Friday, April 28, 2006 

May Day Is the Workers' Day!
by the National Executive Committee, FRSO/OSCL

May Day Is the Workers' Day! This is no mere slogan. It is a battle cry and it has rung out across the globe in countless languages for 120 years.

May 1, 1886. May Day, the international working class holiday, was born in an eruption of struggle as desperate, determined working men and women in the United States, many of them immigrants, struck and rallied, demanding the 8-hour workday.

May 1, 2006. The United States is once again being shaken to its core by the power of working people. A sudden, massive upsurge based among immigrant workers has set the stage for a day of protest that reclaims the spirit of that original May Day. Over the last two months as many as five million immigrants, some undocumented, some with papers and some citizens, have taken to the streets.

In 1886, workers were demanding to be treated as human beings rather than machines, and rejecting being forced to work 12, 14, 16 hours a day, seven days a week: "8 hours for work, 8 hours for rest, 8 hours for what we will!"

In 2006, immigrant workers are demanding to be treated like human beings, instead of being defined as felons, denied basic human rights, kept from their loved ones, subjected to grinding exploitation and treated with racist contempt by employers, government and media alike: "Ningun Ser Humano Es Ilegal."

Today's upsurge has a dual character. Immigrants are oppressed as immigrants, as people of color in a white-supremacist society. This upsurge is based in oppressed-nationality communities. Many of the upsurge's early leaders have been businesspeople, media figures, community organizers and religious leaders from the Mexicana/o community and other immigrant groups.

But the vast armies of people who have taken to the streets, who have dared firing and deportation to demand justice, are workers and the school-age daughters and sons of workers. Their demands, simple calls for justice and equality, challenge this system to its racist core. As this new movement forges unity with the Black Liberation Struggle, which has shaped US history for 400 years, powerful new blows can be dealt to our common enemy.

Driven here by the rape of the economies in their home countries at the hands of the World Bank and giant multinational corporations, immigrants now find themselves fighting for survival in the very belly of the beast. And it is here that they have taken a giant step into the unknown, throwing forward overnight a powerful new front in the long global battle against the rule of the US imperialist ruling class and their almighty yanqui dollar.

May Day, 2006. Workers across the planet today are celebrating the eclipse of pro-US lackey governments across Latin America, the advance of the people of Nepal against their feudal monarchy on the way to a people's republic, the general strike that defeated anti-labor laws in France, the growing resistance to all-out government assault on unions and other popular movements in the Philippines, the train wreck that the criminal US occupation of Iraq has become, and scores of other victories, large and small. Today we share those triumphs with our working class sisters and brothers around the world, and we can be proud that today they draw heart and strength from what immigrant workers are doing right here, right now.

National Executive Committee,

Freedom Road Socialist Organization /
Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad

Thursday, April 27, 2006 

¡Sanjulo Ber, presente!

I rarely post entire tributes to fallen comrades, opting to instead link to the amazing statements that others make. But this striking piece written by Jamala Rogers is too powerful, too moving, and too beautiful to simply point at. So here, in its entirety is a tribute to an amazing brother who is no longer with us in body. ¡Sanjulo Ber, presente!

by Jamala Rogers
Sanjulo and me. Our political histories were very similar. Our political paths were both parallel and intersecting.

Our first serious involvement came as black students from working-class neighborhoods. We were searching for our cultural and political identity and our place in the continuum of African liberation.

I first met Sanjulo as a Kawaida Advocate in the Congress of African People in the early '70s. I was in St. Louis building a CAP chapter there, while Sanjulo did the same in Pittsburgh. So when Art Young recalls that Sanjulo "did the jobs that others would not: going door to door and hanging posters," it was a reflection of the revolutionary work ethic that we had learned in CAP. We proudly worked to be real servants of the people.

When CAP embraced a Marxist-Leninist ideology, we became the Revolutionary Communist League. RCL eventually merged with the League for Revolutionary Struggle (M-L). Our political journey led us to embrace socialism as system that valued humanity and met the needs of all people. It was a vision for the reconstruction of a society free of all forms of exploitation and oppression. Ultimately, we found our ideological home with Freedom Road Socialist Organization / Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad. Sanjulo was a member of FRSO/OSCL at his death.

As organizers in the Black Liberation Movement, we sought political forms to advance that agenda. We were founding members of the National Black United Front, the Black Radical Congress and other formations. We worked locally in various groups over the years which shared our commitment to justice, equality and peace.

Sanjulo was a working class leader and dedicated soldier in the war against capitalism and globalism. Whether organizing workers at the Pittsburgh Plate Glass factory or working with youth, Sanjulo worked tirelessly to empower those at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. He was a familiar and respected figure in the Hill District of Pittsburgh.

Sanjulo brought the same fighting attitude about the human rights struggle to his medical condition. As his health started to deteriorate, he would still push forward -- just slower -- in doing the tasks he thought were important. During this time of tenuous health, anyone who worked with Sanjulo had a story to tell about his amazing perseverance.

I vividly recall attending a national FRSO/OSCL meeting and was shocked to see Sanjulo there. Why? Because he had just had an organ transplant a couple of weeks prior and I just knew he would be home recuperating. Another time, he had to be hospitalized for pneumonia when he had pushed himself to participate in a gathering in Boston. He seemed unstoppable.

Sanjulo had been active in Black Voices for Peace and forceful in his views against the war and Bush's military policies. He insisted on participating in the local activities marking the third anniversary of the US attack on the Iraqi people. Poor health forced him to ride in the march but he was there.

Sanjulo died on April 8. A year ago, almost to the date, the Pittsburgh community held a fundraiser to cover the continuing expenses of his transplants. I remember being touched by the words on the benefit announcement: "…we are one house bound together by devotion, love, happiness and productivity… we are forever one family."

I got the word earlier this year that Sanjulo's body systems were failing and the doctors had conceded to his fate. Final arrangements were being made by family and friends as Sanjulo checked into a hospice. Before the sad news could truly set in, I was told that Sanjulo was sent home -- not exactly spunky, but definitely not fitting the criteria for the hospice residents. No doubt, the facility's staff heard and saw him continue to organize from his hospice room.

Happily, I called him. "San," I teased, "I heard you got thrown out of hospice for kickin' it up!" He chuckled. "Yeah." I think I detected a little smugness in his voice that once again he did a slam-dunk in the face of death.

Brother Sanjulo's tenacity and triumph over his medical hurdles gave many of us the false illusion that he would continue to beat the odds. That he would continue to be there with us, for us.

However, the time came that Sanjulo's body couldn't keep up with his indomitable spirit. He was inspiring in death and he was in life, always fighting the good fight.

Sanjulo stands apart from wanna-be heroes in our struggle. He dedicated his entire life to the liberation struggle. He now takes his deserving place, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the many revolutionaries who chose a life of sacrifice and service. He truly lived up to the meaning of his name -- finest. Sanjulo represented the finest of humanity and the best of our most valiant fighters.

Sanjulo Ber, my friend, my comrade, I am proud to have known you and will continue to be inspired by your life's work. ¡Presente!

April 2006

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 

Pre-Marital Counseling in Southern Appalachia

A good friend of mine laughted out loud for several moments when she first heard that I was getting married. I guess my facial reaction wasn't what she had expected, because she quickly followed with a "you're not kidding are you?! Holy shit."

In order for two people in a heterosexual relationship to get a marriage license in Tennessee you have to pay a $130 fee. However, if you can survive a half-dozen hours of pre-marital counseling, the fee is reduced to $30. Naturally, I called up the University of Tennessee Benefits Office, and using my Employee Assist Program asked for them to set us up with a counselor.

So imagine my surprise when my partner informed me on the way to our first session that she thought that our counseling center was affiliated with the Church of Christ. Well she was slightly mistaken, the counseling center is affiliated with the Johnson Bible College, where our counselor happens to teach, which is in turn affiliated with "the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ whose heritage is rooted in the Restoration Movement (also known as the Stone-Campbell Movement)."

By the time we got to the makeshift counseling center, there was not doubt about its faith-based status. The front window housed what appeared from the street to be a stained-glass depiction of Noah's arc. One of the two cars in the parking lot had a "W the President" bumper sticker, which we deduced belonged to the counselor after the folks in the session immediately before ours left in the other car.

The waiting room, which was more like a living room since the whole center was in a converted house, had not one or two depictions of the “great arc,” but twenty-three! Yes, you read correctly, 23 as in one short of two dozen in a single room. They were on the walls, there were Noah and the Arc pillows, children's books, a throw over the back of the couch, and weirdest of all little animal toys next to a cast-rubber bearded man all surrounding an arc made of pop-sickle-stick like wood (for several of the animals, including the kangaroo and lion there was only one present, which could set off some major theological arguments...).

At this point we seriously considered leaving. But it had taken three weeks to get this appointment, and with the wedding date fast approaching, we decided to stick it out to see just how bad it got. After all, our combined income for 4-6 hours isn't much more than $100 and maybe we'd learn something useful.

We then spent 35 minutes filling out forms asking about our physical and mental health histories, about significant events in our life, etc; and we finally begin the counseling session.

There were certainly low points, but they were more comical than frightening, like when she asked if we were sexually active or had ever been (ha!) or if we'd like to spend the last session focused on what scripture says about our proper roles as man and wife. We were both raised in the Catholic Church, so perhaps we laugh stuff off that would really freak other folks out. In all, the counselor was not nearly as bad as I thought that she would be.

It probably goes without saying, but earlier this week UT Benefits received a strongly worded letter from me concerning our EAP provider's policies, specifically arranging counseling with faith-based providers for government employees without any discussion of the employee's personal preferences.

One session down, three to go...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006 

Latest Statement from the Central Committee, CPN(M)

The CPN(M)'s central committee has put out a new statement rejecting the king's weak attempt to buy more time. The International Nepal Solidarity Network has a whole run-down on the Maoists' position here.

It also appears that the Maoists are leading another wave of nation-wide protests demanding the institution of the Constituent Assembly and warning the SPA not to accept further compromises that betray the demands of the 12 point agreement. News of this here.

I haven't been able to find an English translation of this latest statement yet, but has the following was posted in the comments section on the International Nepal Solidarity Network's website:

General points in English:

The Maoists reject the offer of the King and they think the SPA is making a historical mistake by accepting the offer. They are also disappointed that the SPA has not consulted them before

The movement of the Maoists will not be stopped until it is sure that the sovereignty of the people is ensured by calling a constituent assembly.

The Maoists at the same time expressed their commitment to the 12-point agreement between MBs and SPA and they especially urge the parties to act in accordance with the agreement.

The Maoists announce some programmes: Countrywide peoples’ mobilisation and demonstration/gatherings. Physical action be taken against the elements who are still against the movement or who suppress the movement. Blockage of Kathmandu and district capitals until unconditional elections for a constituent assembly is announced.

Monday, April 24, 2006 

"Killer Sound" on Highland Ave.

For folks who haven't seen Kevin Sites's series In the Hot Zone, you might want to grab yourself a basin before you head over to his site. In an attempt to put a more humanitarian face on embedded journalism (because, as Propaghandi so pointedly notes, all interventions should be humanitarian in nature), Sites is spending a whole year of his lily-assed life in "conflict zones." You heard me right, he's going to do it for one whole year. *gasp*

His latest venture takes him to Columbia. But instead of focusing on the actual good done by the FARC-EP and ELN in liberated areas, or the real limitations and major fuck-ups associated with trying to build a revolution upon a narco-capitalist export orientation strategy, or the heroic unionization efforts of William Mendoza and others, his topic this week focuses on Bogota's Battalion of Immediate Artistic Reaction.

This liberal attempt to "end the violence" by turning obsolete rifles into guitars has all the makings of a perfect bourgeois human interest story: a lone, young white dude with an idea so powerful that...

See, I told you to bring along that basin.

Maybe this "oh so cool" display of music-inspired, hipster street-theatre wouldn't set my gag reflex off so much if Knoxville's "alternative weekly" hadn't run this story on the recently renamed "biscoteque" (formerly named "bagel") house in the UT area's Fort Sanders neighborhood and the tribe of "trusta-farians"* that live there.

And maybe still, if the ever "alternative" Metro-Pulse hadn't decided to run this piece of ultra-individualist shit not two weeks after chiding UTK's Progressive Student Alliance in this most reactionary of diatribes.

But who needs actual mass work that tries to engage actual people by meeting them where they are actual at when privileged white folks can make stupid-ass, racist movies that poke-fun at the genocide of entire indigenous nations?

*Trusta-farian: Bourgeois white kid with dreads. See Also: WASPafarian; Cultural Appropriation; White-Supremacy.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 

The Hammer Falls?

This article on* is pretty disturbing. Hopefully, this will be one isolated incident; but based on the I.C.E. official's statements and with the May Day demonstrations just around the corner we could very likely see a real increase of this type of repression over the next couple weeks.

Here in Knoxville these fears really came out when a county sheriff detained two vehicles of a large caravan of folks from upper East TN who were on their way to the April 10th demo here in town.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 

FRSO [Fight Back]'s decent into revisionism?

Note: The following post has been revised since it first appeared on this blog. I hope that this rendition will allow for some comradely debate and real exploration of some important questions. At no point is it my intention to seem flip, argumentative or sectarian. I try to give props where they are due, and I do have a great amount of respect for much of FRSO(Fightback)'s work that I am aware of. For the purpose of the following discussion I will refer to the larger Freedom Road as FRSO/OSCL or simply Freedom Road and the smaller group (located primarily in Chicago and Minnesota) as FRSO [Fight Back].

In 1999 Freedom Road Socialist Organization suffered a split. At the time of the split many on the left posed questions concerning the future of both FRSOs (both of splitting groups continue to use the same name). The FRSO was an entity created by the union of several New Communist Movement remnants, and upon seeing its demise some claimed that split signified the closing of another chapter in US anti-revisionist, and specifically (post)Maoist, struggle in defeat. Many others had more basic questions like: Could the two groupings continue to stand as separate organizations? Was the split permanent, and if not how long would it last? How would each organization address the critiques of their former comrades in future line and practice.

Several years later, FRSO/OSCL and FRSO [Fight Back] both continue to exist. Although I'm not personally familiar with the
FRSO [Fight Back] folks, I do have several friends who are members of the FRSO/OSCL, but as best as I can tell they both continue to grow. Based on public documents and summation that I have read, they both continue to do advanced work, more grounded in actual day to day mass struggles than many, probably most other revolutionary organizations in the U.S.

Yet, from my vantage point the political differences between the two groups, and between
FRSO [Fight Back] and much of the anti-revisionist trend that produced it, continue to grow. The fiftieth anniversary of the anti-revisionist movement, as well as recent discussions by some on the left concerning this movement's present tasks, has renewed my interest in the general direction of FRSO [Fight Back]'s line concerning these issues. Since I know that some comrades in or around the FRSO [Fight Back] check this blog somewhat regularly I would like to share the conclusions that I have drawn, pose some questions for deeper exploration and hope that some conversation will take place around these issues.

I was aware that following the split, Fightback rejected the existence of anything like an international crisis of socialism, or even widespread failures in formerly socialist societies. This rejection included the dropping of the
(pre-split)FRSO document On the Crisis of Socialism, which had been adopted at the organization's 1991 congress and reaffirmed in 1997 (despite some steep opposition from the trend that would go on to create the Fight Back! FRSO), and the line expressed in both the "Introduction" and "We Stand For Socialism" sections of the FRSO/SON Unity Document.

Further investigation of recent Fightback documents shows the extent to which shift in orientation has progressed. Organizational documents elevate "Democratic Korea" (the North Korean monarchichal dictatorship) to a "socialist countr[y] where the working people rule society." In the same and other documents the organization maintains an insistence on wishing into being current-day Chinese socialism even as evidence to the contrary
continues to mount. The only mention of "counter-revolution" within China references the 1989 Tiananmen Square student uprising and general strike, but concludes that this was merely an attempt - leading one to believe that China still has functioning socialism?! My understanding of the ever so convoluted history of NCM splits and line struggles is not as strong as it might be, but do I draw an incorrect conclusion in seeing the bad line concerning the Gang of Four and the triumph of capitalist roaders after Mao's death (taken by the RWHq) followed to an even more indefensible extreme here?

Perhaps most strikingly divergent from anti-revisionism's basic orientation, they appear to have concluded that the Soviet Union had functioning socialism up until its 1991 collapse.

The adoption, wholesale, of the Anybody But Bush line by the organization is also a truly interesting development, and not because I disagree with it. To the contrary, I felt like this line was the correct one. I know that its correct use by UTK's Progressive Student Alliance brought in a large number of new fighters, many of whom have since been won over to socialism. Instead I found it interesting that Fightback, which had until that point positioned itself as the ML, anti-social democratic wing within the pre-split FRSO would take a line that many on the left (both hard-line MLM enthusiasts and nearly all Trotskists) labeled as nothing more than social democratic idealism. Given the organization's position that we need something more than the Democratic Party, I wonder how it's members now respond to the critique pushed by their former comrades who supported and continue to support the theoretical framework of Left Refoundation. Are there other methods for Party Building that differ greatly from the perspective that the self-identified socialist left cannot itself constitute the vanguard of anything?

The ABB line choice also underlined another growing phenomena concerning
FRSO [Fight Back]'s rhetoric: increasing teleological posturing. Following the election, an official statement by the organization claimed that "victory [over the Bush agenda] was certain"! This sentiment was echoed again in the 20th Anniversary statement last December in which the organization claimed that "time is always on the side of the oppressed - and time is an enemy of all systems heading for extinction." History and stugrgle are not Rolling Stones songs. Such rhetoric is not grounded in any empirical evidence, and certainly not in dialectical materialism. Sure, we need revolutionary optimism, but not determinist predications of the future.

I lay these criticisms out there, because, as I said earlier, I have a tremendous amount of respect for
FRSO [Fight Back]'s work. I don't want to see them descend into all out revisionism or start making Avakian like claims of armed struggle in 8 years, 2 months and 14 days. Yet, taken as a whole, these shifts appear to show a rather complete ideological break with anti-revisionism fundamental critique of Soviet "socialism." Class struggle does continue under socialism, socialism can be defeated by new ruling classes that grow out of these struggles, and we have seen this in the USSR after Lenin/Stalin's death, post-Mao China, and the vast majoirty of the once socialist world.

So what am I missing? Is there internal debate and disagreement around these line changes? Do these changes represent the views of organizational leadership with control over publications more than the general mood of the group's rank-and-file?

Comrades in
FRSO [Fight Back] appear to have congresses every three years, and if the pattern holds they will hold their next one in May 2007. Are rank-and-file comrades currently demanding changes in line, strategy and, if need be, leadership to ensure that actual lessons are learned from 20th Century socialism, and that a wholesale adoption of revisionist thinking by the organization does not take place?

Developments in Nepal, India, South America, the Philippines and the recent upsurge of Bolivarian solidarity here in the U.S. offer up exciting possibilities in the coming years. Now is the time for refined revolutionary theory and advanced practice, not tried and failed dogmatism.

Monday, April 17, 2006 

"Tectonic Shift" in Subjective Conditions: Nepal is on the brink of liberation

One truly amazing thing about dialectics is that despite the best efforts made to discredit this methodology's ability to correctly interpret and thus learn from actual lived history, its effects cannot be denied even by bourgeois standard-bearers or "papers of record."

This article, printed in Sunday's NYTimes, describes the mounting shift in the subjective element of revolutionary activity in Nepal. Despite being openly hostile to the driving-edge of this contradiction the Maoist insurgency, the general direction in which this process is heading is undeniable. The Maoists may not win in the coming months, but they are qualitatively closer than they were mere weeks ago.

Saturday, April 15, 2006 

Very Important Piece by Joaquin Bustelo on the Ongoing Immigrant Upsurge

This is one of, if not the most insightful articles I've seen written about the current (mostly Latino/a) immigrant upsurge that brought hundreds of thousands (and perhaps more) into the streets last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I think that it is a post to a list-serv, perhaps the Marxism list-serv, but I know that it has already been put out there by Stan Goff and others in the left-wing of the "blogsphere." Regardless of origin, the brother lays out critiques and challenges that are must reads for all of us on the US left working on, thinking and/or writing about these recent happenings. It's longish, but so is alot of stuff worth reading. So read it!

by Joaqu
ín Bustel
It's very interesting seeing that comrades who often seem to have all the answers for Latinos everywhere else in this continent have so little of substance to say in analyzing the biggest mass movement in many decades when it explodes onto the political stage of their home turf.

I say the biggest in many decades, but just by demonstration size alone, you'd have to say the biggest mass movement the United States has seen. EVER.

When was there ever a demonstration of a million people in Los Angeles? One of half a million in Dallas? Of nearly 100,000 in Atlanta? When was there ever a series of scores of protests in one month like we have seen since mid-March when Chicago broke the dam?

One would have hoped that it would have provoked a more thoughtful response than whipping up leaflets calling for a $15 minimum wage that one of the non-Latino sectarians on the Marxism list proudly boasted about having distributed at a Los Angeles demonstration. (That's what I love about ultralefts: millions of immigrants stage marches for dignity and these comrades immediately reduce things to bourgeois economist trade-unionism, imagining that by adding one or two zeros to be bureaucracy's nickel-and-dime demands, that have somehow taken it to a higher level and imbued it with revolutionary content).

Because the situation cries out for applying the tools of Marxist analysis to orient ourselves. And this is what I believe flows from such an analysis:

There is no task more urgent than drawing together WITHIN the Latino movement a militant, uncompromising, legalization for all left wing. And on the terms of the issues posed by this movement itself, not with demands parachuted in via ultraleft leafletters, whether of the $15/hour minimum wage or the "drive out the Bush regime" variety, which I saw here in Atlanta huddled at the edge of the Monday rally intensely discussing whether or not they should hand out their leaflets and circulate their petitions, because a couple of the younger women comrades were telling an older male that they just didn't feel comfortable doing that there.

Trying to recruit to overwhelmingly white, or even strongly multinational left groups can easily become a DIVERSION from and an obstacle to the immediate, urgent task of cohering a left wing within this movement. It is a secondary priority that should take a back seat, and if you're unsure on just how to do it right, wait. Because seeing a movement like this develop and immediately trying to recruit out of it, without being able to offer those you seem to attract any real analysis, understanding or perspective for this concrete struggle is, in my view, opportunism.

And even the groups that have tried to engage with the movement on its own terms seem unable to really understand even fairly basic things. For example, I saw at one of the protests on TV that there were quite a few printed placards calling for "Amnesty" signed by, if I remember right, ANSWER.

Amnesty is not a word much of the movement is putting forward, it hasn't caught on, and for a very simple reason. Amnesty implies you've done something wrong. And Latino immigrants don't feel they've done anything wrong. It isn't something that's been a big discussion in the movement, it's just a word that hasn't caught on because it doesn't express the sentiments people have. It doesn't "feel" quite right. Legalization, full rights, that's the sort of way people in the movement tend to speak about this.

The enemies of the immigrant rights movement have tried to frame the issue in terms of "amnesty," and if for no other reason it is sometimes also used. But for them, it is a part of their very conscious campaign to frame the issue in terms of what to do with these millions of "criminals," these "illegals."

So while I appreciate the sentiments of the radical group that put out the amnesty placards, I would urge them to stop. I suspect they don't understand the character of the movement or the feelings of its participants.

Why is "Sí se puede" the most commonly heard chant on these demonstrations? It isn't a demand, and on its face, it could mean anything. Yet it obviously means something very important to the MILLIONS that have now awakened to political life and struggle. Try to *understand* the actual movement just as it is.

Then there's the Troops Out Now Coalition, which appears to have unilaterally issued a call for a May 1 rally in Union Square in New York. If that is the case, then this must be rejected as rank opportunism. This is the sort of arrogance that has had such disastrous results in the antiwar movement. And when dealing with a Latino movement, this idea that a non-Latino group should be calling rallies and controlling the stage undermines the very core character of the movement itself. Whatever the intentions, it is a direct attack and challenge to the integrity of the movement.

I'm sure there are all sorts of problems in the Latino immigrant rights movement in New York. We have them here in Atlanta, despite having had a better start in cohering a genuine left wing of the movement than many other areas. Mostly white or even strongly multinational left groups should get it out of their heads that they can somehow "intervene" and solve the problems of leadership of this movement. They can't. And their trying to do so will only complicate things further. The movement as a whole, and especially its radical wing, needs solid reliable allies, not attempts by outside forces to substitute themselves for the leadership that must emerge from within the community. All such attempts are not only doomed to fail, but run the risk of undercutting the process of the formation of a leadership from within the movement itself.

These sorts of issues highlight the importance of having a solid, grounded class analysis and Marxist understanding of what is going on. An understanding especially of the *national* character of the movement and the *nationalist* sentiments that drive it is essential--and there seems to be a fair bit of NOT even seeing this going around--, but that is not enough. You have to understand the actualsocial forces, class forces that find expression in and through this upsurge in the community and how they interact with broader forces.

The absolutely all-encompassing character of this movement in the Latino communities is the result of a confluence of class forces that is not likely to last.

You have the overall neoliberal drive for world domination, redoubled with a vengeance after 9/11, which breeds and emboldens white supremacist forces; and from that, the aggressiveness and inroads and victories scored by the nativist wing of the Republican Party, the offensiveness of racist hatemongers like CNN's Lou Dobbs and so on.

But you also have the divisions within the Republicans between the more mainstream corporatists (Bush-Cheney) and right wing demagogues (Sensenbrenner-Dobbs-Tancredo), the pusillanimous continuous caving in by the "liberal" democrats and the stampede for cover from the "mainstream" DLC Democrats (with honorable exceptions, and more from the Congressional Black Caucus than the "Hispanic" Caucus, it must be admitted); and within it all the ACTUAL ruling class expressing its class interests by hiring and sheltering undocumented workers by the MILLIONS.

And you have this mass of Latino immigrants, both documented and un-, but especially the undocumented, pushed out of their own countries by the same neoliberal offensive that is attacking them here, who for years have been beat up and denigrated as "illegals," as job-stealing, welfare-cheating, diseased-carrying, school-budget-busting, terrorist sub-humans. Who are hired to build roads and then denied the right to have drivers licenses. Who prepare the food served on airplane but are not allowed to board them.

But within the Latino community, you have something else, you have middle-class and even some small capitalist layers. Usually subservient to their master's voice, THIS layer has moved, partly as a result from their own status as Latinos --including having been undocumented (in Atlanta we have a couple of ex-"illegal" millionaires), partly from the pressure from below, from their own workers, friends, and family, but also and very importantly from their own *class* interests.

Stalin says in the famous 1913 Bolshevik pamphlet on the national question that the heart and soul of the nationalism of the bourgeoisie is their home market. That is the same here, even though it manifests in ways which the Bolsheviks couldn't have imagined (and even though I disagree with the Bolshevik 1913 position of reducing the national question to just the interests of the bourgeois forces).

What has made this a MASS movement is the media, and most of all the radio. And what made it possible for all these DJ's and radio personalities to go all-out for the movement is that despite their middle class status, they are also, almost to a person, immigrants, and immigrants who came here as adults (very few people can work in Spanish-language media at a professional level, just from a language point of view, unless they were educated in Latin America: otherwise their Spanish is too "foreign," too corrupted by English). But also, because their bosses did NOT tell them to lay off, on the contrary, they egged them on. And their advertisers ALSO didn't complain, but said "right on" to the brothers. (And overwhelmingly they are "brothers" -- there are very few women DJ's).

Frankly, what Nativo Lopez of MAPA told Lou Dobbs is the God's honest truth: if you had to name one person who was responsible for uniting the Latino community, that would be Sensenbrenner. The vicious, racist "Latinos have no rights the white man is bound to respect" bill he pushed through the House in December convinced bourgeois Latinos and middle layers that their trust in the fundamental capitalist rationality of U.S. politics was misplaced in this case. And if youlook at the bill, it is simply the legal framework for a pogrom.

In desperation, these traditionally "moderate" forces have turned to the Latino working class, and to the tactics associated historically with the working class movement, marches and rallies, economic boycotts and –in essence-- strikes.

And in doing so they have unleashed a proletariat worthy of the name. One that realizes that it must not "permit itself to be treated as rabble," one that instinctively feels that it "needs its courage, its self-confidence, its pride and its sense of independence even more than its bread." One that calls its events marches for dignity, not marches for amnesty.

The interactions of this Latino proletariat with the other social classes isn't as straightforward as people might think. This is not exactly "class against class," it is much more *complicated.*

One of the untold stories --there must be thousands of them by now nationwide-- of the Latino movement here in Atlanta is that when we held the day without immigrants protest here on March 24, a lot of the union members at a big commercial laundry walked out from the plant and crippled production. I know the head of that plant's local. She is undocumented, a mother who is supporting children she left with their grandparents back in Mexico that she hasn't seen for years because the
border crossing has become too dangerous and she can't risk her job.

A higher up in her union went to bat for the workers, and got them all off with a verbal warning. They were also negotiating significant participation by workers from that plant in the Monday protest, although I don't know the outcome of that.

You would think the reaction of the plant management would have been to immediately fire everyone involved in what was in essence a wildcat but you would be wrong. The plant management and company involved have been more lenient because, of course it's in their interests not just to keep their workers relatively happy, but more fundamentally, because it's in their interests to keep their workers period. And what the laundry capitalists see as their right to exploit this labor is under attack, and from their point of view the action of these workers in defending their staying in this country is a defense also of the right of the laundry bosses to exploit them.

I suspect the compañeras who led and took part this action did not necessarily think this through in such explicit terms to figure out whether they could get away with it. They acted on instinct but mostly driven by the attacks against them from the politicians, which as they see it, leave them no choice but to fight back, and now that the opportunity to do so has presented itself, they are willing to take risks to do so.

It is important to *understand* the various class forces and interests in play to orient yourself in this movement. There is on the organized socialist left very little understanding, and in what's being
reported, there is quite a bit of arrogance.

* * *

The movement that has erupted is clearly and beyond any possible confusion a *national* movement, a multi-class movement by oppressed people against their oppression as a people. Very significantly, it is a NEW movement. There has never been a generically Latino movement before. This is a product of the evolution of the last 30 or 40 years, the huge continuing immigration and the development of a "national" (meaning Latino, as opposed to nationwide) media in Spanish. I went over some of the factors leading to the development of a generically "Latino" (as distinct from a specifically Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican or Chicano) national identity several months ago in a paper I think I posted to this list (as well as others) and can send to anyone who is interested.

But this "Latino" movement is also an expression of the national movement of Latin America as a whole, of the collection of Balkanized nations that are slowly waking up to the reality that they must become a single nation because that is the only way to deal with the problem they all share, U.S. imperialism.

I don't mean to imply by this that there hasn't also been a rise in specifically Chicano (or Mexican, or Mexican-American) nationalist sentiment as a result. Quite the contrary, the signs are everywhere of
a big upsurge in nationalist sentiment of the main immigrant nationality groupings. But as comrade Evo Morales and the Bolivian indigenous movement teaches, the nationalism of the oppressed is fundamentally *different* from the nationalism of the oppressor in this regard. "No es excluyente" – it doesn't exclude. You can be indigenous, and Guatemalan, and Mesoamerican, and Latin American, and a part of the Third World, a person of color.

Being white (Anglo) in the "American" sense is completely different. That is an exclusive identity, that's the whole point to whiteness, white supremacy. As Malcolm X put it, in the United States "white means boss."

And because it IS a national movement, the right approach is to support the national-revolutionary forces, the coalescence of a left wing in the movement that can become over time a proletarian wing of the movement, especially as it vies for leadership with bourgeois and reformist forces.

Now, in a direct sense this is NOT a job for Anglo comrades, except insofar as it affects their general political stance in terms of propaganda and alliances. Comrades from other oppressed nationalities can perhaps play more of a role, but even then, overwhelmingly, this can only really be done by Latino militants and activists. That is the real challenge, to cohere the left wing that ALREADY exists as scattered activists in this movement, and especially the fresh forces coming forward.

It is a pressing, urgent task. The conditions of this upsurge cannot last for a long time. The *class* interests of the Latino proletariat and other forces coincide only in part, and most strongly in the negative: against criminalization of immigrants, against the Sensenbrenner bill.

But when it comes to what people are for, or at least willing to settle for, it is a different matter.

All sorts of forces were willing to support the phony "compromise" cooked up by that gusano Mel Martinez a week ago and accepted by Kennedy and the Democrats that would have divided the undocumented between those who could PROVE they'd been here more than five years and the rest that couldn't and had to go back to Mexico and get "legally" readmitted.

This is the most important dividing line between the emerging revolutionary-national forces, proletarian in all but name, and the bourgeois forces: legalization for all or for some.

Another very important issue intimately tied up with this is the guest worker program. The revolutionary national forces are all for letting "guest workers" into the United States -- provided they get the same rights everyone else gets when they move here, specifically, permanent residency and U.S. citizenship under the same conditions and timetables as, say, a Rupert Murdoch.

We *reject* a new Bracero program. Latino bourgeois forces especially are basically okay with a new bracero program, which is essentially an attempt at a continuation of what has been the real U.S. immigration policy --letting immigrants in, but with second class status, as "illegals"-- in a more controlled way and under a new name (what the Latino capitalists object to in the whole drive by the ultrarightists is moving Latino undocumented immigrants from second class status to no status whatsoever, and possibly driving them out of the country. Latino bourgeois forces object because it undercuts the markets many of them rely on as well as increases their legal risks for exploiting this labor).

I should make clear here that when referring to Latino capitalists, I'm referring mostly not to the odd individual like the Hispanic head of microprocessor company AMD, but rather to those whose businesses revolve around the community, at least to a large extent. This includes, in a sense, even some large Anglo-owned businesses, who, for example, own community media, but whose Latino executives in charge of a radio or newspaper have been given sufficient autonomy to respond to this situation. And those executives would be among those who I'm referring to).

Nor is this strictly speaking just small capitalists, it involves some significant forces in the bourgeois world, such as the Mexican and Venezuelan TV monopolies behind Univision.

From this it should be clear why grouping together a broad left
current within the immigrant rights movement around a few essential points is the central strategic priority TODAY. Because the multi-class alliance with these bourgeois forces is unlikely to last. There will either be a new rotten compromise cooked up when Congress reconvenes in a couple of weeks, OR the Democrats will decide this is a great club to beat the Republicans over the head with, reject all compromises, and seek to divert the movement into purely bourgeois electoralism, urging us to compromise our demands THAT way, by subordinating them to getting "friends" elected.

That electoralist line is one that *excludes* the overwhelming majority of participants in the movement, not just the undocumented but legal immigrants also who don't have the right to vote. On average, it takes about two decades for half of the immigrants admitted in a given year to become citizens, and many never do. So it will be harder to divert this movement into electoralism. But you could already see the effort being made, especially in the speeches at the Washington, D.C. rally.

The left instead will want to keep the heat on for legalization for everyone, and for expanded working class immigrants in the future being treated the same as bourgeois immigrants, in other words, for Latino immigrants being treated the same as white immigrants.

There is a need for the most conscious working class Latino fighters to IMMEDIATELY fuse with --not multinational revolutionary groups--but the most advanced and grass-roots-based and oriented wing of the ACTUAL movement in their localities, and to start coordinating and building ties between those forces in different localities.

Four points can serve as an initial platform or program for this left wing.

A) Legalization for all; a "road to citizenship" on the same conditions as all other immigrants.

B) Yes to massively expanded normal immigration from Latin America on the same conditions as all other immigrants; no to a new Bracero program;

C) The Latino community and especially the immigrants must own and run this movement; YES to support from Black and white and non-profit and trade union and political party (even Republican) allies, NO to non-Latino control over our destiny and our movement.

D) For continuing with the campaign of massive public protests.

In the medium term (in this case, months, not days or weeks) the revolutionary left needs to do a lot of hard thinking. Historically, the idea of recruitment to left groups out of these sorts of movements has not resulted in building strong revolutionary organizations in the United States but rather to isolate and fragment the leadership of the social movements. The kind of political movement that needs to be built is one that is more like the MAS, that serves to bring together the leading militant of the social movements rather than scattering them into a half dozen narrow sects.

There is a need for a new political space where leading activists can begin to discuss and think through the strategic challenges that are posed as the actual movements develop. There is no chance the currently existing organized socialist groups can be that space, there is no room in them, neither socially, culturally nor politically. The discussion (or lack of it) within this list and I believe also within the organized groups shows that the tendency of the socialist left is to have way too many answers and way too few questions.

Of particular importance is that this new space make possible the REAL leading participation of militants from the oppressed nationalities and especially women. If you go to, and look at the videos of the student high school walkouts from all over the country that have been posted there, the very strong impression you get is that the majority of the leadership and participants in the movement are young women. And that is certainly true of the overall immigrant rights movement in my area, where women are the central core of leaders and activists.

The traditional Left has a very serious problem of reproducing the patterns of power and privilege from broader society. The forms of the meetings, the style of discourse and debate, the emphasis on the production of literature accessible really only to a very few in a movement like this, all of that needs to be re-examined in a self-critical spirit. And the practice of left groups that are overwhelmingly not Latino coming into this movement with their own sectarian leaflets and agendas with which to mold and shape the actual movement needs to be self-critically examined from this angle also.


Friday, April 14, 2006 

New Communist Movement archive grows

Revolutionary organizer, writer and leftist historian Max Elbaum has recently donated his vast archive of NCM documents, interviews used in researching and writing "Revolution in the Air" to the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. These materials will be combined with the already established Mike Conan (¡presente!) collection. Although I don't really see eye-to-eye with Max on much of his summation concerning the failures of the NCM, especially his whole-sale rejection of any contribution made by committed Maoist organizations, the importance of this now expanded archive in self-evident. Below is Max's announcement of the donation.

I have donated the extensive archives used in researching and writing "Revolution in the Air" to the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. The donated material consists of 40 boxes of books, journals, newspapers, pamphlets and internal documents from the late-1960s revolutionary upsurge and then the 1970s-80s "new communist movement."

This archive will be added to the Library's existing "Mike Conan Collection" of new communist movement materials. Mike was a dear comrade and friend - you can read an appreciation of his life and activism at Before Mike died of cancer in 1994 he arranged for his large archive to be made available to researchers and activists in this way. Now, with these new documents added, the Library has perhaps the country's most comprehensive collection of materials on this section of the U.S. left.

The Library, located in Los Angeles, offers unique and accessible collections and community programs, and is devoted to engaging people across generations in using history to advance social justice. For full information go to So, if you are engaged in a research project, or are just interested in looking at primary source materials from the late '60s radical movements and one strand of the left that grew out of them, check out the Mike Conan Collection. I also urge your support for the Southern California Library and similar institutions, which are so important for preserving records of radical movements and providing continuity from one generation of activists and scholars to the next.

Last, if you haven't checked out in awhile, consider taking a look. There's at least one new review of the book posted in 2006, plus an extensive bibliography, a chronology of events 1954-1992 and other items.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 

April 10, 2006: Knoxville, TN

Close to 2,500 people turned out for the largest demonstration Knoxville has seen in decades yesterday. I helped with peace-keeping, which gave me an amazing opportunity to view the march from a relatively stationary location. The demo marched around the block housing Senator Frisk's office for something like 2 hours; when the end of the march came around the corner it wasn't but 10 feet ahead of the beginning. Yeah, folks completely surrounding the entire building!

A little background, 200 people turn-out to something in town and it is a BIG deal. Interestingly enough, I wouldn't say that there were many more than 200 non-Latino/as present, and these folks were almost entirely the usual social justice suspects. The event's turn-out was something like quadruple that of the March 13 demo. Here are some more pictures.

¡El Gigante Durmiente Se Despierta!

Monday, April 10, 2006 

French victory provides much needed inspiration

Been absent for a bit. Basic run-down goes something like: student-labor alliances have the potential to be as precarious as any strategic alliance actively engaged in struggle during the current period, especially in locales that haven't seen major upsurges in 70+ years. Students get militant and outstrip fledgling worker organization. Workers remain overly cautious and act in ways that tokenize the students. In the end, an improperly constructed relationship between student allies and workers fails to function, students face burnout and disillusionment, workers feel alienation from former allies, and the real people involved feel super stressed out.

But today's news out of France shows why building something as complicated, stressful and involved as a worker-student alliance is ultimately so vital. My hat is off to these brave women and men. I feel inspired at a point in time when I desperately need some inspiration.

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