The following is a requested re- post of a reply a comrade made to this article: www.anarchistnews.org/node/19812
I was at the Seattle port action. I think that there is a lot of truth in this article about the role unions play, and the role of management in major actions such as this. I feel the article fails to differentiate between self- appointed managers ( approved by either individual groups or no one ) and that managers that were elected/ approved by GA's for specific roles ( such as peace and safety ). It is important for revolutionaries to note that whenever you have an action as large as this there will be some sort of management system on some kind of level. The real question should be what role those managers have, what is the LIMIT TO THEIR AUTHORITY, and what is their mission statement. Those managers who attempted to co- opt, or limit the scope of the shut down failed, but I think those are the managers that the article is targeting.
This brings me to an interesting point that I would really like to discuss. We are now observing and analyzing the polarity of this struggle- and that is not necessarily a bad thing, or a new thing. The polarity of this struggle is primarily between the reformists, and the revolutionaries. The hard- line reformists on the one hand work for the bourgeoisie ( ruling class ), while the hard- line revolutionaries work against capital and for the proletariat ( working class ). Now here is the issue- we have a highly decentralized collective of revolutionary networks in America. Revolutionary Anarchists ( because some self- described anarchists are reformists or lifestyle-ists ) don't work with Marxists ( except when they are concerned with immediate survival ), and Marxists don't work with each other ( ISO, FSP, SA, RCP, CVO, non- aligned, etc. ). This sectarianism on the revolutionary front weakens it, and allows the reformists to use divide and conquer strategies to throw a wedge between those who know what is going on, and the undecided workers. This also weakens the revolutionary pole, which aids the reformists in the information war ( bringing undecided workers to their side ).
I felt the greatest strength of the port shutdown in Seattle was that revolutionaries came together to shutdown Gate 18 ( where the shit went down at ). The reformist liberals stayed in the safer yellow and green zones. We created a 5' barricade, and adjusted that barricade to meet our needs against the cops. While many of us were pepper sprayed and hit by bicycles, we were able to limit that police violence through our collective cooperation. This is really important because the Seattle protesters that came to shut down the ports were not a very large group ( considering the scope of the work ). Overcoming sectarianism is what allowed the revolutionary left to maintain that shutdown- and I have never seen the cops so frightened in my life.
Now which pole do the Trade Union Bureaucrats ( TUBS ) belong to? They belong to the reformist pole. They have a history of funneling the vote of their membership into the Democratic Party. Does that mean unions are worthless institutions? Hardly. Many of the key infrastructure on the coastlines and in the north are maintained and run by union workers. The hard truth of the matter is that they will be integral to the success of any revolution in America. I am against the notion of alienating the unions and working without them- however I do think it is important that we recognize the difference between union bureaucrats and union rank- and- file. Anarchists, in my opinion, have had trouble with this differentiation, and as a union member, it bothers me. I feel that this is a critical part of understanding where unions are why they are there. The institutions have become reformist because of the points laid out in the article regarding Taft- Hartley, but also because the TUBS have become comfortable in their positions. They are the reason that unions have moved away from the paradigm of class struggle and into a paradigm of capital- labor cooperation. I am not as pessimistic about unions, and I think we should be trying to provide outreach to their rank- and- file, but we should ignore the reformist protest of their leadership. The TUBS will plea that we ignored a democratic union, but many unions are democratic at only a local level.
Differentiating the rank- and- file and the TUBS is critical! There were many union members at the shut down who supported it wholeheartedly!
I feel the article did a great job outlining the importance of the non- union workers, but also did a great job of explaining why we must hold our ground and not give in during major direct actions such as D12 regardless of who wants to cross.
Sectarianism Is A Cancer.
Back to my experience at Gate 18, which should be a subject on the minds of every revolutionary who participated in the shutdown. Sectarianism is destroying the revolutionary left, and only serves the bourgeoisie. We need to build bridges between the revolutionary sects on both ends of the Marxist- Anarchist aisle. Currently the strategy for Anarchists and these various Marxist groups is to build walls against each other. The Anarchists are building a wall, and the ISO, SA, RCP, etc are building walls. This strategy is " whoever builds the highest, strongest wall will be the victor of the revolution !" Unfortunately history has shown that this strategy is a bust, and that it allows the bourgeoisie to easily rip us apart. All of these groups have been failures for the past fifty years in creating a revolution ( I am using fifty years because of McCarthyism ). All sectarianism has created is a handful of weak cargo cults who think they are better than each other.
How Do We Overcome Sectarianism?
cultish dogma and open that up for a debate and discussion. There are a ton of unanswered questions of previous revolutions that every group has tried to answer but failed. No one has the answer to everything regarding a revolution, and my evidence is the fifty years of failure in the United States. I have meet individuals in every organization that wish to address the problem of sectarianism. We need to network with these individuals so that we can overcome our differences. We also need to be willing to have our dogma and theory poked and prodded at so that we can improve upon it. This will not be pretty- it will be ugly, it will hurt feelings, and it will smash egos. It will also likely destroy or radically change many of these sects since their survival relies on secrecy, avoidance of criticism, internalized discussion, dogma, and a blockade of debate and communication with other revolutionaries. As revolutionaries, we will have to re- visit the age old debates of the State, democracy, consensus, bureaucracy, management, and the shortcomings of the Russian Revolution.
I have created a Facebook page to help build this network here:
I hope that you all will build the networking sites needed or Facebook pages to network revolutionaries in your respective districts.
I consider Anarchists and Marxists as comrades and i am open to any comments, discourse, concerns, suggestions, questions, or proposals. Please use the FB page so that we may get started.
I also recommend a review of Ben Seattle's strong polemics regarding sectarianism and Party building.