[Marxism] Talkin about a union and the Swift raids

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Sat Dec 16 21:13:12 MST 2006

Robert Montgomery writes: "JB are you still going to tell me that the class
and race quaestion do not intersect? And that the labor movement in the U.S.
is a single, race-privileged white monolith. Previous posts show that you
don't really believe this so  why persist in this race-baiting?"

About 1,000 heavily armed storm troopers, supported by military vehicles and
helicopters, seize a half dozen major industrial plants, and take about 1300
workers off as prisoners to military facilities, and because a couple of
days later Chris Kutalik sent around an email, you think this shows
something about the class movement in the United States? 

My position is NOT that "the labor movement in the U.S. is a single,
race-privileged white monolith." My position is that there IS NO LABOR
MOVEMENT in the United States, not one worthy of the name, because white
workers by and large identify more with being members of a
privileged/dominant nationality than they do with being part of an oppressed
and exploited class.

I DO NOT BELIEVE you can have a labor movement that is "a single,
race-privileged white monolith." What you are describing there is simply
Americanism, which DOES very much exist as a social force including among
masses of working people, but is invisible because this society ordains it
as "natural," like gravity.

As I have said before, this is the "heart of darkness" that the left needs
to confront, not whether "race trumps class" in some metaphysical sense, but
why it does on the ground in countries like the United States and Britain.
And the "race" involved isn't Black or Latino or Asian or Arab or Muslim,
but white and American and European. 

That Chris sent around an email and took other steps to organize oppostion
to the raid speaks highly of the comrade. But the fact that more than a day
after the events there had not been word one either here on this list nor on
the Solidarity lists I follow, including the main one, shows that this
problem must be constantly and actively combatted even among consciously
antiracist Marxist and socialists, because they are immersed in white
society and quite often unthinkingly reflect its priorities and values.

And this is an almost archetypal case. U.S. imperialism through its media
and in every other way has declared hundreds of deaths along the border and
hundreds of thousands of deportations a year to be "normal," so much so that
when you get a major, qualitative escalation of the war against immigrant
workers, initially among the many hundred of active Anglo socialists on
these lists, there is simply no reaction, none whatsoever. 

And this is exactly what I said, the "spic" syndrome, where Latinos simply
become invisible.

You think the way I did it is tantamount to white-baiting. There is a very
simple solution to this problem. If comrades don't want to be "baited," all
they need do is stop ACTING so white, and respond to events instead on a
CLASS basis. This news was out there all day Tuesday, and the truth is
people simply didn't notice it, the newspapers and TV stations buried it as
just a ho-hum story of some more latinos getting deported, same old same
old, and judging by the reaction on this and other lists, they even got most
white radicals to unthinkingly go along with that view of events. Whereas
among Latinos, and not just radicals but regular people on the street, it
was topic #1 as soon as they news came out.

*  *  *

I want to add a word here about some of the comments being made (not
necessarily on this list) that this raid was aimed at neutralizing the UFCW
in those plants, at smashing "the union movement." There is undoubtedly some
truth in that. 

But the MAIN thing these raids are aiming for is to smash the COMMUNITY
movement, the LATINO movement, not the union movement. 

It is quite artificial in a sense to try to separate our the two, since if
there is ANY immediate brighter future for the labor movement in this
country, it is going to come from Latino immigrant workers who first went to
a demonstration or even carried out a job action in the framework not of a
class movement, but of the Latino "national" (or community) movement. 

But it is important nevertheless. The WAY the radicalization and
politicization of this layer of the working class is taking place is in and
through the Latino immigrant rights movement.

And the response of the UFCW has been, to be brutally frank, pathetic. If I
had to choose between being defended by the "union" and being defended by
the Colorado archdiocese of the Catholic Church, I would not hesitate a
millisecond to choose the Church. Even as the raids were happening the
Church began speaking out, wihtin a couple of hours completely righteous
statements from its top people were all over the media. And judging by press
accounts, they offered quicker and more effective aid than the union.

I am not "for" the Church being better than the union, just as I am not
"for" the race of white workers trumping their "class" identity. But the
first step in changing reality is looking unflichingly at what it really is.


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