[Marxism] Camejo and Shawki/ISO and so it goes...

andypollack at juno.com andypollack at juno.com
Mon Nov 1 09:08:19 MST 2004


I just wanted to thank Josh for this response. (It's so scathingly powerful that I'm hoping Junaid will be able to prove his quotes were taken out of context, because otherwise he's got a lot of rethinking and research among real workers to do.)

-- Josh Saxe <joshsaxe at gmail.com> wrote:
I hate to seem like I am picking on Junaid, because we have clashed a
good deal in the past, but I think there are so many problems in his
logic below that others on this list seem to accept.  Junaid wrote:

> Point to me one case where the mythical proletarian
> heroes are themselves fighting imperialism abroad or capitalism
> at home en masse - after all, if the "US Left" is to be derisively dismissed as a bunch of petty-bourgeois,
> then it should be quite easy to forget about them and focus on the "truly" revolutionary
> working-class's own militancy.

What do you mean by "fighting capitalism"?  I have seen workers do
some incredible things, and I have been active between 1998-2004, a
period of severe retreat.  I saw a big janitors strike (a victory), a
big grocery strike (a defeat), when I was a kid, on TV, the LA riots,
many many smaller strikes, many fights that didn't boil over into a
strike but involved big risks to people's livelihoods - I have seen
many many more workers risk their livelihoods and families than I have
seen students risk their middle-class cushy futures.

> Where are the workers "risking anything" in political action? What "meaningful
> resistance" are they offering up to the status quo? Union militancy? What strategies have
> the unions prepared over the past ten years to cope with free trade and outsourcing and
> privatization?

Ok, another problem, I have seen this throughout your recent posts. 
You stand so far back from the working class that it becomes an
extremely simple, blurry analytical object, the workers are so
enmeshed with the union bureaucrats that they can all be dismissed
with a phrase.  Between 1929-1934, when the resistance to the
depression offensive on living standards was up in full force, would
you have said - "What 'meaningful resistance' are they offering up to
the status quo?  Union militancy? What strategies ..." - Because it
was true, the AFL leaders were by and large not offering a way out of
the crisis, only the CP, the Musteites, and the SWP could do that in
the general strikes of 1934.  I am arguing we are seeing 1919-1934 in
slow motion for the working class today, and only the revolutionary
left reconnecting with their natural social base, workers, will offer
a way out.  To put it another way, NOT building a base amongst the
working class means leaving the workers under the influence of John
Sweeney, the Catholic church, the Democratic Party, etc, and produces
outcomes which you use to justify not prioritizing working class work.

> [The unions'] numbers are dwindling and their political clout diminishing.

And this is used as a justification for the left NOT being there when
it comes to the working class.  The working class is being pummeled,
employers have decided not to accept unions but to smash them, no one
in the working class is offering a real way out, and this is why the
left should not prioritize working class work.  Pretty ironic. 
Junaid, I don't know you personally, but I wonder if you talk on a
regular basis with workers in your area, or try to organize them?  I
have felt an incredible anger amongst workers that is prone to explode
and the question is who will be there with credibility and clout in
those communities to suggest a way to resist - that the unions are
getting the shit kicked out of them and no one is offering another way
is WHY the working class must be our utmost preoccupation in this
period.

> This nonsense about how the US left has abandoned class struggle at home because they
> favor international issues by default completely ignores how this situation came about
> in the first place.

Fighting imperialism means organizing in working class communities -
not doing that is not a Marxist approach to fighting imperialism. 
It's ABC, as you say.  The working class is the only social layer that
can give the imperialists a black eye in their belly and the only
class that can destroy them.  Maybe this goes back to our analysis of
Vietnam - do you agree with the thesis that it was the black movement
(the vanguard of the working class), the working class soldiers, and
the Vietnamese who beat imperialism, or was it pacifist marches?

Maybe you haven't noticed, but the real chauvinism problem in America
> is the one that's been drilled into your fantasy heroes, who eagerly support and enlist
> in the very wars that comprise the international "issues", as you lightly phrase the murdering
> of hundreds of thousands of people abroad.

I'm sorry but this is just offensive and not worth addressing - when
talking about consciousness you need to site real conversations with
real people in real places, that's all we can hope for on this list to
get a better sense of what workers are thinking, otherwise I will
assume you poll working class thought and consciousness by reading the
liberal press which is complicit in the literally deadly attacks on
workers.  In my conversations with workers they have ABSOLUTELY not
"eagerly supported and enlisted" in the murder of "hundreds of
thousands of people abroad."  Give me a break.

> If you're anti-war, you're
> a traitor, a commie, a towel head, etc. - and not goign to be liked by many workers in the
> South or Midwest in particular. That's a concrete fact no amount of dissembling can cover up.
>

Epistemological question: How the hell do you think you know what
workers think?  These are human beings you are talking about here, for
one, and they are THE domestic victims of American history, they are
the ex-slaves, the immigrants from colonized countries, poor whites
descended from indentured servants, and they are YOUR class, if you
are a revolutionary, and you are not showing them respect.

> The fundamental problem lies in your total inability to grasp what the face of working America is.

Please Junaid, I have been struggling with this question for years,
apparently you can answer it, will you discuss it in a future post? 
What IS the "face" of working America?

> The group of workers that the world proletarian evokes - steel mills, coal mining, auto
> manufacturing - has rapidly diminished through automation and outsourcing. The protests and social movements
> are mainly led by and composed of these middle-class people. I'm not sure why you want to punish them for it,
> what are they supposed to do, stop existing?

No - BUT, as Marxists, we have to remember where power comes from,
again, the ABCs.  A group of middle-class people in Cuba mobilized the
peasants and workers in not because they measured them against a moral
litmus test of whether they took "radical action" or had "radical
consciousness" but because of their social power and their raw
experiential anger and desires.  In America, the Marxist position on
the anti-war movement would be that mobilizing in the ghettoes, the
big, important workplaces, the ports, amongst the rural poor being
recruited into the war effort, in the ranks of the troops on the
ground here in boot camp and there in Iraq, is how we stop the war. 
No exceptions.  Have we forgotten this in our joy over the big, mostly
middle-class, basically pacifist anti-war/anti-Bush demonstrations?  
Students can play a big role in this mobilizing of the oppressed, as
can intellectuals.  But adapting to a middle-class protest movement,
even bending our theory to call it a "working class" demonstration, is
liberalism - let's call it for what it is.

> Even academics are workers, not just unanchored boogeymen
> on whom you can blame the passivity of other workers.

That's questionable - we could debate it for days, but it obscures the
key question, which is to orient to a much different social layer -
the "academics are workers" line serves to justify self-satisfaction
with a predominantly petty-bourgeois protest movement that is seen by
most workers as something not of themselves.

So now we have the phenomenon where the working-class
> votes Republican because of religion and "cultural issues" where it agrees with the right - down with the fags,
> the niggers, the uppity women, to distill the thing to its essence, and not waste time 'changing the names of things as though
> it changes the things themselves.'

Ridiculous, disrespectful and not worth responding to.
 Josh

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