HOW CAN WE STEP OUTSIDE THE BOX?
By Dave Stratman
Time after time we have been betrayed by institutions that are supposed to represent us. Our unions work with management to keep us in line. The political parties are dominated by corporate money.Congress has been on sale to the highest bidder for years. The media are corporations themselves and surround us with the corporate message. The public schools undermine teachers and parents with corporate-led reforms like high stakes testing.
How can we break outside the box of corporate capitalist
domination? How can we take some control of our own destiny?
THE NEED FOR AN ORGANIZATION
All of us in our daily lives are under great pressure to conform to capitalist ideas, ideas about success, about other people, about whether we have any power to change things. We want the world to be different from what it is, and we work in our own ways to change it, but our sense of the world and ourselves, our values, our way of life are under unremitting attack. We can be nagged by self-doubt: Does anyone object to the way things are but me? Am I crazy for trying to change the world? Can we really make a difference?
To sustain our efforts and help them to grow, we need a solid core of relationships and ideas that confirm the best of what we know and do against the pressure of capitalist ideas and values.
We have been talking for some months now in New Democracy about how to build the revolutionary movement. We know that our ideas have a wide appeal. But more is necessary to build the movement than just to promote the ideas. It has become clear to us that we cannot build the revolutionary movement unless we build the revolutionary organization.
Building an organization of our own, an organization not dominated by capitalist ideas or by anti-worker ideology or by creeps, is how we step outside the box of corporate and elite domination. Building New Democracy chapters is how we can give our efforts staying power; it is the only way to institutionalize our ideas and give them permanence.
New Democracy chapters will be the anchor and base for the
new movement. They will be a place for people to come who are interested in our
ideas. They will be a place where people can get confirmation of their best
values and plan how to make them prevail. They will be a place for people to
discover that they are not alone in their desire for a better world.
STEPPING OUTSIDE THE UNIONS
Labor unions provide one of the clearest examples of organizations which have betrayed ordinary people. If we can figure out how to deal with them, we can figure out anything.
Union leaders have played a leading role in the corporate attack on working people of the last twenty-five years. Part of this role has been very public, for example, when Machinist president William Wimpisinger directed his members to cross the PATCO picket lines in 1980, keeping the airports open and breaking the air traffic controllers strike. But much of the union role has been more subtle. For example, AFL-CIO officials from "reform" president John Sweeney down to most local presidents promote the "Company Team" concept, the idea that workers and the company have the same interests and that workers should join "their" bosses to compete against other working people. Unions encourage workers to stand against their own brothers and sisters and against the values they believe in most deeply.
What have we learned from years of trying to change unions? That it can't be done. Unions and labor laws are designed to manage and control workers on behalf of the owners, not to lead workers against them. How many thousands of rank-and-file activists have burned themselves out over the years "trying to get the leaders to lead?" How many good, honest members have run for union office, only to get chewed up by the International once they're in office, or to change their stripes and become part of the problem themselves?
So what can union members do? How can they "step outside the box" of union control? This issue of New Democracy includes two letters from Tom Laney to fellow union members that point a way out. Tom has been an auto worker and member of UAW Local 879 for 25 years and was president for four years.
In one letter Tom says, "We need a network of auto workers, other workers, farmers, employed and unemployed talking not about the lean workplace and lean society but what kind of world we want for our kids and grandkids. We should talk about all the things that make auto workers feel good about each other and forget about the UAW except as the UAW applies to capitalism. And we should make clear that any system run by people who think they are better than other people, capitalism, communism, ANY system antithetical to democracy, solidarity and equality, is unacceptable."
What can union members do to "step outside the box" of union/management control? They can start to build a worker-to-worker network which:
1. Is not based on union structures.
2. Builds solidarity and exchange of ideas among workers across plants, across industries, across employed and unemployed, across races and genders, across generations, across borders.
3. Does not try to change the unions, does not run candidates for office, does not urge the unions to act but takes action itself.
4. Unites working people in a struggle to revolutionize society and create a true democracy based on equality and solidarity.
Why is it so important for workers to have their own organization? Many thousands of people have been involved in heroic actions against the corporations in the past decades, the Caterpillar and Staley struggles come to mind, but these efforts vanish like the wind if they do not result in building an organization of our own. We need an organization where we can draw the correct lessons from our struggles and use the lessons to build the movement.
Tom has mentioned that in his auto plant twenty years ago
there was such a strong culture of solidarity among the workers that the
occasional selfish, pro-company suck-ups "kept their heads down."
Now, he says, all that has changed. After twenty years of union/ management
cooperation, pushing "The Company Team" and competition among workers, the
shop-floor culture of worker solidarity has been forced underground. The
suck-ups are now in charge. A revolutionary organization of workers, New
Democracy chapters, is where people could come to plan how to reassert worker
solidarity in the workplace and wage the class war against the company and
STARTING FROM SCRATCH
After much discussion in the Boston chapter, we came to these conclusions: 1) There is no way to build a better society except with a movement for revolutionary democracy. 2) There is no way to build a movement for revolutionary democracy except by building an independent revolutionary organization which seeks to transform all of society. 3) There is no way to build an independent organization except by creating an infrastructure and recruiting people to it.
What does it take to start a chapter? Just two or three people who agree with the Statement of Principles of New Democracy (see newdemocracyworld.org) who meet regularly and plan how to grow.
We hope you will talk with a few friends and start a chapter. Call Dave Stratman for more information at 617-524-4073.