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The phrase in this diary's title - "self-activity" - often elicits confused looks, and not only among non-lefties, sad to say.  Yet the concept of self-activity is absolutely central to any radical politics that purports to be "of the people and by the people" and not merely "for the people." This Labor Day is a good time to reflect on American working class self-activity, because over the course of American history, through its self-activity the American working class has led the nation in realizing the promise of the Declaration of Independence that the U.S. would be a nation where all are created equal.

Diary cross-posted at Voices on the Square

The concept of self-activity was introduced to me by my first intellectual mentor, labor historian George P. Rawick, a lifelong left activist who edited The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, a definitive, 41-volume collection of oral history interviews with former slaves taken during the 1930s under the auspices of the WPA. In his book on slavery, From Sundown to Sunup: The World the Slaves Made, Rawick emphasized the self-activity of American slaves, which he defined as that which exploited people do in coping with and resisting the conditions of their exploitation. He was especially interested in their strategies to (1) undermine the system of exploitation (e.g., tool-breaking) and (2) assert their human dignity in the face of a system that denies it (e.g., slave family life).

As my study of Marxian socialism has progressed, I've come to understand that self-activity is central to the humanist core of Marx's thinking, and that it represents nothing less than the active, creative aspect of humanity. Creative human activity, aka work or labor, is how we express our deepest selves and how we ensure our survival, but under capitalism labor becomes an activity alien to ourselves, directed and controlled by another, something that degrades us rather than exalting us.

Most Americans, especially those whose politics are even a little bit left of center, are aware of the central role played by workers in achieving social-economic advances like shorter working hours, higher wages, unemployment benefits, pensions, Social Security and a host of others. Many also recognize that even when a given labor union or other grouping of workers is fighting for some change at a single workplace or industry, the benefits of their success (or the costs of their failure) will be felt far beyond that single social locus. Simply put, when one group of workers wins higher pay or shorter hours, they make it easier for the next group to win as well.

Less well known but equally important has been the role of the working class in leading the American nation away from oligarchy and toward democracy. Of course, the advances mentioned in the previous paragraph are crucial to that as well, but here I'd like to focus on progress toward political democracy and equality.

The leadership of the American working class has been exemplary and longstanding:

• From the 1760s to the 1780s, artisan workers in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, etc., organized themselves into groups called the "Sons of Liberty" and constituted the left-wing of the American Revolution. In Boston, they initiated the Boston Tea Party protest, while elsewhere they led "bread riots," which were really protests against the high prices of food. Along with small farmers in the rural back country, urban workers pressed for and achieved--against the opposition of their wealthy pro-Revolution allies--the most democratic constitutions the world had ever seen, even including universal manhood suffrage, for example in Pennsylvania. When it came to the U.S. Constitution, urban workers were important advocates for adding the Bill of Rights.

• From about 1814 to the late 1820s, the U.S. was a one-party country, as different factions of the Democratic-Republican Party vied for power. Starting in 1828, urban workers created "Working Men's Parties" in over 70 cities and towns, which were the first modern political parties. The Jacksonian Democrats quickly copied their methods and co-opted some of their key demands, becoming the Democratic Party we know today. In the late 1830s and early 1840s, workers led movements to abolish property qualifications for voting in those states that did not yet have universal manhood suffrage. In Rhode Island, workers were at the forefront of the Dorr Rebellion against the oligarchy that ran the state.

• During the Civil War, enslaved black workers in the South engaged in stepped up efforts to undermine the slave system, culminating in what historian W.E.B. Du Bois aptly called a "General Strike" in 1863-65. As these strikers left their plantations and headed toward Union Army positions wherever they could find them, they were freed and put to good use, first as laborers and then as soldiers fighting for their own freedom. The slaves freed themselves, proved their military value to the Union Army, and forced not only their formal emancipation, but the adoption of the 13th, 14th & 15th Amendments, which still today form the legal underpinnings of many of the constitutional rights that make political democracy potentially workable.

• From the 1840s on, workers fought for the right to organize themselves into unions and then for the right to engage in collective action like strikes and boycotts. Along the way, they established important precedents upholding the First Amendment rights of free speech, assembly and association.

• In the 20th Century, in addition to supporting New Deal and Great Society reforms like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and even Obamacare, which are intended to create a more socially democratic society, workers and their organizations provided critical support to struggles for civil rights and against the militarization of the economy. Labor support was critical, for example, in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

To the extent we have political democracy in the United States, it is largely thanks to the self-activity of the American working class. Fighting the economic power of capital, American workers struggled for democratic rights out of necessity, as these were essential to its ability to act effectively for itself. Out of its own resources and on its own account, while often fiercely and violently opposed by the propertied classes and other reactionary elements, the American working class has struggled for and achieved great democratic reforms--not only for itself, but for all.

On this Labor Day, even as retrograde developments like the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision threaten to undermine and even overthrow American democracy, our thanks and our solidarity belong with the working class. There is, as always, more work to be done.

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 05:05 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (41+ / 0-)

    "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

    by Le Gauchiste on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 05:05:00 PM PDT

  •  It seems to me that there is a desperate (9+ / 0-)

    need to give the American working class a transfusion of self-activity. I have been looking at the tributes to labor day and thinking about the dismal state of affairs. Every labor day the unions have shrunk from the previous year. There is now a declared war on unions in the public sector which is the only place where they still have real strength. The American public seems to be passively watching it on the evening news.

    Check out Scottie's blog http://burnafterwriting.com/

    by Richard Lyon on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 05:22:50 PM PDT

    •  I know aht you mean, (6+ / 0-)

      but, as you understand, the whole key of self-activity is that no-one can do it for you or give it to you.  There is quite a bit of labor activism, but consumer capitalism very intentionally tries to channel everyone's energy toward the consumption of things rather than the self-creation of activity.

      As you so aptly put it, it makes us into passive viewers of our own world and even our own lives, which is another form of alienation, really.

      "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

      by Le Gauchiste on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 05:28:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I just got an email from my Union President (4+ / 0-)

      congratulating us on not being like those "other unions" that ask too much of their corporations.  Happy Labor Day.

      When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

      by Bisbonian on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:26:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, but is it desperate to dream of (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      isabelle hayes, NoMoreLies, organicus

      a new Green Capitalism that inspires competition and again enforces monopolies, and REQUIRES the true cost of business include impact on environment, cradle to grave considerations for creation through disposal, as well as a living wage, 30 hour work week and 6 weeks vacation every year.

      Because the fact is the workers of the world may design the world they choose to live in.

      Green Capitalism will give rise to a new global workers' union movement.

      Fantasy?  No, because it is an obvious consequence when there are not enough jobs and corporations are not people.

      Separation of Church and State AND Corporation

      by Einsteinia on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 12:43:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Think about it.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, congenitalefty

      the Bush tax cuts took $2.5 trillion out of the economy. Working people have paid the price for that. No telling how long it will take to recover.

      Only the weak & defeated are called to account for their crimes.

      by rreabold on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 09:53:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  An anti-teacher's union movie premiers today, (3+ / 0-)

      apparently with the blessing of the Obama campaign, including Obama himself.

      It's Called "Won't Back Down".

      Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second largest teachers' union, blasted the film in an open letter this past week, calling it "divisive" and saying it "resorts to falsehoods and anti-union stereotypes."

      "The film contains several egregiously misleading scenes with the sole purpose of undermining people's confidence in public education, public school teachers and teachers unions," Weingarten wrote.

      I just don't get it. It's tone-deaf campaign strategy to endorse this film, let alone completely destructive to the Middle Class.

      The Democratic Party is such a poor vehicle for the Democratic Platform.

      Purging predominantly minority voters and requiring them to present IDs to vote in the face of VIRTUALLY NON-EXISTENT VOTER FRAUD is RACISM! I hereby declare all consenting Republicans RACISTS until they stand up and object to these practices!

      by Words In Action on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 09:59:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Anyone? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, BlueDragon

    Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

    "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

    by Le Gauchiste on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 05:23:07 PM PDT

    •  Will be right back Le Gauchiste (6+ / 0-)

      We just got into Delray Beach after a 5 hour drive; we need to get something to eat! Sorry for the late publication, I was out of connection with everyone for a few days. Thank you for your excellent piece! I promise to be back and continue the discussion! In solidarity!!!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 05:30:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  i didn't know this (4+ / 0-)
    From the 1760s to the 1780s, artisan workers in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, etc., organized themselves into groups called the "Sons of Liberty" and constituted the left-wing of the American Revolution. In Boston, they initiated the Boston Tea Party protest
    i really can't stand any more ironies.  the world has become one existential irony for me.

    nice diary.  thank you.  and i had this thought that we really should move to Sunday morning.  Even though we would be competing, by this time on Sunday, I am as disconnected as I can be from political thoughts.  It is usually working as in preparing for school or doing some very needed mindless activity, i.e. the boob tube and/or film

    Donate to Occupy Wall Street here: http://nycga.cc/donate/

    by BlueDragon on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 05:39:22 PM PDT

    •  Sam Adams was the leader. (3+ / 0-)

      The bourgeois "revolutionaries" who were running the show saw to it that they got squelched.

       

      Check out Scottie's blog http://burnafterwriting.com/

      by Richard Lyon on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 05:43:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly right, Richard (4+ / 0-)

        I would quibble only with the placement of quote marks around the word revolutionaries. Jefferson, Washington, Adams, et al., were real revolutionaries, who did risk their lives and fortunes. As Karl put it so well:

        "But unheroic though bourgeois society is, it nevertheless needed heroism, sacrifice, terror, civil war, and national wars to bring it into being. And in the austere classical traditions of the Roman Republic the bourgeois gladiators found the ideals and the art forms, the self-deceptions, that they needed to conceal from themselves the bourgeois-limited content of their struggles and to keep their passion on the high plane of great historic tragedy. Similarly, at another stage of development a century earlier, Cromwell and the English people had borrowed from the Old Testament the speech, emotions, and illusions for their bourgeois revolution. When the real goal had been achieved and the bourgeois transformation of English society had been accomplished, Locke supplanted Habakkuk. "

        "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

        by Le Gauchiste on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 05:52:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think that the French and Russian (3+ / 0-)

          affairs set the standard for real revolutions. They radically changed the arrangements for political and economic power. The American war of independence simply separated the colonies from the British crown. Fundamental social relationships were not materially changed. The new government was framed by prosperous merchants and plantation holding slave owners. The indigenous Americans and the African slaves were written out of the rhetoric of liberty and equality.

           

          Check out Scottie's blog http://burnafterwriting.com/

          by Richard Lyon on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:16:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly what is happening today with the old, now (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Richard Lyon, NY brit expat

        bourgie Comunist Party selling the movement into the Democratic Party.

    •  BlueDragon, we can move to Sunday (4+ / 0-)

      morning. It would a lot easier for me living in the UK, what does everyone else think? Please let me know here, so that the admin can discuss it! Thanks ellow travellers!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 05:48:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Workers in these previous decades... (11+ / 0-)

    Especially the earlier part of the 20th century, understood better than contemporary workers where their power was centered: In collectivism, and in collective labor, as a commodity in a capitalistic society.

    Withhold labor, and workers can bring the wealthy ruling class to its knees within days. There isn't any other non-violent action workers can resort to that wields so much power.

    Thus, their power comes from one major principle: The power of working together. Collectivism. It takes a collective body of laborers to strike effectively.

    Zinn pointed out that this power of collectivism seemed even greater in the early attempts during the industrial age when it was more spontaneous, before the energy of rising up was stifled by the more formal control of union organizers and bosses, who tended to use the threat of the strike, rather than the strike itself, as a negotiating tool. In other words, some think the central leadership based on a hierarchical model weakened the collective principle by using a small group of union bosses in place of the power of the less predictable and larger group of workers on strike.

    Collectivism seems to work better when the people lead themselves. And it is no wonder that it is due to the power of collectivism that the wealthy ruling class has worked so hard to destroy and besmirch in the public mind this idea of people coming together. The recent evictions of the Occupy movement from the parks is a case in point.

    In capitalism, there is nothing as evil as people understanding the power of collective direct action. It is the one dependable, real power that can topple the system. The electoral path can work, but it isn't as readily accessible and reliable. More and more, it requires trainloads of capital, something workers tend to be short of by design.

    It seems obvious that it's time to bring back this awareness of the principle of collective action. The Occupy movement has succeeded to some degree in heightening the forgotten awareness of our one true power: Collective action.

    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

    by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:00:19 PM PDT

    •  Collective action also worked (5+ / 0-)

      a whole lot better before globalization created, for the first time, a truly global working class, or as the bourgeois economists like to call it, a truly global labor market. Absent real transnational solidarity and organization, workers in a globalized economy will usually lose to capital, which really can move its capital elsewhere.

      I think workers realize this, and that's why they have such serious doubts about the efficacy of collective action.

      "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

      by Le Gauchiste on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:05:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Workers, en mass (5+ / 0-)

        Can stop the trains, the ports, refuse to open the doors, keep the elevators from moving, keep the planes from taking off and landing. It would take a lot of people to do this, which of course, is the whole point.

        I don't think workers have well formed doubts of collective action. I think they have been distracted from it by consumerism. They've simply forgotten. They don't know the history. And they have bought into the negative memes which have been deliberately foisted on them about unions and collective action, and are left with only one thing to be proud of in American society: Getting up and going to work as an individual.

        So... we need to change this meme somehow.

        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

        by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:14:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Of course they can, however, that (4+ / 0-)

          requires workers to accept their power, to have subjective consciousness of their power and that is what is absent in the US. It is easy to say the words "general strike," it is quite another thing to actually be able to build such a thing. When I hear people in the US saying that we are even close to such a thing, it indicates to me that people do not understand what it means to be able to do one successfully.

          In Greece, they have been able to do this, everyone (including all shops), transport, energy, workers of all types walked out.  The ministry of finance was occupied by retirees. They have been building towards these for years and Greece has a far more conscious working class than the one in the US (and the UK) which has been beaten down for years (you need to go back to Reagan and Thatcher and deliberate de-industrialisation to see how this was done). if you think that we are close to that situation in either the UK or US, you are seeing something that no one else is seeing. Occupy is wonderful and they have been doing good work, it is fantastic that this has taken off. However, we need an international response on the part of the working class in response to the internationalisation of capital and we are nowhere near that at this point. The working class is separated, divide and rule has been very effective in preventing unity not only internationally, but even in one country. That is all Le Gauchiste was saying, you may not like what he is saying, but you have no right to talk to a comrade this way; it is inappropriate. In the anti-capitalist meet-up, we treat each other with respect and respectfully disagree. Otherwise, it is impossible for Anarchists of various perspectives, Marxists of various perspectives and Social Democrats to work together. Please respect our writers.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 08:30:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think the diarist was saying more than that (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            isabelle hayes, NY brit expat

            which, I think, if you reread his comments, should be obvious. Most of the replies to me have been strawmen. You're both, to at least some degree, replying to things I never said.

            I think you both have such well developed opinions, so long ago hashed out, that when some of us weigh in with a comment, it triggers a slew of a thousand things you've read and formulated over many years of time. You belt out an answer long ago settled in your minds, and there is a bit of expectancy on your part that the rest of us are here to absorb what you have to say.

            This topic is important. It is truly the People's Topic. It should have a wider readership.

            There was a phenomenon I noticed at the Occupy events. Old time activists would come, try to dominate, find themselves having to start at the beginning of the line just like everyone else, then get mad, and stomp off. No tolerance for these smart kids who had so much to learn, but also much to teach the rest of us. Their generation is seeing the world with new eyes, which is a gift, since that can lead to new ways of perceiving things that older people overlook.

            In other words, their inexperience is an advantage for these kids. They can start fresh without all the preconceived notions.

            We should value all comers to the table. We each have experiences that may be of value. We shouldn't assume a hierarchy of knowledge or superiority. You can't know in advance what another person has to offer.

            Anyway...

            Peace.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 12:18:09 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I was totally with you until you (0+ / 0-)

              called a comrade maestro, I am assuming that you understand that it means master; at which point, I took offense. If you talk to people like that, they will respond accordingly.

              I work alongside kids, I work alongside everyone. I only ask for mutual respect. There is an old, but very important position which members of the left have maintained, I suggest that you consider it. You do not have to accept it, but I will know where you stand if you do not.

              "from each, according to their abilities; to each, according to their needs"

              It is sort of a golden rule and not only describes how we want things under socialism, it is a rule of conduct for comrades and activists.

              You are still continuing your behaviour, it is inappropriate. I do not care how old you are, I simply ask people to treat other comrades with respect. I do not expect that from mainstreamers, we are used to being red-baited, but we ask that from other members of the left.

              "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

              by NY brit expat on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 07:45:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yes, its a wonderful way of putting it (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                congenitalefty, NY brit expat

                "from each, according to their abilities; to each, according to their needs"

                Did you really presume I didn't know that, or did you just do that to piss me off? Heh.

                I was set to come here this morning and apologize. Profusely. My personal circumstances are, at the moment, rather horrible, and I'm stressed beyond anything I've experienced in my entire adult life, due to the economics of my situation. My living conditions are awful. I work in an awful job, which was both a miracle to have found, as well as a curse. The world does look very different from this perspective.

                I'm angry. Really angry at this society. I'm hurt. There is stress from every direction. I don't know what I'm going to do, how I'm going to make things better. I may have a dismal future awaiting me.  I'm struggling, as if clawing my way up a cliff by my fingernails. I really shouldn't come here to comment. I'm probably not in the best frame of mind for public discourse.

                And then I read your latest comment. Shit. I truly should stay away from this series. I won't elaborate further.

                I do apologize. I barely slept last night due to this disturbing discussion. I've given it considerable thought. I think there were several factors that caused this tension between us. I clearly created the discord, and I was the principal catalyst, and I apologize. I was reacting to social dynamics I observe here, but which should be left unspoken. Most people seem to get through their lives avoiding these situations, but I tend to voice things which are better left unsaid. I was rude and there are far better ways to get across a point.

                And for what its worth... in Spanish, maestro also means teacher. It is commonly used for teacher in the Hispanic world. I had that definition in mind. It has a much more potent impact in the English language since we don't use it to mean "school teacher" in North America.

                I'd forgotten I even said that...  I must admit that is an awful thing to say to someone, no matter what meaning I had in mind. I don't blame you for getting upset over that.

                Peace.

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 10:16:33 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  No worries (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ZhenRen, NY brit expat, Gordon20024

                  These are serious issues and affect all our lives in very personal ways. I too used to work as a professional, now I live on soc. sec. disability, so I totally sympathize with the pain of downward mobility.

                  Also, in my first reply to you, I should have started off more positively. Rather than jumping straight into why globalization makes direct action so difficult, I should have acknowledged the fact that I agree with you far more than I disagree.

                  Peace be with you.

                  "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

                  by Le Gauchiste on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 11:26:58 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  I know that you knew it, I was reminding you (0+ / 0-)

                  of the maxim as that is an important point, it holds for everyone. I am so sorry that you are going through tough times ZhenRen, I am also furious; everyone that I know is beyond angry. We all work in whatever ways we are able to work in; some of us are well and others have illnesses and carer responsibilities which prevent them from doing some things. We participate and fight in whatever way we are able; no one is above the other. That is my maxim, privilege in any sense infuriates me. I am sorry that I lost my temper, but I will not let any comrade disparage the efforts of another.

                  Thank you for apologising, I was so upset when you used the term maestro which even if you meant it as teacher was beyond an appropriate level of discourse. When I hear someone use that it sets off a position of privilege which sends me reeling and I thought that it was unfair. I meant what I said, if you would like to write a piece, we would love to hear what you have to say. I always appreciate your comments and perspective as they are important. We are all, I think, on the same side and all we are asking is that we treat each other with respect. Thanks again, if you want to write something, please let me know. Justina is currently without an internet connection and TPau is very busy and I am doing the scheduling for the series.

                  "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                  by NY brit expat on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 02:07:14 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  very important to suss out (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat, congenitalefty

          why the american workers aren't ready for a general strike

          the people as a whole are beguiled, gulled, stupified by the msm and (most of) public education

          but if we ever have the proper (desperate) conditions...

      •  So... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BlueDragon

        A Marxist who doesn't think labor strikes will work.

        What's your plan?

        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

        by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:17:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The point of emphasizing self-activity (5+ / 0-)

          is precisely that the solutions, or plans, will arise out of that self-activity, not out of the brains of self-professed radicals, myself included. Marx himself learned an immense amount from the workers of Paris in the late 1840s, and then from the workers of London after he began his long exile there.

          Take the General Strike: that tactic arose spontaneously out of worker self-activity, as did the sit-down strike in the 1930s.

          So, "What is To Be Done?" Pay attention to the working class, especially its most politically active elements, and follow their lead.

          "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

          by Le Gauchiste on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:26:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  At the moment... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            loftT

            I am in the working class, maestro, and I have been among those taking the lead in my local area, at least until I became so poor I can no longer spare the time. But this will change.

            Have you ever participated in an occupy gathering (for more than a drive by visit, that is?)

            Here on the ground, there is discontent. But thanks for the advice. I'll check with the rest of the strikers the next time we shut down the ports, as we did in this area last year.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:41:06 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Since the author is disabled and let's (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Richard Lyon, Gordon20024

              be frank, Occupy is not disabled friendly (perhaps you can read something on that), it would be rather difficult for him to do so. I am hearing a lot of ugliness in your comment, you know nothing of this person, yet you seem to enjoy disparaging him. I am rather tired of your attitude, it is unacceptable.

              "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

              by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 10:08:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Oh... and I particularly liked that (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JayRaye, congenitalefty

            "seek out a leader" comment about following the lead of someone in the labor movement, as if we're all just lost without a leader to guide us. It's the "leaders" who often are the problem. What about "self-activism" as in, me getting active?

            Many of the common people are fed up with the leaders of organized labor.

            If this keeps getting worse and worse, I could envision a real change in attitude in the next ten years.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:49:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree with the paragraphs 2 & 3 completely (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NY brit expat, DavidW

              One of the biggest problems, for many years, has been that the leaders of organized labor become co-opted, for a variety of reasons. This creates cynicism not just about this or that leader or this or that union, but about collective action and collective organization in general.

              Paragraph 1 has nothing to do with anything I've written here, as I never said to seek out or find or even follow "a leader."

              "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

              by Le Gauchiste on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:56:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Ahem... (0+ / 0-)
                So, "What is To Be Done?" Pay attention to the working class, especially its most politically active elements, and follow their lead.
                I suppose it is beyond you to realize how condescending that was.

                Think about it.

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 07:05:34 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I think it's a whole lot less condescending (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  NY brit expat

                  than "I don't think workers have well formed doubts of collective action. I think they have been distracted from it by consumerism. They've simply forgotten. They don't know the history."

                  In fact, my statement was not condescending at all: leadership has to come from the working class, not from outside it.

                  Lecturing the working class about how they've become distracted by consumerism, otoh, now there's some good old-fashioned condescension.

                  Apropos of this, I remember while working on a textile mill organizing campaign in NC in the mid-1980s, going door-to-door in a mill village I spoke with a retired, elderly woman who had lived through the Textile General Strike of 1934. Although she sympathized with the aim of organizing workers into a union, she said she could not support it because she "did not want to see the children eating out of garbage cans again." While I of course argued that this time would be different, etc., even at that young age I understood that I was walking a fine line, and I did not want to condescend to her: I could not deny the reality of her lived experience, even as I disagreed with the conclusions she had reached.

                  "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

                  by Le Gauchiste on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 07:24:19 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  That's your projection (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    isabelle hayes, NoMoreLies

                    As I said, I'm about as low on the scale of workers as it gets. I experience condescension from those who perceive me as uneducated, unintelligent or even stupid on a daily basis in my job. The worst are the liberals who work in professions, as I once did. Classism is everywhere, and often lurking in the minds of those in which you'd least expect it. We're all classists. Lets not kid ourselves. Even the lowest on the wage scale have absorbed classism.

                    I very well know condescension, and the bigotry of classism. It's something I am reminded of everyday.

                    So, no I wasn't being condescending, just making an observation. I think we all have forgotten the power of collective action. We all are distracted by consumerism. We all have been a little brainwashed to think we don't have any power as workers.

                    And of course, if you ask an 80 year old who suffered through those years they would answer that they are tired, that they don't want to see the starvation and beatings and imprisonment that occurred in those days.

                    But I saw the youth in Occupy Portland, and they willingly put themselves in the path of the police baton, willingly went to jail, willingly went without food in some cases, willingly slept in the rain and cold. It was humbling to me, since I had a bit more trouble going outside my comfort zone, since I'm in my 50's.

                    Oh, and you should know that my father, born in the 1910's, lived through starvation as a youth, and experienced those awful years. He would box the ears (metaphorically) of any person presuming to speak for people of his generation. He had more gumption and spunk than anyone I've ever met. My first protests were at his side when I was ten or twelve, against the war in Vietnam.

                    He was a socialist. I wish he'd lived long enough for us to discuss anarcho-socialism and other topics that we never had a chance to discuss in my youth, when he died. (He was already in his 40's when I was born).

                    No, I hold to my premise: People have far more power by collective action on a local level than you're acknowledging, and I think this contemporary disregard for direct action is a disservice to the worker's movement.

                    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                    by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 08:16:15 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  And should socialists (0+ / 0-)

                Still be calling workers "the working class"?

                Have to think about that.

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 07:06:46 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Why is that something that needs (3+ / 0-)

                  to be thought about? it is not a worker as an individual, it is those that are self-actualised as a class that can change things. They are a class of working people in direct contradiction to the owners and managers of capital. I honestly think that Dumenil and Levy's argument that those managers and workers in the financial sector are not potential allies, they serve the interests of capital and always have done so.

                  "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                  by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 08:13:40 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Okay... (0+ / 0-)

                    So, in relation to other classes in capitalist society, that would seem proper as a term. But apart from that, I think we should start viewing people as classless... but maybe that is asking for too much.

                    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                    by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 08:22:12 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  But people are not classless ... (3+ / 0-)

                      we are divided by our relationship to the ownership of means of production, to our control over wealth (or lack of it) ... we do not share commonality of interests between the upper class and the working class and the poor. We are not classless, we have never been classless and we have never shared the same needs or interests. Why should we not say something that implies such?

                      Who has the wealth, who has the ownership of means of production, who makes the decisions and in whose interest. The ruling class has worked very hard to convince people that class is not relevant as a recognition of class divisions, class interests and class contradictions is a massive threat to their continued control. That is an essential step towards a general fight-back on the part of the economically and politically oppressed and disenfranchised; without that, they can play us off against each other. Divide and rule or divide and conquer is especially effective in the absence of class consciousness; they can use racism, sexism, nationalism, jingoism to divide us. If we can look and see that is my brother or sister they are trying to separate me from, those tricks are less effective.

                      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                      by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 08:51:04 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  People are not classless (0+ / 0-)

                        because we create class. But we can begin making certain changes in attitude. For example, when a doctor calls me up, in the function of my employment, he can fucking try to realize not talk down to me because he incorrectly assumes I have no intelligence or skills simply because of the economic class I am in. The stereotypes of class are the issue.

                        I'm talking about stereotyping people according to class.

                        Happens to me all the time, and I have to go through this dance to get people to realize that I actually may be as smart or smarter than they are... first they get snippy, then angry (no, you still have to fill out the employment verification if you want to cosign for your daughter, even if you're a big name dentist who teaches at the fucking university....) Then they profusely apologize, taking up lots of time about themselves, based on their sense of privilege, as if their explanations are sooo important for me to hear, and then I get them to move on and cooperate, just like anyone else would have to do.

                        Is that plain enough for you to understand? I am not in a class, as a stereotype... Class is illusion in many instances. There is a lot of cultural overlapping. But otherwise, I agree with the rather rudimentary observations you've made about class.  Thanks for the lecture to presumably teach me something I experience everyday of my life. My god... does it ever fucking stop?

                        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                        by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:12:24 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Yeah, we are all equally creating class ... (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          gooderservice, DavidW

                          sure yep.  I guess we all equally control wealth, power, society, culture and juridical relations. Do you understand the importance of a materialist analysis? Seems not ... the notion of class is not a stereotype, I am sorry that you do not understand something that people have understood (including the ruling class, see Smith and Ricardo for example in economic theory and any number of politicians from the 17th century onwards). You can pretend all you want that we are not a classless society, but that does not eliminate the existence of class, racism, sexism and all the other charming things that do exist but cannot be fit into your cosmology.

                          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                          by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:35:06 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  You're reading too fast... (0+ / 0-)

                            That is my conclusion based on your latest reply, because I don't think you're imperceptive (but I admit I don't know you that well).  Go back and read my post. You've misunderstood.

                            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                            by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:46:11 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I am not reading too fast ... I understand (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Gordon20024

                            exactly what you are saying ... I do not care if you think I am imperceptive at all ...

                            We cannot eliminate class in a society based upon class, just like we cannot eliminate racism or sexism by pretending that it does not exist. We have not transcended these things; in order to eliminate them we need to change the whole structure of the economy, society and politics ... we need to fight against capitalism, we need to build new structures together ... I honestly do not know what we have done without you to lead us! If I believed in god, I would thank him for your existence to deliver us from a system which has plagued us since the 18th century! Who knew, all we needed to do was to pretend class does not exist, and it would be so!

                            "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                            by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:59:40 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  My comment was nuanced... (0+ / 0-)

                            You're overlooking the nuances. This is tiring. Of course we live in a society with very real class divisions with implications that are deep, lasting, and detrimental to most of us.

                            My use of the term was also in the sense of having judgmental stereotypes based on class... something I've expereinced a lot in my life, which if you bothered to learn about, has been filled to the brim with these issues. Semantics... you're not getting this.

                            But feel free to keep kicking my ass based on your strawmen.

                            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                            by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 10:21:24 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I am missing the judgmental stereotypes (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Gordon20024

                            to which you are referring, perhaps that is the basis of the problem ... no one is judging anyone, there is no need for judgement; it is a discussing of the state of the movement, nothing more.  While I think that Occupy is perhaps the best thing to come out of the US since the IWW, we need to analyse where the movement is, that cannot happen without an understanding of why the labour movement is so weak, why we are unable to get people to move beyond reformist arguments. I do not get where you are seeing judgements.

                            The trade union movement has long been co-opted (I am not talking about IWW), I am talking about the leadership of the mainstream unions. That is a truth, there was a capital-labour compromise conducted between the ruling class and the trade union leadership. That does not mean that the rank and file have been co-opted, but we do need to recognise that the trade union movement has, irrespective of the compromise, been facing a long term and deliberate sustained attack by the ruling classes, hand in hand with the mainstream political parties, democratic and republican. The left was driven out of the mainstream unions or driven into hiding (yes, I am quite aware that they are there), they are weak because the sectors that they were strong in have been deliberately shifted overseas, now they are going for the state/public sector. We need to understand objective and subjective conditions to understand the situation

                            "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                            by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 10:39:10 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Oh my... (0+ / 0-)

                            You're continuing to misinterpret my comments. Never mind... let's move on.

                            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                            by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 11:56:58 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  oops, typo (0+ / 0-)

                            You can pretend all you want that we are a classless society, but that does not eliminate the existence of class, racism, sexism and all the other charming things that do exist but cannot be fit into your cosmology.

                            "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                            by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:55:42 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I understood it was a typo... n/t (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            NY brit expat

                            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                            by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 10:16:12 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  thanks you two (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            jarbyus, NY brit expat, Gordon20024

                            enjoyed the repartee despite the wee bit of rancor

                            this diary is amazing, and the subject is at the heart of our hopes and dreams

                            am almost ready to publish a little something on trotsky, and foremost for me is his dedication to the ordinary human's welfare

                            which is giving me the moral strength to recognize and even to act

                          •  fantastic Isabelle, cannot wait ... (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            DavidW

                            am so happy that the piece is coming together. just tell me when you are close to finishing or when you have an idea of when you will be ready and we will set up a date. you are writing about one of my heroes! :)

                            "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                            by NY brit expat on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 09:22:18 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

        •  Again, you are confusing Marxists (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gooderservice, isabelle hayes, DavidW

          with syndicalists ... Marxists know the fact that mainstream unions are not revolutionary organisations. While we certainly believe in general strikes, we also know that it is building these strikes so that they can have revolutionary impact rather than reformist goals is the essential component for change; it is the process which enables a successful general strike. Neither in the US nor UK is there anything close to the subjective conditions to pull off a successful general strike linked to a revolutionary situation. Madison WI had possibilities for building a coherent working class moment, but this was sabotaged both by the mainstream union movement leaders (as opposed to the rank and file and their interests) and the democratic party which worked hard to destroy the momentum of the movement by focusing direction on a recall effort rather than face the possiblility of true class reaction and strengthening of the working class movement. This is not in the interests of a neoliberal controlled democratic party which wants a passive working class to accept the crumbs it throws from the table nor a mainstream unions movement which has sold its soul to the capital-labour accord to the point where they essentially destroyed their power.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 08:20:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't think I'm confusing anything. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NY brit expat, isabelle hayes

            I'm simply alluding to the idea that labor, in any brand of socialism, is usually viewed as undervalued in capitalistic society, and here we have modern Marxists seemingly ignorant of the power of labor as a collective movement (in other words, not understanding the real value and power of labor). I never suggested that the time is ripe for massive strikes, although I don't think anyone has the authority to decide that. People will rise up and strike when they have enough motivation to do that, and a worker's movement can take root and grow, over time, if the public discontent is great enough. Every time the youth, the workers, and the students go forth into direct action, they're getting valuable experience that will be of benefit as momentum grows. I understand that one strike creates possible reform, while a massive movement can create comprehensive change (revolution). You're presuming that I don't understand this. Not true. But one strike can teach. People of new generations need this experience. And they will be the ones who move this forward, thankfully, because they will bring new energy that is lacking in the old academic socialists of yesterday who think they have all the answers. Try telling the kids at occupy they have no power. They would laugh in your face, and then ignore you. They feel it in their bones... something the rest of us have apparently forgotten.

            I don't like this pseudo expertise and presumed authority by people who really aren't in the trenches.  

            What I tend to object to are these authoritative pronouncements by socialists. How the hell do you know when the time is ripe? Who appointed you to be those who decide?  It will happen when it does, and you can either join or get the hell out of the way, but goddamn it, you certainly aren't going to be in control of it when it happens.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 08:51:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think you're being a tad optimistic (3+ / 0-)

              which is not a bad thing, but "motivation," "public discontent" and experience with "direct action," while invaluable, are only necessary, but by no means sufficient conditions for successful mass action. If they were, Germany would have had a successful socialist revolution in 1919, and the German working class would have been able to stop Hitler in the early 1930s. The objective conditions of capitalism must always be taken into account as well.

              I should point out that our stories and situations are, based on what you've written at other places in this discussion, quite similar. No reason to let things get personal.

              I'm sure that when you referred to "people who aren't really in the trenches," you weren't referring to anyone in this discussion. NY brit expat, for example, is not only in the trenches, she often takes the lead in digging them!  

              "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

              by Le Gauchiste on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:09:52 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Again... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                isabelle hayes

                Try telling the kids of OWS they're being overly  optimistic. What purpose does that really serve? To prove your prediction is correct? And why do you need to point out I'm being too optimistic? Why does that matter to you? Who really cares?

                But am I optimistic? You never really asked what I think, you just ran ahead with your presumptions.

                The only thing that keeps me going is the notion this could all change, but my personal perspective, my gut sense, based on the pattern of the last several decades of human behavior, rampant human addiction, unbridled consumerism, human incapability to adapt to the modern world of excesses, is we're doomed.

                I'm generally not optimistic at all. My sense of the doom that will likely be our future is the reason for all that I have said here. These are just opinions. None of us know half as much as we think we do.  I'm generally not that impressed by all the blathering, to be frank. The pretentiousness, the arrogance, the attitude people have that they really have an answer. Just look around... there are a lot of people in this world, down through history, who are a lot smarter than I am, or than you are, and yet, we are inexorably heading toward the abyss, while we argue over such things as whether the "time is right" or not, as if you or I have any real say in a collective uprising that will depend on major discontent that seems a long, long way off.

                But then, I have to think maybe I'm wrong, maybe I should believe in the youth, who have impressed me far more in their activities than anything I've ever read here on Dkos or in this series... which largely seems to ignore what is going on in the streets, which I can now guess derives from the sense many of you have that now isn't the moment, so you can blithely go on as if nothing matters until you say it does...  my god. So you all retreat into abstractions, which bores the hell out of me.

                I think my sense of where we are in the world, of what is possible, is as accurate as yours, since honestly, history has never been anything most historians could predict accurately. But I'm willing to admit I really don't know shit about what is possible. I'm betting on the kids. Maybe you should join me.

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:40:29 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  We are discussing several distinct things (0+ / 0-)

              Is union activity a tactic or strategy towards socialism? So what I am asking is are unions inherently revolutionary or are they reformist? Anarchosyndicalists build revolutionary trade unions; they do not work in mainstream trade unions which they view as reformists (look at both the IWW and CNT for this perspective).

              There are distinct positions from within a Marxist perspective. From Rosa Luxemburg who held a position that was more syndicalist, to Lenin who held that they were reformist but could be developed into "schools of communism" (read "What is to be done" for Lenin's position).

              No one is making any authoritative statements here, except you. I do not think that I will be ruling anything or in charge of anything; that is not what I am fighting for in the least. I believe in a grass-roots formed democratic (not bourgeois democratic mass party), but you are assuming rather strong things and I find it rather presumptious. Morever, you do not speak for anyone but yourself. You have no idea of what I do or have done, or of anyone else here, who are you to judge anyone?

              It is not us to determine when the time is right, it is for the people in the movement to determine this, but if you think the revolution is coming tomorrow you sound as delusional to me as the Maoists of the 1980s who insisted the revolution was coming in 5 years following Reagan's election. What revolution? We do not have a conscious working class that has a perspective beyond that of mainstream bourgeois democracy and is fighting to hold onto pathetic insufficient reforms and crumbs being offered from the ruling classes running both the democratic party and republicans. Have you noticed the rising racism in the country, rising sexism, and the fact that the working class is incredibly weak that mainstream trade unions do not have the power to even maintain pensions, wages and decent working conditions. Certainly, the objective forces are strong, what is lacking is sufficient development of the subjective level of class consciousness and response.

              All the people that you are disparaging are long-term activists, trade union organisers and people that have been fighting for years; you claim to speak for people that you think you understand, but have no relation to at all. I do not have the time or patience to listen to your arrogance; yes, you have all the answers and we have no knowledge irrespective of spending our lives fighting against people that you just discovered existed and for people that you have decided that you can speak for. Please, talk like this to working people that are desperate to hold onto their jobs, their homes, their work conditions and benefits and tell them that you have the answers, I want to see them laugh in your face. My whole family were trade union organisers; some of them were socialists that survived McCarthyism. But we have no knowledge and no experience, keep on talking. Thank heavens you have come along to solve all our problem, where would we be without you!

              "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

              by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:21:24 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  My god... (0+ / 0-)

                have you not read my other comments? Apparently not. My objection is to the reply to my comment about the power of collectivism, and collective withholding of labor. I was talking about this as a principle. I did not predict when there would be an uprising, did not indicate I thought some revolution was imminent, I just spoke of the power of collective action, and I stand by that completely.

                That is the long and short of it. But then the diarist answers with his notion that global markets make labor so insignificant that such a concept is passe', and I disagreed. Now you're both going on and on as if I think a revolution via labor strikes is just around the corner.

                Never said that. But I do think it is destructively dismissive to write off the importance of direct action, even if there is no real possibility of that occurring today on such a large scale that the current capitalist order is over turned.

                And, as to the rest, I just sense an arrogance here, worse than anywhere else on this forum, and I suppose I'm reacting to it.

                As to this:

                Please, talk like this to working people that are desperate to hold onto their jobs, their homes, their work conditions and benefits and tell them that you have the answers, I want to see them laugh in your face.
                I've lost everything. I didn't just discover working people. My family experience is middle class with elements of working class.. complicated story. We were often poor while living in Puerto Rico, and later as well. I've lived a varied and unusual life. I've seen a lot more than I cared to have seen. My god... get off it.

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 10:13:58 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  you get off of it ... you have been (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  isabelle hayes, Gordon20024

                  behaving in an incredibly obnoxious manner. you know nothing about the people here, you pass judgement upon others with no knowledge, you are being incredibly uncomradely which is not how we do this series which is based upon mutual respect for all participants. We are trying to share ideas and to build a united more powerful left, we discuss objective and subjective conditions and try to discuss various tactics and strategies. It is impossible to build something when people are disparing those participating, that is unacceptable behaviour in any context. I am certain that you would be called out in occupy for your behaviour and I have called you out, so cut the crap.

                  You can disagree without being personally insulting, that is unacceptable. I took objection to how you were talking to a number of people in this discussion.

                  No one is dismissing collective action and if somehow you read that, you misread. The author is discussing why there is a lack of it and the problems of the subjective level of class consciousness. Nowhere has he dismissed it and not a single one of us has been doing so. What we are trying to analyse is why the working class is so weak in the face of the culmination of a long-term assault (that has been going on probably since before you were born).

                  General strikes and collective action require a level of class consciousness that we want to build, but does not exist as yet. It takes a long-time unfortunately to build this, recognition of that is not an error; it places the state of a movement currently and analyses what is needed to build towards the future.

                  "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                  by NY brit expat on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 10:27:55 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Well... (0+ / 0-)
                    I am certain that you would be called out in occupy for your behaviour and I have called you out, so cut the crap.
                    I never encountered anything quite like this at occupy. No one tried to own the group, it was wonderful, and I felt as if I belonged. People tended to be tolerant of each other, of our mutual foibles and the occasional need to voice something. I fit in like a fish to water. The one time I got a bit testy was handled by my cohorts with the most touching understanding I've experienced in ages.

                    I suppose that doesn't fit anything you've ever heard about occupy, recalling a discussion we once has long ago.

                    But in contrast, I clearly don't belong here. I've never felt welcome here.

                    I have a good sense of why this is happening. Quite clearly. But it would serve no purpose at this juncture to explain it.

                    As to no one dismissing collective action, there were nuances that statement doesn't acknowledge, but I'll let it go.

                    Not to worry, I accept this is your place to moderate. I'll leave it to you.

                    Peace.

                    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                    by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 11:52:19 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  "We once had long ago" n/t (0+ / 0-)

                      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

                      by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 11:53:13 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  ZhenRen, you are always welcome to (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Gordon20024

                      participate here, we only ask that you treat people with respect especially those you do not agree with. That is a simple code of conduct. We would love for you to write a diary for us, but I ask that you respond to queries and comments respectfully. That is all.

                      I always enjoy your participation and think that you raise good points, what I did not enjoy was your disparaging others. Disagree, but never make it personal, we leave that to the mainstream. OK?

                      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                      by NY brit expat on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 07:53:54 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  In terms of collective action, I, along (0+ / 0-)

                      with a number of Marxists agree support it strongly, both in principle and in practice. We also support cross-class movements, but would clearly prefer them to be led not by the upper and middle class, but by working and poor people, but will participate to fight for working class issues and issues of race, class and gender to be incorporated.

                      What we need to understand and analyse is how to get the beginnings so sparked by occupy and spread it outwards. I think you would agree. We also need to know why this has not occurred, I also think that you would agree. Analyse, understand our successes and failures, we learn, we grown.

                      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

                      by NY brit expat on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 07:57:47 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  we have to remember the numbers of years (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    NY brit expat

                    it takes to make the revolutions that succeed

                    our lifetime is meaningless to the movement which has to happen globally or we certainly doom the planet as a human resource

      •  except that we seem on the (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        loftT, NY brit expat, isabelle hayes

        verge of a true international movement in the sense that we can communicate as never before.

        this is why open media are crucial in the present and near future.

        it seemed as if occupy was truly the first international movement this past year.  is it still viable?  i have no idea.

        clearly of the global economy crashes again, as it seems certain to do very soon, the prospects for resistance on a global level are real if tenuous.

        what was '68 if not the first manifestation of this?

        squelching that was top priority which is why obama turned the other way as Americans were maced and driven out of the public square.

        it isn't okay to bring that up on these pages, but there it is.

        will it return after the election?  are we all too afraid to make waves in this moment lest we get rmoney and his fascist sidekick?

        i keep repeating: i've never been this negative about the bigger picture, but i completely believe that from great crisis does come great opportunity.  

        all the old great leftists are dying off and we do not have anyone even close with which to replace them.

        worse, the lashing we are taking is unprecedented in my lifetime.

        i have to go back to my grandfather's time (he died before I was born in the 40s) when just being a union leader meant his life was on the line and he had to take secret routes home from the mines in order to get home alive.

        are we working ourselves back to that?  at 64, I am not physically capable of that kind of struggle.

        i could write while stowed away in someone's figurative attic.

         

        Donate to Occupy Wall Street here: http://nycga.cc/donate/

        by BlueDragon on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:23:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Problem is that objective conditions have changed (5+ / 0-)

      --capital has mobility now and can run around the world at a moments notice to find cheaper labor --especialy if workers start to organize. Also we don't have the same centralized factory system as we did during industrial capitalism.  doesn't mean we give up -- but we have to stragize new ways to roganize oursleves collectively.  Facotry takeovers when compnies decide to up and leave is one way, but due to differing imperialist relations this is easier in some countries (argentina  where much of the capitalists were foreigners) as comapred to the U.S. where the businesses runnign away are frolm the U.S. and also U.S. workers don't seem to feel theyare hruting enough yet to take the risks as this often results in very militant struggles.

      •  Sorry for all the typos in the above comment! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat
      •  I'm not sure I buy this... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        loftT

        And it is odd... as if it is thought that labor, in this global market, doesn't still have enough value to wield any power on a local level.

        Socialists who value labor so poorly, and think it is so ineffectual that it no longer has an impact? I didn't know such creatures existed.

        You're not going to win any converts with real workers with this sort of talk.

        Try changing the world with a gaggle of academics, and without workers... not going to succeed. And that's my point in a nutshell.

        During the Portland Occupy actions, I saw it close down the central part of Portland. And we were being nice. It would take a much bigger awakening of people to have a greater impact, but I think you greatly underestimate people.

        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

        by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:31:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Take a close look at what just happened at (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat, isabelle hayes

          Caterpillar in Joliet, and then tell me about all this power workers have on the "local level": http://www.guardian.co.uk/...

          The whole point is that the "local level" matters very little to globalized capital.

          Working people are very intelligent about power, as they confront it on the job every day.

          I'm not saying there's no hope -- far from it -- I'm just saying that rather than talking down to the working class by pointing out its "false consciousness" or lack of courage, we should be listening.

          "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

          by Le Gauchiste on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:43:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NY brit expat

            what do you hear from the real working people that you are listening to?

            Check out Scottie's blog http://burnafterwriting.com/

            by Richard Lyon on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 06:46:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Hmmm (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            joanneleon
            I'm not saying there's no hope -- far from it -- I'm just saying that rather than talking down to the working class by pointing out its "false consciousness" or lack of courage, we should be listening.
            I think this is like talking about someone's mother. It's okay if the family member does it, but not okay if people outside do it.

            Clearly, you're viewing the working "class" from some distance. That means to me you don't know a lot about it from personal experience. And I happen to think personal experience is the most important method to learn about life. That's because, you see, I'm in that class that knows a lot of shit that you can't learn any other way. I get a sense you don't know a lot about the school of hard knocks.

            I am fairly low on the hierarchy of workers at the moment. Lower than the better paid factory worker.

            I wasn't born into this "class" but I am definitely getting a rapid lesson in what it is like to be here. So I'm not talking down to my fellow proletarians, in fact, I'm bent on lifting them up to remind them they have far more power than they think they have. And more power than you would tell them they have, it seems.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 07:17:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Okay, I checked on that article... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            joanneleon

            And what does that prove? If the strikers had the kind of support strikers once had, the kind of solidarity that cuts across industry lines where all of the trades would turn out in mutual support, they would have prevailed.

            If things get bad enough to wake up the American worker again, all hell will break loose.

            This is the problem when you turn over these issues to Marxist economists... they think in such macro economic and global terms that they have forgotten that local labor does, indeed, have a valuable place, still, in American towns.

            Whether its a taxicab or an auto factory, withholding labor can have an impact. I saw the potential, on the ground, in the Occupy actions. It was impressive.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 07:36:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Fascinating diary and discussion (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, isabelle hayes

    i can't think of a better way to acknowledge Labor Day.

  •  asdf (3+ / 0-)

    cheApproves1

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:00:41 PM PDT

  •  Sons of Liberty (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat

    I find the characterization of the Sons of Liberty as, "artisan workers" to be strange. They were largely a middle class group. One sign of their class origin was their penchant for dressing up like common laborers precisely as a disguise. Whatever Samuel Adams was, e.g., it was not a member of the laboring classes. And the Sons of Liberty in Boston depended for their finances on finds from wealthy merchants, most notably John Hancock. If anything, I'd argue that the reason we have political democracy in the United States is thanks largely to the efforts of a middle and upper middle class that recognized the fundamental justice of democracy and built a republic that could make it a workable regime.

    Even Jack Greene, one of the founding generation of U.S. revisionist historians and a man who spent most of his academic career discussing class in early America, had to call the Revolution, "fundamentally...an elitist movement with only a modest amount of explicit striving among either the people at large or any of the dominant political factions for a wider diffusion of political power." [The Reinterpretation of the American Revolution, p. 53].

    Pace Karl.

    •  Typo (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat

      that would be " funds from wealthy merchants..."

    •  agreed completely hmi, that is how I had (0+ / 0-)

      understood this as well. Thanks! That may be because way back when I read Charles Beard when studying for American History, but his argument was cogent.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 08:00:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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