Verizon: union win

John Gulick jlgulick at
Wed Aug 23 16:32:13 PDT 2000

Hey Nathan,

I'm sending this to you personally, not to the list. You're mostly right on the organizational details of the Neptune Jade picket. I was there too, although apparently not when you were. I did overstate the role of the IWW anarchists -- they were mainly bodies, not heads, as you note. I bent the truth a tad bit for the purpose of putting forward a salutary example of industrial union and free-floating anarcho-syndicalist cooperation.

(Which is not to say in any way that I am a big fan of the IWW as currently constituted, which is basically a nostalgic cloak for "lifestyle anarchists" to wrap themselves in and pretend they are engaging in the pivotal class struggles of our time. Anarcho-syndicalism faded when tightknit working class labor and community cultures died, a condition which cannot be artificially revived from the detritus of post-modern capitalism. Still, anarcho-syndicalist principles -- its "spirit," if you will -- can be imported into the pivotal class struggles of our time. "Critical appropriation" and all that. Anyway, I digress).

I dabbled in the activities of the ILC (a project of but not reducible to the Socialist Organizer) for a few years. Reconstructed Trots willing, ready, and able to form coalitions and work in alliances on practical campaigns, but still too wedded to Trotskyist outlook and vocabulary. A big sticking point between me and them was that they were way too workerist and had little or no analysis of ecology and community (the condition of social groups was always assessed in terms of their relation to the division of labor -- "especially oppressed segments of the working class, and all that rhetoric). Sometimes, in my opinion, their desire to prove their non-sectarian credentials inclined them to work w/organizations whose latent "revolutionary" possibilities they blew way out of proportion (like Global Exchange, a topic on which we've clashed before, after I made some ill-advised inflammatory remarks).

To my knowledge folks in the ILC were the ones who really pulled off the Neptune Jade stunt. They'd been working on a Liverpool Dockers solidarity campaign for quite some time, showing videos, bringing speakers, raising money, etc. The ILC had partisans inside the ILWU (a shop steward) who convinced McWilliams and the business agents to go along. And then, as you note, a whole range of organizations w/connections to the prior Liverpool Docker solidarity campaign -- the C of C, Peace and Freedom party, community college labor studies clubs (especially Laney), the IWW, and assorted radicals sprung into action. The committee to defend Robert Irminger against the stevedoring company lawsuit after the Neptune Jade saga was equally diverse in composition. Old moles from every Maoist, Leninist, Trotsykist, anarcho-syndicalist splinter group formed in 1969 came out of the woodwork, and despite the ridiculously inflated tone of urgency which surrounded the defense campaign, managed to work together in a gratifyingly ecumenical spirit.

Whatever its pitfalls, I miss that sort of politics, which is entirely absent in Santa Cruz. I am quite despairing these days about politics in the Bay Area in general, although I suppose that has as much to do with profound subjective pessimism about the hegemony of info-capitalist culture which has really peaked in the last 2 years, as it is an objective assessment of the situation.

Can you believe it ? I'm probably going to vote for Gore. Although, as you've said, unless I vocally endorse my choice, what does it matter ? I've come to accept the view that electoral politics is all about a war of position, and under these circumstances Gore makes the most sense. I, for one, think that there will be more room for left-liberal maneuver within the Dems with them in power, not in opposition. Especially if the center-right of the party is forced to show their true colors in the event of a deep recession. If the Dems are in opposition, not only will reactionary legislation get passed, but the DLC'ers and the left-liberals will remain wedded in a marriage of convenience against Bush's onslaught (the left-liberals because of their constituencies, the DLC'ers b/c of their institutional need to provide "product differentiation" from the Repubs). But not if Gore is forced to manage economic crisis. Despite the fact that they're far too supplicant for my tastes, I sensed enough grievance among the left-liberals at D2K that I suspect they will consolidate their coherence as a "negative veto" (sort of a rump third party within a party) against DLC neo-liberalism.

Anyway, I seem to have a much-neglected diss to attend to.


John Gulick

P.S. Did you ever hear what became of Will Hull ? He and I had a falling out about 3 years ago. Since then he opted out/was booted out of grad school and is now a dot-com executive talent headhunter with vested stock options. Sort of a Jerry Rubin of our time. Whoever thinks that radicals are any less susceptible to "selling out" than liberals has their head up their ass -- which is not to say that one should attenuate one's politics.

>THe Neptune Jade was one of the examples I was thinking of when talking
>about non-labor groups being able to do things that unions cannot do
>However, the community side of the picket was not run by IWW anarchists,
>although they walked the line, but was organized primarily by the various
>Marxist-style orgs in the area. I walked the line and pulled folks out
>through the local Committees of Coorespondence chapter, although the
>lion's share of the credit went to a Trot group, I think what was then
>called Socialist Organizer, who do a lot of work around global
>privatization issues.
>And what made the action really work was that union-community activists in
>Canada and in Japan also demonstrated and refused to unload the ship,
>turning its scab cargo into a kind of Flying Dutchman on the high seas.
>The point is that it needed hard organization backing up the community
>side as well as the union side.
>Strategy and organization may not always have the PR sizzle of puppets and
>random mayhem, but they are infinitely more successful in the long-term.
>-- Nathan Newman

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