[Marxism] Fwd: On the U.S. socialist group Solidarity: Let the dead bury the dead - I
jbustelo at gmail.com
Tue Jan 7 03:14:37 MST 2014
Since the Marxmail censor bot would not let it through in one piece,
here it is in pieces
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: On the U.S. socialist group Solidarity: Let the dead bury the
Date: Tue, 07 Jan 2014 04:37:34 -0500
From: Joaquín Bustelo <jbustelo at gmail.com>
To: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition
<marxism at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu>
Some members of the U.S. socialist organization Solidarity, of which I
am a member, have written me privately expressing disappointment, even
distress in reaction to my post from Sunday about the paralysis of this
organization, and the collapse of [what looks like from where I sit] its
centralized functioning, especially the incapacity of the National
Committee, Political Committee, National Office and National Staff to
maintain in operation something as basic as an email list-serve.
As a way of explaining my stance, let me fill in some of the background:
Prior to last summer's national convention, I was of the opinion that in
the best of all possible worlds, Solidarity might continue as some sort
of network or association of comrades but one that recognized that it
was not the political organization that could unite and be the main
political identity, standard or vehicle for strategic dialogue and
reflection of revolutionary socialists today. And that it /could not
/become that group nor organically flow into such a formation.
The reason for that conclusion is that the proof of the pudding is in
the eating. Coming out of our previous convention in the summer of 2011,
Solidarity proved incapable of orienting to the Occupy Wall Street upsurge.
AFAIK, Solidarity, like pretty much all of the previously-existing
socialist groups, did not even gain a SINGLE new member from a social
and political phenomenon that drew new people into explicitly
anti-capitalist protests by the tens of thousands, including many
thousands who were willing to be arrested for the cause.
And in the specific case of the Atlanta metropolitan area, it blew up
the local Solidarity branch sky high, not just its formal members but a
periphery of a couple of dozen people. We wound up having totally
divergent strategic and tactical visions of the Occupy movement.
Suffice it to say that it was a very close Solidarity sympathizer and a
then-alternate member of our NC who succeeded in preventing Congressman
John Lewis, former chair of SNCC and as such the now sole surviving
member of the "big six" civil rights leaders of the early 1960s from
speaking for a minute or two to the first big OWS "General Assembly" in
Atlanta to give this movement his endorsement. Even though it was a
former Solidarity member, and now a very successful organizer for the
Teamsters, who got John Lewis (who just happened to be there after
taking part in a different event) to offer to say a few words to the
General Assembly, since earlier in the day his office had sent out a
press release hailing the Occupy movement.
For my part, a member of Soli's NC at the time, the only thing that kept
me from leaving in disgust (as many if not most Black folks did) is that
I had to wait for my 17-year-old son to show up, as we had agreed to
meet at the event.
Were one to search for an illustration of the term "utterly and
completely useless," I'd be hard pressed to come up with a better
example than the role of people in and around Solidarity at that event,
where a mostly-white "General Assembly" in a mostly Black city generally
considered the capital of Black America told the area's most prestigious
and respected Black elected official, one who had been overwhelmingly
re-elected to Congress a dozen times, give or take, to take his support
for the movement and shove it.
The role of Soli-linked folks in the event isn't surprising, since in
Atlanta, in the post 9-11 period, Soli folks have been central or
prominent, leading figures in various movements here, including union
organizing, antiwar, Palestine solidarity, immigrant rights and student
anti-cutbacks agitation. No other socialist organization comes close to
I cite this not as mitigation, but to emphasize that as an organization,
"Clusterfuck" is only a first and very mild approximation to how I'd
summarize more than a decade of on-and-off association with Soli here.
And I don't think this is peculiar to Atlanta, but my gut feeling is
that it is inherent in the group.
So that was the reason why, leading up to last summer's Solidarity
convention, I was trying to figure out a way to put into a single
proposal three related ideas:
- our general "from below" movement-building approach works and we
should keep it
- our organization building approach totally sucks and we should trash it
- let's stay (loosely) together to make the transition to a new group
easier (when we find a group)
That's the balance sheet and approach I would have presented to the last
Solidarity convention, held in Chicago at the end of July last year.
*However, before convention, it became clear to me that a group of
younger comrades were organizing to push the organization in some sort
of new direction. I decided to defer to their efforts to replace the
group's bankrupt existing leadership (which I had been a part of). At
the convention, I did my damndest to get comrades from my generation to
accept responsibility for our failures by declining nomination to the
This effort to change Solidarity's leadership was successful.
Some of the comrades who had played the most visible roles in this
change had long been identified with a proposal to update the
organization's 12-point "basis of political agreement" and this became a
priority for the incoming leadership.
The /form/ this took was peculiar. The convention approved with no real
discussion (either there or in preconvention discussion) 10 (I think it
was 10) one sentence points of political agreement, but not the
paragraphs below each point fleshing them out. The proposal from the new
layer of leading comrades was to have a referendum on the detailed text.
Because I had informally expressed my discomfort, comrades in the new
leadership encouraged me, and in reality cajoled and pressured me, to
propose changes to the text and/or express the reasons for my disquiet
in a more systematic way. (BTW, this has ALWAYS been my experience in
Solidarity: dissent is welcomed and respected.)
I was reluctant but after the convention, as the weeks went by with, if
anything, even less coherence in Solidarity's functioning, I finally
felt that I had a duty to begin drafting what is below. I can't really
say exactly how or why the "workerism" or "class reductionism" I point
to below is leading to Solidarity's disintegration, but in my gut I
believe that is the case.
I've tried to post this several times to the main Solidarity list, our
"online discussion bulletin," beginning a couple of days before
Thanksgiving and the original deadline for voting on the "points of
unity" referendum. I tried again in early December, then right before
the extended referendum deadline in the third week of December, and just
a couple of days ago. It never did get sent out.
I am posting it here not to get around "censorship" by Solidarity's
leadership in any intentional political sense, but as an illustration of
the reality that the group is no longer functioning as a viable
political organization, because there is a point when dysfunction
becomes as bad or worse than censorship, and I think we passed it a
month or two ago.
[A technical note: for whatever reasons, which I don't pretend to
understand, my good friend and comrade Louis never allowed anything but
plain text on this list, so my formatting of what is above and below,
including /italics, /*bold *and
may very well be lost unless this policy has changed. I will send a copy
of this post as I originally formatted it to anyone that asks for it.]
[continues in part II]
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