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Free Transit and October 7 mass action (posted to Black Orchid blog)

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Posted to the blog of the Black Orchid Collective for this entry:

“Why Free Transit?” (work in progress)

This is a good post, covering a lot of related topics.

I had hoped to post a more substantive comment, but these
quick notes will have to do.

-- 1 --

The struggle for free transit has an important ideological
component not present in many other struggles for partial
demands: this struggle helps the masses to visualize a world
where things like transit (and other material goods and
services necessary for happiness) are free.

My best guess, however, is that the struggle for free
transit is unlikely to be completely successful, at least
in terms of the original goal of free transit for riders.

The main reason for this is that the local bourgeoisie
understands, just as we do, that victory for the working
class and oppressed in a struggle such as this would
certainly inspire many more kinds of struggles. We are
fighting a conscious class enemy, which strives, just as
we do, to maintain a strategic perspective in all its actions.

My somewhat pessimistic guesswork on this does not, however,
mean that this struggle is not worthwhile. This struggle is
worthwhile because:

(1) my guesswork aside--it can succeed if it has sufficient
support, and

(2) the struggle for free transit may assist struggles for
more modest demands on this front. For example: the local
bourgeoisie _retreated_ from their original proposal to
drastically cut existing bus routes. My guess (and, again,
this is only a guess) is that the local bourgeoisie had
planned such a retreat all along (since this is typical of
the kinds of maneuvers that different sections of the
ruling political ecosystem play against one another).

But the potential popularity of the campaign for free transit
may _also_ have been a factor in the retreat. Drastically
cutting transit routes would have created a lot of anger
among the lower sections of the working class who rely on
public transit. This anger would, most likely, have greatly
strengthened support for the campaign for free transit.

(3) we can learn a lot from campaigns and struggles such as
this. We gain experience with the attitudes of all the
different political trends locally. More than this, we gain
experience making contact with, and linking up with, sections
of the working class and oppressed. We gain experience creating
leaflets and organizing distribution, organizing meetings, and
analyzing complex political and economic terrain.

-- 2 --

There is a need for summation of other struggles for similar
partial demands. Which struggles were successful? What
material factors helped this success? We may not be able to
put together a comprehensive and reliable analysis, but we
can take simple steps to pull together relevant information.

-- 3 --

Finally: a note on the slogan: "Tax the rich".

Today, this slogan is being used by the Democratic Party.

It was in all the headlines yesterday.

Many left-liberal political trends will be using this slogan
to mobilize support for the Democratic Party and, more
importantly, to promote a political orientation based on
passivity: based on the idea of _waiting_ for saviors
"from above" (ie: from the ranks of the class enemy) to make
things right and avoid the need for us to sort out all the
difficult contradictions which we must overcome in order to
develop a politics based on organzing the masses.

But the main ideological axis of development in the movement
at this time is recognition that we will not, so to speak,
find a cure by praying to the gods of plague. The
Democratic Party will deliver necessary partial demands only
when we turn our backs on it in a decisive way. The
Democratic Party will "chase us" only when the masses begin
to see it for what it is--and reject it in favor of a
revolutionary alternative.

It is therefore necessary and correct for us to reject this
slogan, as you have done.

-- 4 --

Finally, a brief note concerning the need to deal in a balanced
and long-term way with the entire spectrum of the demands of
the masses.

An important mass action against the Bush-Obama war in Afghanistan
is being organized for October 7. Mass actions of this kind only
take place twice a year (in the spring and fall) in the current
political climate. Activists come together for these actions
and have opportunities to talk and interact and learn about
the politics (and the problems) of every political trend on
the left.

Mass actions of this kind have, with good reason, traditionally
played a role in the organization and development of all kinds
of progressive forces and trends, and every progressive force
and trend, without exception, should support these actions in
a way that is in accord with its influence and abilities.

It is clear to me that it is the responsibility of the Black
Orchid Collective, as an organization which has organized
significant political meetings, is organzing a significant
public campaign and which has attracted the attention and
respect of activists and activist groupings throughout the
city, to at least post a notice on its blog of this mass
action, which is of importance in the development of the
political life of this city.

Many of the political trends which are organzing for the
October 7 action, unfortunately, are deeply infected by
the reformist or sectarian diseases. But this does not mean
that it is ok for us to simply ignore them or ignore mass
actions which require our support. If important organizations
have big problems, we do not act as if either the organizations
or the problems do not exist. Rather, we support what they do
when their actions correspond to the needs of the movement, and
we publicly criticize the dysfunctions. The demands of
organzing a conscious class struggle, from this perspective,
are simple: we support mass actions and we also tell the masses
the truth concerning every political trend, without exception.


  1. Ben Seattle's Avatar
    Hi folks,

    > In terms of the Oct 7th anti-war action, most of our collective
    > will be there, and we’re letting our contacts know. One of us
    > is working on a blog post and a statement on the war and the
    > current struggles agianst US imperialism.

    It is good that you are working on a statement against the war
    and against US imperialism. However, the mass action is this
    Friday afternoon and, so far, nothing has been posted to your

    My assumption is that, faced with sorting out some of the many
    contradictions in the movement against imperialism, your
    statement may be taking more time to write than you thought.

    My suggestion is that you simply post info about the event:
    that protesters will meet up at SCCC at 4:30 pm and then march
    to Westlake.

    A statement would be nice--but if it turns out to be complicated
    and takes a lot of time to "do right", you can always post the
    statement later. The war in Afghanistan (and the movement against
    it) will not be going away any time soon.

    It may also be helpful for you to post links to web pages from
    the groups that may have more info (or their own views) on these
    issues, such as:

    The contradictions in the movement are complex, but they are
    not beyond the ability of activists to sort out. If it is
    not practical to issue statements in a timely way, then a
    useful alternative would be to arrange meetings (either formal
    or informal) for the purpose of discussing the contradictions
    in the movement.

    All the best,


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