Proletarian Alternative, June 29, 2015
This is in response to a question that is fortunately getting asked more often: what are some practical ideas for organizing working class struggle?
We’re far from where we need to be, and have a lot of work to do. Conditions are ripening; capitalism is in a major crisis, and everything that the capitalist class and its representatives do to try to fix it is making it worse. In this situation, an organized, combative working class could perhaps achieve significant gains. But unfortunately we aren’t yet able to take advantage of the enemy’s weakness.
During the past decades, the capitalist class has methodically assaulted the working class on all fronts. The result is that the working class has been utterly disorganized and is heavily ideologically dominated, unable today to offer an autonomous alternative. As one worker recently put it, most workers “don’t even understand they are a class [with their own interests antagonistic to capital]; they’re caught up in the politics of democrats vs. republicans.” Most of what the masses are led to believe will make a difference, is confined within the capitalist framework.
In addition, in the US especially, the working class has been severed from its history of struggle. There is a generation gap—workers today have grown up without a frame of reference, without concepts of class autonomy, class solidarity and unity, class interests, or any experience of organizing to fight for these interests. Workers have been pitted against one another to compete for jobs (instead of blaming capitalism for unemployment), and have been conditioned to passively rely on establishment unions to wage their battles in their stead (such as they do), and to reluctantly accept the inevitability of being sold out by them over and over again. This is viewed as “the way things are,” or “the best we can do,” or “it could be worse.”
So, in the US and many other places, to various degrees, we’re starting basically from scratch. Proletarian (working class) militants need to affirm and reclaim the history of working class struggle, take our place in the continuity of that struggle, and organize to fight for our class interests. We are not “activists” who engage in endless activities that lead nowhere just to feel good about “doing something” (and who are often paid to draw others into this useless cycle). In contrast, militants act from our conscience, with a goal, and a strategy to achieve that goal.
In our practice, no matter how limited or embryonic, we are always learning. We need to be constantly sharing our experiences and our analysis so we can learn from each other. What follows are a few brief thoughts based on some experiences from different areas. We seek feedback from other militants in the form of constructive critique, insights from additional experiences, creative responses to different situations, and deeper analysis.