[Marxism] Of victory and victories

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Sun Dec 14 11:38:36 MST 2008

S. Artesian writes about Congressman Luis Gutierrez: "So he's the only voice
that Latinos have at the federal government level? And so what?"

I thank S. Artesian for his post underlining and demonstrating what I said:
that most of the left is completely blind to the issue of the democratic
right of nationally oppressed people to political inclusion and

On the one hand Gutierrez's role is relevant because it was precisely the
federal Congress that created the bailout fund for the banks. On the other
because he is really involved with various community issues and movements,
including around immigration. Not that his role is a good one. But it is

Under the specific circumstances of this fight, drawing in a member of
Congress that, whether due to his convictions or his constituency, found
himself taking a position in support of the workers demands was not a false
step on the part of the workers, but a smart move. 

Sartesian now claims "I never said anything about the quality of the
congressman or whether or not anyone should appeal to him."

But in his previous post he sarcastically castigated Mark, "Yeah right, the
politics of defending the 'selection' of a Democratic congressman as the
appropriate representative of the workers engaged in struggle is so much
more subtle, well thought out, and adult."

And before that, in responding to Mark, he had asserted:

"The key to this however, and to your entire position of equivocation is in
your [Mark's] statement: 'When workers need representation, are they
supposed to not call on the government to live up to those claims'

"Indeed, when the workers need representation?  So a congressman of the
Democratic party can represent the workers?  They, the workers, need his

What set off that series of exchanges was this post by Schact, which S.
Artesian specifically *endorsed*: 

"But the problem that detracts from it as a complete success is the sudden
appearance of the local congressional Democrat as the focus - in the media
reports - of settlement negotiations at the end. And there the tendencyi is
to thurst the movement back into the channels of bourgeois politics and away
from class action. This is a phenomenon we will encounter again and  again."

To which S. Artesian responded: "In general I agree with this, with one
caveat-- according to Labor Notes, the congressman did not suddenly appear,
but was appealed to by the union leadership-- again something that willl be
encountered again and again."

So contrary to S. Artesian's "never said anything about the quality of the
congressman or whether or not anyone should appeal to him," he and his
co-thinker Schact specifically pointed to Luis Gutierrez's role as the
"problem" that kept this struggle from being "a complete success" and S.
Artesian pointedly and repeatedly ridiculed the workers choosing to
Gutierrez to "represent" them (in point of fact, the union got Gutierrez
involved as a facilitator or mediator NOT as their "representative"
although, in this case, the difference was small, as Gutierrez was clearly
going to bat for the workers). 

*  *  *

For Sartesian, the only thing worth noting about Congressman Luis Gutierrez
is that he is a Democrat. That settles all questions. So much so that in all
the back and forth about him, Gutierrez's name was never even mentioned.

But for an active participation either in the Latino community or in the
labor movement, that level of abstract generalization is not enough. 

S. Artesian --like many others on this list-- is unable to think
dialectically about these sorts of situations where someone is BOTH a
bourgeois politician AND a representative of nationally oppressed people.

What this leads to is dissolution and liquidation of the national question.

This is ALSO what leads S. Artesian to claim --without a shred of supporting
evidence--  "it is very interesting to see Joaquin go from his 'limited
endorsement' of certain Dems  based on their politics, i.e. McKinney, to
more or less blanket endorsement based on ethnicity."

My calling for a vote for McKinney WITHIN the Democratic Party congressional
primaries here was NOT based on her politics, although it made it much
easier to explain and her politics were very much at the center of the
brawl. But the key issue at stake as I saw it was the democratic right of
Black people to have the political representation they wanted. It was, if
you will, strictly based on what S. Artesian calls "ethnicity," i.e., the
national question in the United States and as it specifically manifested in
those electoral contests. 

And I do NOT have a policy of "blanket endorsement based on ethnicity." 

I do very much advocate that people *take into account,* in other words, try
to understand and be sensitive to, the national questions implicated when
you have Black or Latino officeholders in these sorts of situations, and
especially in a case like this one, where the politician involved actively
relates to the community and its issues and movements, and is the most
prominent representative of Latinos (in this case) in government in the
entire Midwest region, and the struggle involved is clearly seen not just as
a labor union issue, but a Latino community issue.

S. Artesian drags in the question of "endorsement" by the hair. I did not at
all raise the issue of elections. What I raised was the ultraleft stupidity
of attacking or denigrating Congressman Gutierrez's role WITHOUT EVEN
UNDERSTANDING that the reason he is involved AT ALL is because the Latino
community looks to him as its representative, and the big majority of these
workers were Latinos.

Because what that comes across like is attacking the ONE congressman who did
become more involved, and letting OTHERS, like Jan Schakowsky and Rahm
Emmanuel, off the hook. 

Finally, there is this: "Oh, and one more thing, I don't even know the name
of the congressperson from the district I live in... I know, I know, that's
because I'm not Latino and thus not concerned with the quality of my
representatives.  How uncivic of me."

I leave aside the question of how it is possible for someone to be
politically active with such an attitude, to point once again at S.
Artesian's completely cavalier attitude towards the question of the
DEMOCRATIC RIGHT of oppressed nationalities to political inclusion and
representation. Again S. Artesian distorts matters by saying the issue is
"the quality of my representatives," and sneering "how uncivic of me." 

But what this shows is not that S. Artesian is "uncivic," but that he is
completely BLIND to white supremacy and white privilege.


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