Verizon: union win

Chuck0 chuck at
Tue Aug 22 11:28:54 PDT 2000

Nathan Newman wrote:
> On Tue, 22 Aug 2000, Doug Henwood wrote:
> > What's with all this either-or stuff? The kids are out in the
> > streets, and so were the workers. Sometimes they're even out
> > together. I don't think it's a coincidence.
> But there is always an either/or in analysis, in that individuals have to
> devote their own limited time and attention to different strategies. And
> the question is whether all the time being spent organizing street demos
> and then running legal defense would be better spent doing labor support.
> For every Verizon strike, there are hundreds of smaller efforts that could
> use the energy devoted to Philly or LA (or DC or Seattle).

If you swim in the waters of this "movement" you'll notice that plenty of energy is being spent on smaller efforts. Here in D.C., some of the local activists who had been involved in the A16 protests got together and formed Homes Not Jails. Their housing occupation last month netted them some Washington Post coverage (mostly unkind). From my experience with these activists, many of them devote their energies to ongoing actions, organizing, and building counter-institutions.

If anybody is guilty of not doing better labor support, it's probably the labor activists who waste their time on electing candidates to office (from Gore to Nader to McReynolds) and not on radicalizing and organizing workers. I'm beginning to see some signs of a willingness to apply new thinking to organzing struggles and wrokplaces, at least in my union, the IWW.

> I am all for the street protests - obviously having been on the barricade
> in DC - but I have to ultimately ask what is the plan, what is the point,
> what is the strategy of these rolling city disruptions? Or as Naomi Klein
> put it, what makes them more than an anarchist road show following trade
> bureucrats like the Grateful Dead? Because a few mass actions are good
> does not mean than more are better. Often, mass actions become an end int
> themselves that detract from the day-to-day organizing that is less
> spectacular but is more crucial to ultimate success.

That's a valid criticism as anybody who knows anything about "action junkies" can tell you. I've been talking to the anarchists involved in the black blocs and everybody seems to agree that we need to put these big actions on hold for a time, at least until next year. We need time to reflect and to do more organizing shitwork. We've done an amazing amount of large demos in a short time period. That's pretty impressive if you ask me, and it demonstrates our growing power.

I'm sure there are several strategies motivating these rolling city disruptions. One is to make a stink and get our messages out. Another is to radicalize activists and some of the population. My favorite one is that we are making it very costly for the institutions of capitalism to have their meetings (especially without the glare of media attention).

I'll bet that most activists that you talk to will agree with your analysis.

> On the trade issue itself, there are clear interim goals - even if
> contradictory ones - of either shutting down the WTO or adding labor and
> environmental standards. But it's not clear how a lot of folks want to
> get from A to B. Spectacles are nice and even necessary to jolt the
> public, but a lot of the effort is going to require the dirty business of
> politics - whether corralling the votes to withdraw from the institution
> or to force through new regulations. Running Nader may even help put
> pressure as part of that effort, but it is not sufficient by itself.

I think you have to keep putting pressure on capital. The spectacle of black-clad vandals trashing Seattle stores during Christmas season doesn't jive well with an ideology of capitalist triumphalism that tells everybody that all is welle because dot-coms are blessing everybody.

> Like a contract settlement, real struggle takes engagement and ultimate
> compromise in the short-term, taking what can be gotten with present
> strength while building for bigger victories in the future.

Real struggle also involves street parties, puppets, carnival, and street actions. Otherwise, all work and no play make Jane Worker a dreary and ineffective revolutionary.

> There is no doubt that a lot of the energy of Seattle/DC/Philly/LA will
> spill back into those day-to-day struggles, but part of the pragmatism of
> UPS, Boeing, the LA Janitors, and Verizon struggles also have to spill
> over into the globalization mass action movements if they are to become a
> real mass struggle for change.

I'd just like to see labor activists and union organizers start thinking outside the box. They should take a page or two from Reclaim the Streets, Earth First!, the student anti-sweatshop movement, and so on.


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