Category Archives: Organization

Replace Yourself

Still one of the best organizing-related writings I’ve read.

http://www.recomposition.info/2011/01/12/replace-yourself/
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

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Team Work

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

Passages from Luxemburg’s Mass Strike

The Mass Strike by Rosa Luxemburg

“For the anarchist mode of thought is direct speculation on the “great Kladderadatsch,“ on the social revolution merely as an external and inessential characteristic. According to it, what is essential is the whole abstract, unhistorical view of the mass strike and of all the conditions of the proletariat struggle generally.”

“For the anarchist there exist only two things as material suppositions of his “revolutionary” speculations – first, imagination, and second goodwill and courage to rescue humanity from the existing capitalist vale of tears.”

Abstract, ahistorical methods

“What the trade-union opponent of the mass strike understands by the “historical basis” and “material conditions” is two things – on the one hand the weakness of the proletariat, and on the other hand, the strength of Prussian-German militarism…Now when it is quite true that the trade-union cash box and the Prussian bayonet are material and very historical phenomena, but the conception based upon them is not historical materialism in Marx’s sense but a policemanlike materialism in the sense of Puttkammer.”

“If, therefore, the Russian Revolution teaches us anything, it teaches above all that the mass strike is not artificially “made,” not “decided” at random, not “propagated,” but that it is a historical phenomenon which, at a given moment, results from social conditions with historical inevitability. It is not, therefore, by abstract speculations on the possibility or impossibility, the utility or the injuriousness of the mass strike, but only by an examination of those factors and social conditions out of which the mass strike grows in the present phase of the class struggle – in other words, it is not by subjective criticism of the mass strike from the standpoint of what is desirable, but only by objective investigation of the sources of the mass strike from the standpoint of what is historically inevitable, that the problem can be grasped or even discussed.”

“It is just as impossible to “propagate” the mass strike as an abstract means of struggle as it is to propagate the “revolution.” “Revolution” like “mass strike” signifies nothing but an external form of the class struggle, which can have sense and meaning only in connection with definite political situations.”

Part 3:

“Who, therefore, speaks of the mass strike in Russia must, above all things, keep its history before his eyes.”

Aspects of development of mass strike movement in Russia:

– sometimes struggle appears as purely economic
– the attitude of govt and agitation of social democracy make an economic into a political struggle
– workers suffer “defeats”
– mvmt appears not to arise on preconceived plan but flows together from individual points from different causes and in a different form
– economic struggles of earlier period mislead social democrats to exaggerate the importance of so-called economics, paving way doe demagogues
– at times the strike emerges under the immediate influence of news of strikes elsewhere (despite opposition to the strike from social democrats)
– when political struggles “dissolve” into economic front, appears to some as mistake. But this ignores important changes in consciousness of proletariat which inevitably impact next stages of struggle (“a general raising of the standard of life of the proletariat – economic, social, intellectual.” P 131)

“By many small channels of partial economic struggles and little “accidental” occurrences it flowed rapidly to a raging sea, and changed the entire south of the czarist empire for some weeks into a bizarre revolutionary workers’ republic.”

“But even here there was no predetermined plan, no organised action, because the appeals of the parties could scarcely keep pace with the spontaneous risings of the masses; the leaders had scarcely time to formulate the watchwords of the onrushing crowd of the proletariat. Further, the earlier mass and general strikes had originated from individual coalescing wage struggles which, in the general temper of the revolutionary situation and under the influence of the social democratic agitation, rapidly became political demonstrations; the economic factor and the scattered condition of trade unionism were the starting point; all-embracing class action and political direction the result. The movement was now reversed.” (128)

“Here, the economic struggle was not really a decay, a dissipation of action, but merely change of front, a sudden and natural alteration of the first general engagement with absolutism, in a general reckoning with capital, which in keeping with its character assumed the form of individual, scattered wage struggles. Political class action was not broken in January by the decay of the general strike into economic strikes, but the reverse, after the possible content of political action in the given situation and at the given stage of the revolution was exhausted, it broke, or rather changed, into economic action.” (129-130)

“Only complete thoughtlessness could expect that absolutism could be destroyed at one blow by a single “long-drawn” general strike after the anarchist plan. Absolutism in Russia must be overthrown by the proletariat. But in order to be able to overthrow it, the proletariat requires a high degree of political education, of class-consciousness and organisation. All these conditions cannot be fulfilled by pamphlets and leaflets, but only by the living political school, by the fight and in the fight, in the continuous course of the revolution. Further, absolutism cannot be overthrown at any desired moment in which only adequate “exertion” and “endurance” is necessary. The fall of absolutism is merely the outer expression of the inner social and class development of Russian society.” (130)

“In actual fact it is not merely a general raising of the standard of life, or the cultural level of the working-class that has taken place. The material standard of life as a permanent stage of well-being has no place in the revolution. Full of contradictions and contrasts it brings simultaneously on the part of the capitalists; today the eight-hour day and tomorrow wholesale lockouts and actual starvation for the millions.” ( see previous note– p 134)

“The most precious, lasting, thing in the rapid ebb and flow of the wave is its mental sediment: the intellectual, cultural growth of the proletariat, which proceeds by fits and starts, and which offers an inviolable guarantee of their further irresistible progress in the economic as in the political struggle.” (134)

“And finally another thing, the apparently “chaotic” strikes and the “disorganised” revolutionary action after the January general strike are becoming the starting point of a feverish work of organisation.” (134)

“The Moscow events show a typical picture of the logical development and at the same time of the future of the revolutionary movement on the whole: their inevitable close in a general open insurrection, which again on its part cannot come in any other way than through the school of a series of preparatory partial insurrections, which end in partial outward “defeats” and, considered individually, may appear to be “premature.”” (139)

Part 4:

“The mass strike, as the Russian Revolution shows it to us, is such a changeable phenomenon that it reflects all the phases of the political and economic struggle, all stages and factors of the revolution. Its adaptability, its efficiency, the factors of its origin are constantly changing. It suddenly opens new and wide perspectives of the revolution when it appears to have already arrived in a narrow pass and where it is impossible for anyone to reckon upon it with any degree of certainty. It flows now like a broad billow over the whole kingdom, and now divides into a gigantic network of narrow streams; now it bubbles forth from under the ground like a fresh spring and now is completely lost under the earth. Political and economic strikes, mass strikes and partial strikes, demonstrative strikes and fighting strikes, general strikes of individual branches of industry and general strikes in individual towns, peaceful wage struggles and street massacres, barricade fighting – all these run through one another, run side by side, cross one another, flow in and over one another – it is a ceaselessly moving, changing sea of phenomena. And the law of motion of these phenomena is clear: it does not lie in the mass strike itself nor in its technical details, but in the political and social proportions of the forces of the revolution.” (140-141)

“The mass strike is merely the form of the revolutionary struggle and every disarrangement of the relations of the contending powers, in party development and in class division, in the position of counter-revolution – all this immediately influences the action of the strike in a thousand invisible and scarcely controllable ways. But strike action itself does not cease for a single moment. It merely alters its forms, its dimensions, its effect. It is the living pulse-beat of the revolution and at the same time its most powerful driving wheel. In a word, the mass strike, as shown to us in the Russian Revolution, is not a crafty method discovered by subtle reasoning for the purpose of making the proletarian struggle more effective, but the method of motion of the proletarian mass, the phenomenal form of the proletarian struggle in the revolution.” (141)

“Thereby, temporarily considered, the following characteristic discloses itself: the demonstration strikes which, in contradistinction to the fighting strikes, exhibit the greatest mass of party discipline, conscious direction and political thought, and therefore must appear as the highest and most mature form of the mass strike, play in reality the greatest part in the beginnings of the movement.” (142)

“But the movement on the whole does not proceed from the economic to the political struggle, nor even the reverse. Every great political mass action, after it has attained its political highest point, breaks up into a mass of economic strikes. And that applies not only to each of the great mass strikes, but also to the revolution as a whole. With the spreading, clarifying and involution of the political struggle, the economic struggle not only does not recede, but extends, organises and becomes involved in equal measure. Between the two there is the most complete reciprocal action.” (144)

Raya Dunayevskaya on “Forms of Organization”

In her book Marxism and Freedom, Raya has a chapter on “Forms of Organization: The Relationship of the Spontaneous Organization of the Proletariat to the ‘Vanguard Party'”.

I read this to help think through some ongoing conversations with the ‘rades about Hal Draper’s center concept, Scott Nappalos’ intermediate level concept, and our own developing organizing work in Houston. Overall I cannot say Raya’s piece was super helpful but the following points and passages seem useful.

– taking the highest point of struggle as our starting point in any given moment (p 184, there is related material on this somewhere…)

– going deeper and lower into the working class as the quintessence of Marxism

His mind working dialectically, Lenin now approaches the problem from two levels: (1) the real, and (2) the ideal springing from the real. The betrayal of the proletariat by the Second [International] left no doubt that, far from being an ideal organization, it had become the enemy of the purpose for which it was formed – to organize the revolutionary activity of the masses. No doubt the corruption of the Second was unavoidable under the growth of monopoly capitalism and imperialism. But having traced it’s objective basis, that is to say, the economic roots, his mind found it all the more necessary to see it philosophically, and go forward from the recognition of the contradiction in every single thing, to its resolution: If the unity of opposites is not limited to the two fundamental classes in society, if the duality extends to labor itself, then one must speak out the truth – the labor party itself is bourgeois. It is thus necessary to drive a wedge between the opposites in labor itself. It was the deeper and lower layers, in and outside the party, that would have to restore labor to its revolutionary being. The masses would do more than regain their self-activity when they finally destroyed the bourgeois labor party. In overcoming that barrier, the working class will finally find itself undivided against itself. Its ‘knowing,’ its consciousness, will be reunited with its ‘being,’ it’s creative activity. The type of party it creates would not shirk taking power. [p 187-188]

– the relationship of theory and activity

‘Actuality and thought (or the Idea) are often absurdly opposed…Thought in such a case is, on the other hand, the synonym for a subjective conception, plan, intention or the like, just as actuality, on the other, is made synonymous with external and sensible existence…For on the one hand ideas are not confined to our heads merely, nor is the Idea, upon the whole, so feeble as to leave the question of its actual inaction or non-actual inaction dependent on our will. The Idea is rather absolutely active as well as actual. And, on the other hand, actuality is not so bad and irrational as it is supposed to be by the practical men, who are either without thought altogether or have quarreled with thought and have been worsted in the contest.’ Hegel [p 186]

Not only were economics, politics and philosophy not three separate constituent parts. The point was that unless all, as a totality, are taken in strict relationship to the actual class struggle, the activity of the masses themselves, it would be nothing but ‘project-hatching.’ [p 190]

La Teoría Comunista De Marx

My comrade Parce and I are working on translating a number of pieces from the Unity & Struggle blog into Spanish. We recently finished up the following piece, “The Communist Theory of Marx,” which is part of a longer document engaging with communist theory and revolutionary organization. Read below or visit here for the Spanish version, click here for the original in English.

La Teoría Comunista De Marx

Como siempre, si encuentras un error gramatical o en la traducción te agradeceríamos tu ayuda en corregirlo para mejorar nuestro trabajo.

Traducido por L Boogie y Parce

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La siguiente entrada representa una parte de un proyecto mayor sobre la teoría comunista y organización revolucionaria que se inició el verano pasado. Es un proyecto en curso que no sólo fue diseñado para proporcionar un esquema de referencia para nuestra propia agrupación. En términos más amplios, está destinado a ser una contribución a las discusiones en curso y debates sobre la teoría y práctica comunista, que, en nuestro momento histórico, no puede y no será el producto de cualquier grupo individual. Continue reading

A Case for Rape & Domestic Violence Survivors Becoming Workplace Organizers

A good article you should check out if you haven’t seen it before:

My body, my rules: a case for rape and domestic violence survivors becoming workplace organizers

Liberté Locke, a Starbucks Workers Union organizer, writes about how violence at work and in our personal lives are similar, how domestic abusers and bosses use the same techniques of control and that we need to fight both.

TRIGGER WARNING: sexual violence
Continue reading