First Published: Forward to the Party! Struggle for the Party!, No. 4, [n.d.].
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of several issues of the special journal on the programme (and other documents) of the party. The purpose of this journal is to provide an important forum for discussion and struggle around the programme (and other documents) among all future party members.
None of these articles represents the line of the RU; none has been approved (or disapproved) by leadership bodies of the RU on any level. Instead these articles represent the opinions, criticisms and suggestions of particular comrades based on their study of these specific points of the draft programme (and other documents) and their own summation around them.
For this issue of the journal, as with the last one, a tremendous number of articles were submitted. This reflects the fact that the central importance of forming the party now is being more thoroughly grasped by all comrades. It further reflects the fact that the process of forming the party from the bottom up, and linking theory with practice in discussion and struggle, is developing and deepening. All this is laying the firmest foundation for carrying the process through and forming the party, united to carry out the correct line as the advanced detachment of the working class.
In this issue of the journal we have limited the number of articles and printed those which most focus the discussion and struggle around the main points and will enable the journal to further this process the most at this time. For this reason many articles, which were submitted but did not concentrate on these main focuses, were not printed. But, whether or not they appear in the journal the articles submitted will make an important contribution to the process of forming the party and will be used in one form or another as part of the process.
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Since the DP has come out there has been much struggle around the question of IWOs, their relationships to the day to day struggles in the plants and their overall role in society. In the course of this struggle our understanding of the current situation that faces the working class and what must be done to promote the struggle of the workers has grown much deeper.
But not deep enough. The line put forward in the DP and the latest document on the IWOs does not and will not promote the struggle of the working class because it starts not on the basis of uniting with the actual struggles of the working class but comrades’ wishes and desires of what ought to be. This failure to do a concrete analysis of concrete conditions has led to two serious errors: 1) to incorrectly emphasize the role of IWOs in building the fight against all oppression, which is not the primary aspect at this particular time; and 2) failing to understand how IWOs must be developed out of the actual struggles of the working class, specifically how it is incorrect at this time to build areawide IWOs that have no organized sections in at least several important shops.
In the DP on p. 31 workers who are the backbone of the IWOs are described as “workers (who) are coming forward in greater numbers to lead struggles not only in the shops and unions, but also in many other battlefronts against the bourgeoisie–for example, against police repression or imperialist aggression and war.”
Which of the two aspects, “leading the day to day struggle in the shops” or “the other battle fronts against the bourgeoisie,” is the one that we must emphasize and build on at this time?
From what the organization has summed up in the DP and the latest document, and from our own experience, the aspect that we must emphasize is the leading of the day to day struggles in the shop in the context of building the fight of the working class against the ruling class.
The DP in the section on the IWOs never emphasizes this aspect, but instead only talks about the advance in consciousness in terms of taking up broader struggles, the struggle against all oppression “of all sections of the people,” instead of uniting with the actual struggles of the workers at this particular time, concentrating their demands into a fighting programme, dealing a material blow to the enemy, and spreading the sparks of the struggle to the workers involved and to their class brothers and sisters in as broad a way as possible.
We, the authors of this paper, don’t emphasize the in-plant aspect because we think the workers are a narrow bunch of people or because the struggle against all oppression is a fight for tomorrow.
Workers in this country have some general feelings about what the source of all the problems and misery is. They know that the capitalists that own their company are not the only enemy; they know from their experience in life, that the miserableness of this society doesn’t just come down at work but to varying degrees everywhere else. In short, the aspirations of the workers are not just for a dime an hour more, but for a better life for themselves and their families and for all people getting ripped.
But the workers are not in a contest to link as broadly as you can; they are involved in a struggle for survival, to eat, be housed and to have clothes on their backs, a struggle that is determined at any particular point by the objective conditions, the level of consciousness of the workers and their sense of organization.
The workers fight back in the best way they know how, based on struggling for the tactics that get results and move their struggle forward. As we correctly say in the DP and the latest document, “the present struggles of the working class in this country are against individual employers (and employers’ associations) around wages and benefits, working conditions, against speed-up and lay-offs, against discrimination.”
These are the actual struggles of the working class, against individual employers, that we must in the main PROMOTE. These are the struggles that the IWO section in the DP must be based on, and must emphasize.
To help in this struggle and to offer our own two cents worth, we would like to submit the following re-write of the IWO section in the DP. It is the product of much discussion, mainly around the questions developed by the national leadership of our organization and our own experience. The journal articles also helped a lot.
Suggested re-write: starts p. 30, right-hand side, paragraph no. 5:
As this process develops, the workers, especially the most advanced, begin to see the struggle on the job in a different light. The face of the enemy and how to fight him becomes clearer. The struggle on the job becomes a part of a much larger fight, union brothers and sisters and fellow workers become class brothers and sisters; the struggles of other strata and oppressed people in society begin to be viewed in relation to how they weaken the common enemy and how they unite the forces of the people. The struggle for a living wage and a decent life begins to become the struggle to wipe out the source of all exploitation and misery in society, the ruling class of capitalist bloodsuckers, the class that runs everything in its own narrow interests.
The party of the proletariat must unite with these advanced workers to consolidate politically and organizationally this tremendous advance in consciousness by forming a workers organization that is more permanent and on-going than a rank and file caucus. An organization that grows out of the class struggle and in turn serves as the basis for the class struggle to roar on, at a still higher level. An organization whose backbone are the advanced workers who see the need to aim their blows squarely at the ruling class.
These workers organizations are intermediate between the party and the trade unions. They do not compete with the trade unions for members, they are not the section of the party in the plants. Their role in society is to unite with and help lead the actual struggles of the working class, in the mines, mills and factories, which at this time are mainly against individual employers (or employers’ associations) around wages and benefits, working conditions, against speed-up and lay-offs, against discrimination, in the context of building the struggles of the workers as a class, to fight for everything that is in our interests, to fight against everything that is not.
In this way these organizations will be one important form in which communists can unite with advanced workers to build the United Front Against Imperialism under proletarian leadership. These organizations would unite with the struggles of the workers, help to formulate a course of action, a fighting programme, spread this fight out as broadly as possible whether it be in a department, plant, industry or across the country, and through the course of struggle raise the level of understanding of the workers to go from fighters on one front to recognizing the need to become fighters for all.
Through this process the workers will more and more see the position of the working class in fundamentally changing society: how in the struggle against all manifestations of exploitation and oppression in society the working class in representing its interests, most fundamentally represents the interests of all of humanity. Further, other strata in society will see that their future lies in following the leadership of the working class, in joining together all who can be united to fight the common enemy, and in the long run many will desert their former crass position and interests. Page 31, left-hand side, start paragraph no. 5: “As an important part...”
The latest document on p. 21 goes a long way in overcoming some of the problems in the DP. We agree with the statement that, “these organizations can play this role [build the UFAI] only if they are rooted in the plants and other work places and play a leading role in the struggle there, as well as taking up major struggles arising in the area, or the country as a whole, applying the ’single spark’ method and as the Programme states, ’mobilize masses of workers in these struggles and develop them into campaigns of the working class.’ “The latest document further lays out in the next paragraph, “If these organizations are not rooted in the plants and do not lead struggle there, then there is no way they can mobilize masses of workers around broader struggles that affect the whole class. On the other hand, if these organizations do not take up these broader struggles and mobilize the masses of workers as a whole around them, then they will not play their full role in helping to develop the struggles and consciousness of the workers as a CLASS.” The final form of the IWO section in the programme of our party must reflect this understanding.
But while the latest document does make advances over the DP, it still falls short because it has a wrong understanding of how we are to develop these areawide organizations, specifically what is the relationship between areawide and single plant and industry IWOs.
On p. 21 the latest document states that trade unions are organized along industry lines, that this reflects the actual organization of the workers in production. It then sums up that “therefore, it is important to develop workers’ organizations that are also based along industry lines, AND to link these with area-wide workers’ organizations. Our aim should be to work toward establishing plant and industry-wide organizations as branches of the area-wide organization. In some cases this will mean affiliating already existing organizations in plants and industries, or at least many of the workers active in these organizations, to the area-wide organization as branches of it.”
We disagree with this formulation. From what we have seen and from what the DP and the latest document sum up as the current situation, we feel we must build plant and industry IWOs as a necessary step in building towards an areawide IWO. Concretely, it is wrong to build organizations like M1WM that have no organized sections in the particular shops or industries in the area.
Again, it is a question of developing our line, organizations and tactics on the basis of applying the science to the concrete conditions that we face. As the latest document says, in the Lenin quote on p. 17, “The Party’s activity must consist in promoting the working class struggle. The Party’s task is not to concoct some fashionable means of helping the workers, but to join with the workers’ movement, to bring light into it, to assist the workers in the struggle they themselves have already begun to wage.”
At this particular time the workers are mainly struggling against individual employers. In the main our organization has recognized this fact and has gone into the plants to join with the struggles, and to try and develop them in accordance with the world as it is. Based on the actual struggle and based on communists striving to sum up the lessons to deepen and broaden the movement of the workers, advanced workers have come forward to see the need to lead the day to day struggle of the workers in the context of building a movement to wipe out the capitalists.
While across the country many workers of this type have come forward, and while through the course of struggle and the summing up of struggle by communists many more workers have increased their understanding, the characterization that the struggle of the workers in this country is mainly against individual employers is still correct.
What has been accomplished is that we have developed some single plant IWOs and some industry IWOs. We have also organized some classwide committees around particular points of struggle like police repression, deportations and fighting against layoffs, but we have not formed areawide IWOs except in a couple of places across the country.
To us this fact raised the question of where do we go with these plant and industry IWOs? How do we develop their ability to lead more struggle, how do we develop the class consciousness of their members? Also in some cases where we have spread a struggle through an IWO in plant x to workers in plant z, the workers in plant z want to know what we are doing and how they can start doing the same. How do we relate to these workers?
Nowhere in the latest document are these questions answered. It is assumed that areawide organizations now exist, that they are leading the masses of workers in struggle and that our task is to simply affiliate our plant and industry IWOs (or individuals in these) to our areawide IWO.
It seems like the case is closed on how to build area-wide IWOs. This is wrong because the only real model there is at this time as to what these areawide organizations should be is the M1WM. We feel there is much that has to be summed up about this organization before it is used as the example for anything. In fact, from what we have seen about M1WM and from our own experience we feel that M1WM does little to promote the struggle of the working class and that what it basically does is suck advanced workers (and communists) out of the struggle in the shops and also does very little to mobilize the masses of workers to take up the broader struggles in society.
M1WM has summed it up, and others in the journal have summed it up, that M1WM is external to the real heat of the class struggle. This is no great revelation because if you’re not tied organizationally to where the main struggle of the workers is at (against individual employers) then you are relegating yourself to an external force.
In the M1WM article in the second journal the comrades sum up that “the main strength of M1WM has been that it has brought together a solid core of advanced workers from different shops and industries. These workers have united with communists to take important issues and struggles to the working class.” Further, the comrades have summed up, “that the May 1 Workers Movement has been actively involved in a number of important struggles, including the Rucker electronics strike, the struggles of Asian immigrant workers in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and a campaign against police repression.”
No one will deny that it is not a good thing to bring workers together to sum up the struggles that they have been involved in, and we have to do more work supporting strikes and building the fight against police repression. But the question comes up–how are we taking up these struggles, are we relying on the masses of the workers, are we constantly summing up the lessons of the struggle pointing the way forward to revolution and socialism?
Workers learn through their day to day struggles. They learn everything including the need to go up against not just their boss tout the entire class of capitalist pigs that their boss belongs to. Workers see pretty good what they need to do, the big question they got is how to do it.
M1WM doesn’t even start to answer the question of how. How could it–it plays no role in the learning process. Instead of taking part in and promoting the actual struggle of the workers. M1WM “brings important issues and struggles to the entire working class.” Instead of summing up the demands of the workers and developing the struggle in the context of eliminating the ruling class, M1WM proclaims “that it’s time for workers from all industries and unions to get together as a class and take the offensive against our common enemy.”
We should all learn from the comrades’ sum up in the Nov. 1974 issue of Revolution, when they wrote that in the Rucker strike, “the M1WM has continued to put forward the significance of the strike and its lessons to other workers but as an external force it has not been in a position to play a decisive role in determining the strike’s course.”
We have no interest in building IWOs as external to the real heat of the class struggle and there is nothing to be gained by leading the advanced workers in that direction either. We can’t see how the M1WM can teach the advanced workers that make up its backbone much of anything when it’s not in a position to teach the masses of workers anything.
The failure of M1WM to lead and promote the actual struggles of the workers eliminates the basis to make links to the need to take up the broader struggles against all oppression. As it lays out in the DP on p. 32, “These demands [demands of the working class to defend its standard of living] represent vital questions around which masses of workers are fighting today. But as important as they are, they deal only with effects of capitalist exploitation and oppression. The fundamental task for the working class is to eliminate the cause–the capitalist system itself. To do this it is necessary to fight the effects to get to the cause–to utilize today’s struggle as a means of building for the future showdown with the bourgeoisie.”
Organizations like M1WM that have only an external relationship to the actual struggles of the workers, that have no organized section in the shops, fail to promote either the day to day struggles of the workers or the overall fight against all oppression.
We have had some experience in trying to develop an areawide IWO in a small industrial city. This city has been the scene of many heavy battles between the workers and the bosses in the area. There have been many very militant strikes and wildcats which often erupted into battles with the local cops and the courts. Workers in this city have also participated in campaigns against police repression, bad conditions in the schools, many have also participated in helping to build for May Day. Some workers have crime forward out of these struggles and the organization has many contacts among the advanced workers in the town.
But while there has been much struggle in the area, and while we have had an open presence in many of the struggles, rank and file organizations have not been built in any of the shops (there have been some short-lived rank and file caucuses).
In summing up this situation we came to the conclusion that forming an areawide IWO would be the best way to move the struggle forward and would provide the basis to build both organization in the shops and to unite a much broader group of workers in the struggle. All the ingredients seemed to be there: we had contact with many advanced workers who led struggles against their bosses; and these workers and the struggles they led were relatively well known and these workers worked at the main shops in the area. Further, because this was a small town (where good news travels fast) and because there weren’t any Trots or revisionists around, we could call these workers together, lay out what we thought was right, have some discussion and then pull together an area-wide IWO.
The position we laid out to the workers that came to the first meeting was very much like that in the latest document. We stressed in the meeting that what we needed was an organization of workers that fought back against the capitalists; that built the day to day struggles in the shops with the line that the struggle could not just be around shop struggles, but we had to take up the fight against all the major attacks on us by the capitalists and their government. But we correctly stressed the in-plant aspect of the programme, laying out as the latest document does, that these struggles are the ones that we must in the main promote and that we must unfold the broader struggles in society around these.
But also like the latest document, we were wrong on exactly where to go with these workers. We saw the situation as one where we could form an areawide IWO with this group of advanced workers instead of seeing the need to build actual functioning organizations in the shops as a step in the process of forming an area-wide IWO.
We failed to make a concrete analysis of the situation, instead we just applied the form of M1WM (we used it as a model except that we saw that it must be based on the day to day struggles). As we fell into the error that is summed up on p. 22, we treated the situation mechanically, we did not really grasp that “organization must serve the purpose of developing struggle. In different situations, the level of struggle and the level of consciousness differs, and the relation of organizations in the plants and industries to area-wide workers organizations will have to be determined according to the actual conditions and development of the struggle.”
At the first meeting of our areawide IWO we talked about leading the day to day struggles, uniting the working class to fight as a class against all forms of exploitation and oppression. The workers talked about what was going on in their shops, laid out what they thought should be done to build the struggle and asked us and the other workers what we thought.
The workers were saying yeah, we got to build the struggle of the working class and yeah, it’s more than the fight against our boss, but that’s the fight we are in right now and these are the questions we must come to grips with to move it forward. We were saying, yeah, we got to build the struggle in the shops, but it’s a much broader question than just one shop. First we got to build this areawide organization, then we can build the struggle in the shops.
The workers wanted to form organization that would develop the struggle, our line basically was to form organizations that would rip the advanced workers from the struggle and put in a secondary position building and promoting the actual struggle of the workers.
We were slow to learn this lesson, in fact only really began to sum it up when advanced workers stopped coming to IWO meetings because they didn’t see them as important and their time could be spent better doing other things.
From this experience we have come to see much clearer that organization must “serve the purpose of developing the struggle,” that we must start from what exists and move from there. We have seen that even in a small town (with no Trots!) this same law applies, and in fact it applies even to a single plant or department in a plant. Organization must be based on the level of struggle and the concrete conditions and it must promote (as a participant in) the actual struggles.
In this light our task is to unite with the actual struggle (against individual employers) and form organizations based on the consciousness and sense OF ORGANIZATION OF the workers as the struggle develops. At this time this means developing plant and industry IWOs in the context of building toward hooking these plant and industry IWOs into one areawide IWO that has its roots in the plants and the struggles there and sends representatives to a steering committee that would give guidance to the struggles in the plants and mobilizing the entire areawide organization around the struggle against specific forms of exploitation and oppression that come down (like a police repression case, a move toward war or imperialist aggression, a particular law or bill like Prop. 22, or the courts throwing out the seniority system).
In building these areawide IWOs, the party must initiate classwide committees around a particular struggle. They could be a “Right to Strike Committee,” a strike support committee (around a major strike in the area or country or a police repression committee). These committees would not be on-going organizations but would live and die around an issue like a rank and file caucus. They would serve to build the struggles on a broader front, unite with and develop workers in shops where there are not IWOs to build them there and demonstrate in practice what role the class has to play in building the fight against all oppression.
To sum up this point, the latest document and to a lesser degree the DP must lay out more on how we proceed from where we are at now to build areawide IWOs. Specifically this means concentrating at this time in building plant and industry IWOs and in the course of some struggle and common work (around particular campaigns) and according to local conditions and the development of the plant and industry IWOs, join into an areawide IWO with sections.
The latest document should sum up that areawide IWOs’ like Ml WM are wrong as they now exist and should be moved rapidly to unite with industry IWOs to form areawide IWOs with sections.
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The struggle for the party has brought out sharply the important role of IWOs in building the revolutionary workers movement and the United Front Against Imperialism under proletarian leadership. We have been involved in a good deal of struggle around the question of IWOs. We’ve seen correct and incorrect aspects in various comrades’ arguments as to what IWOs should be and what they should do.
On the basis of our collective struggle, we’ve united with the correct and criticized the incorrect and arrived at a generally correct line on this important question and are therefore submitting it to The Struggle for the Party. Since the “Clarify” article and Article “Five” on IWOs in the third journal (hereafter referred to as “5”) both contained the most elements a correct line and were therefore the ones we concentrated our struggle around, this article will focus on them.
To understand the role of IWOs we must first understand where the revolutionary workers movement is at today. As the DP correctly points out, “The present struggle of the American workers is primarily against individual employers (or employers’ associations in different industries) around wages and benefits, working conditions, against speed-up and lay-offs and against discrimination.” (p.29) In other words, against attempts at increasing exploitation. Secondarily, we see a small but growing number of workers taking up in a class conscious way the broader struggle of all the people against imperialism.
What should this mean to communists? What should we do in this situation? The answer lies seeing that the day to day struggles of the working class must be the place we now concentrate our work. Our center of gravity. As the latest document points out, Lenin said, “The Party’s activity must consist in promoting the working class struggle. The Party’s task is not to concoct some fashionable means of helping the workers, but to join up with the workers’ movement, to bring light into it, to assist the workers in the struggles they themselves have already begun to wage.” So communists must enter the day to day struggles, lead them to as many victories as possible and within that context link these struggles with broader struggles by unfolding how at the root of these and all struggles is the fundamental contradiction between socialized production and private accumulation or between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, and that this contradiction can only be resolved through socialist revolution.
But can the work of communists end here? Can the struggle of the working class end at the day to day level? The answer is no. With the day to day struggles as a solid basis, the working class must increasingly take up struggles of the whole class and of all sections of the people against the imperialist ruling class. “Only by uniting with all social forces fighting imperialism can the working class develop consciousness of its own historical role as capitalism’s gravedigger.” (DP, p.33)
Around these points we see some correct and incorrect aspects to the journal articles. “Clarify” correctly brings out that the class is engaged in sharp day to day struggles and that these struggles are potentially revolutionary. However, as “5” points out, in doing this “Clarify” essentially “narrows the class struggle to the shop.” (p.7) It does this because the people who wrote “Clarify” don’t seem to understand and never brings out the crucial importance of the working class as a class taking up the struggles of all people against imperialism. In doing this the door is left open to the thinking that a class conscious revolutionary workers movement can be built out of shop struggle with perhaps a little help from broader struggles. This is, of course, incorrect. Article “5” correctly brings out this criticism of “Clarify” and the importance of workers taking up broader political struggles.
However, in doing so “5” loses its orientation. It talks of shop struggles as “one place where consciousness is developed.” (p.7) but never brings out that the day to day struggles is the main way workers are fighting the capitalists and therefore the great importance of communists rooting themselves in these struggles and with this as a basis winning the class to taking up broader struggle. Without this correct orientation the working class won’t take up the broader struggles in a correct way and communists will become increasingly isolated from the workers movement.
Understanding this, the next question is what is the role of IWOs? IWOs are an organization where communists unite with workers coming forward in struggle to build the revolutionary workers movement and the UFAI under proletarian leadership. To do this IWOs must fulfill certain tasks.
Firstly, IWOs must be rooted in the day to day struggles of workers in the plants and must be building them in a revolutionary way. That is, they must be constantly uniting with these day to day struggles, mobilizing the masses in the shop to take up these struggles in as big a way as possible and win as much as can be won. Within that, with communists in the lead, the IWOs must link these day to day struggles to broader struggles by bringing them out in a living way that the root of all these struggles is the fundamental contradiction of capitalism.
But rooted in these day to day struggles, IWOs must do more. They must “apply the ’single spark’ method to take up every major struggle, of all sections of the people, against the ruling class, mobilize masses of workers in these struggles and develop them into campaigns of the working class.” (DP, p.31) At different times the struggle being sparked will differ depending on the importance of winning the struggle, the political lessons the class as a class can learn from t and its possibility of sparking other struggle.
At this time, for example, we will see IWOs paying particular attention to developing important struggle against increased exploitation in one plant or industry into struggles of the whole working class. That is because at this time, by moving ahead these struggles, which the working class is mainly engaged in and which are getting consistently sharper and broader, victory, by bringing out political lessons in the course of those struggles and by sparking other struggles off of them, the IWOs under the party’s leadership will be helping the revolutionary workers movement make its greatest strides forward. Of course the IWOs must also “spark” other struggles ill the people against imperialism when the party sums them up as important battles.
To carry out these important tasks, IWOs must have the correct organizational form. In general, we believe IWOs should be built in plants and industries as sections of a city or areawide IWO. The shop sections would pay particular attention to rooting themselves in the day to day struggles in the plants, and of course would be essential in bringing any “spark” to or from the masses at the shop. The areawide IWO would be made up mainly of these different plant and industry sections (though individual workers could also join) and would certainly help build the struggle in the individual shops, but in a way the areawide IWO must be greater than the sum of its parts.
It must be an organization of the whole class, not a federation of sections or a left labor council. In* practice, that means that under the party’s lead the areawide IWO must not only help develop struggle in the individual shops but must, as their overall role, actively “spark” the most important struggles of all sections of the people against imperialism into struggles of the whole working class. Only in this way can the areawide IWOs play their full role in building a ’ revolutionary workers movement and the UFAI under proletarian leadership.
Around the questions of role and organization of IWOs, the two articles’ lack of understanding of the revolutionary workers movement and our orientation within that becomes manifested again. “Clarify” mentions the areawide IWO once and when it does all it says is that the sections of the IWO in the shop will build the day to day struggles.
This is all well and good, in fact, crucial, but since “Clarify” doesn’t understand the importance of the working class taking up the main struggles of all sections of the people against imperialism it can’t and doesn’t bring out the importance of areawide IWOs as an organization of the whole working class, taking up such broad struggles and mobilizing the working class as a class to take up these struggles. “Clarify” limits the areawide IWOs to being a left labor council only really interested in building and leading day to day struggles in the individual shops and in doing that the article actually liquidates the need for areawide IWOs as an organization of the whole class.
Article “5” correctly criticizes “Clarify” for this error. However, “5”’s lack of orientation once again comes out when speaking of IWOs. This becomes clear in the last paragraph of “5” when speaking of the DP section on IWOs it states that all the section must do to be correct is to state “more clearly the need for organization to be developed as sections of the IWOs and to lead the struggles in the plants and unions.” (p.7)
But “5” doesn’t understand or bring out that the DP will only be corrected around these errors if it is understood that day to day struggles can be built in a revolutionary way and that only by rooting themselves in the day to day struggles will IWOs be able to win the class to take up the broader struggles it must. Without this understanding, without this orientation, we can’t know why sections of IWOs must be built in the shops, nor will we understand the importance of building the day to day struggles in the shops.
We believe that the latest document answers the errors in each of these articles and puts forward the correct line on the role of IWOs when it states, “If these organizations are not rooted in the plants and do not lead struggle there, there is no way they can mobilize masses of workers around broader struggles that affect the whole class. On the other hand, if these organizations do not take up these struggles and mobilize the class as a whole around them, then they will not play their full role in helping to develop the struggle and consciousness of workers as a CLASS.”
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The DP should sum up openendedness as a characteristic of IWOs and should explicitly state that IWOs must lead the day to day struggles in the shops while their overall role is to apply the single spark method to every major struggle. These are two lessons we have learned from our work in developing an IWO in a large manufacturing plant.
Our groups has existed for more than a year. It developed out of struggle and has played a key role in many struggles and led some others. Included in these are a wildcat of several hundred workers, a struggle against job elimination (including demonstrations of up to 150 workers), a department slowdown, a struggle against layoffs, etc. The group also built for May Day, a regional action at the international union’s constitutional convention, the April 26th rally for jobs, etc. We have also done support work around the miners’ strike, work around police repression and around the Mideast.
Through the course of all this we have found that workers have come forward based on the fact that the group has been taking up struggle and not based on agreeing with our political line. In fact some have come forward in spite of disagreements with our political line. One worker would reject the local workers paper as “commie propaganda” but when the IWO took up a struggle against the denial of SUB pay during the miners’ strike, this worker linked up with the group and actively built it. Through the course of struggle, this worker came forward and seriously went over the DP when it came out. We also had some similar experience around taking up the struggle against job elimination.
Our group doesn’t have a statement of principles at this point. But it has said several times in the newsletter that it is open to anybody who wants to fight against the company and for the working class. And when we develop a statement of what the group is it will probably include a statement like that. Also in practice that has been how people have come forward. This has been true even though we have tried in all our struggles to direct the blow against the ruling class, which is not to say that there haven’t been errors made in doing this. At all periods in our development, some of the members of the group have objectively been below the political level of the group even though they did relate to our activity pretty good.
We also found that the basis for us winning workers to dealing with the broader campaigns was the fact that we took up the day to day struggle in the shops. If we just put a pretty good, newsletter, we wouldn’t be much different than the half dozen opportunist tendencies that distribute their rags at out plant. But we do more than that and in our struggles we try to direct the spearhead squarely at the ruling class. Although not everyone would spontaneously agree with that approach, we have generally managed to unite people around it and through the course of struggle won some workers over to that stand.
The DP does imply that the IWOs must take up the day to day struggles in the shops by saying that they must be based there, that the primary struggle of the working class is against individual employers or employer associations, and saying that the IWOs take up every major struggle. But it must go beyond that to explicitly stating that the IWOs must take up the day to day struggles in the shops.
In fact given our experience-and the development of the crisis and stepped up attacks on the working class, it is correct for the latest document to lay out taking up the day to day struggles in the shops as the area of concentration of the revolutionary workers movement.
There also seems to be some confusion on just what is a revolutionary struggle. Article “Four” in the “IWO” section of the last journal says it’s wrong to say that shop struggles are potentially revolutionary. Well, our experience has been that when properly carried out, struggles around shop issues can be revolutionary. We can bring out the irreconcilable antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie off of the SUB pay struggle. We could bring out how, as “long as the bourgeoisie holds state power it will continue to attack and attempt to corrupt every gain won by the working class” off of the way that struggle is unfolded. “Sometimes it is correct to carry out political agitation exclusively on an economic basis.” (What Is To Be Done?) The error comes in when we limit ourselves to working solely off of the basis of the economic struggle. Then we fall into lending the economic struggle a political character.
On the other hand, there’s Article “One” in the “Other Aspects” section. It takes issue with the DP for supposedly denying the revolutionary potential of the working class’ key demands. Well, when we built struggle around all out SUB now. Stop the sellout (job elimination). Smash the ENA or Smash the Consent Decree, our demands were only dealing with the effects of capitalist exploitation and oppression. But we used these struggles to build the fight to eliminate the cause. We brought out who was behind these attacks and through the course of struggle, while fighting to win all that we could, brought home that to end these attacks we had to deal with the system that they stemmed from. And this seems to be exactly what the draft is getting at with its formulation. OL built struggle around some of the same demands but their approach was to obscure the cause. Push how Abel ought to be dumped like Boyle was or some other such BS.
There is no areawide IWO in our area at this point but we are struggling to develop the basis for one. We see it as an important organizational form for developing the revolutionary consciousness, unity and struggle of the working class and its leadership in the UFAI. When one does develop, its political level should be basically the same as the plant IWO’s is. Open ended, existing on a permanent basis, directing its spearhead squarely at the1 ruling class. However, it probably will mean a bit more politically for a worker to hook up with an areawide group. Doing so would be seeing that workers had to come together as a class to fight back, while hooking up with a group in the plant doesn’t necessarily entail seeing that and in practice has often not entailed that.
What should be the relationship between the in-plant IWOs and the areawide? Well, some may be sections of the areawide and some may not be. In some cases we may only win some of the workers from the plant groups to relating to the citywides. This is ok because the key thing is not the formal development of structure but building the struggle. There may be cases where an in-plant group is well based in struggle and off of that has a real existence, but where it would be a paper move with no real meaning to formally make it a section of an areawide. The areawides should be organized by industry and in sections, but to say that every inplant group has to be a section of it is to make the thing like a “left wing labor council” which I would say is something we definitely don’t want to do. Not coming off of fears of dual unionism because, as was pointed out, that is a question of line, not structure, but to guard against reducing the areawides to being coordinating councils and not so much organizations in their own right. The way we see things developing, at all points there will probably be people in the areawide who aren’t part of groups in their plants and may even be the only worker from their plant.
The DP is correct to characterize IWOs politically and not geographically, as some of the journal articles seem to. Article “Five” in the last journal’s “IWO” section comes out and says IWOs are citywide and caucuses are in the plants. This is wrong, and it is this view, not the DP, which separates the economic and the political struggle organizationally. The overall role of IWOs, no matter whether they are area-wide or in-plant, is to apply the single spark method to every major struggle.
There are several other weaknesses in the draft in this section. One is that while it is correct to bring out that the primary struggle of the working class is against individual employers or employer associations, and to show how in the course of this struggle the workers are able to lift up their heads, it tends towards rightism to only lay out that means of the workers developing class consciousness. Also, the draft talks about the need for the party (and the RWM) to be based in the shops, but doesn’t clearly bring out that it is because that is the objective basis for the working class developing class consciousness and for grasping MLMTT as their own. That is because of their objective position in the society. This must be brought out, either in this section or the RCP section or the UF section.
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The DP states that IWOs “must be based mainly in the plants and other work places,” but does not say what this means. Our practice in the working class, in uniting with the class in its struggles and building organizations to serve these struggles, has shown that it is crucial to understand what it means to be based in the plants.
In the last several years comrades at company X have united with the workers in their day to day struggle in the shop and have tried to bring in other struggles outside the plant. We have built a multi-issue caucus that most workers look to as leading the fight back.
We have helped advance the workers’ struggle against the employer, and also have involved some workers in the broader political campaigns of the class. Most workers came to the campaigns because they saw how we were leading the struggle in the shop. We have, however, made the error of separating the two, of flip flopping from either just building the economic struggle in a trade unionist way, or just building the campaigns. We did not understand how to correctly link the two.
We were able to get several workers involved in the Throw the Bum Out campaign based on their desire to take an active role in getting rid of Nixon. But we did not take the major lessons of this campaign back into the shop and apply them to the struggles going on there. Before the campaign ended all of the workers left because they didn’t see the campaign as part of their struggle, as something meaningful to their lives.
The way we built the Smash the ENA and Fight Police Repression campaigns tended to center on bringing workers to the campaign (join this committee, come to this meeting, etc.) instead of bringing the main political lessons of these struggles to the struggles the workers were engaged in in the shop.
We didn’t, for example, bring out the lessons of the police repression campaign and expose the role of the cops at our union meetings. We did take a Step in the right direction, writing an article in our newsletter around contract time about the ENA. We tried to show the importance of the right to strike, and what the effects of us having an unwritten ENA were.
We were based in the plants, and we were trying to “single spark” the major struggles of the people, building the broader political campaigns of the class. But by separating these campaigns from the day to day struggle of the class we drew workers out of the shop and into the campaigns and did not bring the main lessons of the campaigns to the workers and their struggles in the shop. Because of this the workers were not able to make use of the campaigns to advance their day to day struggle, and through this to learn their correctness and importance and take up the campaigns as their own.
The DP says the overall role of the IWOs is “to apply the ’single spark’ method to take up every major struggle, of all sections of the people, against the ruling class, moblize masses of workers in these struggles and develop them into campaigns of the working class.” It does not talk about “single sparking” struggles developing in the plant, although in explaining the single spark method the DP says we should “seize on every spark of struggle” and “build every possible struggle and build off of it to launch new struggles.” This also tends to separate the role of the IWOs and the day to day struggle of the class.
We correctly single sparked some lessons learned in a shop struggle to get a janitor rehired. He had been fired for speaking up at a union meeting and disrupting the officials’ plans for a quiet meeting. We built a campaign to get him reinstated, but after a certain point we left it in the hands of the union officials, who sold us out the first chance they got. We popularized the lessons from this, explaining how we should have jammed the union officials by building the fight among the rank and file and aimed squarely at the company and should have carried through to the end. A couple of months later we applied these lessons to the struggle to get another worker rehired, and this time we won. The workers remembered the errors we had made and the summation we had popularized about how to fight and jam the officials, and this helped that struggle succeed.
What we have summed up from all of this is that it is not enough to just “be based mainly in the plants and other work places.” The IWOs must actively lead struggle going on there by uniting with it and bringing in and applying to it the lessons of the broader, political campaigns. The working class learns through its day to day struggle, not simply by going to meetings or demonstrations. By uniting with the day to day struggle of the class and applying to it the lessons of the campaigns we can advance the struggles in the shop, build them in a revolutionary way, and build the class consciousness and unity of the workers. Through its own practice and the work of communists the class will grasp the importance of the campaigns and take them up.
Two articles in the second journal speak to this question, “Clarify Role of IWOs” and “Lessons of the May 1 Workers Movement.” We believe the “Clarify” article is fundamentally correct, because it speaks to the error in the DP of separating the role of IWOs from the day to day struggle of the class. It correctly points out that the IWOs “must lead the struggles in the plant.” The article makes three errors, though.
First, while correctly pointing out that the IWOs must lead the in shop struggle, the “Clarify” article doesn’t say how. Is it that the IWOs are more militant forms of trade unions, or that they can bring in and apply the lessons of the class’ campaigns to the day to day struggle? It’s not just enough to lead the day to day struggle anymore than it’s enough to be based in the plants. The IWOs must lead by fanning every spark, building every struggle and building off of it to build new struggles. “And through the course of this to fan every spark of consciousness, to identify and isolate the bourgeoisie and its agents, and unite all struggles against this enemy.” (DP, P.30)
Second, the “Clarify” article tends to liquidate the role of caucuses, the “xyz committees.” Our workers organization is a multi-issue caucus, one that “relies on the rank and file, and [mobilizes] it to fight around its own grievances in the plant and union and to link up with struggles outside the plant.” (DP, p.30) At first we didn’t grasp what the concrete conditions were, what the level of struggle was and what the level of understanding of the workers who were coming forward was. We also didn’t correctly understand what an IWO was. We want to build the political campaigns, but we divided them from the day to day struggle of the workers. We also thought that only an IWO could “single spark” these campaigns. We put all this together and said we had an IWO, one with a core of workers who were interested in, though not actively involved in, other struggles outside the plant.
The core of the IWOs is not a group of “interested workers,” since most workers we talked to were interested in the campaigns. This core must be workers who “through their experience in struggle and the leadership of communists...have developed a basic understanding of the nature of the enemy and the class struggle against this enemy.” (p.31) Thinking we had this core led us to call unity nights to build the Fight Police Repression campaign. No one came, because the importance of this campaign hadn’t been brought to the workers and their struggle.
This error of voluntarism (wishing an IWO into being) on our part is what can come out of the “Clarify” article. If you need a workers group, make it an IWO, even if the objective conditions aren’t there, because caucuses can only be short-lived, single-issue groups. In fact, our practice has shown that both IWOs and caucuses can be multi-issue, can apply the single spark method to struggles inside and outside the plant, and can and must lead the day to day struggle of the workers. We see the main difference between the two groups is whether there is a core of workers who have “a basic understanding of the nature of the enemy and the class struggle against this enemy.”
Third, the “Clarify” article has an incorrect line on what an advanced worker is. The article says that IWOs must be open ended in order “to involve workers who come forward just to fight around any one issue as well as advanced workers.” What are advanced workers but workers who come forward in the fight, whether around one issue or many? We believe the “Clarify” article runs counter to the organization’s correct line on advanced workers: “To us, the advanced worker is one who has the respect of his fellow workers, to whom they come when they are in trouble and need to discuss their problems, whom they rally around when they face a collective problem and who provides leadership in struggle.” (RP 6, p.53)
The point is not to quibble over definitions, but to see that workers are advanced in their relationship to their fellow workers and their day to day struggle. It is on the basis of this struggle that advanced workers come forward. To fail to see this is to fail to see the importance of the day to day struggle to the class, how it is this struggle that we must strive to unite with and lead, and unite especially with those workers taking a leading role in that struggle.
We believe that the “Lessons of the May 1 Workers Movement” is fundamentally incorrect, because it doesn’t see bringing the campaigns to the day to day struggle and that this is how the IWO leads that struggle. It talks about bringing workers out of the shop to demonstrations, but not how the lessons of those struggles were brought back into the shop and applied to advance struggle going on there.
To sum up: The working class learns through its day to day struggle, and the organizations of the working class must serve this struggle. IWOs must unite with and lead the struggles in the shops in a revolutionary way, bringing in and applying to it the lessons of the broader political campaigns, and in the course of this winning workers to take these campaigns up as their own. In this way they can help build the struggle, class consciousness and revolutionary unity of the class and its leading role in the UF, and through the work of communists many of the most advanced among them will develop into communists and join the party.
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In our area some comrades have been summing up our work and struggling over the role of the IWOs and their relationship to the shop caucuses and shop struggles. Through this struggle we decided we did not have the basis to build a citywide IWO at this time. And we feel that the formulation of the DP on IWOs and caucuses has some important weaknesses–it builds a wall between the caucuses and IWOs by pitting them against each other, with IWOs on a “higher political level”–“Directed squarely at the ruling class.” And the shop caucuses on a lower level, dealing with the day to day struggle against exploitation and oppression in the shop.
The M1WM sum-up in Journal No. 2 basically unites with the same line. The article, “Clarify the Role of the IWOs” puts forward correctly that “the struggle of the working class around shop issues and around broader campaigns must be linked both politically and organizationally.” The line of basing the IWOs on the “broad campaigns” instead of the shop struggles will tend to create a small band of revolutionaries, ready to fight on all fronts, but isolated from the masses of workers.
In one shop comrades have been leading a caucus for several years. The caucus has a history of struggle in the shop around contracts, layoffs, firings, discrimination and against union hacks, including putting up candidates for union office. And from the beginning workers who are the core of the caucus have become involved in other, broader struggles, including IWD, May Day, Farah, TTBO, etc. And these broader campaigns were a part of the regular work of the caucus in t’he meetings, newsletter, etc.
As the DP correctly puts it, the size and activity of this type of organization ebbs and flows, depending on the struggles being fought and the work of comrades. A meeting in an ebb might be 6-8 workers, while an in-shop meeting during a shop struggle might be 30 or more. But the core, the members who are solid both in ebbs and flows, are advanced workers who see that the fight in their shop is part of the over-all class struggle against the bourgeoisie. They’re fighters in the shop as well as linking up with other struggles. These workers and this caucus would fit the description of IWO in the DP–not a politically lower or less permanent form of organization.
As we built for May Day this year, we also took up the question of building a citywide IWO. Although we decided not to go ahead with it at this time, we did learn some things which should help us lay the basis for a solid IWO in the future. Basically we started off seeing the citywide IWO as being the place for the revolutionary-minded workers to come together and lead the broader political or revolutionary struggles of the working class. Essentially for us at this time this meant uniting with the core of UWOC, the committee to fight police repression, and a handful of workers from the shops, the most advanced workers in one organization. The basis of this IWO was a high level of consciousness, not a fighting program, which is also the emphasis given in the DP. Its program, as far as it was developed, was seen as being around police repression, uniting with a current strike, the fight against the ENA, etc.
What we came to understand through the discussion and struggle around May Day and IWOs was that while we were able to unite a group of workers and build a successful May Day demo, the May Day committee which was seen as an embryo of the citywide IWO actually tended to be isolated from the working class rather than rooted in it. Many workers who came to a build-up demo against the ENA and a dinner did not take May Day out to their fellow workers, and some didn’t come to May Day themselves. While there were contingents from some shops at May Day, we had not been concentrating on these workers as the base of the IWO, and some shops had a poor showing at May Day. A number of shop speakers came shakey and cancelled out, so the day to day struggles were hardly in the program at all. We had a tendency to see the “advanced” as those who were ready to leave the shop to be on a committee of one sort or another. While many workers will come forward in the struggle against police repression, to build May Day, and in UWOC and in other such struggles, as well as in the shop struggles, and in our work many have, our job is to unite with these and the advanced workers in the shop to lead the masses, and not rip them away from the masses.
As the DP correctly points out, “The present struggle of the American workers is primarily against individual employers (or employers’ associations in various industries) around wages and benefits, working conditions, against speed-up and lay-offs, against discrimination.” But the DP also states that “While these organizations [IWOs] must be based mainly in the plants and work places, their overall role is to apply the ’single spark’ method to take up every major struggle, of all sections of the people, against the ruling class, mobilize masses of workers in these struggles and develop them into campaigns of the working class.” While this is not clear, it seems to pose a contradiction between the “main base” of the IWOs and the “overall role” of applying the single spark method. In order to really be based in the shops, the IWOs must go into, and lead the main struggle of the working class at this time as summed up in the DP, and develop the day to day struggle in the shop as part of the overall class struggle against the bourgeoisie, along with other struggles such as against police repression, deportations, unemployment, cutbacks, etc.
We had developed a tendency to downplay the day to day struggles in the shop, “rate” the “broad campaigns” above them. This showed up in the amount of attention the organization gave these struggles, the relatively low priority given these struggles in the workers paper, and our initial line on the IWOs. Because of this tendency, we do not now have the basis for creating a solid IWO.
The M1WM report in the second journal seems to share some of our incorrect line and that in the DP on the IWOs. The sum up states that “In applying the ’single spark method’ it is important for communists and active workers to take the main political lessons of key struggles back into the shops and apply these lessons to the struggles developing there.” This is certainly true. But communists and advanced workers must also bring out the political lessons of the struggles in the shops, as the DP sums up in “The working class learns through its day to day struggle.’ It is wrong to separate these tasks politically or organizationally. The IWOs must do both. It is more than a question of the IWOs linking up more closely with shop organizations. As the “Clarify” article puts it, “the various industrial ’sectors’ of the IWO (will) be firmly rooted in, and leading the day to day struggles in the plant.”