[Marxism] Class Consciousness Vs Americanism

David McDonald dbmcdonald at comcast.net
Sun Nov 5 10:16:40 MST 2006

Thanks to Joaquin for a clear and succinct exposition of the basic problem:
not only the SWP, but all organizations that based themselves in the
industrial working class or tried to since 1968 have failed to recruit any
substantial number of people for systemic, not episodic reasons.

No wonder. The industrial working class has suffered extreme diminution. In
twenty years of industrial work I never worked in a stable union job in a
stable or growing industry: rubber, trucking, rail, steel, garment. I had so
many plants close around me, go non-union, or get sold for assets (i.e.
workers fired) that it wasn't funny. I did get to spend a lot of time on
unemployment benefits, I'll say that, often warring with branch organizers
who wanted me to give up that free time and money to get a $3.50/hr garment
job. I am proud to say that I resisted in every case.

The organized segment of the work force is extremely small, probably smaller
than it's been for a hundred years and is concentrated in defense jobs or
defense feeder industries, public workers and service industries,
construction, and cops and corrections workers. Recent events at Ford and GM
have demonstrated that there is no fight whatsoever left in the UAW, just a
scramble to get the most available before that goes away, too. I have not
the slightest doubt that the workers taking those buyouts are making the
best decisions available to them under the current circumstances; would you
like to bet that there will be more good autoworking union jobs in thirty
years inside the US than exist today?

Henry CK Liu, a man thrown off this list, considers this the victory of
international labor arbitrage: capital's ability to move the factors of
production anywhere on the face of the earth to take advantage of lower
labor costs. This is the fruit of neo-imperialism and merged with the
unequal exchange that means that non-first world economies are
systematically robbed by international trade through the mechanisms of
dollar hegemony.

The other thinker we should pay attention to goes under the name Melvin P.
He has also been thrown off this list but still contributes to the A list,
as does Henry CK Liu, where I follow their thinking. His basic idea is that
labor has been driven out of production to such an extent by the growth of
capital that no program for revolution can base itself on the industrial
working class; it must instead be based directly on the immiserated
population as a whole. His program, Victory to the Toilers in their
Immediate Struggle, is not a bad one to my way of thinking. Strict adherence
to it, for instance, would have led a lot of people to be more involved in
the titanic struggles of the Hispanic population of the US during the spring
of 2006.

Here's my contribution: we must seek greater unities. We have seen two great
unities in recent years: the Hispanic upsurge of 2006 in the US and the
worldwide mobilizations of February 15, 2003. The moment the antiwar
movement lost the unity of February 15th, which was approximately February
16th, was the death knell of mass mobilization against the war in the United
States. There has not been a decent demonstration since. They have been
small, riven by stupid controversies, illuminated by nothing. They are
barely worth denouncing. The population of the US has totally detoured
around the ineffective, division-ridden antiwar movement and is massing to
do harm to the war effort, or so it seems, electorally. Weirdly to me, the
people of the US are being egged on by the mass media in this effort. It is
not something I have seen before, or at least remember.

People know when something is cooking. They know when the wind is up. That's
why they flock to the truly united, truly massive undertakings, because
something might happen that could change things. They can't be conned by
rhetoric. Both February 15th and May 1 were preceded by months of early,
smaller mobilizations that nevetheless showed the possibility of true mass
action and which in turn FORCED THE UNITY that led to the Big Ones. You had
your Maoists, your Trots, your Commies, your Democrats; alternatively, your
disc jockeys, newspaper publishers, church leaders, your community activists
who suppressed their differences long enough to make something happen. In
both cases the ultimate impetus had two parts: a heretofore unknown unity,
and the possibility of changing world politics by timely, i.e. NOT
propogandistic, action.

My opinion is that the Hispanic mobilizations were essentially successful:
they headed off the worst of the depradations Bush and the Congress had
planned for immigrants in the short run. It has been a long damn time since
popular action in the streets accomplished anything good in the US.

Electoral action by small groups essentially mirrors their ordinary
propagandistic activity in mass movements: various attempts to capture the
leadership by imposition of a political line counterposed to everyone else's
political line -- branding. Everyone knows this will go nowhere, except
those so engaged.

I argued in the Aaron Dixon campaign (for US Senate, against the hated
wardog Maria Cantwell and her insurance company exec opponent McGavick) that
the Greens should completely "unbrand" their campaign by removing all
references to Green Party cant and previous practice and concentrate
exclusively on the war issue. The idea was to create a true antiwar
candidacy, not a Green candidacy that happened to be against the war. A
candidacy that could truly attract a wide range of antiwar activists by
divorcing itself from the narrow historical interests of the Green Party.
Something that posed the potential of a GREATER UNITY. The Greens instead
chose to keep their Ten Key Values and the rest of their "branding" chitchat
and go for the safe target of 5% of the vote, the ballot status cutoff,
which would leave them with "something" at the end of the campaign. Despite
having a wonderful candidate, Aaron Dixon, the Greens have been so unable to
spoil the candidacy of Cantwell that the Republican McGavick has started
positively advertising Dixon's antiwar stance in his own commercials. (See
http://www.mikemcgavick.com/files/media/video/decisive.asx for this truly
different political commercial.) We are mere days away from the opportunity
to draw a balance sheet on this effort.

We need an effort led by the true emergent leaders of the antiwar
movement -- Stan Goff, Cindy Sheehan and whoever else to forge greater
unities in BOTH mass movement and electoral channels. The slim list of true
leaders forged by the antiwar movement is thin, but it is what it is. It is
where we can start.

David McDonald

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