Happy International Workers Day 2011

May 1st - International Worker's Day

The struggle continues with yet another May 1st upon us. The impact of the financial crisis through mass lay offs and unemployment, foreclosures, service and education cuts, attacks on unions and a general move towards neo-liberal austerity is still being felt hard. As well, the total failure of much promised and hoped for immigration reform has become all too obvious. Let this be a day to renew our struggles to organize ourselves as a class and as oppressed peoples and carry forward our fight for a better world. It’s needed now more than ever.

Here’s a few retrospective pieces to put the moment into context. First is a brief article on the history of May Day and its significance, some retrospective thoughts on the 2009 May 1st protests as well as some analysis on the 2006 protests that started it all from Machete408.

Next are some thoughts on the San Jose march in 2009. These are criticisms raised by Raj Jayadev of Silicon Valley Debug on the co-option of the march by institutional large non-profits and mainstream labor unions. I’m happy to saw the 2011 was of a very different character, less contrived, no directives on what flags or banners to hold, and an open mic where a diversity of speakers were allowed to speak. I think its worth looking back towards to answer the question of where is the movement at now?

The 2007 and 2008 marches were reunions of sorts, marches to honor and remember the history that was made in 2006, the largest mass marches in the history of the United States by a people who largely did not exist according to federal law.

The irony was that in an effort to reclaim that spirit of spontaneity that defined the 2006 march, every effort made by the large institutional organizations seemed more contrived and predictable. The first march, no one knew where it was going to end, or who was “leading” it. The route that was made in 2006, the same one we did yesterday, was created by walking it. It went from the immigrant Latino center in East San Jose, to the heart of civic power in downtown — City Hall. That route was made by children marching for their undocumented mothers, and was a social movement in a raw and profoundly inspiring form. Yet once organizations tried to organize the march, capture and direct the energy in 2007 and 2008, the march got deflated with route directors wearing matching armbands and politicians speaking on expensive stages. It resembled a parade, rather than a call to action.

FIGHTING FOR EDUCATION: Two Organizers Share Their Experiences About the Student Movement, the Building Occupations and March 4th, 2010


Reflections on the student movement that swept CA in 2010

Interviews by Adam W.

These two interviews of student organizers were conducted in early 2010 and published in the first edition of Especifista in May of that year. I think the most relevant themes that these interviews address are roles of radicals within larger mass movements, what are the shapes these movements will take as the possibilities and contradictions direct action and democratic practice. More analysis of the interviews will be added soon. -AW

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Esteban Garcia is currently a graduate student at UCLA and a member of Amanecer. Originally from Northern California, Esteban has previously been involved in student as well as community organizing and community media.

What are some of the challenges that radicals face in trying to build a more widespread movement in your area? 


The first challenge is the relationship between formal and informal organizations on campus.  There are student organizations that are very concerned with keeping a certain relationship with student government and the administration and see direct action as a threat.
Formal student organizations face a lot of restrictions due to their funding, which is allocated by the administration.   Student groups who attempt to represent those most affected by the budget cuts feel they must walk a line not to risk their funding.
It is similar to how many non-profits function to not upset their funders.  Their decisions about tactics and strategies are dictated by this fear.
It is not surprising that many are creating a more affinity group style structure so people can come in and discuss these tactics and not feel the need to represent their organizations.
A second challenge is creating a radicalizing experience on a popular level given the political climate on campus. The liberation of Carter-Huggins Hall at UCLA was an attempt to create such a space, by putting the building under student-worker control as long as possible.
Unfortunately, the communication with those inside and outside, logistical difficulties and really, a lack of experience, didn’t allow the action to reach its fruition. Nevertheless, this was not a failure. It forced the discussion of tactics and strategies to the forefront for groups organizing around the budget cuts, which is a very important step at UCLA.

Continue reading

The Feed March 21: Madison and the General Strike

The Feed will be a semi-regular feature of recommended links and readings along with brief commentary. -AW

Egypt, Libya, Wisconsin! The political moment around the globe is hotter right now than anytime in recent memory. And when even the liberal The Nation magazine runs general strike sympathetic pieces referencing the IWW you know something is up.

The mobilization and hype inside and outside Madison so far around a general strike is nothing short of impressive.  Much of it began with the Feb 21 resolution backed by IWWs and other labor radical that was passed by the South Central Federation of Labor (the local labor council of AFL-CIO unions in Madison) which called for a no concessions stance and to “immediately begin educating affiliates and members on the organization and function of a general strike.”

Following this members of the IWW began passing out in the 1,000’s a “Kill The Bill” pamphlet advocating a general strike as “the ultimate tool of social change” to the crowds occupying the capitol daily.  A second edition is in the works and you can donate towards the efforts here. Spreading the message even further, especially over facebook, was the creation of general strike posters in seven different languages.

The current question is whether the potential of unleashing a general strike will be successfully drained away as Democratic Party and AFL-CIO leaders attempt to drain and channel the mass mobilization into recall and election efforts? Especially as the fight currently stands as at best a draw for an ever declining labor movement in the US, the clamor to push the energy away from the streets and workplaces where workers have the upper hand and into the ballot box and hands of Democrats who already announced their willingness to agree to major concessions and have not pledged to repeal the bill, is a surely a ‘rush to loose’ as one friend puts it.

For some of the latest and most worthwhile analysis here are my recommendations: a member of the US socialist organization Solidarity has been regularly blogging with on the ground analysis and commentary and is now at twelve posts; and both by members of the Workers Solidarity Alliance, a commentary piece critical of the role of mainstream labor officials in the regular column ‘Labor Shorts’ and a critical report back on a recent “Emergency Labor Meeting” of left activists within the AFL-CIO discussing the Wisconsin situation; two worthwhile pieces on organizing a general strike, first, a facebook note titled “Organizing a General Strike: Strategy” and an article with links to the history of general strike and Canadian public sector resistance movements. Finally, see a high definition, panoramic view of the protests with audio clips to feel as if you are there.

[Perhaps some short commentary to be added-AW]

A Super Market Story: Get Out As Fast As You Can

By Adam W.

Originally published in De-Bug Magazine # 16, December 2006

Working at a grocery store is a world to its own. Although the customers strolling through the aisles may not see it, the workers at a store can be like a family ­ brothers and sisters, older parent figures, crazy Uncles. And just like a family, there can be generation gaps. At my store, we had mainly two kind of folks, the 20-something-workers, many who were slowly working their way through community college, and the older workers we called the “lifers.” It wasn’t just how the young folks saw them, but how they saw themselves — stuck.
In the break room was where I would chop it up with the lifers. When the managers would do their paperwork in the early mornings, Gary, a lifer with words of wisdom, would sit across the break room table from me.
“You gotta get out of that credit card debt, start saving money right away. Are you going to school?”  he would lecture. With a stern look and a pointing finger covered by a rubber glove, he would talk straight to me like an older uncle. He would tell the story about back in his day, working at Safeway was like being a teacher, nurse, or a firefighter. It was a respected job that you could buy a house and send your kids to college with.

Continue reading

The ‘Peaceful Revolution in Egypt’: Protest through the eyes of the powerful and the nature of the uprising

What are all these references to the ‘peaceful revolution in Egypt’ that I’m hearing in the media? From the images I saw, it was moltovs, sticks and organized resistance beating back the government thugs and plain clothes police officers who were attempting to attack and discredit the protest movement.

The dust hasn’t even landed on the floor yet in Egypt and already the spin masters of the media and political figures are already laying out a revisionist narrative of what happened as somewhat akin to “fluffy peace demonstrations” in the words of one friend. I think this is interesting because in trying to co-opt an uprising against a dictator held in place by the US for decades and which will be a huge blow to US power in the Middle East (especially if it spreads further) I think we are able to glimpse in action how power structures either co-opt or demonize protest movements.

So are the recent protests in Egypt peaceful? They could be termed non-violent if non-armed confrontation and property destructive fit into that definition, but certainly not peaceful. But being one of those folks who during the WTO protests back in 1999 was attacked (and even threatened to be punched in the face believe it or not) for breaking codes of ‘non-violence’ by bringing out newspaper stands into the street when riot police were attacking people with tear gas or forming a line to push back police who were beating on people doing a sit down blockade of an intersection, I have a hard time listening to the rhetoric of a ‘peaceful revolution’ in Egypt.

Continue reading

Revised Repost: Revolutionaries in High Places, Van Jones

Van Jones with fist in the air

Note: Bringing this back with a revised version. This commentary piece was removed after the attacks by right-wing blog and media sites on Van Jones intensified and led up to Obama washing his hands of Jones with his resignation. Right-wing sites cited “left wing blogger Machete408” as further ‘proof’ of Obama’s undercover socialist credentials (read an actual socialist refute this total non-sense here). As for Jones’ himself, he’s likely made some major political transitions. A mentor of his touts the pro-business, market-based ideas Van has promoted for years, including in his best-selling book, The Green Collar Economy.” (link) Though I think it’s fair to say that the tendency on the revolutionary left, Van Jones formerly included, which views alliances and involvement with the state and electoral politics—state power if you will— as a strategic orientation is alive and well. (See link, link, link and critique, critique) See also my follow up piece “On Van Jones’ Resignation.”

Did anyone catch the news that Van Jones of Green Jobs for All, and formerly of the Ella Baker Center in Oakland and a revolutionary organization in the Bay Area, was recently tapped by the Obama administration to serve as an advisor around green jobs? The position was officially dubbed the Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on the White House Council on Environmental Quality, that is before Obama accepted Jones’ resignation following attacks by the right-wing blogosphere and Glen Beck on his radical past.

I’ll get back to that in a minute. I was having a conversation with a friend the other night about the legacy of sixties revolutionaries and Marxists who attempted to “proletarianize” themselves or as some called it “colonize the working class.” Many of these radicals, who were largely from more middle-class backgrounds and college graduates (or those who after becoming radicalized dropped out of college), got jobs in factories and various industries with the goal of bringing the messages of socialism and revolutionary politics to the working class. (For more on this see Max Elbaum’s excellent history of the sixties communist left with Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Che and Mao) Many of them also became active in the unions at these workplace, whom were largely conservative bureaucracies if not outright reactionary. Continue reading

Relaunch and Recommended Readings

Insureccoinpopularya

Machete 408 is back serving you up with a new series of postings after a summer hiatus. A continuing state of joblessness and downgrading to a slower internet connection both put a bit of a damper on the political juices that went into the blog. But despite these, there’s a nice backlog of recently published pieces that I hope Machete 408 readers will check out. Below is a collage of recommended and recently published articles and commentaries.

Did anyone notice a coup happening somewhere? Writing on the recent coup in Honduras, Jose Antonio Gutierrez of Ireland’s Worker Solidarity Movement (WSM) as well as the Frente de estudiantes Libertarios (FeL) in Chile, provides analysis with “Coup in Honduras: The Return of Guerillas or the Tactics of Attrition?.” Also is a piece on the potential of the recent popular uprising in Iran in response to stolen elections. “The Iranian Election, A ‘Legacy of Martyred Flowers’” is by Farah, an Iranian whom is also a member of the WSM. Both pieces appear on the Anarkismo international anarchist news and publishing site and Farah’s is followed by a lively debate in the comments section.

Looking at a global trend is “Workers Creating Hope: Factory Occupations and Self-Management” by Shawn Hattingh from Monthly Review Zine, which gives a brief overview of the growing factory and workplace occupations around the globe. The piece concludes, “The actions of these workers [involved in occupations] are inspirational. It seems likely that more and more workers will begin adopting and adapting the idea of factory occupations as a viable way to save jobs and reclaim the dignity that bosses have tried to take away from them. Perhaps what we are also seeing through the occupations, takeovers, and self-management is a glimpse of what a post-capitalist world, created by the workers and the poor themselves, would look like.”

Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity? On the movement and political analysis tip is the Advance the Struggle blog, founded earlier this year and written by Bay Area writers influenced by various strains of Marxism. Of interest are several pieces debating the movement that surrounded the killing of Black, 22 year old Oakland resident, Oscar Grant at a BART station on New Years Day 2009. Included is three pieces. “Unfinished Acts” is an insurrectionary anarchist piece created in the format of a composite narrative play; “Justice for Oscar Grant: A Missed Opportunity?” is a solid piece with excellent critical analysis of both the role of the RCP and the non-profit dominated CAPE coalition that led much of the community response; and “Bring the Struggle, Advance the Ruckus” a response to “Missed Opportunity” by Oakland members of the revolutionary group Bring The Ruckus is also worthwhile as well. I won’t link the pieces individually, instead you should go to their blog and find them.

For all those in the labor movement disillusioned with the lack of passage of EFCA (suprise, suprise) is the article “Introducing the Employee Liberation Act” by Daniel Gross of the IWW. There is much to be critical about of the EFCA (See the Machete 408 piece on EFCA here), but what Gross provides us with is a total rethinking of what ails the labor movement and what changes in the legal arena might actually allow for advances by workers instead of card check recognition. Its a bit of a wish list, but what he proposes is a three pronged bill that would: 1) Make discrimination against organizing in the workplace on par with federal civil rights protections around race and gender discrimination. This would make worker rights a recognized civil right as it should; 2) End the second class, modern Jim Crow status of undocumented immigrants in workplace across the US; and 3) Eliminate legal barriers and restrictions on strikes, which would unleash worker’s most powerful weapons against the power of bosses: that of solidarity and the ability to bring profits to a halt.

On an uplifting note is an AK Press blog picture report on the 2nd Annual LA Southern California Anarchist Conference, with nice shots of the jewlery, cultural and publishing vendors, as well as some of the performers and presenters for the event.

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Finally, on the anarchist political organization theory front we have the long awaited English translation of “Huerta Grande” by a good comrade at The Left Winger blog. The 1972 piece is considered a seminal theoretical text of the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU), which played a leading role in spawning the especifist current within the South American anarchist movement. Also be sure to read this “quick and dirty rought history piece” on the FAU for background and context.

As well, we have a recent translation of South American Anarchist philosopher Angel Cappelletti (1927-1995) posted on the AK Press Blog “Revolution by the Book.” Cappelletti was born in Argentina and spent the later half of his life in Venezuela, becoming a key intellectual figure in the libertarian left, authoring several works on philosophy, anarchism and Latin America. Supporters have recently created a Spanish language archive site of his work. And last but not least is another piece from Jose Antonio Gutierrez, who again offers us some worthwhile thoughts, but this time on strategy and the role of anarchist organization with his Considerations About the Anarchist Program. Here’s an excerpt:

The essence of the Platform is how to build an organisation that unites like-minded anarchists based on concrete proposals and tactics – that is, a “political organisation” as opposed to what is a purely ideological group. In this tradition, it is perfectly fair that we ask ourselves how many of our organisations, leaving aside any pretensions, have actually managed to reach the level of development of a political organisation. At present, the majority of these groupings are only propaganda groups. The principle difference between a political organisation and a propaganda group is not its number of militants nor its level of militancy, nor even the political insertion of its members. The principle difference is the simple answer to the question: what can we offer the people? While propaganda groups can not offer more than a political and ideological vision and, in the best cases, a few slogans, the revolutionary political organisation can offer a course of action; a programme; a tactical line; a strategy; short-, medium- and long-term objectives.

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