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New Beginnings Mission Statement

Started by Kazi Pamoja, April 27, 2007, 03:40:00 am

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Kazi Pamoja

Below is the mission statement of New Beginnings, a new independent labor journal.  Does anyone find this vision inspiring?




We do not know our own strength and no one dares to tell us.

We are people from different ethnic, religious and non-religious backgrounds; women and men. This is one of our great strengths. We are workers, neighbors and students; young and old; fighting for a world in which everyday people can be self-governing in workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods.

We want to promote discussion of labor history and current labor struggles, labor perspectives and programs, animated by a tradition of direct democracy and workers' self-management. We are opposed to all professional classes above society, whether management, union bureaucrats, or party politicians.

Today the whole of official society is agreed that the old consensus between "labor leaders," the state and the corporations is dead. This consensus pretended that fair pay for an honest day, loyalty between company and employee, citizen and ruling elite, would bring security and welfare for all in the name of the public good. It was enshrined in national politics as the American Dream and projected abroad as American Exceptionalism. These ideas claimed that America was different from the rest of the world in securing freedom and happiness for its citizens.

Many forget that this old consensus was formed to limit the dreams of working people. It emerged in response to the independent and autonomous mass organizing drives, general strikes, and community-based solidarity by everyday people that were, at their best, loyal to neither politicians and the state, nor the bosses and capital. Against these aspirations for freedom and democracy, so-called progressive leadership collaborated in helping to erect laws, sanctions, and an unaccountable union bureaucracy to police this movement. This regime of labor law and state patronage of union bosses did much to hinder and attack this movement. This contributed to the advance of McCarthyism. What was lost was the sovereignty of everyday people to determine collectively on what terms they will sell their labor or whether to overthrow the whole capitalist system and govern themselves. In the struggles ahead we forget this at our own peril.

Official society prefers today to dispense with "labor's leaders." Trade union representatives have had many roles in the past. Many emerged from among ordinary workers to argue that it was worth achieving economic concessions in exchange for no-strike pledges and a contract that literally gave up the political sovereignty of working people. A small number were militant fighters sick of concessions who, from time to time, emerged from renegade union locals. A much larger number preached loyalty to company and the state. Today there is by and large no pretense by trade union officials to being representatives of political power embodied by workers. They are in the forefront of justifying corporate and state drives to cut back previous standards of living.

Confident in the apparent docility of employees, management no longer needs a collective bargaining contract to harass and harness workers' autonomous political activity. Today it is agreed that all must compete in a scramble for diminishing wages and benefits in all industries. This is the new coercion and system of incentives that have replaced the old one of collective bargaining. Meanwhile, the state and employers' economic and political attacks on social infrastructure--schools, healthcare, public transportation, roads and other public services--go unanswered before our eyes.

Meanwhile, working folks are divided without and within. This becomes clear when observing and listening to fellow workers and neighbors on lunch break, shift change, in the parking lot, when the boss is around or isn't. Aspirations and desires to overcome the current crisis are everywhere. The collective experience and memory of independent labor can be expressed at a moment's notice. But people do not know exactly what they want. Some are knuckleheads for whom relentless pressures have degraded their responses to the system and its problems. Others run away when it's time to move from laughing or scoffing at management to doing something about them. There are also reactionary sentiments that prove to be an obstacle. Yet at times people come together and put into practice the highest principles of solidarity.

Everyday people are also divided across industry, trade and skill. This is also the case for race, gender, citizenship and sexual orientation. There are those who imagined the labor movement as the white male, father, husband, chauvinist and exclusionary citizen. In response, there are those who imagined the white male American worker as that of a gorilla fit only for bananas and a cage. In the past, "free labor" or "citizen workers" were often white men who put their racial, national and gender loyalties above solidarity with people of color, women, immigrant workers and those in other countries. However, to fail to see women, people of color and immigrant labor as having their own perceived interests that at times undercut solidarity with fellow workers is not only inaccurate history, but fails to understand and assess the political problems of today.

History has moved, and a rainbow coalition--more advanced in some places than others--of races, genders and sexual orientation has emerged within the state, corporations and official society. Patronage and representation along these lines is central to the governing ideology in our time. Officials promote it as domestic and international development and it functions to keep diverse constituencies loyal to the system. Demands for only more patronage and representation under the terms of white supremacy, capitalism and imperialism are no longer threats. In fact, they serve to justify these. In doing so, they fortify competition of labor and a caste system of wages in workplaces and communities on a domestic and international scale.

A strong labor movement must be a strong anti-racist and anti-imperialist one. Women and immigrants are not a drain on wages or union dues. Their presence does not threaten past gains. In fact, significant gains in wages, benefits and conditions of work have often been bought on a short-term basis at the price of dividing and weakening the working class domestically and internationally. Such weakness only prepared the ground for a future erosion of those imagined gains. Loyalty to white supremacy and U.S. empire in the name of a national character imagined as white cannot cover up the fact that capitalists and elites are loyal to no nation or people, only themselves.

Today there is a sense that the old labor movement has disappeared and a new one is needed. Some say that an insurgent movement can elect a progressive labor leadership who will fight for better concessions and wages. Some argue that the Democratic Party must be made to listen. Others believe a labor or third party must be built. Someone else says unions must link up with other causes. Still others add that a socialist state is the answer.

These obscure an important fact. It is workers who organize the union, not the union that organizes workers. The crisis today is not a moral and strategic crisis of union chiefs. It is a crisis of the historical memory, confidence and capacity of everyday people to collectively organize. These have been under attack by employers, the state and union bureaucrats for decades. Yet daily, often unseen, or sometimes localized in one industry, or place, there are breakthroughs that give us glimpses of the heroic aspects of the past and what is needed to win freedom in the future.

To move forward we must use the historic strategies of building workplace organizations and community-based mixed locals as organizations of direct action, mutual aid and self-defense. Only in this way can workplace and community-wide power and autonomy be established and flourish. The use of the wildcat and general strike strengthens solidarity. When leaders or political bodies are delegated inside or outside the union, we, the rank and file, must ensure they are constantly accountable. We need leaders who stay on the job. Lobbying for politicians or more progressive union leadership breeds only cynicism and defeat.

We believe we must prepare ourselves to ultimately govern our workplaces, neighborhoods and schools in popular councils and assemblies. This is the only solution to the social crisis today. We can only achieve this if we begin to rely on our own individual and collective initiative and activity; discussing and implementing economic and political ideas and plans, seeing how far we have come, and where we have gone wrong. For independent labor to govern, we must begin by overcoming obstacles of external oppression, but also those we put in our own way.