Fwd: [Marxism] Think in class terms?

Sukla Sen suklasenp at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Nov 3 19:38:53 MST 2006


There are a couple of points, I'd like to make.

1. As long as we're thinking in terms of changing the
world (capitalist) order, those who're at the hub have
got to be involved in the project. There's just no
escape from that in spite of all obvious difficulties.
The difficulties constitute a critical part of the
picture, but that's not the whole picture.
At times those at the hub get motivated by the
struggles at the periphery, at times they're
The radicalisation of the West during Vietnam War is a
prime example of the first category, and the global
protests on Feb. 15 2003 belongs essentially to the
second category.
The immigrant workers' massive mobilisation in the
recent days fall somewhere in between for these
immigrant workers are at the hub itself but
nevertheless immigrant, and therby to a significant
extent 'outsiders'.

2. Of course class is not the only fault line. Colour,
religion, language and, of course, gender are some of
the other important fault lines. And these fault lines
do not always run parallelly, quite often they do
criss-cross - further complicating the situation as we
can see in the case of Muslim, or Hindu/Sikh, women
for example.

3. Unless those at the hub are stirred up, the
struggles at the peripheries, by themselves, will have
only limited impacts.
There can't be any better illustration than the
'liberation' of Vietnam.
In fact, the prospects of that limited success will
also to a significant extent depend on to what extent
it can impact the hub.
A comparison between the Palestinian liberation
struggles and the one in Vietnam would be a useful
Much would also depend on the level of damage that the
struggle at the periphery can inflict on the hub
A comparison between Iraq and Palestine would help to
illustrate. So it's an interactive and dynamic

4. Mobilisations must be attempted making use of all
the fault lines, to the extent possible at a given
point of time, to an extent together and to an extent
In case of the mobilisation of 'immigrant workers',
the 'immigrantness' and 'workerness' both were

5. The Third World is no homogeneous category. A Third
World nation is also as much class divided, minority
sub-nationalities are as much, if not far more,
oppressed. (Just look at Darfur.) The same with gender
and somewhat similar with ecology.
The conditions of the Bangladeshi workers in India are
far far worse than their counterparts in the West.

6. I. So there's just no single fault line.
  II. There's hardly any hope of changing the (global)
order without getting the hub stirred up.
 III. The struggles of and at the peripheries are
nevertheless very important in their own rights and
also as catalytic agents for struggles at the hub(s). 


dear sayan and sukla,
below is a quick response from the labor religion
network volunteer on my forwarding joaquin's message.:
this is precisely why it is important to frame this in
terms of empire and race. the battle in the courts is
over whether --esp. in the case of undocumented
workers--  labor/employment 
law applies, or immigration law applies (or which
applies first). and the court rulings are that imm
law, more and more, is the more applicable. 
i see the drawing of the national line as a strategy 
white privilege and thinking third world as  
counter-strategy. This is a struggle over and through
scale which is highlighted (in an ironic way) by the 
AFL-CIO's filing a suit with the interamerican
commission on human rights to protest ICE's raids and
treatment of latino citizens. that is what i am trying
to figure out. what the heck is AFLCIO up to ? it
seems  like such a wonderful thing to do and i know a
lot of our volunteers are excited about it. but we
need to think about this more carefully. 

--- Sayan Bhattacharyya <bhattach at umich.edu> wrote:

> Hi Ananatakrishna and Sukla,
> This is an article posted recently on Marxmail by
> Joaquin Bustelo, a  member
> of the US socialist group Solidarity, who is based
> in Atlanta, Georgia, and
> who has been closely involved with the immigrants'
> movement in the USA for
> this past year.
> This article by him touches in many ways on this 
> discussion that we're
> having currently in FOIL, I think, and so I thought
> I'd reproduce it
> (below).
> -Sayan.
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Joaquin Bustelo <jbustelo at bellsouth.net>
> Date: Oct 27, 2006 11:46 PM
> Subject: [Marxism] Think in class terms?
> To: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition
> <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
> >
> Louis writes: "If revolutionaries have any purpose
> in countries like the
> U.S. today, it is to begin to inspire working people
> to think in class
> terms. As long as they see their interests as
> intertwined with a party whose
> funding comes mostly from real estate developers,
> Wall Street investment
> firms, retail megacorporations and white-shoe law
> firms, it seems unlikely
> that class consciousness can develop fully."
> I thank Louis for this fine example of why we need
> to think this problem
> through to the root, which is the lack of a
> really-existing, actual
> class-for-itself movement in the United States,
> rather than mindlessly
> repeating formulas from the past.
> Why does he privilege class here? Is it true that,
> for example, undocumented
> workers face the same problems and conditions as
> office employees for the
> Coca Cola Company?
> Among the popular chants at the immigrant rights
> demonstration in Atlanta
> three weeks ago was "we are workers, we are not
> terrorists" (in Spanish, of
> course).
> The reason it is so popular is that the immigrant
> workers are class
> conscious, and are appealing to other workers for
> solidarity on a class
> basis, as they do in their countries of origin. They
> get absolutely no
> response. White anglos view themselves as
> "Americans" (which really means
> white anglos) and what they see in these immigrants
> are not class brothers
> and sisters but race/cultural others, and in many
> cases, enemies.
> Even many Blacks (though certainly not all by a long
> shot) are confused
> about this. But when I speak to Blacks about the
> immigrant rights movement,
> my pitch isn't to their *class* consciousness but to
> their *national*
> consciousness and interests, to the history and
> experiences of Black people
> fighting against racism and discrimination, and the
> way class enters into it
> is that the man is trying to play Blacks and Latinos
> against each other and
> we'd be better off to unite against the man.
> Perhaps rather than our purpose being "to begin to
> inspire working people to
> think in class terms" our purpose --if we have one--
> is to inspire Blacks
> and Latinos to think in Third World terms. I mean
> that completely seriously.
> Perhaps it is to place the interests of
> African-American and Latino women
> front and center in a Brown-Black alliance.
> The immigrant rights protests of last spring showed
> the tremendous potential
> that exists for a mass movement of struggle in the
> Latino community. I
> believe exactly the same (and in reality GREATER)
> potential actually exists,
> is really there, in the Black community. That is
> what there is to work with
> in this country in 2006 in terms of social movement
> with sufficient "weight"
> to qualitatively affect U.S. politics and bring
> about social changes.
> On the other hand, there is not such movement or
> potential of the working
> class as a whole RIGHT NOW waiting to be unleashed.
> There are, it is true, millions, probably tens of
> millions of decent,
> honest, humane white people in this country,
> overwhelmingly, needless to
> say, working people, many of them with some degree
> of class consciousness.
> They are the social base of the antiwar movement,
> the Green Party, all sorts
> of other things.
> Experience has shown that despite its good
> intentions, the various
> political/social movement expressions of this sector
> have been unable to
> reach out to and link up with the Black and Latino
> communities, for example
> around the issue of the war. There is some evidence
> that the Greens in
> California have developed an audience in layers of
> the Black and especially
> the Latino communities, but actually --there is a
> lesson here-- that's
> something that's happened to a very significant
> degree because of non-anglo
> leaders of the Greens.
> I really don't have a pat formula as to what is the
> purpose of
> revolutionaries in this country today. But if we are
> to be anything more
> than utopian prophets preaching in the wilderness,
> certainly that purpose or
> those purposes have to engage very clearly and
> directly with the actual
> social forces and sectors that are at least somewhat
> cohered and in motion,
> such as the Black and Latino communities, rather
> than forces and sectors
> that show no sign of cohering as a group, such as
> left-handed people, those
> who measure between 5'3" and 5'8", folks that like
> Yogurt and the working
> class as a whole, to mention just a few.
> I know. You object, because the working class is an
> *objective* reality,
> people who face common problems and issues and
> conditions. But that is not
> how it presents to individual workers, and different
> sectors of workers.
> The problems, issues and conditions do not present
> as "common" but rather in
> racialized and gendered ways. White males in this
> society enjoy a
> tremendously privileged position in relation to the
> rest of the population
> of the country and especially the world. They KNOW
> "America" and "Americanism" and defend it for that
> reason.
> This is the REALITY.
> Louis in traditional Marxist fashion posits that
> some catasrophe will change
> all this. "At some point, these contradictions will
> reach such an unbearable
> state that millions of ordinary working people will
> be thrust into the
> political arena in the same way that they were
> earlier in history."
> Then again, why wait? What Louis describes ALREADY
> happened, this year, this
> spring, in the Latino communities. Literally. So as
> it turns out, even what
> is "unbearable" presents in a differentiated way to
> different sectors of the
> working people.
> Joaquín

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