From discussion on strategy board (2)
by, 25th December 2009 at 08:42 (476 Views)
*Note about blog: This is the second of three post that I wrote to be posted in strategy board discussion. I have not yet posted, but will in the next day or so. In this post I am arguing against workerism and trade-union fetishism, which seems to be prevalent trend on site*
The second thing that I wanted to comment on was the strong response of people to do work and engage with workers. This is an important and essential thing to do. However, I hope people can understand the value and necessity of organizing amongst the youth. And when I say youth I do not mean exclusively college, for in fact most of my work and that of my organization's work is among high school and middle school youth. The youth are active, thinking, optimistic, idealistic, and pissed the fuck off by the contradictions of our epoch. I think most people in this post fit this description. Am I correct in assuming that most are barely in their mid-20's? The youth have the capacity and possibility of playing the vanguard in building mass struggle. We must recognize this and put all our effort towards the youth. Because the truth is rebuilding the labor movement is impossible without the building of a mass social movement in general, and in particularly in the U.S. and Britain (and I believe this to be true in most of Europe, but some countries outside Europe too) of a militant, youth-led civil rights movement.
At the same time, I am in agreement in what I sense mainly is an irritation with what normal college politics can be - and there is nothing more wretched than college politics. Especially the tendency to treat college as this world unto itself that has no real connections with the rest of the world. As adamant as I am about an orientation to the youth I am just as adamant about fighting with college youth (high school and middle school students don't have the pretensions and illusions of grandeur no way near the extend that college students do) to NOT confine themselves to their campus, since reality does not actually allow them to do so anyway.
I guess I wanted to emphasis that a dialectical approach must be applied to the question. Because just like it is harmful to deal exclusively with students, it is equally harmful to develop a kind of trade-union fetishism and a workerist attitude. By the term trade-union fetishism I mean doing with the unions what some people do to college campuses - treat them as they only thing that matter and exist in the world. This usually adds up to not dealing with any issue that is not related to the contract or the workplace. And by workerism I mean treating workers with contempt, believing that we must dumb down what we say to "speak their language", which ultimately means we insult their intelligence and fail to help them raise their level of consciousness about the system of capitalism as a whole and their power to create a society on the basis of their interest.
The Communist Manifesto says communist "... have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement." Assuming that this is correct (and I hope everyone does) that means its the duty of revolutionaries to communicate and teach that understanding to the workers and oppressed. To read more (please do when you have the time) on this balance check out the section "Trade Unions in the Transitional Epoch"
An example of this approach in action: The civil rights organization BAMN that I am a member in has an active and growing chapter at U of M. We have been doing very vital stuff there, including running for student government and aiming to turn it back into the student union it use to be when it first formed, fight against the resegregation of the campus, calling for U of M to be a sanctuary campus for undocumented students, and exposing the failings of the University in creating a hostile-free environment for minority students by having minority students testify in a public forum to the incidents of racism and sexism that they have experienced. Though every chance we get we bring people to Detroit (which is about 45 minute drive from U of M) and talk about the events in the city and why students at U of M need to be concerned about them because their interest lies with the working-class, black, and increasingly Latino/a city of Detroit. We also do organizing inside high schools in the city of Ann Arbor, where U of M is. This has including getting people out to rallies organize by the city workers union, and the recent actions of the DFT (teachers union), along with joining the youth and community of Detroit in fighting against charter schools and the dismantling of public education.
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