Category Archives: Texas

ALL LIVES MATTER: White Reaction in Austin, Texas

This guest piece focuses on the resurgence of white reactionary forces in Austin, Tx leading up to the Police Lives Matter rally taking place Saturday, Sept. 18, 2015. While U&S members may not agree with every point made below, we post it in hopes of sparking discussion.

policelives
#PoliceLivesMatter march in Houston, Texas, September 12th 2015

ALL LIVES MATTER
White Reaction in Austin, Texas

By Scott Hoft

This was inevitable. Movements of Black people in this country have always been accompanied by an intense backlash of those who benefit from black oppression. Beginning in late spring 2015 we have seen the rise of a number of diverse right-wing formations: Alex Jones rallying his acolytes, renewed Ku Klux Klan activity, a nazi punk stabbing at a metal show, neo-confederates rallying against the removal of monuments of “southern heritage”, and a mass pro-police pushback called, of all things, “Police Lives Matter”.

The cycle of the post-Ferguson movement in Austin has been relatively tame. We never blocked a highway, no window has been broken, nor any store looted or burned. Those in the leadership of several post-Ferguson organizations have tended more and more to encourage cooperation with politicians and police.

The highest profile act of vandalism was the word “CHUMP” written in chalk on the base of a statue of Jefferson Davis. This, happening at the University of Texas, sparked a campus wide movement to “BUMP THE CHUMP”. The axiom alone propelled a satirical Student Government Campaign to the highest offices. Continue reading ALL LIVES MATTER: White Reaction in Austin, Texas

Building a Solidarity Network in Houston

*This post reflects the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Southwest Defense Network as a whole*

Last October, a handful of Unity & Struggle members living in Houston, TX, together with other Houston-based organizers, started a solidarity network, the Southwest Defense Network (SWDN). [1] Since then our work has grown and we have been learning a lot about the economic and political dynamics in the city.

In many ways, Texas (and the South in general) represents a future that the rest of the country is rapidly headed towards. At the same time, the contradictions grow sharper every day, representing a potential for offensive struggles among the working class that have not been seen in other parts of the country in decades. This post is an attempt to pull together an objective picture of what’s happening with the working class in Houston, specifically in the area we are working, and to lay out some of the strategic reasons why we have chosen this as one organizing project among others.

What follows are some basic background notes on the situation that are intended to lay the groundwork for future thinking about the strategic and tactical issues that will be raised in this work.

WELCOME TO HOUSTON, TX

According to most economic reports, Texas is a booming state, among the top in terms of job creation. It has an unemployment level that has consistently been lower than the national average. It is home to some of the most profitable national and multinational corporations. The number of new businesses relocating to or setting up shop in Texas is growing rapidly. It is a vital hub in the manufacture, import/export, warehousing and distribution of commodities. For the last decade, exports from Texas have grown at a faster pace than the rest of the country (its top export markets being Mexico, Canada, China and Brazil). [2]

The population of the state has exploded, growing by over 20% in the last decade alone. The city of Houston has grown by over 1 million people in that same period. Growth among communities of color fuels almost 90% of the state’s growth, and the majority of that is among Latinos. [3] Texas has the 2nd highest overall birth rate in the country but this growth is also happening due to a massive wave of immigration from other U.S. cities and other countries. Between 2000-2010, Harris County (in which Houston is located) had the largest absolute growth of immigrants compared to all other U.S. counties. [4] The majority (61%) came from Central America, with sizable numbers also coming from the Middle East, South/Southeast Asia and Africa.
Continue reading Building a Solidarity Network in Houston

March 4th at UT Austin

** written with fatima & Tyler Zimmerman — the 3 of us are organizers with ¡ella pelea! but this is not an official position of that organization

At the University of Texas at Austin our rally and march on M4 was considerably smaller compared to the West – approximately 200 at its height – but since this was its first anti-budget cuts rally it was no small feat.  Numbers can be less important than energy and militancy, and it showed on M4.

A SXSW Flavor

The smaller size is partly due to the fact that the effects of the recession are only just beginning to be felt in the state of Texas. Texas is one of the few states in the country that is not running a deficit, and has also been able to attract more businesses to settle and develop here due to lower tax rates.  But along with this comes the under-funding of social services as compared to the rest of the country, which includes public education.

This can also be explained by the historical and regional contours of Texas as both a border state and a Southern state.  Right on the US-Mexico border, Texas has the second highest concentration of undocumented immigrants in the country, following California, and is one of the few states in the country whose population is majority people of color.  Along with other parts of the South and Southwest, Texas is also a Right-to-Work state, which means that collective bargaining rights for unions are illegal.

In this light, the strength of the Right in Texas needs to be taken into consideration.  With the primaries recently over, Governor Perry — who has executed more people than any governor in the history of Texas, and who openly associates with secessionists and other opportunists responsible for the attacks on white workers as well — has regained the Republican nomination.  More recently, conservatives have succeeded white washing the textbooks and curriculum in Texas public schools removing people of color movements, and painting neoliberalism and US Empire favorably.

These things combined have meant that there is a lack of working class institutions to carry on the legacy of working class militancy in the face of right wing hegemony.  The fight to take back and defend public education takes on new significance as a means to rebuild this legacy and these institutions.

Continue reading March 4th at UT Austin

As the South goes, so goes the Nation

*Written with Will

W.E.B. DuBois spoke these words – as the South goes, so goes the nation – many years ago to capture the fact that the South represents a key link in the chain for the U.S. working class in terms of resistance against exploitation and the violent suppression of organizing and organization among workers and people of color. This is no less the case today. The South (defined here as the 11 states of the former Confederacy plus Kentucky) has been central to the ruling class offensive and reorganization of capital for the last 40 years. Kim Moody illustrates the South’s growing importance for U.S. capitalism since the 1950s in his book U.S. Labor in Trouble and Transition.

To try to summarize some of Moody’s key arguments: Claims that industry has completely disappeared from the U.S. and been replaced by the service sector are without basis. Some on both the left and the right have played into the myth that the U.S. is a de-industrialized land with no working class, no industrial proletariat as typically understood. The growth of the service sector in recent decades is neither new nor indicative of the death of industry. In fact, services have outpaced industry since the early 20th century because as the capitalist economy expands from local to national to global, the problems of circulating capital, distributing goods and determining profits require more and more service type labor. The industrial core remains the sector on which most economic activity is dependent. While some industry in the U.S. has declined dramatically since the 60s and 70s – textiles and clothing for instance – for the most part manufacturing has simply relocated from its strongholds in the Northeast and Midwest to the South.
Continue reading As the South goes, so goes the Nation

A Republican Resurgence?

In recent months, there has been a chorus of voices discussing the “civil war” within the Republican Party, and the Party’s resurgence from its devastated state after the 2008 presidential elections. The civil war, it is said, is over the soul of the GOP, whether it will be a big tent party that is moderate enough to win over young people, folks of color, and the large section of voters identified as independents, or whether it will be a firmly conservative party that is more narrow in its base but also more ideologically pure. Talk of a GOP resurgence began in earnest over the summer with the tea parties and health care townhall protests, with the emphasis of both on grassroots (some would say Astroturf) activism in rekindling the party, and has only gained momentum after the recent election results in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

Texas is an important starting point for thinking about what these debates mean. Since earlier this fall, incumbent Rick Perry and Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison have been battling it out for the GOP nomination for governor of Texas in the 2010 election. While heated intra-party contests might normally be cause for concern within the national party, Texas holds extra weight in that it is the second largest state in the U.S. (after California) and currently controls 34 electoral votes, making it an important, if not the most important, piece in the Republican electoral college puzzle. Further, it is a “majority minority” state – meaning white folks make up under 50% of the state’s population – putting it at the center of a debate within the GOP about whether the party will/should develop new strategies and a new identity to win people of color away from voting Democratic in the upcoming years.
Continue reading A Republican Resurgence?