Perspectives on the Fight Back by Occupy and the ILWU Rank-and-File in Longview

From Insurgent Notes:
All Eyes on Longview: An Injury to One is an Injury to All

The breaking of Local 21 will undoubtedly be a prelude to further attacks on the ILWU up and down the west coast, with automation another battering ram. Clearly, the bosses and the state are out to pit ILWU workers against Occupy militants in order to isolate and weaken both. They recognize and fear the demonstrated power of joint Occupy/ILWU action.

In spite of that threat, the ILWU International called for confining the protest to EGT and Longview and for not shutting down other ports. They will tell the longshoremen to cross Occupy picket lines everywhere except Longview. On January 6, ILWU thugs attacked a meeting of Occupy Seattle that was planning solidarity actions with Longview.

Local 10 oppositionists, including former officers and rank-and-filers, declare that they will shut the Port of Oakland down if the ship attempts to land. In fact, the thugs who attacked the January 6 Occupy Seattle meeting did so just when retired Oakland longshoreman and Local 10 opposition leader, Jack Heyman, told the meeting that the ILWU rank-and-file in Oakland, Portland and Seattle had voted with their feet to honor the Occupy picket lines and close those ports on December 12, Occupy’s West Coast port shutdown, and would do so again when the grain ship docks at Longview. Whether or not this will happen, against the intense pressure being brought by the state and the bosses, with the complicity of the ILWU International and several Local presidents, remains to be seen.

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The Longview confrontation will be the latest, and hardest test to date of the ability of the forces which shut down west coast ports on November 2 and December 12 to continue to mobilize mass support. Key to its success will be a serious, class-wide alliance of rank-and-file dock workers, the much larger numbers of unorganized truckers in the ports, and the casualized mass which forms the radical wing of Occupy. Turn this defensive struggle into an offensive one now!

 

From the Black Orchid Collective:
Longview, Occupy, and Beyond: Rank and File and the 89% Unite!

To be clear, at this potluck our friends were not saying that unemployed, precarious, non-union workers of color should have more authority than the ILWU to decide tactics in the Longview struggle.  Instead, they were pointing out that the D12 port shutdown was not just about solidarity with the ILWU so it was not up to them to decide whether or not it should happen.  In Seattle, it was about the proletariat showing our collective power by breaking the norms of capitalist legitimacy and legality. For one day, we were able to exhibit our power to blockade the flow of capital with a barricade at the port, cutting capitalist profits at the point of distribution. It wasn’t an attempt to co-opt the ILWU; it was an action done autonomously from the ILWU as well as in solidarity with port workers’ struggles.

It is in light of constant attacks on the legitimacy of non-union workers and unemployed people to conduct such a direct action, that we began to define ourselves as one big union of the 89% and unemployed, in unity with rank and file union members. We want to express explicitly that we, too, have a stake in class struggle. By using the label “89%,” we do not mean to suggest that the 11% of union workers are our enemy.  We are not comparing them to the 1% or the capitalists.  Instead, we wish to point out two things. First, that union leaderships who claim to speak for the 11% of union workers, cannot, and do not, speak for the rest of us. In fact, many times they do not even speak for the members of their unions. Second, we use the language of the “89%” to convey that labor struggles in this country must go beyond efforts  to preserve existing unions. Those defensive struggles are important, but for those of us who are not unionized, our class struggles in our authoritarian casualized workplaces, communities and neighborhood, need to be recognized as such: class struggle, even when they are not “sanctioned” by unions that are officially recognized by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

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When revolutionaries act as if legitimate class struggle only happens through NLRB-recognized unions, they ignore the very real and material divisions between union and non-union workers, many of whom see unionized workers as remote and unrelated to their lives at best and as privileged workers who do not understand the realities of the proletariat at worst.  If we do not understand this sentiment by the majority of the proletariat, then we cede this ground to the right wing, who will gladly use it to mobilize anti-union attacks on a populist basis. It’s ironic that the ISO accuses us of supporting right wing anti-union politics when that is precisely what our 89% rhetoric and organizing aim to challenge.

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When fighting for liberation, oppressed people have and will utilize varying forms of organization to succeed. Unions have been and continue to be one of those forms. NLRB-unions have a dual nature under capitalism. They at once ensure that union workers have the ability to negotiate with bosses about wages and benefits by way of collective might. However, they also adhere to laws which hinder the potential of this collective might and it’s ability to end a situation in which a majority has to negotiate for its survival. Our critique of the bureaucracy lies in the fact that regardless of how progressive individual labor leaders may be, their positions rests in some manner on their ability to adhere to the contract which they have negotiated with the capitalists.  They end up helping management and the courts enforce this contract even when it goes against the interests of the workers.  In other words, they play a role in maintaining labor power as a commodity and in ensuring some level of discipline at the workplace .