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Hurricane Matthew in Haiti: Aid vs International Solidarity

img-20161011-wa0026The root of the disease was political. The treatment could only be political. Of course, we encourage aid that aids us in doing away with aid. But in general, welfare and aid policies have only ended up disorganizing us, subjugating us, and robbing us of a sense of responsibility for our own economic, political, and cultural affairs. We chose to risk new paths to achieve greater well-being.

Thomas Sankara on Western aid 


Class Struggle and International Solidarity

As soon as people heard of the ravages done by Hurricane Mathew, mostly in Southern and Northwestern regions of Haiti, many were volunteering to send support. Some even posted online what they perceived as reputable NGOs. But for us, whether or not some NGOs are reputable, the point to ask is whether or not sending money to NGOs, even reputable ones, is in the best interest of the Haitian popular masses. This is especially the case after the earthquake of January 2010, in which millions of dollars poured in for the same reasons of support and Haiti today remains in even worse shape. We hear the arguments that quick-fix support is important for the immediate survival of people, but we face the facts already proven in previous catastrophes that, for the long term, those quick fixes have become part of the problem and only represent a bail out for the Haitian dominant classes, the State Apparatus and imperialism.

As those catastrophes continue to occur internationally, other dominated and exploited classes from their respective societies will also manifest their spontaneous need to support and be interdependent with the most affected victims, with a total spirit of abnegation. This solidarity is a precursor, although limited, of the need for solidarity and internationalism, which under the leadership of conscientious social classes could become a powerful force underpinning the construction of new societies. But to realize this positive spirit of interdependency, progressive and revolutionary forces must promote a correct conception of internationalism and of solidarity based solely on the interests of the popular masses. We must demarcate ourselves from bourgeois conceptions that finally end up bailing out the dominant classes, the state apparatus and imperialists. Under capitalist direction, humanitarian aid is a bourgeois conception that inevitably serves bourgeois interests.


Haiti is Not a Poor Country

Haiti is a rich country. Much of our wealth has been stolen or is being stolen. The Haitian dominant classes should not be viewed as part of the popular masses in any scientific or materialist class analysis. In any social formation, the capitalist class and feudal classes are not part of the popular masses. Their nationalism is based solely on the interests of the power block exercising its class dictatorship over the popular masses, especially the proletariat.

Humanitarianism supports a parasitic form of capital accumulation

In fact many fractions of the capitalist class, especially the bureaucratic bourgeois and imperialist institutions such as NGOs are using the donations of well-intended people as a parasitic form of capitalist accumulation. This has even been documented as a growing trend of “disaster capitalism.”


Humanitarianism Promotes Dependency

We are not arguing that acts of solidarity, even humanitarian, are not warranted. On the contrary, they are necessary, but not under the dictatorship of capital. Capitalism only uses them to create a condition of dependency. Effective solidarity needs to be practiced within a revolutionary perspective of self-determination: COUNTING ON OUR OWN STRENGTH. In the response to the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, there was no attempt to promote self-determination. The politics of misery were used to guarantee capitalist accumulation. Aid, even humanitarian aid, has become one of the central forms of accumulation for the reproduction of capitalism in Haiti. As Thomas Sankara said of Western aid: “The root of the disease was political. The treatment could only be political. Of course, we encourage aid that aids us in doing away with aid. But in general, welfare and aid policies have only ended up disorganizing us, subjugating us, and robbing us of a sense of responsibility for our own economic, political, and cultural affairs. We chose to risk new paths to achieve greater well-being.”


A Quick Overview

It would be irresponsible and ultra-leftist not to ask for aid. We do support the need for donations. But the devastation of nature can’t be uncoupled from the reactionary political line of Haitian capitalism and imperialist domination. The way we deal with the devastation of nature must be determined in the field of class struggle, and now in the field of class struggle, capitalism is calling the shots. Haiti is a social formation that is rotten to the core. The inter-class struggles among the ruling classes in Haiti are secondary contradictions that provide no solution to the degradation of Haiti’s social structures. As long as capitalism is in control, as long as the policies of capitalism dominated by imperialism are in effect, exceptional crises caused by nature and the perpetual ongoing crisis caused by the anti-national and anti popular policies of the power block, the social formation will continue to deteriorate and reach a barbaric state in which the unacceptable becomes the norm of the day.


What Is to Be Done?

Although support is necessary at this time, progressives and revolutionaries must always denounce the role of the anti-national, anti-popular politics of capitalism in Haiti and demarcate themselves from the alternatives given to us by capitalism and imperialism. We must offer our own alternatives. Haiti is a failure of capitalism and imperialist domination. Our alternatives should be based on two aspects:

1] International solidarity and internationalism should start with progressives and revolutionaries organizing against their class enemies in their respective social formations, especially in the belly of imperialist social formations. Our future, in all social formations, can’t be based on whom we vote for but rather on our own capacity to organize in our interests and under the perspective of classes that have the most interest to rid humanity of capitalism.

2] Identifying organizations and movements we can support, from the perspective of unity and collective struggle for the conquest of popular democratic rights and the elimination of capitalism and feudalism. The more we organize and struggle in our own social formation, the more our vision of international unity and solidarity and internationalism will sharpen and consolidate. The more we demarcate from populism and opportunism the more our international unity will consolidate.

In Haiti, the MayDay Batay Ouvriye Federation of unions is a combative movement of laborers and workers that is organizing to struggle for the conquest of popular democratic rights. Batay Ouvriye [BO] is organizing workers and has worked to set up to unions in the garment industries in Port-au-Prince, Carrefour, Ouanaminthe and Caracol. BO is also organizing poor peasants in rural communal sections of Haiti as well as agricultural workers. Most recently, the Organization of Laborers and Landless Peasants [OPTST] held its first general assembly. Under the leadership of the most advanced workers, BO is constructing a combative path to conquer popular democratic rights battling feudalism and capitalism.

Compounding ruling class repression, Mathew has hit BO as a movement among the popular masses. Some of our members in rural areas have lost their homes and the means to sustain themselves. In the face of this crisis, we urge progressives and revolutionaries to extend their solidarity directly to BO in support for the continuing struggle for popular democratic rights.

The devastation Hurricane Matthew left behind is yet another proof of the anti-national and anti-popular nature of the Haitian ruling classes, their state apparatus and imperialism. As global capitalism fuels growing environmental disasters, dominated and exploited masses all over the world must organize to build political organizations and movements to confront directly the mother of all catastrophes and disasters: CAPITALISM.


Some Basic Reflections On The US Electoral Process

trump hillary favorabilityBoth the Republican and Democratic conventions are now over. It is time for some additional reflections. First, as per the period of McGovern, the rainbow coalition, Jesse Jackson’s attempt to run and now Bernie Sanders, the reformist and populist left is left holding an empty balloon, deflated by promises to build a movement or a political revolution. These promises are nothing other than demagoguery. Some of these people will hibernate till the next election, hoping that we forget this election experience.  Some will hop on the bandwagon of other insignificant candidates, still pushing their opportunist/populist political line.

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International Working Women’s Day: The Real Meaning of March 8

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Most workers in the world don’t know the date of March 8th is of the greatest importance for them. And many of those who do know it don’t realize what the date really represented in history. For us, conscious workers, for whom the struggle is our daily life, it is absolutely necessary we know our true history, the various battles waged by our class and the lessons we should draw from them.

 

First of all, since many workers in Haiti and throughout the world, especially in the maquilas and free trade zones, work in the textile industry, we should know that the mobilizations held on March 8th, 1908, were carried out precisely by textile industry workers. Despite this, presently, most workers in this branch know nothing of this part of our history.

 

In 1975, the United Nations proclaimed March 8th “International Women’s Day”. Once more, this was a recuperation of the international ruling classes to distort the real significance of our battles. In this way, they have attempted to wipe out the collective memory of the real working-class mobilization that occurred on this date, turning it into a wide-ranging, limited celebration completely void of class content, in which all women partake, including totally anti-worker and reactionary bourgeois women. In this way, the nature and logic of our battles are obliterated. Our own history is robbed from us.

 

What was March 8th?

 

March 8th is a historic date! Doubly so. First of all, on March 8th, 1857, a large number of factory workers in the United States took to the streets to demand their economic and political rights. The owners called the police who arrived immediately and opened fire, engaging in blind repression… Later on, in 1908, the same date of March 8th was once again a memorable date of struggle. On this day, capitalist bosses in Chicago set fire to a textile factory where over a thousand women worked. A very large number was terribly burnt. 120 died! This heinous crime happened simply because the workers were demanding that the legal 8-hour work day be respected, as well as substantial ameliorations of their work conditions since they were working in a hellish environment in which their very dignity was constantly and totally denied. In this factory, however, the workers refused to cower. They fought daily. And having reached a certain level of organization, they held protests, work stoppages and strikes… On this day of March 8th, 1908, instead of obeying the law and satisfying the workers’ legal and legitimate demands, the factory owners decided to bar in this way what they called “the rising disorder”.

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Haiti’s crisis: the ruling classes have failed; we need an autonomous alternative!

INTRODUCTION TO TEXT FROM HAITI from Feb. 7, 2016

(The leaflet, in English and Kreyol, follows this introduction)

February 24, 2016

 

The Haitian masses have been mobilizing in the streets for the past 6 months or more to derail the sell-out alternatives of the Haitian dominant classes to imperialism. The most recent political election was derailed by massive popular mobilizations. The Haitian masses thwarted the imperialist plan under the slogan “WE WILL NOT OBEY”—even if only for a short time.

 

Unfortunately, the combativeness of the masses has been limited, and has been mostly co-opted by various sectors of the petit bourgeois linked to a consortium of the capitalist power bloc, against the political sectors represented by the anti-popular and anti-national government of the bourgeois bureaucrats’ Martelly, linked as well with a consortium of the capitalist power bloc.

 

There is an intense competition within the Haitian ruling classes. Cliques of petit bourgeois elements, ranging from left to right populists, are offering their services to sectors of the Haitian dominant classes and imperialism. That is the main plot of the political crisis surrounding these failed and trumped up elections. These cliques are offering themselves as either a new potential bureaucratic bourgeoisie (rural and metropolitan petit bourgeois) or a recycled bureaucratic bourgeoisie (represented by the “Fanmi Lavalas”, the political party of Aristide, or the Duvalierists, former “macoutes”). But the masses, even under the leadership of those forces, are still coming up with their own demands.

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Students, Workers and the Specter of Surplus Value

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By Vincent Kelley
November 2015

Workers in the industrial belt in Gurgaon. Photo by Vincent Kelley, 2015.

Workers in the industrial belt in Gurgaon. Photo by Vincent Kelley, 2015.

It’s six in the morning in Delhi, India. The smog sits above the sprawling city as I and some friends take the long auto-rickshaw ride to the industrial belt on the outskirts of the nation’s capital. We left early to help distribute workers’ newspapers to the thousands of workers walking to their morning shifts. As we approach the industrial belt—shielded from the eyes of the city’s increasing and increasingly isolated middle class—the smog gets thicker. Already the most polluted city in the world, the air in the industrial belt is suffocating. It’s no wonder why. Just past where we stand to distribute the papers, an interminable line of factories stretches out into the distance, guarded by bouncers. Many of these factories are where raw materials are fused with human labor to produce products for U.S. multinational capital. Indeed, this setting is where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” initiative is being realized, as the country surpasses China and the U.S. as the number one global destination for foreign direct investment.

 

The constant stream of workers walking to these factories for hours at a time seems more reminiscent of early 19th century London than it does 2015 in a leading “developing” economy, one in which the Prime Minister tells the country’s dispossessed, “achhe din aane waale hain” (the good days are about to come). As I was distributing papers along with three other students and the publishers of the newspaper, I realized on a visceral level that this was the setting in which the core exploitation to fuel global capitalism was happening. I also began to reflect on my position as a student in relation to these workers. Far from the peaceful green environment of the campus space where I was studying, the industrial belt literally felt like a whole other world. Upon returning to the U.S., I wondered if these two worlds may have a parallel even in the imperial center of the globe.

 

Switch contexts to Grinnell, Iowa, home of Grinnell College and, despite the College’s efforts to downplay the fact to prospective students, roughly 9,000 rural Iowans. As I was in town distributing leaflets and a workers’ newsletter on a crisp fall evening, I met a man smoking a cigarette outside of a dilapidated house behind a grocery store. After striking up a conversation with him, I quickly found out that he worked at one of two plastics factories in Grinnell. Shortly after meeting me, the worker said in a suspicious and even accusatory tone, “Are you studying here or something?” As a senior, I was already well aware of the stark “town-gown” divide between Grinnell and Grinnell College, but it is always a clear reminder of this physical and social partition to hear it implied so strongly after just meeting a “townie.”

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Sanders and the Debacle of the Left

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by Jan Makandal

October 24, 2015

 

The left’s coup de grace certainly did not originate with Sanders. Its degeneration is the result of persistent and long-term opportunism and populism. Bernie Sanders is simply one additional element accelerating the debacle of today’s petit bourgeois radical left, a pertinent effect pushing it into an abyss of its own creation.

 

This radical petit bourgeois left is expert at quoting dead proletarian revolutionaries, tuning their valuable contributions into verses frozen in time. But they are totally inept at using these quotations as a guide for the future.

 

They refuse to acknowledge or use proletarian theory (Marxism at its core) as a science. Marxism can’t stand still in time, but is in a constant mode of rectification and consolidation. The insistence of using quotes, making others speak for them, is not a sign of political unity with these previous revolutionaries, but is instead an exemption freeing them from elevating the quotes to a theory which can eventually guide them in their own practice.

 

For proletarian militants, practice is a validation of theory, whether it proves a theory is incorrect (indicating the need to rectify the theory) or correct (from which follows the need to consolidate). But we can observe that even when these petit bourgeois radical leftists cite quotes, their content is far apart, very far apart from their own political practices. In other words, for them there is no dialectical relation between theory and practice. Instead, these quotes become ossified and inevitably contribute to the stagnation of proletarian theory.

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Should We Vote? Debunking the Contemporary Misuse of the “Duma” Tactic

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Proletarian Alternative

August 5, 2015

elections

Many in the people’s camp, some identifying as progressives, evoke a tactical orientation called “the Duma” to justify their participation in the electoral process. The Duma was the Russian Parliament in which the Bolsheviks saw fit to use the contradictions within the Russian dominant classes to further their political objectives. For the Bolsheviks, though it involved participating in the bourgeois electoral process, this was a revolutionary orientation.

 

But today this tactic is not revolutionary in the least.

 

Experiences, both direct and indirect, are not to be duplicated or memorized. They are to be learned from to guide upcoming experiences, other social practices. Revolutionary experiences either consolidate or rectify theory. The Duma experience was specific to the reality of Russia, a tactical line in a revolutionary project. Even though it was correct at that time and place, it’s a mistake to attempt to duplicate it now in another social formation where the material conditions, the subjective and the objective conditions, are totally different.

 

Some elements of the subjective conditions:

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100 Years of Imperialist Domination: The US Occupation of Haiti (1915-34) and its current consequences

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Kiki Makandal
July 28, 2015

UncleSam2July 28, 2015 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first US occupation of Haiti. The occupation lasted 19 years, from 1915 to 1934. It was a turning point in the history of Haiti, a turning point that jolted the country into a steeper downfall under the boots of US imperialist domination. These days, because of this centenary, we have the opportunity to reflect more thoroughly on these events. While we are engaged in these reflections, as we are condemning all the aggressions, murders, expropriations, repression, exploitation, abuse and criminal injustice of the occupying forces, it would also be worthwhile to ponder what factors facilitated the occupation, how the degradation of the Haitian social formation opened the doors to the occupation: “even rotten teeth can chew soft food”.

On July 28, 1915, a squadron of about 400 marines (who had been aboard a US warship in the bay of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital) landed in Bizoton, close to the capital, and took over the country. According to Suzy Castor’s book “The US Occupation of Haiti”, the Haitian military’s resistance was sporadic and limited to just a few places. The vast majority of Haitian forces surrendered. In all, the occupation began with a force of 2,200 marines. This force was reduced to about 1,000 soldiers for most of the occupation. It was supplemented by a local gendarmerie of about 3,000 Haitian recruits under the command of US officers. This gendarmerie was the main force responsible for the US occupation.

It was the Cacos (mostly poor peasants, poorly armed mostly with machetes) under the leadership of Charlemagne Péralte and Benoit Battraville, who waged the main resistance struggle against the occupation forces. Even though there were many other fields of resistance, particularly from workers in plantations that were set up by US agro-industrial firms (Plantation Dauphin, SHADA, HASCO…), or workers in the ports loading and unloading products, and even petty bourgeois intellectuals who stood up and denounced the occupation (mostly in the cities), it was really the poor peasants who waged the strongest resistance against the occupation. Poor peasants were mobilized because they were expropriated from their land, and they were forced to work in slave-like conditions in chain gangs building roads for the occupying forces. In the South, there was the resistance of the Lamontagne and Marchaterre regions, but there was resistance everywhere against the exactions of the occupation forces. The North, the West and the Central Plateau were the main areas of resistance where the armed struggle of the Cacos was rooted.

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The Working Class Vs. Imperialism: from Haiti to the Belly of the Beast

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Kiki Makandal
June 2, 2015

2015-07-28-End-US-Domination

 

Since the start of the 20th Century, not counting secret operations, there have been over 120 US military aggressions, an average of more than one a year. In Central America and the Caribbean alone, the US has intervened militarily: 6 times in Cuba, 4 times in the Dominican Republic, twice in El Salvador, once in Grenada, 3 times in Guatemala, 4 times in Haiti, 7 times in Honduras, 3 times in Mexico, 6 times in Nicaragua, 8 times in Panama, and twice in Puerto Rico.

There are more than 865 US military bases abroad in more than 63 countries. In 2011, 20% of the US federal budget, or $718 billion, went to defense and security-related activities, representing 41% of the world’s military budget. The US Navy is larger than the combined navies of the next 13 countries, 11 of which are US allies. The US maintains 5,113 nuclear warheads, enough to exterminate humankind a few times over. Right now, the US is engaged in at least 6 theaters of war: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and the Congo.

These are staggering statistics. But they only represent what many have called “the iron fist behind the invisible hand of the Free Market.” The US military is the enforcement arm of US economic policy: the composite of “investor friendly” policies, coerced, through financial crises and the accumulation of state debt, onto working peoples all over the world. These “neoliberal” policies include privatization of state services, austerity plans, reductions in wages and living standards, cutbacks in pensions, cutbacks in education, cutbacks in healthcare, cutbacks in social services, union busting, Free Trade Zones, WTO enforced free trade agreements… all ushered in under the guise of balancing budgets. The burden of state debt is being used to achieve the objectives of colonial invasions in prior centuries. These policies are being pushed through under the cover of a global war on terror, which equates dissenters to terrorists. All of this while the rich get tax breaks, global financial corporations get bailouts, giant multinationals get tax heavens, and CEOs get million-dollar bonuses.

These policies have wreaked misery on working people throughout the “third world” and are now striking workers in industrialized nations, as we see happening in Greece, throughout Europe and even here in the US. Finally, as the threat of catastrophic environmental change collides with bursting economic bubbles and rising global popular unrest, working people are becoming the targets of an increasingly repressive surveillance state.

While most of America’s population has been brainwashed into believing that the U.S. is a “good cop” worldwide peacekeeper and a defender of democracy, that “humanitarian interventions” are aimed at saving masses from massacre and disasters, and that US aid is geared to helping starving masses, the facts prove quite the contrary. For over a century, the U.S. has been and is still today the leading international imperialist aggressor. And now, with the global war on terror, drone warfare, with a joint strike force of special operations forces, signature strikes against “enemy combatants” defined in combat zones as any male over 14 years of age, secret kill lists, NSA global surveillance, the militarization of local police forces and anti-terror legislation that can be secretly interpreted in secret courts and used to detain and repress almost anyone they choose to target, the tools of repression and oppression have been honed for both inside and outside the US.
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Greece: Another Failure of the Radical Left Petit Bourgeoisie

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We Need a Game-Changing Strategy: Working Class Leadership

Jan Makandal
July 11, 2015

LimitedVisionColorOnce again the failure and the bankrupt political line of the radical left petite bourgeoisie is manifest. [The petite bourgeoisie is the so-called “middle” classes, who are part of neither of the two fundamentally contending classes in the capitalist mode of production, capitalists and workers].

The ongoing negotiations in Greece are not about a total abolition of the debt and for the popular masses of Greece to take their destiny in their own hands, counting on their own strength to rebuild this social formation under the leadership of the working class. They’re not for a totally new mode of production (rather than an updated capitalism) led by the working class of Greece and the popular masses, under the leadership of the working class.

Once again the radical left petite bourgeoisie has failed.

This is not particular to Greece. It is a general tendency of struggles in many other social formations as well, wherever the petite bourgeoisie instead of the working class is leading the struggle. One lesson to learn is that whenever we persist in hoping that something positive will come from petite bourgeois leadership, however radical they might seem, THE RESULT WILL BE THE SAME: A TOTAL CAPITULATION TO CAPITAL.

The experience of Greece has once again confirmed a theory developed by previous revolutionary militants that the petite bourgeoisie is incapable of challenging capital, no matter how their radicalism is manifested in their political practice. In the end, this non-autonomous class will inevitably show its impotence and capitulate to capitalism/imperialism. Over and over again, they will always offer all the popular struggles of the masses to capitalism on a silver platter—as they have done in Peru, South Africa, Nepal, the social formations involved in the Arab Spring, and many others.

The international radical left will shove these dismal experiences under the rug of their historical failure and hop onto new experiences, hoping to get lucky. But however persistent they are, we can be sure it will be another failure, another manifestation of their bankrupt line.
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Eggshells

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Ricardito Ramos
July 11, 2015

*Concept:*

Losing our sense of worth and history, some succumb to the comfort of not doing anything, of being “revolutionaries” in thought online or in talk, but not actually organizing or engaging in the work it takes to pick up the struggle. Some become weak, giving in to opportunism, deceit, dogmatism, intellectualism, etc……ideologically dominated and historically forgetful. Past progressives and revolutionaries set a bar — we need to live up to it and stop deceiving ourselves and stop being dishonest to the people around us……

*Lyrics:*

The domination is strong,
when you fold into the hands of your enemy,
you wrong, grimy situation of pacification,
opportunist tendencies,
there’s a correlation
flooded with insecurities
you find solace in a disease
the workers sing freedom songs
to carry on damn they so strong
the brains of the operation
a truly different creed
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A Brief Note on the Minimum Wage Struggle

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Jan Makandal

July 5, 2015      

PushItColor

Struggling for a minimum wage adjustment is a political battle at its initial point: the economic front.

 

Since we are talking of a political battle, one of the rules of that struggle is the relation of forces. At this moment in our conjuncture, our forces capable of forcing our class enemy to concede are weak and dominantly disorganized.

 

At present, the alternative to offer us a minimum wage remains in the hands of bourgeois organization and the state apparatus, and if they do so it will be for their own interest. We must admit now that the struggle for the $15 minimum wage is not an autonomous struggle of the working class and laborers. It will transform into an autonomous struggle only when the proletariat in particular owns their destiny, along with the masses under the leadership of the proletariat.

 

In the hands of the bourgeoisie, mainly bourgeois labor organizations [i.e.: AFL-CIO and SEIU], it is a struggle to secure their primary form of capital accumulation through the enlargement of their membership base to collect dues.

 

It is a struggle for them to deal with a very complex contradiction: mobilizing the rank and file while at the same time making sure that orientation doesn’t create an overflow that will push the struggle beyond the bourgeoisie’s desired limits. These bourgeois organizations are politically heavily leaning on the petite bourgeoisie’s activism, pragmatism and radicalism to not only help them realize the goal of maintaining a social base, but at the same time to keep the masses at bay. It is a very contradictory orientation since the petite bourgeoisie is dominated as well, and does have demands as well. This contradictory element is creating a constant condition for the possibility of overflowing. The bourgeoisie is well aware of that. Their leaning on the petite bourgeoisie is accomplished through the non-profit, CBO and NGO, structures controlled and funded by them, and they could terminate the lifeline of these organizations at any time.

 

A second orientation is that the struggle for the minimum wage is a gross marketing ploy, being presented as a moral issue capable of being brought into a legalistic battlefield, while attempting to keep all the classes antagonistic to capital at bay (since the petite bourgeoisie domination under capital is not antagonistic, they are naturally and instinctively reformist—with all their radicalism, they are the most natural allies of the bourgeoisie in that struggle).

 

The state apparatus is the political organizer and administrator of bourgeois democracy/dictatorship, so they too will intervene in the wage issue. They understand they have a powder keg ready to ignite with any little spark from the plurality of the political spectrum. Their decisions to reform the minimum wage or unpaid overtime are political ploys in the interest of the bourgeoisie (even if some members or fractions disagree)as a way to keep water ready to douse the powder keg. The main objective of the State in giving us crumbs is, in the interest of capitalism, to keep us disorganized.

 

What do we do?

 

At this time, though we are in a structural crisis of capitalism, our forces are weak, dispersed and dominantly disorganized. But we will not raise the white flag simply because we are strategically and tactically in a position of weakness. We should certainly not raise our hands on the air and say, “Thank you for the crumbs.” We need to understand our weakness and define a strategy to overturn the balance of power in our favor.

 

How do we start?

 

  • Use the internal contradiction of the bourgeoisie in our favor.
  • Use the contradiction between those fractions of capital interested in the minimum wage hike on the one hand, and the masses (including the petite bourgeoisie) on the other hand—push it in our favor to realize a shift in the balance of forces.
  • We should not unite with one fraction of capital against the other, but use the contradiction among them to further weaken them all.
  • At the same time we need to construct our own base, our autonomous organizations. This is the primary material condition necessary to shift the balance of power to our side.

 

The struggle for the minimum wage adjustment is, at this time, an alternative that will benefit a fraction of the capitalist class and the capitalist class, as a bloc, even if the crumbs are good for us. We should take the crumbs if it happens, but our demands should not be restricted to what they decide we need. WE SHOUILD NEVER BE SATISFIED.

 


Constructing Intermediate Level Workers Organizations: a Starting Point

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Proletarian Alternative, June 29, 2015

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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.

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Racism as an Element of Fascism, a Political Tendency of Capitalism

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By Proletarian Alternative

June 21, 2015   

 

fascismOn Wednesday, June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old man walked into a church, prayed with the parishioners, and opened fire, killing nine people. All were Black. Subjectively, he thought that African-Americans are soon going to take over an imperialist social formation—so killing nine of them was apparently for him an initial step of slowing down the process of realizing that transfer of power.

 

This was an act motivated by racism, but it was also more than that. We must analyze the conditions underlying incidents like this one, if we are to combat and overcome these conditions effectively, and to transform society in a way that eliminates them forever. Let us draw the connections between racism, fascism, and the current structural crisis of capitalism. Understanding the fundamental dynamics of our conditions as deeply as possible will allow us to delineate a way forward out of this US-American capitalist/imperialist hell.

 

In reality, Dylann Roof committed a political act. Because it was a political act, we need to interpret it in the realm of class struggle. No political act is committed outside of the reality of classes and class struggle. This is true even if one does not even recognize that his/her action is a political act, and that it is in the interest of particular classes. Each of our actions, committed over our lifetimes, usually benefits one class or another. Since our political acts are in the interest of specific classes, then they are INEVITABLY against the interest of other classes, either antagonistically or non-antagonistically.

 

So it would be insufficient, and very limiting, to reduce this event to the act of a crazy person or even to an act of terrorism. Acknowledging it as a terrorist act is an upgrade from merely attributing it to mental illness, but to limit our thought process even to that is in this case (as in all cases) also a political approach that will benefit particular classes, mainly the dominant classes.

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May Day: Continue Working Class Struggle to Kill Capitalism!

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by Gerye Proletari

(April 27, 2015)

 

mayday5May Day is coming upon us! Known as International Workers Day around the world, it’s a historic day commemorating the struggles of the international working class, and to honor the autonomous workers of Haymarket Chicago who were viciously terrorized and murdered by the bourgeoisie and its repressive forces as they were organizing for an 8-hour day and better working conditions.

 

In their brutality, the capitalists and their forces fired live rounds into crowds full of workers, their families and children. May 4, 1886 was the culmination of struggles, marked by another bloody massacre and arrests of labor leaders who were subsequently hung, committed suicide or faced prison sentences.

 

The working classes of the world refused to let these events fade into a forgotten history, and every year hold parades and marches commemorating the memory of workers and their struggles against the capitalists. In the US, we have been betrayed by the capitalist unions—to the extent that the bourgeoisie invented “labor day” as a holiday months after International Workers Day. More recently, bourgeois unions and NGOs have started orchestrating their own reformist May Day demonstrations financed by capitalists (by one faction or another—remember, they have their own contradictions). Though they might use fiery language and invoke serious issues affecting the working class and the masses (like attacks on immigrants and police brutality), they make sure to channel the rage into demands for a nicer-appearing capitalism, like they always do.

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Organization vs Spontaneity

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organizationby Gerye Proletari

(April 16, 2015)

Historically, the only progress made in the interests of masses has been through struggle of the masses. All the concessions ever gotten from the dominant classes have been the conclusion of an organized mass movement and often intense and violent struggle. Spontaneity and mobilizations, as expressions of the popular rage of the masses, can be a good opportunity for the development of relationships used for the construction of autonomous organizations. As revolutionary militants, our job is to construct a mass movement. Spontaneous upsurges come and go, but organizations last throughout different stages of historical development, are capable of introducing and developing theory, and providing an alternative. Also, an organization can struggle against opportunism, populism and co-optation which are much more prevalent and take root more easily in spontaneous mobilizations.

A revolutionary organization, armed with proletarian theory, can engage in mass line and political practice to constantly develop theory, raising the consciousness and levels of commitment of the militants in the organization, and the organizations they construct.

The bourgeoisie is the most brutal and best organized class in history. Given that, the only alternative can come from an autonomous, well organized mass movement under the leadership of the proletariat, with evolving theory validated and invalidated through political practice. Spontaneity is good for mobilizations, but mobilizations without organizations will either whimper away and fade out, or be taken over by the capitalist class.

 


Political Line: a guideline to practice

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2015-03-09-political-line

 

by Gerye Proletari

(March 9, 2015)

 

A political line is what separates organizations (revolutionary and progressive) from a collection of activists. When organizations don’t have a proletarian political line, the dominant tendency is to become swept up in reformism. Pragmatism, populism, economism, activism, nationalism and unionism (at this stage in most countries, unions have become integrated capitalist organizations) are all prevalent in many organizations. Indicators of disconnection from a proletarian political line (which would be informed by and inform theory and political practice), many of these tendencies end up turning organizations reformist and opportunist. They are pushed by NGOs, unions, and other structures of capital which try to co-opt and integrate people and movements.

 

These organizations, which are the main organs of capital recuperation in the streets, DO have their own political lines. The activists who join and or work with them however usually are not part of the construction of the lines. Even organizations which are themselves autonomous from Capital, without a political line, end up objectively being foot soldiers of these other Capitalist organizations; typically, they end up pragmatists, working on whatever is the current “campaign” or “hot button issue” of the day.

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International Working Women’s Day: a day of class struggle

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by Gerye Proletari

(March 4, 2015)

The bourgeoisie constantly recuperates what belongs to the people. International Women’s Day emerged from class struggle, but various states and imperialist organizations want to turn it into a mere holiday. According to the UN:

 

“International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

 

Capitalism attempts to wash the historical context and class significance right out. But International Women’s Day is also (more appropriately) known around the world as International Working Women’s Day.

2015-03-04-global-unity-aA Brief Historical Perspective:

 

IWWD emerged from the proletarian struggle in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. On March 8, 1857, women workers from textile and garment factories organized a strike in New York City for better pay, better conditions and basic bourgeois-democratic rights (rights such as wage increases, gender quality, and any rights you would expect in a bourgeois-democracy which can be attained without fundamentally questioning capital). On March 8, 1908, women workers of the needle trades went on strike in honor of the 1857 strike—still struggling for basic rights and the ending of child labor and bettering their horrific working conditions. On November 22, 1909, Clara Limlich, a Ukrainian-born proletarian militant, led 20,000 garment workers on strike in New York City against their horrible conditions and terrible wages. On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where women workers had been organizing, caught (or was set) on fire. The owners of the factory (which like most, was a sweatshop) locked the fire exit and got away with the murder of over 140 workers! In 1910, at the Second International, Clara Zetkin, a German born proletarian militant, suggested that March 8th be the day designated for the working women of the world.

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Populism at the level of the working class

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Proletarian Alternative

(January 2015)

Populism is a very important object of struggle in the ideological and theoretical development of the working class. The struggle against populism is and will be a very important component in the struggle of the working class for immediate demands and for the long-term objective of the class. It is indispensable that we have a clear-cut conception of populism and its nature.

What is populism?

  • Populism is a political, theoretical and ideological approach in which we look at the masses (or the oppressed, or the people) without looking at class. It is to talk about the masses or the oppressed without attempting to understand the differences among them, even if there is an attempt to lean on particular classes or fractions of classes.
  • In the moment of imperialism, in the US and internationally, there is a strong tendency to look at people or oppressed as an amalgam without, once again, making a class distinction. In reality, it is an approach of looking at the non-proletarian dominated classes as a political alternative, because they are more numerous, or even poorer than the working class, or may play a conjunctural and immediate contextual or historical cultural role. This approach is not innocent. It is rooted in the classes that practice populism.

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A few reflections on a brief history of New Direction Caucus in NYC Transit (1980’s – 2005)

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by Kiki Makandal

(January 23, 2015)

First, it’s important to note that I was not a NYC transit worker, nor was I a member of New Directions. These are mainly reflections of what I remember on observations and conversations I have had with different New Direction members over the years, coming from my interactions with them in the course of various labor solidarity actions in NYC while New Directions was in struggle and after it eventually dissolved. Please bear in mind that there may be some factual inaccuracies.

New Directions came about as a result of a confluence of factors:

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War

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by Ricardito Ramos

(August 13, 2014)

 

My great grandmother man, she lived through so many wars

Even the “great one”, where so many fought

To accumulate for rulers and makers of laws

What was it all for, she wasn’t entirely sure

But they profit from all of them, of that we can be sure

Imagine the names with which they were called

My great grandmother lived through the “great war”

Great because their pockets would inflate as they devastate

Wars are fought for Capital let’s set it straight

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The Problem with Programs

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by Jan Makandal

(February 2015)

The problem with programs is the fact that they are quickly self-exceeding, because their conception and implementation are governed and determined by class struggle. In the hands of dogmatists, they become a dangerous tool.

This is not to say that programs are not important. For us in our political current, we tend to construct programs from our political line. Since our political line is based on our understanding of the class struggle, it is contextual and conjunctural, even if it’s based on our general objective of defeating capitalism. Our programs, as well, are contextual and conjunctural. Our attempt to understand the objective reality is based on dialectical and historical materialism; our political line is also based on that understanding.

Needless to say, our political current understands clearly that during our process of realizing our objective of constructing an alternative to capitalism, we will be faced with the constant necessity of defining our political line, our “What is to be done?”

 


On Leadership: Vanguard or Vanguardism?

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by Gerye Proletari

(February 22, 2015)

In our political organizing it is important that the most advanced sections of the working class are organized and that they organize the rest or as many as they could. To be clear, there is a difference between leadership connected to the masses and a select group which imposes itself as the “vanguard”. We must differentiate between the two and understand that the advanced leadership connected to the masses with a base in the masses is the actual vanguard, this is not a bureaucratic relation. When a select group of people or organizations proclaim themselves to be the vanguard without an organic base sprouting from the masses or the classes they claim to lead, this is a bureaucratic imposition on the people.

 

If for example, there is a group of workers in a factory that has organized into committees or councils based on the interests of the workers, this is in fact the leadership of the worker’s struggle in that factory and they are a vanguard. It does not mean that their relationship to the rest of the workers is undemocratic, it is rather the fact that they took the initiative to organize based on their interests, that they are working towards organizing the rest of the workers that makes them to leadership or vanguard. If however in the same factory, a union for example, sends union organizers into the factory to tell the workers what to do, declaring itself the representative of the workers and stops autonomous worker organizations, this is a bureaucratic relationship. In the latter case, there is no actual organic base in the factory and if there is some support it is typically not democratic and based on the worker’s interests. It is typically not the workers of the factory that control these union locales or councils or committees but professional union organizers.

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The Disease

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ricarditoby Ricardito Ramos

(August 30, 2014)

Concentration to monopoly, privatization and the property, cops maneuver sloppily, enforcing rules of robbery, pacify the mass, the workings of a brutal class. Water poisoned till it’s worse than whats in the flask, but why? Don’t even ask, triggers squeezing in our direction, yet we stuck on shoes, the disease progresses from infection and we have no clue. Bandage approaches never hit the root, just top layer selection. Neosporin on the epidermis ignores the core, internal organs in critical. An illness so destructive, the body’s malfunction is the state of the conjunction, the merging of instability and a conjuncture from which we should rupture delays the response and credibility of the financiers and heads of industry. To accurately address the affliction with acuity we must address the contradictions with organization and scrutiny, struggle towards our formation and our unity……


A Contribution to the Ongoing Debate on Racism

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Jan Makandal

(January 7, 2015)

We need to understand police brutality and racism, from a proletarian perspective.

The police force, in any social formation, is a part of the repressive institutions of the state apparatus for asserting the interest of the bourgeoisie. It is their job to repress us. They are objectively brutal when dealing with the popular masses. This brutality is an integrated part of class struggle. To argue that police brutality is simply a racist act is, for us, reformism. The police intervene to break strikes, infiltrate political organizations (like the Black Panthers, Weathermen and many others), and restrain marches not because of the dominant pigmentation of these groups, but because the police are there to keep the masses disorganized in order to allow the reproduction of capital. The police and all the other repressive institutions of bourgeois democracy are the guardian angels of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

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Hearts and Minds: Forging Ourselves into Revolutionary Militants

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264bStephanie McMillan

(9/8/14; edited 9/13/14)

Escalating by the day, the ecological and economic devastation being inflicted on the world by capitalism is shocking and horrifying—even more so when we face our incapacity to respond effectively.

The revolutionary movements of decades past have completely disintegrated. In that process we’ve witnessed the bankrupt political line of the petit bourgeoisie, and with the working class as yet unable to take up its historical mission of destroying its fundamental antagonist, the field has been left wide open for global capitalism to invade every corner of our lives. Capital has tangled us in an economic, political and ideological web, determined to prevent us from rising up collectively against it.

Expanding inexorably, breaking all boundaries and devouring the natural world, capital zombie-walks ever deeper into crisis and conflict. With every conquest it grows more unstable. Its political legitimacy is unraveling along with the degradation of its economic health. Populations no longer able to survive under its domination rise up spontaneously, and struggle to cohere into organized movements. This is capital’s greatest danger, and it employs ever more ruthless repressive measures to prevent collective mass resistance.

It wages ideological warfare designed to pacify us, to make us believe in its invincibility and our own corresponding powerlessness. As we are increasingly unable and unwilling to tolerate the current situation, we search for a way out. To preserve their system of exploitation, the stewards of capital do everything possible to isolate us and divert us into political dead ends.

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Our Position on Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism

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Jan Makandal

7/22/14

There is a fundamental non-correspondence between imperialism and anti-imperialism. They are not simply direct opposites. The struggle against imperialism (the advanced form of accumulation of capital), is not to be conflated with anti-imperialism (the struggle against the domination of one social formation by another).

Imperialism is an advanced stage of the development of capital. Capital is a form of organization of a social formation, and imperialism is a conjuncture, a period. Anti-imperialism is not an alternative form of societal organization, but rather a political struggle to transform a specific political relation (a relation that while not economic, does have an economic effect). (more…)


Jan Makandal: Audio Interview

Jan Makandal interviewed on Resistance Radio (prn.fm) by Derrick Jensen. Topics: what is a revolution, contemporary classes under capitalism, class struggle, what revolutionary militants need to be doing now.

Listen below or at the Progressive Radio Network.

TRANSCRIPT:

Jan Makandal interviewed by Derrick Jensen (05/11/14)

Minutes 1-10

[Birds singing]

DJ: Hi, I’m Derrick Jensen, this is Resistance radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guest today is Jan Makandal. He’s a long-time revolutionary proletarian militant. He organised with the workers’ committee of Rockland County in the 1970s in upstate New York, as well as with a group of Haitian revolutionaries building a mass movement based among workers and peasants during the fall of Duvalier, plus other organisations within the US and Haiti. So thank you so much for being on the program today, Jan.

JM: Oh, thank you, Derrick, for giving me the opportunity to speak to your listeners and to you as well.

DJ: Thank you. OK, so for my first question—I like to dive right in. You know, you talk about the need for revolution but frankly, you know, we hear of revolution all the time: we hear it in, in commercials for cars, you know, “revolutionary car, this is a revolution,” we hear it in advertisements for cereal, we hear it in among, you know, mainstream organizations. For crying out loud, politicians talk about the need for revolution, so, and then, you know, recycling your paper is revolutionary, we hear. Um, so what do you mean by revolution? (more…)