Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"How can we just think locally?"

About a year ago Workers World Party leader Larry Holmes gave a speech in New York City entitled "The global class struggle today".  I encourage everyone to read the printed talk here, The podcast is also available. 
I bring up a year-old speech because I believe it, more than any other talk I studied last year, reflected the reality of the class struggle internationally, and the challenges we face here in the United States.  It also reflected the centrality of generalizing specific local labor fight-backs, giving them and their cadre a larger scope.  Lock-outs today at places like American Crystal Sugar and Cooper Tire must be at the center of such work this year.  Other such struggles, where the workers refuse final surrender, will emerge.  In this context, it is important for Marxists to remember that the working class, and its organized fraction, have the social weight because of their location in production, to bring solidarity and union-power to bear to keep fighting, and perhaps start winning a few fights.  No other segment of the population has such weight; that is why workers struggles are central to the programs and perspectives of Marxist-Leninist parties.
Larry Holmes makes this beautifully clear:

....The unions seem demoralized. But in an uneven way they will begin to fight. We as communists must agitate for a classwide, militant response to this attack. It doesn't matter whether it is not going to happen next week or unlikely that it will happen in a few months. What are we if we don't advocate for it? Organized labor, community, students and all the oppressed must come out together.

Usually these struggles against budget cuts develop locally. Our job is to agitate for a broader reaction to it that is both national and even international.

At this stage of the capitalist crisis, which is fully global, fully centralized, our class enemy is global, conscious and against us. How can we just think locally? It is OK for a while, but ultimately it won't work. It won't raise the political or class-consciousness level of our class, [which] won't be able to fight back.

Generalize the struggle

We will face another problem that is all too prevalent — fragmentation. The ruling class wants to have a thousand guerrilla battles with the workers. They want every struggle to be separate, to be localized, because, with some exceptions, they can chew you up and digest you. They know that the more national and international [the struggle] becomes, even if it is only symbolic in the early stages, the harder it is [to divide and conquer].

As communists, it is incumbent upon us to find ways to struggle against that. We want to be with the workers everywhere. We are not against local struggles. We have an obligation to generalize and synthesize the class struggle to a higher level, especially now with the unique character of this global crisis. We have to be concerned with the entire working class.

The students in this country are trying to organize a fightback from California to New York and everywhere else. We are fortunate that our comrades in FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) have some influence there. They have called the month of March a month of student protest against the cuts and tuition hikes. Some of them are talking about a strike. And we should see if there is a basis for building support around them that can last beyond their activities — sort of a student-worker-community alliance.


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