united students against sweatshops

Tony Tracy tony at SPAMtao.ca
Sun Aug 20 13:13:48 MDT 2000


as a quick follow-up -- the national convention of USAS is just wrapping
up here in eugene, oregon -- the conference led to what appears (from the
view of an outsider) to be a significant split in their organization (with
chapters walking out of plenary sessions at about 4:30am & meeting
separately to vote to dis-affiliate).

USAS seems, at least from my naive canadian point of view, to be a
relatively significant movement on the american campuses -- claiming
chapters on 200 different campuses, with over 2000 activists on the
campuses across the US.

having attended a number of their plenary sessions over the last couple of
days (many of which lasted many, many hours -- finishing in the wee-wee
hours of the morning) -- the political nature seems to be squishy
liberalism at the core (human rights violations take place "over there"
somewhere in other countries), but it appears that the international
socialist organization (ISO) has made work within USAS a high political
priority (if the re-current stories i've heard from many, many campus
delegates of ISO folks attempting take-overs of their local campus
chapters hold any weight a all).

the nature of the political split which occurred earlier this morning
appears to be at the core a split between anarchists who oppose
"structure" and "hierarchy" within the loose campus-based federation &
folks who overly fetishize structure and process questions. there were
certainly a good bulk of folks who resided in between these two seemingly
polarized positions, but the leading arguments on either side of the split
were put forward by the "anti-authoritarians" (their terminology) on the
one-hand & "structuralists" (a term that i've heard floating around & used
by folks on both sides of the rather odd debates) on the other hand.

comrades on this list who have living memory of the split in the students'
for a democratic society (SDS) in the late 60's would have gotten a great
kick out of this past weekend's national conference --- much of the same
tactics & methodology utilized in leading to the split, but in this case
the politics were often entirely incoherent & completely undeveloped on
either side. the only political arguments which were articulated were
about structure & process.

the measurement of the squishy liberal aspect of the group was clear to me
sometime after midnight last night following report-backs from
minority/oppressed caucuses to the plenary (ie. people-of-colour caucus /
womens' caucus / queer caucus) when some middle class white kid from the
mid-west stood up & said that he felt that he was "being silenced" and
that he felt that he "didn't have an identity" and that he felt that there
should have been equal weight to a vegetarian's caucus so that he could
have had a say in caucus report-backs. i watched nodding heads from at
least 50 of the 200-or-so assembled delegates. of course, the most
baffling thing about this is that nobody beat the crap out of him, which
would have been the most appropriate response in my opinion...

anyway: the past weekend has made me really wonder about the state of
affairs in the existing american student movement...

heading back to vancouver...

tony tracy

On Fri, 18 Aug 2000, Tony Tracy wrote:

> do comrades on the list who are active or who have contacts on campuses
> have opinion's / information on the united students against sweatshops?
> i'm trying to get my head around this group... i've found myself at their
> "national conference" in eugene, oregon this weekend & am still trying to
> sort out the politics, direction, etc. of the group (another group that is
> co-sponsoring their conference and with which i've had discussions before
> had invited me down).
> any opinions/info would be of some value...
> comradely greetings,
> tony tracy
> (normally in vancouver, canada -- coast salish territory)

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