From the September-October 2012 issue of News & Letters:
Readers’ Views, Part 2
REVOLUTIONARY SYNDICALISM DISCUSSION CONTINUES
The discussion article on “Revolutionary Syndicalism” (July-August N&L) reminds me of when it was considered a major force of revolution. There was a syndicalist party, the Socialist Labor Party (SLP), that thought we could vote in socialism. They attempted to unite syndicalism and the political arena. We forget high points of labor history. If the Industrial Workers of the World slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all” was taken seriously, it would mean a lot!
The syndicalist vision of unionization across national and craft boundaries is important, but unions like the UAW and the Teamsters—with many kinds of workers—create a “unity” which is meaningless. So the discussion moves to “what kind of unity?” What is the purpose, the reality and especially the philosophy of the “unity?” Traditional big unions are part of the power structure, which the author of the discussion article counterposes to “self-organization of the working class wherever it may be.” Let’s not overlook genuine opposition and a vision of a better society that has arisen within those unions, too. Today, the recession, Occupy, and global revolutions are breathing new life into the question of “economics only” vs. “social justice” unionism.
Advocacy of “Revolutionary Syndicalism” has become quite fashionable in recent years, especially in Europe, where a bewildering array of organizations insist that they are “anarcho-syndicalists” even when they clearly are not! Here in Minnesota I have heard more than one person involved with the Communist Party insist on a personal identification with “anarcho-syndicalism.” In late 2008, it was revealed that the chief witnesses in court against the protesters arrested in St. Paul for actions against the Republican Party National Convention were none other than the “leaders” of the anarchist Black Bloc themselves, each of them an on-duty undercover police officer who had been heard to say that they supported “revolutionary syndicalism.”
What is most of all missing, however, is any sense of ultimate basics— namely, that the first and foremost task of “revolutionary syndicalists” today must be that we challenge and contend with the capitalist establishment. Otherwise the ideas of Revolutionary Syndicalism become just more talk-talk-talk radio. The “mechanics” of Revolutionary Syndicalism are not important if we do not remember what it was all supposed to be about in the first place: dimensional human freedom! If there is no liberating thought and action, then we collapse back into a mindless state of “mechanical” inertia and vapidity!
We do need the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) but most of all we need to change consciousness. Part of the aim of our movement is to free bodies from institutional settings. Another need is to free minds and souls. There’s so much public insensitivity about disability. There’s cultural bias in special education.
The pendulum is swinging to a Nazi-esque pattern of behavior, for eliminating and purifying and releasing society from the burden of these “defects.” Hitler was inspired by the U.S. eugenics movement.
Disability rights activist
When I was in South Africa I spoke to disability rights activists who said that even before the end of apartheid they were all colors working together because the difference of disability was greater than that of race. It’s all about the power of difference. There’s oppression but also power in difference.
As a caseworker in Illinois, I saw people with incredible talents and skills but no opportunity to develop and use them. One was a very talented blind puppeteer, but he never had an opportunity to perform regularly for an audience. U.S. history has been one of expansion of rights, but people with disabilities have been left out.
Disability rights radical
FIREFIGHTERS ARE NOT EXPENDABLE LABOR
While climate change is increasing the reach and dangers of wildfires, what is happening to the people who fight these fires? Politicians praise their bravery, then refuse the funds needed for safe working conditions and adequate benefits. Many of them are prisoners, some pressured into the work to avoid paying firefighters. Another 8,000 are seasonal federal employees who had to fight for access to health insurance and only just received it when it became national news.
Fighting fires is inherently dangerous, but workers’ lives are sometimes unnecessarily risked by poor planning and corner-cutting. In August an elite group of “Hotshot” firefighters walked out at the Steep Corner fire in Idaho, warning their bosses of “huge concerns” about “extremely unsafe” conditions and gave them a list of safety concerns and methods to follow. The next day other firefighters were sent in. One, 20-year-old seasonal employee Anne Veseth, was then killed by a falling tree.
As long as capitalism continues, the rulers—like the logging companies who call the firefighting shots in Idaho— will keep sacrificing workers to protect themselves and their interests.
Environmental justice activist
I don’t think the world should be honoring Columbus on Oct. 12, the date that marks the 520th anniversary of his supposedly “discovering America.” How can you “discover” a place that already has people living there? What was started was the never-ending cycle of oppression, slavery, dislocation and carrying diseases to other parts of the world.
Instead of Columbus Day the world should change the holiday to International Indigenous Peoples Day, honoring those who should be honored. It is up to us whether we choose to change it and honor what is right, or continue going down a path of endless retrogression.
VOICES FROM WITHIN
My own answer to a writing I have titled “Who’s Afraid of the PIC?” is: “Not me, because there’s no such thing as a ‘Prison Industrial Complex (PIC).'” It’s a bogeyman, whose myth serves to disguise the fact that most prisons are little more than warehouses used to store and torture the victims of state oppression (i.e., the justice system) in the form of racism and class warfare.
However unwittingly, by disseminating the PIC myth, a section of the Left is misleading people into thinking that the prison system is a productive industry that may benefit them, when it produces little or nothing and simply soaks up public funds that would be better spent on education, healthcare and the general well-being of the community.
I thank each and every one at News and Letters Committees for helping me to learn and grow in this world, despite being in prison. The mainstream news never speaks on all the issues you give me in your paper. Give my appreciation to the donor who helped me. In the name of justice, I will always be for everyone who struggles and continues to fight.
TO OUR READERS: Can you donate the price of a sub ($5) for a prisoner who cannot pay for one? It will be shared with many others.