All posts by Mazin

Discussion: Ferguson and the Unfolding Rebellion in the U.S.

Pages from U+S FERGUSON(1)The recent spike in the size and intensity of the street protests surrounding the racist murder of Eric Garner, most notably in New York City and Berkeley, California, is a profound phenomenon. But while the protests and street battles in Ferguson, Missouri had been consistently maintained since early August, it was only after Eric Garner’s murderer was not indicted, only a week after another grand jury failed to indict the police officer who murdered of Mike Brown, did the protests and street battles really take off.

The rolling over of the struggle between these two incidents represents a unique moment, when masses of people both maintain the continuity of the struggle, and reap the benefits of experience and a higher level of consciousness, with new militants and leaders emerging very quickly.

But these moments of continuity also provide a wealth of experience and information to develop our analyses, strategies and tactics. What follows are a series of discussions written by a number of members of Unity & Struggle based on our experiences and conversation with other militants in the streets. We offer them up, in order to further develop our theory and practice, and welcome other contributions to the discussion.

Also, courtesy of Servius of RIFAMS Distro, a printable pamphlet of the discussion

Finding Our Footing on the Union Question

by HiFi & Mazin

The current discussion on unions is welcomed, but has so far mostly focused on strategy and tactics around existing unions. Of course, these immediate issues are critical and necessary, including in our own work. However, we want to focus here on mapping out the shape of the terrain.

There are a few broader considerations we need to keep in mind:

1) Clarify in a categorical sense what we mean by a union 2) Consider the past conditions from which the existing unions arose 3) Move toward an understanding of the current period in which the old unions have been transformed and have created a new strategic and tactical necessity 4) Finally, we have to get a sense of a way forward regarding the union question

What follows is a series of notes on these issues.

What are Unions?

We have to start by thinking categorically about the union form. Only with this in mind is it possible to establish a foundation by which to examine the historical and contemporary developments of unions. Further, only with a categorical foundation can we begin to assess the current strategic terrain without falling into empirical and subjective responses around the union question.

Labor and Labor Power

It is critical to think about unions in terms of the relationship between labor and labor power.

In capitalist society the existence and category of labor are completely split between labor and labor power. In a dialectical sense, the workers are both labor and labor power. This division arises because labor is completely separated from the means of labor, or means of production.

Labor power is the ability to labor that must be exchanged with the capitalist in order to get access to the uses needed to survive and satisfy needs. The worker gets money in the form of a wage to get those uses. In return the capitalist gets labor, which comes alive when fused with the means of production. Because the capitalist controls the means of production, he appropriates or keeps the product of the worker, or object produced, for himself.

The split between labor and labor power expresses the relation between necessary and surplus labor. The worker gets back only the necessary subsistence to reproduce herself for that day. But the worker creates much more than the necessary subsistence in a day. The worker creates not only what is necessary to survive that day, but a surplus.

Continue reading Finding Our Footing on the Union Question