Still one of the best organizing-related writings I’ve read.
Replace Yourself by J. Pierce
The primary task of an organizer is to build more organizers. We need more and more working class leaders and the way to do this is to constantly replace yourself. Here’s a few easy ways to help you build up your successors:
Reveal your sources so others can think with you: “I had a long talk with MK recently. He really convinced me that we should reorganize as a shop committee instead of having one or two ‘stewards’. He gave me this awesome article on how IWW shop committees used to work.” Telling others where you got an idea from demonstrates that you think of them as equals. You also provide an opportunity for them question your sources.
Show others how it’s done and take them through the process: “Hey Keith, has anyone showed you how to post an article to iww.org? I’m going to post that write-up on the strike right now. Let me show you how to do it. We need another person who can post.” Pass on the technical know-how so others can be ‘experts’ just like you. Continue reading
Some sports writing has useful ways for thinking about team work that is certainly applicable to political organization. The following are selections taken from Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball.
“Lots of times, on our team, you can’t tell who the best player in the game was. ‘Cause everybody did something good. That’s what makes us so good. The other team has to worry about stopping eight or nine people instead of two or three. It’s the only way to win. The only way to win. That’s the way the game was invented.” (38-39)
“Russell: ‘By design and by talent the Celtics were a team of specialists, and like a team of specialists in any field, our performance dependent on individual excellence and how well we worked together.'” (48) Continue reading
The Week in News (10/5 – 10/11)
I. Hong Kong & the Umbrella Revolution
* class tensions within this broad based movement but temporarily subsumed under pan-democratic slogans;
* there appears to be a moderate pole (Occupy Central leadership) and a rightwing pole (Civic Passion) which has strong anti-chinese sentiments;
* debate over tactics (confrontation with police vs “peaceful” appeasement of public opinion);
* debate over meaning of democracy (what does it mean to demand democracy in HK but not in mainland China?)
* some on the left seem to be saying this protest mvmt is being controlled from the outside. By who? (TRN is one example)
* some on the left support China as progressive force against U.S. imperialism and thus oppose the mvmt as bourgeois.
II. ISIS & Syria
and older links for more background:
* syrian civil war may spill over into turkey
* turkey refuses to take military action to defend Kurds in Kobani, unless Kurds willing to give up their self-governing cantons, join the Free Syrian Army, and allow Turkey to establish a buffer zone in Northern Syria. So far Kurds have refused. Further the Turkish military has closed the border to Kobani and is refusing to allow mutual aid from below from Kurds in Turkey.
* Kurds in Turkey and Europe rioted and protested over inaction of govts to intervene against ISIS
* what would solidarity look like? political/military support to the Kurds fighting in Kobani?
Week 3: Nelson Peery, “The Negro National Colonial Question”
* Give 1-2 sentence summary of author’s basic argument
See passages p 80-81
A) Existence of a black nation (black belt plus adjacent economic/physical territory)
B) role of black comprador and national bourgeoisie
C) role of black prole (as vanguard and in unity w/colonial masses and white prole)
D) role of black landless peasantry and rural prole (peasant questin is basis of national question says Stalin)
E) call for national liberation and land redistribution
* Debate the author’s position. What is their evidence? Is there other evidence we can add that proves/disproves the author?
(How do you have a prole/peasantry w/out a bourgeoisie? See p 70)
(Why was there never a mass mvmt among black folks to separate and form a new nation?)
(If race is a “determinate point” and “form of appearance” of alienated labor, how does this relate to/contrast to Peery’s definition of nation?)
* Define basic terms that the author uses
Comprador bourgeoisie (vs national bourgeoisie vs international bourgeoisie)
State vs race vs nation (p 60)
Other historical references: Algeria; Marx, Lenin, Engels, Stalin, Mao;
a) comprador vs national: from Mao, primary task in colonial countries was to oppose imperialism. This meant identify the divisions among the comprador bourgeoisie, attack the section deemed most threatening to peasantry/prole, and win over the national bourgeoisie to this fight.
WEB DuBois, Black Reconstruction, “Black Worker” and “The General Strike”
From its inception, US founded on principle of liberty for all and consent of the governed while maintaining millions of black folks in slavery. Initial justifications were a matter of race and color – that slave trade would cease bringing Africans to the continent so slavery would “naturally die.” But in the U.S. there was emphasis on reproduction.
Then slavery became a matter of social condition – eventually slaves would be freed to could set up their own country somewhere (because co-existence with whites was unthinkable). Then industrial revolution and:
“Black labor became the foundation stone not only of the Southern social structure, but of Northern manufacture and commerce, of the English factory system, of European commerce of buying and selling on a world-wide scale; new cities were built on the results of black labor, and a new labor problem, involving all white labor, arose both in Europe and America.” (p 5) Continue reading
* Are there any themes common to both authors? Or points where they diverge?
[what it means to be black in the US; what it means to be an American]
* What does each piece prescribe as the way forward for black struggle?
Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” (4 pp)
“Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.”
Outline: Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature pp 75-89
I. Base & Superstructure
- Determining base and determined superstructure
- Social being determines consciousness
Drawn from Marx’s Preface:
In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure. In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Continue reading