a threadbare pension were responsible for crashing the biggest economy in the world.

As a result, over the past decades the situation of working people and the poor in the United States has gone from bad to worse. While this was happening, the “leadership” of the union movement did nothing to fight back directly, instead contributing money, volunteers, and votes to the Democratic Party. They have continued in this vein even while Democratic politicians have cut budgets, slashed social services, and imposed takebacks on public workers. When Obama promised “hope” and “change,” the union tops cheered, and they will back him again in 2012.

But by now it is crystal clear that channeling our discontent into electoral campaigns brings working people nothing but false hope, and change for the worse. The Democrats have promised us health care reform; jobs; the Employee Free Choice Act to boost union organizing; and environmental protection. They have delivered precisely NOTHING. We are still faced with a shrinking job market, a lower standard of living, home foreclosures, budget cuts, tax cuts for the rich, and bailouts for the banks. And still the union leadership backs the Democrats, refusing to assert labor’s political independence and fight back with mass working class actions.

Today’s Labor “Leadership” Is Unsupportable

The core focus of today’s port shutdown is the fight to defend the ILWU 21 dock workers in Longview, Washington, and to promote organizing of the truck drivers at all the ports. The situation of the truck drivers is shameful; they cannot organize for better wages and working conditions because the law has falsely labeled them “independent contractors” who cannot bargain collectively under the antitrust laws. But their situation is only the tip of the iceberg of attacks on workers, both union and non-union, by the corporate fat cats. All of us must organize to fight back against the ongoing attacks on our standard of living and our civil and human rights.

Unions led this struggle in the distant past, but under today’s leadership, we cannot rely on them to do so again. On November 2, unions responded to Occupy Oakland’s call for a port shutdown with letters of support for what they called a “Day of Action,” but not one dared to defy Taft-Hartley by calling their members to walk out in unison and create a real general strike. Instead, they told workers to take vacation time if they wanted to participate.

In the run up to December 12th, the labor leadership’s role has gotten worse. The ILWU leadership has taken a stand against their own rank and file and against the community that supports them. Under pressure from the Port Management Association and the Democratic Party, the Alameda County Labor Council even went so far as to consider a resolution opposing the port shutdown. The resolution was tabled, and some labor activists are trying to give the Labor Council left cover by calling the resulting “neutrality” a mini-victory. As the late historian Howard Zinn put it, however, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”

We Need an Independent, Militant Leadership

The Occupy movement should be commended for firing a warning shot in the class war fight-back. But as the often brutal police crackdowns on the Occupy encampments have demonstrated, tents and consensus-based general assemblies are not a sustainable or effective way to defeat the bodies of armed men that the corporate-controlled state has at its command. In order to fight back and win, what we need is a General Strike Movement. Union militants dedicated to the advancement of our class cannot place faith in the populist, cross-class Occupy movement.

Occupy cannot accomplish the necessary task of galvanizing rank-and-file workers to defeat business and corporate unionism and turn our organizations into a weapon that can and will wage a militant struggle for the interests of the entire working class. We must reinvigorate and democratize organized labor, and raise up a new cadre of class struggle driven leaders who will work with the rank and file to smash Taft-Hartley and mount united mass strike actions. Such a movement, combined with the fight for working class political independence, must be put front and center on labor’s agenda today!

To achieve genuine working class political independence, rank-and-filers must organize to create representative bodies composed of democratically elected workers’ deputies who are subject to immediate recall. We must form factory committees, neighborhood councils, and inter-factory and inter-district workers’ councils.

We must also lend our support to the unemployed and marginalized elements of the population in their self-organization efforts. When workers join with the oppressed communities to oppose their common enemy, we all benefit. This was shown by the ILWU Local 10 strike in October 2010, in protest of racist police brutality and the murder of Oscar Grant, which forged the ties between labor and the oppressed that contributed so greatly to the success of the November 2 port shutdown. Together, we can work jointly on the tasks of seizing control of the economy, reorganizing it to serve human needs instead of private profit, and defending ourselves against counterattacks by the agents of corporate capital.

Our Struggle Must Be Internationalist

The Occupy movement was inspired in part by the struggles of the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and the Middle East during the Arab Spring. Those struggles relied on support from working class strikes and the defection of rank-and-file members of the armed services to the side of the protesting masses. Workers in the United States need to learn many of the same lessons in working class independence, rank and file organizing, and workers’ democracy.

The Arab Spring also offers us another, equally important lesson. Despite the sacrifice and struggle of the Egyptian and Libyan masses, their lack of an alternative leadership left a vacuum into which the repressive forces of the bourgeoisie and the top army leadership have stepped, only to renew the repression of the people. This development exposes the limitations of pacifism and leaderlessness.

In addition, the globalization of capital makes it more important than ever for those who wage the struggle against capital to form ties with our counterparts around the globe. The workers’ movement cannot succeed unless it develops an internationalist consciousness, in solidarity with our brother and sister workers overseas. It is in all of our common interest to defeat the imperialist wars and interventions waged by the United States, NATO, and their allies.

  • Confront and smash Taft-Hartley and all anti-labor laws through political and general strikes! 
  • Break with the Democrats and all capitalist parties! There is no lesser evil! There is no legislative solution! 
  • Build a fighting workers’ party that can wage a militant direct action struggle for a workers’ government! 
  • Jobs for all! Share the work: 30 hours work for 40 hours pay! Implement a sliding scale of wages and prices! 
  • Full citizenship rights for all immigrant workers! Defend immigrants against La Migra and ICE! 
  • Organize workers’ defense guards based on labor and the oppressed Black and Brown communities! 
  • No foreclosures! Open foreclosed homes to workers and the unemployed! Forgive all student loan debt! 
  • Open the books of the major finance houses and corporations! Seize the stolen wealth hoarded by the 1%! 
  • Nationalize finance capital, the big banks, and the major corporations, without indemnification and under workers’ control! 
  • Form democratic workers’ assemblies to prepare and organize for the seizure and operation of the economy!


Dec. 12, 2011 • Labor Donated

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Shut the Ports Down on December 12! Call by Labor Black and Brown

Oakland General Strike  2 November 2011

Labor Black and Brown Unite!

In Longview, WA, the capitalists of the EGT conglomerate are engaged in union-busting against ILWU Local 21. EGT plans to unload their grain on a ship in the Longview port using scab (union-busting) labor. According to the ILWU West Coast Contract this work is supposed to be done by workers represented by ILWU Local 21. Shut the Ports on Dec 12! Stop the scabs on Dec 15!

According to the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, the ILWU is "...facing a frontal attack, threatening the future of our jobs and our unions. What is needed to defeat these employer assaults is a solid union action, shutting down the coast." Join the Caravan to Longview Dec 15th!

What does this mean? Last year on October 23rd, when ILWU local 10 shut down the Bay Area ports they called for "Justice For Oscar Grant" and organized a 3,000 strong "Labor/Community Rally" in Downtown Oakland, in Frank Ogawa Plaza (now re-named "Oscar Grant Plaza"). The ILWU led the working class in Oakland in uniting across race lines against racist police murder and injustice by saying this injustice will cost the bosses! THE POLITICAL STRIKE WAS LAUNCHED FOR RACIAL JUSTICE AND AGAINST POLICE MURDER! The PMA lost a lot of money, and their scheduling was disrupted. Stuck on the ships; No cargo moved! Idle were the ports but not the consciousness of the people. The seeds of Nov 2nd and Dec 12th were watered during the fight for justice for Oscar Grant!

"An Injury to One, is an Injury to All! The ILWU membership puts it’s money and sacrifice where their mouth is. That's one of the reasons the bosses hate the ILWU. They wield for others, the kind of power that the entire working class must use to defend and advance the rights of working people and the most oppressed everywhere. In every corner of the world where workers struggle against imperialism they know the internationalist heart of the ILWU and they call on us to SHUT THE PORTS DOWN! GAZA IS WATCHING, EGYPT IS WATCHING, DURBAN, COCHIBAMBA, FUKISHIMA, BUENOS AIRES, AUCKLAND, HARARE, ACROSS THE PLANET THE MOST OPPRESSED AND EXPLOITED KNOW WHAT WE DO HERE STRIKES A BLOW AT THE HEART OF IMPERIALISM.

Members and supporters of the ILWU are calling for a West-Coast wide port shut down. As the ILWU - led October 23rd, 2010 Bay Area port shut down was in defense of the rights of Black and Brown people, and all working people, this proposed coast-wide port shut down is in defense of ILWU Local 21, the whole ILWU and the entire union movement. They are defending the very existence of unions

For the sake of Black and Brown rights, for the sake of Black and Brown pride, we must not allow the ILWU fight alone. Every union, every worker, every able-bodied Black and Brown person must join the battle to defend the ILWU. If we merely spectate, and allow the bosses to defeat the ILWU, this bodes ill for the poor and working folk. If ILWU looses Longview to the scabs we all loose!

Who can deny the current capitalist goal of smashing unions? Who can deny the capitalists' goal of smashing all resistance to the continued marginalization of Brown and Black people, and community? Who can deny the use of police terror to obtain our submission? We know this is a racist class war to keep the 0.01% in power! The continued rule of he capitalist class and its twin profit parties. is unsustainable.

We say NO! Just as we rose up for "Justice for Oscar Grant!" and stated "We Are All Oscar Grant!" we must now stand up and unite Labor Black and Brown-Shut the Port Down! The ILWU carried the message of the potential power of the union movement. We must join these movements of resistance, uniting the fight of the workers with the fight of the Brown and Black communities.


Labor Black and Brown organize and unite in struggle against the capitalist bosses and their representatives. We expose and oppose those who act to prevent the independent political organization and political action of labor Black and Brown people. They act as transmission belts for the bosses’ ideology into our community. In the fight for jobs, for our unions, for our schools, against police brutality, to defend native and aboriginal rights, against the prison industrial complex and with #occupy and the ILWU you will find labor Black and Brown. We say it is time to build the democratic working class/labor Black and Brown organizations, assemblies, and neighborhood and factory action committees!

In these organizations and struggles labor Black and Brown will advance demands, slogans a strategy and tactics which lead our people and our class toward political and economic independence and power!

  • We say down with phony police review commissions: Form up labor Black and Brown tribunals to try killer cops! Build a General Strike movement against police brutality!
  • We say cops out of our communities, out of our schools, off our campuses! Build labor Black and Brown self defense guards against racist attacks, against la migra, against police brutality; against scabs taking union jobs and to defend the #occupy activists!
  • We say the system is the crime! Tear down the prison industrial complex! Free Hugo Pinell, Free Leonard Peltier Free Mumia Abu Jamal! Free all political prisoners!
  • We defend our immigrant sisters and brothers. We demand full citizenship rights for immigrants. End corporate sweatshop exploitation! Organize immigrant workers! Defeat ICE!
  • We say down with the forced austerity: Jobs for all! 30 hours work for 40 hours pay! Poverty is the crime! Open the books of industry! Provide a sliding scale of wages and prices! We demand billions for public works create millions of ethical, green, humane jobs now! Educate and train all willing workers, provide day care, public laundry and communal kitchens!
  • We say health care is a right! Socialize the medical industry under health care workers and community control! End drug profiteering free medical science from corporate control!
  • We say today’s labor leaders are not our friends, they do the bosses dirty work demobilizing the membership and trapping us inside the bosses’ political parties. For labor Black and Brown to lead the class collaborationist labor leaders must be replaced by rank and file members dedicated to class independence and united labor Black Brown strike action.
  • We stand with the colonized and native people in their struggle to save mother earth from the barbarism of the imperialist rape of the land and destruction of the people and their ancestral traditions. Free Hawaii! Free Puerto Rico! Defend sovereign people’s treaty rights!
  • We stand for the defeat of imperialist exploitation across Africa, Asia and Latin America!
  • We stand against imperialist war mongering in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and the saber rattling toward Iran! In wars against the third world and in inter-imperialist wars we call for:




Contact Labor Black and Brown
Labor Donated                                                                                     December 7 ,2011

Lenin, State Capitalism and Left Wing Childishness

One of the arguments of anarchists and 'left communists' against the Bolsheviks is that Lenin restored state capitalism. This they argue is evidence that the Bolsheviks had betrayed the revolution. 

For example on Libcom  we find a triumphant claim that Lenin 'intentionally' introduced state capitalism in Russia and so is outed as a traitor to the revolution and/or a Menshevik stage theory hack.

Well, if we go to the writings quoted in the Libcom article it doesn't take long to find out that this 'intention' did not mean that Lenin had abandoned the revolution and restored capitalism. On the contrary, such was the dire state of the revolution because of the war and the invasion of numerous capitalist armies, the workers state was forced to reintroduce the 'concession' of the profit motive as an incentive for peasant production to prevent the starvation of workers and provide taxes for industrialisation.

Let's quote from the article On Cooperation to make it clear that 'state capitalism' for Lenin had a precise historical meaning in the Russian context. It was a practical tactic on the part of the workers state - a 'concession' to the peasantry to allow the revolution to survive and develop more pre-conditions for the transition to socialism. 

Quoting Lenin:

"Whenever I wrote about the New Economic Policy [NEP] I always quoted the article on state capitalism which I wrote in 1918 ["Left-Wing” Childishness and the Petty-Bourgeois Mentality; part III]. This has more than once aroused doubts in the minds of certain young comrades but their doubts were mainly on abstract political points.

It seemed to them that the term “state capitalism” could not be applied to a system under which the means of production were owned by the working-class, a working-class that held political power. They did not notice, however, that I use the term “state capitalism", firstly, to connect historically our present position with the position adopted in my controversy with the so-called Left Communists; also, I argued at the time that state capitalism would be superior to our existing economy. It was important for me to show the continuity between ordinary state capitalism and the unusual, even very unusual, state capitalism to which I referred in introducing the reader to the New Economic Policy. Secondly, the practical purpose was always important to me. And the practical purpose of our New Economic Policy was to lease out concessions. In the prevailing circumstances, concessions in our country would unquestionably have been a pure type of state capitalism. That is how I argued about state capitalism.

But there is another aspect of the matter for which we may need state capitalism, or at least a comparison with it. It is a question of cooperatives.

In the capitalist state, cooperatives are no doubt collective capitalist institutions. Nor is there any doubt that under our present economic conditions, when we combine private capitalist enterprises—but in no other way than nationalized land and in no other way than under the control of the working-class state—with enterprises of the consistently socialist type (the means of production, the land on which the enterprises are situated, and the enterprises as a whole belonging to the state), the question arises about a third type of enterprise, the cooperatives, which were not formally regarded as an independent type differing fundamentally from the others. Under private capitalism, cooperative enterprises differ from capitalist enterprises as collective enterprises differ from private enterprises. Under state capitalism, cooperative enterprises differ from state capitalist enterprises, firstly, because they are private enterprises, and, secondly, because they are collective enterprises. Under our present system, cooperative enterprises differ from private capitalist enterprises because they are collective enterprises, but do not differ from socialist enterprises if the land on which they are situated and means of production belong to the state, i.e., the working-class.

This circumstance is not considered sufficiently when cooperatives are discussed. It is forgotten that owing to the special features of our political system, our cooperatives acquire an altogether exceptional significance. If we exclude concessions, which, incidentally, have not developed on any considerable scale, cooperation under our conditions nearly always coincides fully with socialism.

Let me explain what I mean. Why were the plans of the old cooperators, from Robert Owen onwards, fantastic? Because they dreamed of peacefully remodeling contemporary society into socialism without taking account of such fundamental questions as the class struggle, the capture of political power by the working-class, the overthrow of the rule of the exploiting class. That is why we are right in regarding as entirely fantastic this “cooperative” socialism, and as romantic, and even banal, the dream of transforming class enemies into class collaborators and class war into class peace (so-called class truce) by merely organizing the population in cooperative societies.

Undoubtedly we were right from the point of view of the fundamental task of the present day, for socialism cannot be established without a class struggle for the political power and a state.

But see how things have changed now that the political power is in the hands of the working-class, now that the political power of the exploiters is overthrown and all the means of production (except those which the workers' state voluntarily abandons on specified terms and for a certain time to the exploiters in the form of concessions) are owned by the working-class.

Now we are entitled to say that for us the mere growth of cooperation (with the “slight” exception mentioned above) is identical with the growth of socialism, and at the same time we have to admit that there has been a radical modification in our whole outlook on socialism. The radical modification is this; formerly we placed, and had to place, the main emphasis on the political struggle, on revolution, on winning political power, etc. Now the emphasis is changing and shifting to peaceful, organizational, “cultural” work. I should say that emphasis is shifting to educational work, were it not for our international relations, were it not for the fact that we have to fight for our position on a worldscale. If we leave that aside, however, and confine ourselves to internal economic relations, the emphasis in our work is certainly shifting to education.

Two main tasks confront us, which constitute the epoch—to reorganize our machinery of state, which is utterly useless, in which we took over in its entirety from the preceding epoch; during the past five years of struggle we did not, and could not, drastically reorganize it. Our second task is educational work among the peasants. And the economic object of this educational work among the peasants is to organize the latter in cooperative societies. If the whole of the peasantry had been organized in cooperatives, we would by now have been standing with both feet on the soil of socialism. But the organization of the entire peasantry in cooperative societies presupposes a standard of culture, and the peasants (precisely among the peasants as the overwhelming mass) that cannot, in fact, be achieved without a cultural revolution.

Our opponents told us repeatedly that we were rash in undertaking to implant socialism in an insufficiently cultured country. But they were misled by our having started from the opposite end to that prescribed by theory (the theory of pedants of all kinds), because in our country the political and social revolution preceded the cultural revolution, that very cultural revolution which nevertheless now confronts us.

This cultural revolution would now suffice to make our country a completely socialist country; but it presents immense difficulties of a purely cultural (for we are illiterate) and material character (for to be cultured we must achieve a certain development of the material means of production, we must have a certain material base)."

January 6, 1923

The meaning is clear. In the context of post-revolutionary Russia, 'state capitalism' means a 'concession' to small producers to work for a profit, under the control of the workers state, to meet the larger need of the state to accumulate the means for the socialist transition. By speaking of  a specific form of  'state capitalism' Lenin is providing a concept to explain the concrete historical conditions which requires a distinction between 'state capitalism' in a workers state and 'state capitalism' in a capitalist state.

To drive the point home lets quote Lenin from "Left-wing" Childishness  part 4

"To make things even clearer, let us first of all take the most concrete example of state capitalism. Everybody knows what this example is. It is Germany. Here we have “the last word” in modern large-scale capitalist engineering and planned organisation, subordinated to Junker-bourgeois imperialism. Cross out the words in italics, and in place of the militarist, Junker, bourgeois, imperialist state put also a state, but of a different social type, of a different class content—a Soviet state, that is, a proletarian state, and you will have the sum total of the conditions necessary for socialism.

Socialism is inconceivable without large-scale capitalist engineering based on the latest discoveries of modern science. It is inconceivable without planned state organisation, which keeps tens of millions of people to the strictest observance of a unified standard in production and distribution. We Marxists have always spoken of this, and it is not worth while wasting two seconds talking to people who do not understand even this (anarchists and a good half of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries).

At the same time socialism is inconceivable unless the proletariat is the ruler of the state. This also is ABC. And history (which nobody, except Menshevik blockheads of the first order, ever expected to bring about “complete” socialism smoothly, gently, easily and simply) has taken such a peculiar course that it has given birth in 1918 to two unconnected halves of socialism existing side by side like two future chickens in the single shell of international imperialism. In 1918 Germany and Russia have become the most striking embodiment of the material realisation of the economic, the productive and the socio-economic conditions for socialism, on the one hand, and the political conditions, on the other.

A successful proletarian revolution in Germany would immediately and very easily smash any shell of imperialism (which unfortunately is made of the best steel, and hence cannot be broken by the efforts of any . . . chicken) and would bring about the victory of world socialism for certain, without any difficulty, or with slight difficulty—if, of course, by “difficulty” we mean difficult on a world historical scale, and not in the parochial philistine sense.

While the revolution in Germany is still slow in “coming forth”, our task is to study the state capitalism of the Germans, to spare no effort in copying it and not shrink from adopting dictatorial methods to hasten the copying of it. Our task is to hasten this copying even more than Peter hastened the copying of Western culture by barbarian Russia, and we must not hesitate to use barbarous methods in fighting barbarism. If there are anarchists and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries (I recall off-hand the speeches of Karelin and Ghe at the meeting of the Central Executive Committee) who indulge in Narcissus-like reflections and say that it is unbecoming for us revolutionaries to “take lessons” from German imperialism, there is only one thing we can say in reply: the revolution that took these people seriously would perish irrevocably (and deservedly).

At present, petty-bourgeois capitalism prevails in Russia, and it is one and the same road that leads from it to both large-scale state capitalism and to socialism, through one and the same intermediary station called “national accounting and control of production and distribution”. Those who fail to understand this are committing an unpardonable mistake in economics. Either they do not know the facts of life, do not see what actually exists and are unable to look the truth in the face, or they confine themselves to abstractly comparing “capitalism” with “socialism” and fail to study the concrete forms and stages of the transition that is taking place in our country. Let it be said in parenthesis that this is the very theoretical mistake which misled the best people in the Novaya Zhizn and Vperyod camp. The worst and the mediocre of these, owing to their stupidity and spinelessness, tag along behind the bourgeoisie, of whom they stand in awe. The best of them have failed to understand that it was not without reason that the teachers of socialism spoke of a whole period of transition from capitalism to socialism and emphasised the “prolonged birth pangs” of the new society. And this new society is again an abstraction which can come into being only by passing through a series of varied, imperfect concrete attempts to create this or that socialist state. 

It is because Russia cannot advance from the economic situation now existing here without traversing the ground which is common to state capitalism and to socialism (national accounting and control) that the attempt to frighten others as well as themselves with “evolution towards state capitalism” (Kommunist No. 1, p. 8, col. 1) is utter theoretical nonsense. This is letting one’s thoughts wander away from the true road of “evolution”, and failing to understand what this road is. In practice, it is equivalent to pulling us back to small proprietary capitalism."

 Clearly in Russia, a socialist revolution took place in 1917 and a new workers state came to power. Don't take our word for it take that of Winston Churchill and the imperialist overlords who invaded from every direction with counter-revolutionary armies to smash the new workers' state. With the defeat of the German Revolution and the benefits of its advanced large-scale capitalist production, Soviet Russia was forced to make use of capitalist methods and techniques and make a concession to capitalist incentives to overcome that backwardness.  Lenin knew this would be the case before the revolution, and did not change his view after the revolution, or sell-out to capitalism with the NEP.  If that was the case why would imperialism continue to conspire for the downfall of so-called 'communism' in the workers state?  

The Bolsheviks always said that socialism in one country was not possible, let alone a backward, isolated and war-devastated country.  This is why they formed a Communist International and fought for a world revolution. As Lenin said in one of the quotes above, 'Leftwing' communists and anarchists who do not understand this cannot make a revolution. Nor have they since.