UfPJ and Oct. 25

Jose G. Perez jgperez at netzero.net
Thu Aug 21 10:51:04 MDT 2003


Eli engages in the "wild speculation" that perhaps "UfPJ refuses to
endorse Oct. 25 because they have  insisted on the inclusion of
Democratic antiwar Presidential contenders on the program and ANSWER has
refused?"

I think Eli is on the right track in thinking this ties into the
elections and ABBA (Anyone But Bush -- Anyone), although I agree with
Adam that it is extremely unlikely to have been in anything like this
form. I don't think it is as direct and conscious a process as what Eli
speculates might be happening.

A lot of what is going on with UfPJ, I am afraid, is simply that it is
tacking about rudderless, with no clear sense of direction or purpose.
It is a coalition of disparate forces, many of them very well meaning,
progressive-minded people but in the central leadership core, I think
there is a lack of a vision of how to fight and how to win -- or perhaps
clashing visions, which prevents a clear sense of directions and
priorities from being set.

To a lot of these middle class sectors, which predominate in the
organizations that to a large degree set the tone for UfPJ (traditional
pacifists, non-profits, churches, etc.) the failure to stop the invasion
was a tremendously demoralizing blow. They think the problem is that the
Bush administration is impervious to being pressured, and want a more
pliable president, even if one way to the right of their own positions,
like a Clinton or even a Liebermann.

Because in their own circles "everyone" was against the war and many
people mobilized, yet the war came, they can't imagine a movement
qualitatively more powerful, powerful enough to force the hand of the
government, and even take the right to govern away from the ruling
class. 

To see it, you would have to believe that there is a potential source
people's power that is greater than ANY other force in society. And
you'd have to try to consciously orient to those sectors of the
population that can turn that potential power into a reality.

But they don't see that potential, and so they orient instead towards
ruling class circles, their politicians and so on, trying to both trick
them and blackmail them. They'll tell these Congressional types and
their aides, look, this war is a budget buster, it is fiscally
irresponsible and anyways you'll loose votes and your cushy job if you
don't listen to us. The Democrats in Congress know that this is
essentially an empty threat. Where is the middle-class "progressive"
vote going to go? (This is, of course, the great importance of fighting
for alternatives in the electoral arena that go in the direction of
independent political action by working people, however much a limited,
unfinished, work in progress the alternative may be when judged as a
working class alternative).

Re-creating the mass movement from last fall and winter seems like a
labor of Sisyphus to them. What's the point, without a government that
is at least a little bit responsive, which this one is clearly not? Even
if they don't say it, even if they haven't consciously formulated it
quite in that way, that is what they feel, their mood. They just can't
get enthusiastic about another big march like they could six months ago.

For US, and in reality millions of working people, the point isn't so
much how far we can pressure Bush or complicate things for him, but
rather laying the foundation and creating the conditions for the
emergence of an alternative.

The potential people's power that middle class layers find so hard to
see does exist -- in the working people, and specifically in the more
oppressed and exploited sectors, which form the core of the industrial
proletariat.

U.S. society can survive fine, at least for quite a while, without
movies and web sites and TV and the economic activity of all sorts of
other sectors where you find significant concentrations of these middle
class sectors, especially intelligentsia, which were a hugely
disproportionate percentage of the core of the antiwar protests of last
fall and winter. However, U.S. society would be hard pressed to keep
functioning for very long without food, transportation, garbage pickup
and so on, all the manual "menial" jobs and workers that are normally
"invisible" to the kinds of petty-bourgeois strata that weigh so heavily
in these national coalitions and campaigns.

Other people do see this power. For example, recently there was a
meeting of the Georgia Safer Roads Coalition, which is pushing for the
elimination of having to give a social security number as a requirement
to get a drivers' license, which effectively prevents many immigrants
--probably the majority of Georgia's Latino population-- from getting a
license. It was meant to be a half-dozen suits from non-profits and
"legal defense" institutes and foundations plus a couple of
activist/community organizers who are the ones who really put it
together.

As it turned out, though, news of it was broadcast on Radio Mex (we now
have a half dozen Spanish-language stations in the Atlanta area) and
about 100 people showed up, proletarians in their majority. The suits
wanted to talk about the next legislative session that starts in
January, the workers about doing something right now. And the suggestion
that got the most enthusiastic response was to stage a one-day Latino
general strike.

This wasn't a student crowd full of RCP'ers and ISO members, there
wasn't a Militant subscriber among them. These were manual workers, a
lot of them from nearby construction sites, who are tired of the
government fucking with them and for whom the drivers license issue has
become not just a tremendous headache, but a symbol of all the other
indignities they are victims of, just as forty-some years ago moving to
the back of the bus became the symbol of everything the Black community
was fighting against.

Everyone knew the idea of a stoppage was premature, that's not the first
step for a movement. The outcome was the formation of a direct action
subcommittee of the coalition that is planning the first ever Latino
protest in Atlanta that anyone remembers, a "march for dignity" being
held in conjunction with the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride at the end
of September. 

My point here is, it did not occur to these workers to go lick the boots
of legislators as the way to win their demands, even though that was the
main think the middle-class people from social service agencies,
non-profits, legal defense foundations, etc., and had in mind.  The
first thing that popped into the heads of these workers was to USE the
power they actually know they have -- because it is they who in a
completely disproportionate way do the real physical work that keeps
metro Atlanta going. And the argument they kept repeating over and over
in myriad forms was, we are workers, we deserve respect, we demand
respect, and we're going to get respect.

It is of course not in the slightest bit an accident that these are
workers who are recent immigrants. The level of working class
consciousness and militancy they have is more a product of their own
societies. 

It is people like THIS, not congressional blowhards, that the antiwar
movement should try to orient to and mobilize. But you can't do it
focusing on looking all nice and neat and being really well spoken and
showing your papers at the door as you go hat-in-hand for a begging
session with the honorable members.

Much to its credit, UfPJ nationally IS relating to the freedom ride
(which have been pushed by some of the more forward-thinking layers of
the labor officialdom, under the influence of this militant immigrant
layer). But that isn't enough, and it certainly doesn't help matters
when around the biggest issue of the day --the Iraq war-- the national
coalition focuses on a project which quite unthinkingly, automatically,
EXCLUDES immigrants, the "citizens' delegations" to visit Congressmen
before labor day.

And this then ties in with the ABBA phenomenon, the Greens who are
advocating a "safe states" strategy, and so on. Many middle class layers
are going to orient towards an alliance of some sort with the ruling
class parties. It isn't just that they don't see an alternative right
now, but that they can't even imagine a real alternative, a working
class alternative.

Now some radicals see this kind of movement like the antiwar movement,
try to change it for a while, and eventually get frustrated and say,
"barf, puke, petite-bourgeois, we hates it forever." They turn their
back on it, and march of to a factory to proletarianize themselves.
This, of course, leaves the field clear for the conscious reformist and
procapitalist forces to dominate, and very quickly they eviscerate the
movement. 

What people have got to realize is this is going to be a long term
process, and what it will actually take to definitively *win* the battle
in these autonomous movements based to a disproportionate extent among
middle class layers, especially of the intelligentsia, is for these
layers to see in real life, in action the power of the working class.

In the meantime we are going to have to fight and refight constant
battles within formations like this. A lot of it will revolve around
what seem to be discrete, separate issues of tactics, everything from
slogans and demands, having mass, visible public protests to what
newspapers to place full-page ads in and what those advertisements will
say.

José




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