Out of the Driver's Seat:
Marxism in North America Today

Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

Blue Collar Workers

I started work at a truck assembly plant in Windsor in September, 1973 and with several short interruptions have been there steadily for over eight months now. It took quite a while before I was able to develop a clear picture of everything going on around me. Nobody had to tell me that there was a war being waged on the shop floor. But exactly how that war was being fought, its goals and its forms of struggle, was so subtly obvious that I had been fighting for some time before I became aware of exactly what I was fighting for.

The everyday activity in the truck plant seems to have three major goals which workers are trying to achieve. The first of these is a constant attempt to decrease productivity, lighten our work load, and therefore increase or at least maintain the man-power in the plant. Directly connected to this is the second goal, that of shortening our working day. Finally there is the struggle to improve physical working conditions like how hot it gets, how dirty our work area is, how slippery the floor is etc.

These three kinds of struggle in particular are marked by the fact that they are directly carried out by the workers as they work. In these cases there is little or no mediation by the union (the UAW). Other struggles, however, seem especially prone to co-option and control by the union; for example, actions to show support for disciplined or discharged workers. The union has also tried to increase manpower in a plant by encouraging us not to work overtime while the others are laid off. By first calling for an overtime ban and then cancelling it, the union has used the overtime issue as a bargaining tool against management. But generally, the struggles to decrease production, shorten the working day, and imporve working conditions take place without the intervention or interference of any external organization, union or other.


The slowdown is the most common form of the struggle to decrease production. Deliberately not making production by going into the hole, performing unnecessary motions, requesting a pass to see the nurse, arguing with the foreman as the work goes on down the line is the first defense against speedup and an offensive tactic as well. This may be done individually but more often small groups of workers cooperate with each other by collectively slowing down. The cooperation is necessary not only because it makes it harder for management to fix the blame on any one individual, but also because this cooperation is necessary to run the production line in the first place.

A variation of the slowdown is to run out of stock and shut the line down for lack of material. Foremen are so busy that they seldom have a chance to keep tabs on how much stock workers have on hand. There is not a thing a foreman can do to us when directly in front of his eyes someone reaches over and pushes the line button and starts yelling at him to get us some more stock or we'll get the general foreman to fire him. Running out of stock usually requires the cooperation of stock chasers and jitney drivers who must arrange to be conveniently busy elsewhere when we begin to run low on something. Often a worker will strike up a conversation with his foremanas a distraction while others hide stock material or quickly use up what little is left.

Sabatoge is very frequent. It tends to be performed more by individual workers than by groups and this is only natural, for the penalty for being caught is immediate firing with almost no chance of being hired by other auto companies. There are two kinds of sabatoge. One way is to disrupt the line by putting an obstacle in a link and jamming it. This shuts things down for five minutes to half an hour while the mill-wrights make the repairs. The other method is more common; making deliberate mistakes in your work. When this is done by large numbers of workers the company is forced to shut down all production for several days while the repair department catches up on all the rejects.

In one department I worked in, we decreased production by increasing the space between units on the line. This was the miscellaneous paint department. The men are divided into three categories; loaders, painters and unloaders. The painters generally have the most seniority and the loaders, the least. It is the responsibility, of the loaders to put parts such as bumpers, instrument panels, headlight rings and brackets on to the hooks of a conveyor line that carries the parts through the paint booths and drying ovens and back out to the unloaders. Each part is supposed to be put on the line with a set spacing of so many empty hooks separating it from the other parts. For example, instrument panels are loaded with two empty hooks between them. Whenever we can, we load them at a distance of three or four hooks apart. Similar expansions are attempted with other parts and it is a continual game between us and the foremen to see who determines the spacings of the parts. Everyone in the department assists the loaders in this, because naturally the less work the loaders do, the less work everyone else does.

Another practice which is common in most departments is splitting work with a partner. This has also been called doubling up. Instead of both workers working on the line all the time, one partner will cover both jobs for twenty minutes while the other takes a break. By switching back and forth who does the work and who rests, we usually only really work for half a shift, four hours, and just put in time for the other four, playing cards, reading etc. What is significant here is that there is no attempt to hide this splitting of work from the foreman. He is quite aware of it and will not ask you to do something if he knows that your partner is the one working at present. Some older workers are upset by this kind of thing. They are afraid that time study will eventually come into the department and cut the manpower in half. But most of the older workers and all the younger ones seem confident that the struggle they will put up should a manpower cut be attempted will make any such a futile and disasterous one.

The splitting of work is one example of what I have called the struggle to shorten the working day. It's not precisely what is usually meant when we speak of shortening the working day, but it does show how workers try to give as little time as possible to the company and keep as much time for themselves as they can. This objective appears to be an important factor in the numerous illegal work stoppages experienced by the auto companies in Windsor. When workers in the truck plant walked out on April 1st to protest the firing of the union chairman, the fact that it was a nice day outside was given by many as the real reason they wanted to go, as many couldn't care less what the company did to the union reps. A real shortening of the working day is difficult to achieve, but it is relatively simple for workers to shorten the work week. Absenteeism, calling in sick when you're perfectly healthy and just don't want to work, is so prevalent that often the company has to use relief men to cover absent workers jobs, as there are not enough absentee replacement men to go around. On these days, instead of relief being spread out over the length of the day, the Company will shut a whole department or even all production down to give everyone their relief at the same time.


One of the most dramatic forms of workers' struggle is the walkout. There has only been one since I started work, but with summer coming I'm told that they should become a fairly frequent occurance as truck plant workers refuse to work in excessive heat. Before the April 1st walkout the union had repeatedly told us that walking out only served to gut the union. When the union chairman was fired, our plant union committee promptly decided to call a walkout. The abrupt reversal of policy did not go unnoticed by workers who had attended the union meeting the day before. But word of the 35 walkout was quickly spread throughout the plant and workers discussed whether or not they should go out, with most but not all finally deciding to leave. My work area was in the annex across the street from the main plant and the discussion there centered around the fact that the annex workers wanted to make sure the main plant walked out first before they left. The summer before during the heat walkouts, the annex workers had always left first as they worked in the hottest areas, and several times the main plant workers waited to be sent home rather than walk out themselves. A number of annex workers resented this and waited for some time before walking out on April 1st. In my department everyone wanted to walkout but no one would walk out alone. They didn't feel it was safe to walk out unless they did so as a group, which they finally did after I went out by myself out of impatience to see what was happening at the plant meeting in the local union hall.

This walkout was called by the union, a very rare event and very embarrassing to the local officials. But there was no automatic acceptance of the union's leadership. A sizeable minority of workers did not leave the plant until sent home by the company. Of the workers who did walk out only about half attended the union meeting which we were all supposed to head towards on leaving the plant. The plant chairman is not very popular and it is quite probable we would not have walked out at all if the weather hadn't been so pleasant. Who wants to work on a Monday morning? The meeting was short and totally controlled by the union. We were thanked for our support and asked to cooperate with the new acting plant chairman and follow the union's instructions. The union would take care of the firing over the bargaining table.' Not one rank and file worker spoke. In the plant the workers were quick to communicate the plan of the walkout to every department including one two miles away in another building. They succintly debated the pros and cons of the walk out and then acted. The difference between what happened in the plant and what happened at the union meeting was startling.

The only thing more threatening to management than a walkout is a sit-in. The sit-in I was involved in lasted for 55 minutes, at which point the company gave in to every one of our demands. This kind of success is not always the case and was the result of several favourable conditions, the preparations of which took us several weeks.

The job I was on at the time was called "building tires". What we did was to put tires on to their wheel rims, inflate them and then load the tires on to a conveyor line. The job is generally considered the worst in the plant. Truck tires and rims are heavy and we had to carry the rims from ten to twenty feet to our work area from the stock area. We were constantly bending over and lifting tires with our back muscles. After the tire was fitted over the rim, we had to kick the lock ring into place with the heel of a boot while standing on the other foot. The tires were stored outside and in the winter they were covered with snow which melted when brought indoors, soaking our gloves and clothes as well as making the floor slippery. In addition to melted snow we soaped each tire to make it slip onto its rim and the soapy water on the floor made kicking lock rings a dangerous balancing act. The round pots on which we placed the rims were not welded down and tended to move out from under you when you misplaced your kick.

The time study men had always scheduled three men on tires, each one building two tires every four minutes. This alone made the job exhausting. When I was transferred to the job, the foreman was using six men on tires, pulling three from other jobs about to be phased out. This was supposed to be temporary and we were repeatedly told that the job would soon be reduced back to three men. However the six of us were determined to prevent that from happening. We used every conceivable form of slowdown we could think of to prevent them from making production with six men, let alone three. We tormented our foreman so much that he had a nervous breakdown and was removed from our department, and put on the night shift to recuperate. We repeatedly told the general foremen to improve the condition of the tire area. He knew that was his only hope of making production but was unable to get the maintenance department to act.

One day our foreman came rushing past our work area and slipped on the soapy floor. He grabbed a pipe and just missed getting a serious knock on the head. We told him right then to clean up the place by noon or we would refuse to work after lunch. For the rest of the morning we made sure the floor was super slippery by spilling soap all over it whenever there was no-foreman around. After lunch we came back and there was no improvement. We started to work anyway, but after five minutes the steward came by and we asked him if we had to work on that floor. He said the law gave us the right not to work in unsafe conditions and that we, not him, would have to determine whether it was unsafe. The union, he said, would back us up no matter what we did, but we had decided our own course of action for ourselves.

So we sat down and watched the line run empty. The foreman came by and ordered us back to work. We ignored him. The general foreman came by and we told him why we weren't working. Before we went back to work we wanted the pots welded to the floor, a new grillwork welded to the floor to give us better traction, the soap washed away and someone to take the snow off the tires before they were brought inside. For half an hour nothing happened. Workers from other parts of the annex came over to our area and we were told that if anyone was disciplined, everyone would sit down in support.

The top plant management arrived on the scene after almost an hour had gone by. Our steward told us that they had all been out to lunch at the E.C. (local swank bar-restaurant) and were furious at having to leave right in the middle of the first course. They really had their problems now because two other departments in the main plant decided to hold sit-ins themselves when they heard about ours. They wanted to improve working conditions also. We told the plant production manager about our foreman slipping in the morning and he asked what we wanted changed. We told him and he gave orders to have it done right then and there. When we finally went back to work the whole plant was sent home half an hour later because the combined effect of the three sit-ins made further production that day impossible.

According to the union there have been over 23 illegal work stoppages, mostly walk-outs, but sit-ins as well, this year in this particular company's Windsor plants. To dismiss these as just spontaneous outbursts of outrage is a very superficial outlook to hold. These events are just the more obvious examples of worker's organization. The speed with which they develop, the quickness of collective decision making demonstrate just
how well workers really are organized. The continual frustration of this organization by the union can only lead to further developing of their organization by rank and file workers.

The organization of workers in our plant follows the organization of the production process. The plant is broken down into various departments - chassis, metal shop, trim line, motor line, axle lines, paint, etc. The workers in each department operate as a unit, not only in their work, but in their struggles as well. Within each department there are smaller groupings of workers determined according to the logic of how a truck is put together. On this level the cooperation between workers is intense as four or five workers spend the whole day talking with each other, working together, being hassled together, eating together and fighting together. When a worker has worked in one area for a time he develops a bond with the other members of his group which continues to exist even after he has been transferred to another area of the plant. Thus the members of a group will have contacts in most other departments as well as the experience of having worked in those departments.

The communication network between workers functions eratically at present, but every now and then it demonstrates a potential that indicates how advanced the struggle has become. Besides the division of the truck plant into the main building and the annex, there are two storage areas, the frame yard at plant 3 and the old foundry now used for stock on Kildare road, which are several miles from the plant. But when we walked out the truck plant workers in those areas left work as well. There is a company phone network which has each department equiped with one or two telephones in all four of the Windsor plants. These phones are for the use of company and union personnel but there is no way to stop workers from using them as well. Several weeks ago a meeting was called of workers in one department in the main plant to take place at lunch at the parking lot. Almost as soon as it was called, workers in my department knew about the meeting and I was asked by several to go to it and report back to them what happened. This news may have come by phone or a jitney driver may have brought the message over in person, but however it travelled, I was able to determine that not fifteen minutes elapsed from the union rep's calling the meeting to my being asked to attend.


To finish off this report, I would like to describe my impressions of workers' responses to leaflets from the left and how workers view the union.

The union regularly puts plant bulletins and the union local newspaper into the plant. Like all printed material we get our hands on, almost all workers read these things over carefully. There is little discussion between workers of what they read and union material is rarely taken home. Instead it is left lying around or thrown in the garbage after it is read. The response to leaflets from a group of militants have been slightly different. Leaflets about the 'historic contract ' and work stoppages in a particular plant were read carefully and then folded up and taken home. I only rarely found one in the garbage or on the floor. The same is true of a leaflet two of us put into the plant the day after the walk-out. Once again there was no discussion about the leaflets, but workers did talk about the facts or events mentioned in the leaflets as if they were general knowledge, even when the leaflets were the only source of that information. I can only conclude from this that the leaflets have performed a useful purpose in generalizing knowledge amongst workers. Only the last two militants' leaflets have received disparaging remarks from workers, with many of them thrown away or posted up with uncomplimentary comments scrawled on them.

I think the anti-union stance which is so powerfully stressed in their aggressive, strident language is responsible for a certain amount of polarization, turning off some workers while appealing to others who have become extremely frustrated by their deteriorating situation. Last night, I was rather surprised to hear one worker say that he thought he would be better off without a union the way we've been fucked over by our reps, and then ten minutes later, after reading a leaflet with essentially the same message, say that the guys who wrote it were shit disturbers with nothing constructive to offer.

This brings us to the rather contradictory way in which workers view the union. On the one hand, almost everyone is well aware that the stewards and committeeman exercise a certain amount of control over them, just like a foreman. When a foreman is having a discipline problem he can't immediately resolve, he, not the worker, will call for the steward. the steward will have a friendly talk with the worker and explain why he has to do what he is told. Foremen continually rely on stewards to bail them out of trouble. Because a union rep has no responsibilities to meet production and supervises a much larger part of the plant than the foreman, he has a clearer conception of what's going on and can act as an effective troubleshooter. The meeting in the parking lot, for example, was called by the union to quell a growing movement for a walkout in that department.

Workers in my department constantly comment on how the union works against us. On the other hand, workers often use their union reps and the union as someone would use a lawyer when they get in trouble with the authorities. Workers will reject union leadership of their shopfloor struggle but will insist that the union represent them after a struggle has resulted in some dis-cipline. Increasingly the workers are relegating the union to just that kind of role, retaining the union as a legal representative in collective bargaining and discipline procedures, while the rank and file directs the struggle against the company themselves.

This dual perspective on the role of unions by workers, as well as the fact of the highly advanced organization of workers in their autonomous struggle, has certain implications for the form and style, as well as the content, of any leaflets or papers the left may put into a plant. Any form of nagging, pushing revolution, or telling the workers to get organized is useless and only serves to irritate workers. Any comment about the union should be careful to separate those functions workers still want the union to fulfill and those functions which work against workers. Nothing written should ever imply that workers expect the union to lead them in their struggles. There is no use hammering away at the point that the union is not fighting to improve our working conditions when the last thing workers (excluding trade unionists of course) want is interference from the union. If a leaflet is going to have agitational statements and emotionally charged sentiments, these should be quotes from rank and filers which are representative of the comments currently being made by large numbers of the rank and file, and explicitly presented as quotes; otherwise an impression is given that a few enlightened workers or leftists are trying to awaken their fellow workers to a situation that only a few correctly perceive. Even though I am sure that this impression is not intended, workers have it and quite rightly resent it.



A most practical cat.

Walking silently on padded feet Unseen, unheard
Power concentrated
in a compact body.

Lean, lithe, less in appearance Than the explosive leap,
periodic culmination
of growing power
or growing hunger

Amber, black, mottled, gold.
All colours help to hide
its invisible path

Slowly it climbs and waits
on limb
on cliff
on overhang.

All right, buddy
Let's not get romantic.
Shut her down and let's go.

A most practical cat.

Mr. Toad

White Collar Workers

In the past 18 months, I have worked at 2 white collar jobs, one in a government department, the other as a secretary in a university. In both situations (and both were short term) I saw my primary task as one of investigation, listening and learning about white collar work and about the attitudes and opinions of my fellow employees. These experiences have, in turn, enabled me to begin to develop a perspective in this area.


In general, office work is tiring and monotonous, often differing only in degree from other industrial or service jobs. At the university for example, I was responsible for: all typing of memoes, papers, correspondence (business and personal), course outlines etc. for all 18 professors in the department; reproduction of any of the preceding by ditto, xerox, thermo-fax etc; answering the phone, taking messages, making appointments, troubleshooting; maintaining files; ordering all office supplies; making sure all office equipment is properly serviced. In addition, the regular secretary (whom I was replacing) would do all the department bookkeeping, finances and minutes of all.department meetings in shorthand.

This official job description ignores the added burden to most secretaries of making coffee, buying coffee supplies, watering and caring for office plants, and acting as surrogate wife to the boss, reminding him of appointments, soothing tensions, bolstering his ego. Also, I found that both jobs involved incredible emotional drain, if not from some version of the Surrogate Wife Syndrome, then certainly in daily dealings with an often hostile public, trouble-shooting, and defending policies over which I had no control. These factors are undoubtedly present in most clerical jobs, from the Bell switchboard to the dentist's office.

There is, of course, the compensating factor of having one's emotions drained in surroundings that are relatively clean, air conditioned and quiet. Such amenities, however, owe as much to clericals' proximity to management (or customers) as to any ruling class ideology which grants extra privileges to white collar workers, since they are noticeably absent where the situation permits.

If the physical surroundings of office work are unabrasive, so too are the interpersonal relationships. In a previous paper describing my government job, I labelled the typical office atmosphere as one of Repressive Decorum. In many civil service jobs, for example, you are on a first name basis with your immediate supervisor who is often a member of the "union"; in other office jobs, the first name basis may be only one way, but the air of friendliness and politeness still exists.

In other words, you may not be ordered to work overtime; you will be expected to do it as a favour, or you'll be asked in a politely authoritarian way. The point here being, of course, that the other side of repressive decorum is repression. Ultimately, politeness and air-conditioning do not compensate for the unpleasant reality of most clerical work, and besides, such niceties are more common to the higher levels of the office scale than to, say, the typing pool.

I used to think, though, that Repressive Decorum was responsible for keeping the lid on labour troubles among white collar workers, creating a situation in which fighting the boss would be like socking a kindly uncle. Now, I'm not so sure of this analysis. Rather it seems that repressive decorum is fostered by the material conditions of clerical work itself: poor pay, lack of any union protection, tension, monotony, lack of advancement opportunity and, in many cases, isolation from other workers, It is false to assume that clericals are conned by repressive decorum any more than factory workers are deceived by company 'job enrichment' schemes. Once I began to see repressive decorum in this way, it became easier to understand other characteristics of white collar workers.

It is undeniable, for example, that most clerical work forces women to accept the most oppressive aspects of the female role. For many secretaries, feminity - from a good figure and the right makeup, to a pleasant manner - is as much a job skill as a good typing speed. Proper appearance is, simply, a necessary part of the job and for most women I knew, an unwelcome and (in view of our salaries) an expensive part.

For someone like myself, however, this concern with dress was easier to accept than the coyness, the submissive attitude, the feminine sweetness that most women (including myself) had to adopt in relation to management. At first, I felt these games indicated an apallingly low 'level of consciousness' among women workers. That is, until I realized that these stratagems are simply the necessary tactics of survival, employed (consciously) in situations where more forthright methods of fighting back are impossible. Most clerical workers lack the experience of any type of collective struggle, even at the minimal level of organizing a union. Many are isolated from each other because they work for different men or are in a small department. The daily struggle, then, is, of necessity, carried out in terms of stealing time (by taking longer breaks) or in rigidly adhering to office hours (not answering that phone even if it is one minute to nine) and, if all else fails, employing whatever feminine wiles may be effective in lightening the work load and getting away with what you can.

These observations changed my assumptions about the 'false consciousness' of female clericals. I found, in fact, that many women objected strongly to the degrading games forced on them by their work. They didn't need me to point out the problem; they did, however, want to work towards a change.

And gradually the possibility of that change is becoming a reality, as the basic conditions of clerical work alter in ways which destroy the elements upon which repressive decorum is based.

Like all other aspects of work today, clerical work is becoming highly mechanized, as capital responds to the daily struggles of clericals to slow down, rush through things carelessly, ignore errors and generally steal as much time as they can for themselves. Such human vagaries are supposedly offset by: dictaphones, photographic copiers, computerized typewriters that work by themselves, electric ones that correct their own mistakes, increased computerization of communication systems, which all play their part in reducing the skilled secretary to an appendage on a machine. One of the effects of this simplification is the increasing ease with which workers can be easily transferred from one job to another. Secretaries can now be drawn from one large typing pool and the resulting collectivization allows for increasingly effective communications between workers - a situation which will quickly destroy the former barriers of isolation. This, accompanied by the effects of skill reduction, will put an end to the remaining vestiges of office hierarchy. As well, the specific nature of Canada's economy creates - especially in the state sector - a rapid growth of white collar jobs.

All of these changes have obvious implications for white collar militancy: the recent CLC organizing campaign is a response to growing restlessness as well as an attempt, perhaps, to control the direction of the fight.

The women's movement, too, has played its part and most of its basic ideas are widely discussed in popular women's magazines as, for example, the article on secretaries in June's Chatelaine. The result is a growing reaction among clericals to the surrogate wife syndrome, as witnessed by the anger expressed last winter when parliamentary secretaries demonstrated against rug-ranking (the practice of tying a secretary's pay to her boss's status).

At present, the outline of the coming changes are only just beginning to emerge, but they will become more defined as the effects of increased mechanization become clearer and as clericals themselves become more experienced in an area of struggle still new to them. My work experience makes me confident that that experience is growing.

What We Think

We have arrived through our experiences and reading at a conception of the role of marxists and a marxist organization that sets us apart from other groups in the left, even from our comrades in the 'new tendency'. Although there are many ideas which we hold in common with others, chief of which is our rejection of vanguardism, the theoretical differences are important and deserve to be explained.

Two concepts in particular serve as the basis of our theory. These are the 'invading Socialist Society' and 'State Capitalism'. These ideas were first presented by Engels and are rooted in Marx's analysis of class struggle and the development of Capital. They are not new concepts and Lenin was aware of them and elaborated on their content. But it is only now in the last half of the twentieth century that it is crucially important for marxists to appreciate, understand and above all use these concepts in everything they do.

The Invading Socialist Society

It is not the revolution that creates socialism, but socialism that calls forth the revolution. The revolution is therefore the last step towards complete socialism, not the first. What this means is that socialist society already exists today, not in Russia, China or Cuba, but within capitalist society itself, on the shop floor, in the office, in schools and on the street. To some extent this has always been true ever since capital began to socialize labour. As Engels pointed out in Anti-Duhring; "The contradiction between social production and capitalist appropriation reproduces itself as the antithesis between the organization of production in an individual factory and the anarchy of production as a whole."

Today there exists a highly developed and developing set of social relations that are socialist in form and content and can be found throughout advanced capitalist society. Of course, the social relations of capital still exist as well and although these are weakening under the pressure of the class struggle, they still serve to inhibit, check and occasionally even co-opt the development of socialist society. Whenever it can, and out of economic necessity, capital uses the invading socialist society to further its own growth. But capital cannot escape its own logic and the conflict of two sets of social relations within it will soon become intolerable and the invading socialist society, which is nothing else but the self-organization of the proletariat, will move to its last resort, a revolution, to rid itself of the 'muck of ages' and do away with the society of capital.

The invading socialist society is generated at the point of production through the cooperation inherent in work. But it permeates and challenges all social relations. The more advanced capitalism becomes, the more it is invaded by new social relationships. Historically this has been seen not only in the Commune, the Soviet, The Factory Committee, and the Workers' Council, overt expressions of workers creating socialism, but also somewhat more subtly in the everyday experience of the working class.

(As a necessary aside, a word about Workers' Councils. We are referring here to the development of ever higher forms of revolutionary workers' organizations, organizations created by workers in the midst of actual revolution. The Paris Commune, the Soviet and Factory Committee combination in 1917 Russia and the workers' councils of Hungary in 1956 are socialist forms of organization. They should not be confused with the capitalist organizations created by workers in their self defense, craft and industrial unions, shop stewards and the European workers' councils of the 1920's, being obvious examples. What distinguished the Hungarian revolution was that the workers' councils were able for a short time to abolish value production and wage labour, producing only for utility. Defensive and revolutionary workers' organizations are both products of the conflict between the invading socialist society and capital, but the former preserve and heighten the contradiction while the latter destroy it.)

Traditionally, leftists have great difficulty in seeing these new relations while they experience no trouble at all in perceiving capitalist socialization. This is because they assume that developing new relations between workers is their job, the left being responsible for building the new society. Instead it is capital in the first place that imposes every changing conditions on workers that cause workers to create new forms of relations and develop them in their struggle. Leftists who are dismayed by the fact that the new relations are not fully evident do not realize that only in the actual revolution can the superior relations of the invading socialist society be fully expressed.

The workers at Chrysler have the ability to set up workers' councils at any given moment within 30 minutes to an hour's time. Their collective knowledge of their work and themselves, the relations of cooperation and mutual trust, are already present in sufficient quantity to make the creation of a workers' council a simple matter of informal departmental elections. The concept of workers' councils is, if not already a familiar one, at least an obvious alternative to the union structure workers have already rejected.

The fact that there are no workers' councils at Chrysler does not mean that the necessary relations are lacking. It means workers recognize that for them to assume control of their factories while the economics of capitalism dictates the market they will produce for and the products they will produce is self-defeating. The creation of workers' councils goes hand in hand with insurrection, socialist revolution. In fact, Hungary in '56 showed us that the creation of workers' councils is the revolution. The absence of workers' councils does not mean the workers are ideologically unprepared or politically backward. It means the revolution hasn't happened. All conditions are not yet ripe, even though the proletariat is prepared.

The working class, especially the North American working class, has a very practical, empirical world outlook. The disinterest which workers have for politics on this continent is an example of this. The left interprets this disinterest as backwardness. If anything it indicates just the opposite. The revolution is a last resort, a do or die situation, and the only way to approach it is a practical, use what worked before, avoid what didn't, invent something new to cover unsolved problems, approach which is one of the chief characteristics of the North American working class.


There is a tendency to seperate those workers (or students or gays) whom we consider politically conscious' from the great mass of the workers who are not. But was does this differentiation imply? Does it mean that everyone else is backward or reactionary? In many instances this seems to be the case, and we feel that such a view of things raises very serious questions about the relationship between Marxists and the working class.

For one thing, our major standard for the level of political consciousness seems to be a verbal one. What a person says, their opinions about 'political issues' from unions to socialism is of great importance and very often, those who express less enlightened opinions on certain issues are considered to be apolitical or unconscious. Such a view carries with it, however, a definite bourgeois bias towards the importance of verbalization. It is particularly dangerous in regard to workers, who, because of their class position, are not always given the opportunity of expressing themselves verbally on many political issues, and in some cases have difficulty acquiring the necessary skills. It also ignores the fact that how people act is often as important as what they say, perhaps even more so.

People generally get their opinions on many issues from the society around them. In many instances these ideas are often repeated without questions until some material circumstance forces the individual to change their mind. For example, a woman may accept the belief that abortion is murder until she finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy, or anglophone workers may express racism toward Quebecois until, as in the case of the CN demonstration in Ottawa, the 2 groups unite around a common cause and find that they share similar feelings and experiences.

The tendency to concentrate on an individual's consciousness (or what one says) leads to a tendency to separate the individual from the class as a whole. For marxists, this is an odd contradiction, for our theory teaches us that it is the working class that will change history by destroying capitalism. An over concern with the individual may cause us to ignore the actions and attitudes of the class or, as is too often the case, we may take the 'consciousness' of one 'reactionary' individual as 'proof' that the working class is backward.

Because of the importance we place on what a person says or on individual consciousness, we tend in our political work to overemphasize the importance of raising political consciousness by means of spoken or written word. Verbal struggle, leaflets, etc. which attempt to explain to the workers (or others) the correct political view of a certain issue may be important tools in certain instances, but it is questionable, especially in a media centred society such as ours, just how much they change people's thinking or to what extent they advance the struggle for communism. It is evident from history that the struggle and the role of the working class in advancing that struggle develops and changes as the material relations between the working class and capital develop and change. All the political treatises in the world will not force the working class to act to advance the struggle to communism until the material conditions have developed to the point where such action becomes not only possible, but historically necessary.

We believe it is important for Marxists to examine carefully the underlying implications of our particular method of estimating political consciousness and our efforts to build consciousness in the working class. It is all too possible given our backgrounds and the attitudes of bourgeois society around us that our theory and practise here carries with it the tacit assumption that the working class lacks political consciousness and is therefore backward and reactionary. If this were truly the case it would seem that most political activity would be futile. A backward working class would have meekly submitted to capital long ago, and no exhortation on our part could change things. Clearly this is not the case, and the daily activities of workers, students, women, gays etc. indicate that the class is constantly struggling against capitalism and laying the basis for socialism. The political consciousness of the working class is constantly expressed all around us, perhaps not in a form that we may appreciate or understand but definitely in a way which will bring about communism.

For us, then, the role of Marxists does not involve raising consciousness as it is presently understood. We begin with the fact that the working class is already politically conscious and while we may be able to provide additional information concerning the nature of capitalism, it is more important for us to understand the consciousness that already exists by investigating how the working class perceives its present situation and what it is doing to change it. The investigation can, of course, only be carried out by working with people in the struggle for socialism.

State Capitalism

"in any given branch of industry centralization would reach its extreme limit if all the individual capitals invested in it were fused into a single capital. In a given society the limit would be reached only when the entire social capital was united in the hands of either a single capitalist or a single capitalist company."
- Marx, Capital Vol. I, p.627

"In the trusts, freedom of competition changes into its very opposite - into monopoly; and the production without any definite plan of capitalist society capitulates to the production upon a definite plan of the invading socialist society."
- Engels, Socialism, Scientific and Utopian
Selected Works, p.421

"It is the pressure of the productive forces, in their mighty upgrowth, against their character as capital, increasingly compelling the recognition of their social character, which forces the capitalist class itself more and more to treat them as social productive forces, in so far as this is at all possible within the framework of capitalist relations. Both the period of industrial boom, with its unlimited credit inflation, and the crisis itself through the collapse of great capitalist establishments, urge forward towards that form of the socialization of huge masses of means of production which we find in the various joint-stock companies. Many of these means of production are from the outset so collossal that, like the railways,they exclude all other forms of capitalist exploitation. At a certain stage of development even this form no longer suffices; the official representative of capitalist society, the state, is constrained to take over their management."
-Engels, Anti-Duhring, p.303

"To elucidate the question still more, let us first of all take up the most concrete example of state capitalism, Everybody knows what this example is. It is Germany. Here we have the last word in modern large-scale capitalist technique and planned organization, subordinated to Junker-Bourgeois imperialism."
"At present, petty-bourgeois capitalism prevails in Russia, and it is one and the same road that leads from it to large scale capitalism and to socialism through one and the same intermediary station called 'national accounting and control of production and distribution'. Those who fail to understand this are committing an unpardonable mistake in economics."
'In order to convince the reader that this is not the first time I have given this 'high' appreciation of state capitalism and that I gave it before the Bolsheviks seized power I take the liberty of quoting the following passage from my pamphlet, 'The Threatening Catastrophe and how to Fight It' written in September,1917."
"State-monopoly capitalism is a complete material preparation for socialism, the threshold of socialism, a rung on the ladder of history between which and the rung called socialism there are no intermediate rungs"

- Lenin, The Tax in Kind Collected Works, Vol. 32, pp. 334-6

For a revolution to be successful it cannot happen until all possible development under capitalism has been realised. All possible development includes not only economics, but forms of class struggle as well. Because Russia had not exhausted the development of capitalism before 1917, it had to return to its capitalist development after the revolution, a point Lenin never ceased to point out. All previous attempts at socialist revolution have failed, crushed by counter-revolutions. From these failures, the proletariat has gained a wealth of experience on which has been based the advance of class struggle. But now we have reached the stage in world history where capitalism has been exhausted. There are no significant and worthwhile reforms left that capital can use to appease the working class. Because capital has reached the end of its development, taking the form of state capitalism, world revolution presents itself on the immediate horizon.

State Capitalism is the end result of the process of centralization and accumulation of capital. The state, as the official representative of society, assumes control over production and distribution. Where 'private enterprise' still exists it is subordinated to the restrictions imposed by the state, wage and price controls being one example. Because each stage of capitalism is in contradiction with the previous stage from which it arose, the giant corporations are trying to maintain the control over the state which they once seemed to exercise, so naturally, while the state takes over more and more of the prerogatives of the so-called private sector. Richard Nixon is a man caught in the middle of this contradictory cross-fire.

A characteristic of the Paris Commune that marked it as a distinct form of socialism was the merger of the executive and legislative branches of government. The invading socialist society has forced the development of state capitalism to do the same. Everywhere from Russia to the United States the executive branches of government have assumed more and more of the powers of the legislatures. The distinction between political parties and the state is blurring, for the political form of state capitalism is the one party state.

Even though the centralization of capital has spiralled so high, state capitalism remains capitalism, not socialism. The world market exists as before, and it is the play of capital on the world market which creates the falling rate of profit. The law of value continues to operate, the inevitable collapse of capitalism becoming immediate rather than being held at bay by nationalization.

Every stage of capitalism has a corresponding stage in the organization of the working class. This includes those elements of the working class which serve to represent the interest of capital against those of their own class. Lenin did his study of monopoly capital in Imperialism in order to explain the behaviour of the second international, the social democrats of the official labour movement. He discovered the existence of the 'labour aristocracy', workers bribed by the higher standard of living they enjoyed from their share of the super-profits made by their employers. Divorced from the rest of the working class, in 1914, the labour aristocrats indentified with the struggles of their national bourgeoisies and reneged on the international agreement of labour not to support war.

Today the labour aristocracy has been superceded by its state capitalist successor, the labour bureaucracy is made up of the trade union officials, and the vanguard party functionaries. Just as the difference between party and state are disappearing, so too are the differences between the unions and parties. Lenin based the Bolsheviks on those differences at a time when the separation between the economic and political struggles of the proletariat was distinct. Today the AFL-CIO or the UAW performs the same role that the Communist Party does in Italy. Both organizations are bureaucracies run from the top down, using the energy of the class struggle for their own purpose.

The labour bureaucracy are deadly enemies of the bourgeoisie, but the servants of capital nonetheless. The bourgeoisie is, as Engels pointed out, "...a superflous class. All its functions are now performed by salaried employees." State capitalism is managed by a bureaucracy and it is that which the labour bureaucrats are trying to become. Capital is using the tension between the invading socialist society and official society to destroy the bourgeoisie it had previously built up. Its historical agents are the Stalinists with their parties and the Woodcocks and Meanies with their unions.

But the complete transformation of North American society into the kind of total state capitalism of Russia is unlikely. Workers in Canada and the United States are unlikely to give the labour bureaucracy the enthusiastic support that workers gave the Bolsheviks in 1917.

If the labour bureaucracy is the representative of state capital within the labour movement, there is also a corresponding stage of development of the proletariat as a whole under state capitalism. And that is precisely the description we gave of the invading socialist society today. The state capitalist economy of the U.S. and Canada, while not as crudely apparent as in the communist countries, is the most advanced form of capitalism in the world. It has created the conditions for the most advanced form of organization of the proletariat. It is no longer the role of marxists to organize workers. The workers are already organized, by the conditions of production, by the unions, and by the struggle of workers against those conditions and those unions. Either one knows this to be true or one must subscribe to the notion of the backwardness of the North American working class and thus return to vanguardism via the back door.

Where We're Going

By the time many leftists have listened to or read our theoretical perspective up to the point just reached, their one and only conclusion is that we see no role for marxists in advancing the struggle for socialism. The workers don't need us and the only thing left is for US to amuse ourselves reading Hegel and writing internal papers. After all, if the left can't organize, what else is there to do?

Most leftists do not conceive of any other role than organizing and automatically assume that when we say organizing is out, that we mean do nothing. This misunderstanding is reinforced by our criticisms of the practice of left groups with whom we are in sympathy, other members of the new tendency. The equation of workplace organizing with vanguardism is a little hard to take when first presented, especially to marxists who make the rejection of vanguardism the operating tenet of their perspective. Nevertheless, in order to present our positive conception of the role of marxists today, we shall start with a critique of the role our comrades have assumed in their interaction with workers.

The intervention of marxists into workplace situations to develop rank and file groupings has the appearance of being a solid, non-vanguardist approach right in tune with the times. It's frustrating, this intervention, but at least we are not working within trade union politics or developing cadres for a party. The theory here is to get the militants in a workplace together and encourage them to struggle autonomously against the boss to gain control over working conditions. Most important is to keep the leadership of workers' struggles out of the hands of the union. The issues which represent autonomous struggle are demands that do not follow the logic of capital. Some of these have been: full pay, work or no work, no cut in pay when a worker is transferred from one department to another with a lower pay scale, no speed-up, and a forty hour week.

Examples of the successful development of rank and file groupings are hard to come by. Despite considerable leafletting and contact in the plants, a rank and file group has yet to materialize. A proposal for intervention in Auto from Toronto gave two problems which must be overcome before a grouping is possible, perhaps in explanation of these difficulties. These were the tendency of workers 1) not to take the long view of things and 2) not to view their situation as a common one.

These tendencies may exist, but they exist in individual workers and not in the collective consciousness of workers. If there is one concept that workers understand now almost instinctively, and are bombarded with constantly by left-wingers and the union, it is solidarity. In walk-outs and sit-ins, workers will not put their jobs on the line unless everyone else does too. As for not taking the long view of things., this idea may come from listening to what some workers say, but a study of what workers do points to just the opposite conclusion. The refusal to work overtime, the struggle against speed-up, and the creation of unions are just three examples of workers' sacrificing immediate benefits or the status quo to make long range improvements in their working conditions.

So why is it so difficult to organize rank and file groupings? The reason is that a rank and file organization already exists. It is the entire rank and file. There is no need for groupings within the rank, and file because the whole already functions much better than its separate parts could ever hope to achieve.

This is why the search for militants in a work place is so often a futile one. What is a militant? Someone more willing to take and lead actions than others? Someone more politically aware than the majority of his fellow workers? Most workers are aware that management and the union are enemies trying to exercise control over them. Most workers realize that they run their plants and offices and need no bureaucratic control. What more political awareness is required? The question of who leads a struggle is a very minor one to workers. When they need leaders or spokesmen they find them. Often they have need of neither. Unless a worker intends to run for union office or adopts a leftist's ideology, he could very well be a militant leader in one struggle and just another worker in the next one. Someone who is consistently 'militant' is viewed with suspicion by workers as a shitdisturber looking for a stewardship.

The Toronto paper on auto intervention defined the task of putting together a rank and file grouping as essentially one of "trying to develop a particular relationship between individuals who work together." We have already noted that the relationships already exist in the invading socialist society and workers, if not the left, are aware of these relationships. A further criticism is of the way the left tries to develop these relationships. How? By raising demands.

Demands are things made either over the bargaining table, to heighten political awareness, or to serve as the symbol of particular struggles. Union bureaucracies make demands of management and compromise them. Leftists raise demands in the hopes that workers will adopt them and see the need to raise the level of the struggle to the level of the demands. Workers, when they make demands at all, use them to express in words the concrete actions they are taking, to serve as a rallying cry, a flag around which to unite.

When workers raise demands, the left should circulate them as widely as possible. But when it is the left raising demands not already voiced by workers, then these demands are just variations on Trotsky's theme of transition. Demands and slogans in general are only useful when they come organically out of a struggle, on the level of that struggle, as determined by workers, and not when leftists impose them as a usually incorrect determination of where the struggle should be.

But all that leafletting has not gone to waste. Most of the leaflets have provided useful, factual information of which the workers took note. This information was either facts otherwise unavailable or expressions of individual workers summarized for the benefit of workers collectively, The more agitational and nagging a leaflet was, the less it was appreciated. The more informational and factual, the more care workers took to read it and then take it home, rather than leaving the leaflet in the garbage or on the shop floor.

That has become the first and most important duty of marxists, providing information to the working class. Rather than impose artificial relationships which might serve to divide the workers rather than unite them (along militant/non-militant lines), we must recognize the existence of the invading socialist society and add our imput to social relationships already in existence. Within a workplace only the collective body of workers can have all experience and knowledge to make tactical decisions as to how they should carry out the struggle. But even this experience and knowledge is sometimes lacking important data and insufficient to insure success. When the struggle is extended beyond a single workplace, the need for marxists to supply objective, factual information and channels of communication is even more evident. There is a crying need for this kind of thing to be done. It's time the left stopped its back seat nagging, realized who is in the driver's seat and started being consciously useful.

What kind of information is needed? Of most importance is news on how workers and other oppressed sections of the population are organizing their struggles, including not only successes, but problems and difficulties encountered. After examining what workers and others are doing, information is needed on what the enemy is doing. This has to be more than just a rehash of what workers read in the bourgeois press the day before. There is no use in trying to scoop the Windsor Star on whether or not Ford is pulling out of the city or Chrysler is laying off next month. This kind of reporting is not only beyond our resources, it is amply performed already. Instead, information is needed on the significant trends within capitalist society, not only economically politically, but culturally and socially as well.

To provide this kind of information we must learn to use marxism as a method of understanding everyday reality. A marxist organization has to base itself not only on the history of marxism, but on that organization's development of marxism as well. It is not enough to read Marx, Engels, Lenin and later marxists and to know what their conclusions were. It is not even enough to understand how they reached those conclusions. Starting where other marxists left off, we have to reason out these last developments of capital and the invading socialist society for ourselves and apply our findings to our practical work.

Besides providing information and developing marxism, the third role for marxists today is to participate themselves in the struggle along with their fellow workers (gays, women, students, blacks etc) fighting for socialism. This does not mean we have to lead the struggle wherever we work, go to school or whatever. If someone has the ability and is in a situation where they can serve as shop-floor or rank and file leader they should make the most of that opportunity. But if one doesn't have the personality and social skills required of a leader (and marxism does not necessarily develop these traits) that doesn't relegate one to the role of follower. Workers use leaders to serve as spokesmen and coordinate action that workers collectively agree upon and collectively organize. There really are not such things as followers any more.

Above all, we don't see the role of a marxist as being a passive observer and passive reporter. The information we have to provide, the theory we must develop, requires an intimate contact with and participation in the struggle. There is no other way to carry out the investigations needed. In every situation we find ourselves, we must he able to recognize the struggle, discover its direction, organization and significance and decide what our specific contribution should be.

The Pole & Tower News

Canadian Bridge Works is a small, non-auto steel fabrication plant near Ford in Windsor. It has deteriorated both in size and in quality of working conditions in the 8 years since Hawker-Siddeley took over control. Today it is scandalously unsafe and a filthy plant with a workforce of just over 200. It has been organized by the Steelworkers since the 40's and has a reputation in Windsor for militant struggles both within and beyond the union, in particular a violent wildcat in 1956. Today most of the people in the plant either view it as a short term job (who would want to get stuck at CB when there's Chrysler???) or are hoping that they get onto pensions before it folds up. The present contract expired in April, and urged everyone in the plant to be fair and accord the lost seniority. The response to the leaflet was diverse... everyone to anger, especially on the part of some of the union people, to indifference. We were seen by a lot of the older workers as interfering in something that was none of our business or as uninformed about the facts in the case. The Plant l people who served to benefit from our support were embaras-singly quiet. We were never sure at that time what to think about the leaflet. What we should have realized was that in fact we were interfering in something about which we had less that the total picture. While we may have been right that in terms of fair play and all that, the plant one workers should have had full seniority, we were certainly going to inspire nor particularily good feeling if we stuck our novice noses into a situation that stemmed from years of things we had not really investigated. If CB workers were not willing to defend their fellow workers on a seniority issue, we were certainly not going to move things any further by preaching that they we are currently on strike.

Three people close to the labour Centre were hired in early Nov. All three of us applied largely as a result of needing the money, but had some view of the possibility of working together in some undetermined manner. We were good boys until we got our seniority.

But at just around the time when we got our seniority, the issue of granting back seniority to a number of employees who had lost it when the company's Plant 1 operation was closed down several years ago was raised at the local meeting on the upcoming contract. We decided to take an active interest in advocating that this be a bargaining demand. We were very vocal at the meeting, but we were to some extent unaware of the bitterness of inter-union rivalry that had existed between the committees in the two plants before plant 1 was closed. The debate at the meeting grew quite fierce, and when the vote on the resolution passed by just one vote, almost half of the members present walked out of the meeting.

We decided to publish a leaflet entitled Seniority and Unity in which we reported what had happened at the meeting, explained why we, as younger workers, had supported the proposal and ought to. The facts of the case demonstrate that this conclusion was in fact right.

Two weeks later we issued the first Pole and Tower News in the form of a two sided gestetner leaflet with the idea of making it a regular newsletter. The first side dealt with conditions in the plant and company games to make it look like they were doing something about it.

The second side was largely some suggestions on how we might go about changing things in the plant, as well as a cartoon (which the company claimed was libellous. It was gratifying to get a response out of them.) People in the plant were very enthusiastic about the leaflet...all day long they commented about how it was just saying what was true, and the company couldn't do anything becuase it was all true. Someone posted a copy on the company bulletin board, which gave rise to some generally amusing arguments with the company ... it also demonstrated support for the fact of the publication. A number of people came up to me after I had received a talking to from my betters and said they had been prepared to walk out in the case of any disciplinary action. We distributed the leaflet in the Detroit Tavern where a lot of CB workers drink on pay day.

It was significant, although we took no notice of it at the time, that no one commented on the second side of the leaflet (except about the cartoon). The part where we proposed solutions or methods of action was the part that people ignored.

What was important in the leaflet was that we attempted to report what was going on in the plant ... things which everybody knew and talked about constantly. We tried to be straightforward, avoiding sweeping generalizations and abrasive rhetoric. We do not view the Pole and Tower News as a precondition to the struggle but as a valuable complement to what was going on, hence an attempt not to nag people or try to goad them into action but to inform.

Since then we have issued Pole and Tower Newses on a regular basis. By and large we attempt to confine what we say in it to things that are happening in the plant, or now, in the strike, and material about Canadian Bridge and Hawker-Siddeley and the International Union. It is widely used as a source of information. Recently on the picket line someone pulled a copy from his pocket and referred to it in settling an argument. During the present contract dispute, it has served as the only way of keeping in touch with people when they are at the point of least organization, which is just about where a legal strike leaves you. People recognize that during a legal strike information about what the union is doing, strike pay, prescription plans, and the like are important.

Only one of the people on the Pole and Tower News is a member of the present Labour Centre, and although we do not agree on all points of the total analysis presented here, I think we all recognize that the form of reporting has been the unique element of the role that the News has played. We do not feel that the size of Canadian Bridge renders the form of the struggle inapplicable elsewhere. In fact, because of the size of the plant we are often constrained to exclude material because identification of parties responsible or even the possibility of effective company action to halt certain practices was a definite threat in the event that we reported things a little too exactly. This threat is no doubt still a problem in larger plants, but less so than in a plant where every foreman knows all the workers.

Z Minus

The newspaper put out by our student group has been very successful. There have been three issues of Z Minus and the last two especially have been enthusiastically received by Windsor high school students.When we show up at a school to distribute the paper students come running outside to pick up copies for themselves and their classmates.

The following is a letter written in reply to a student who criticized Z Minus for its abuse of the English language, her only complaint. The reply gives an excellent description of the theory behind the paper. The only addition that should be made to complete the picture concerns what we call the difference between passive and active reporting.When reporting on student struggles we try to become actively involved in the struggle and at the same time to get students actively involved in the reporting. Circumstances often prevent us from fully realizing this objective. Yet we have achieved a certain degree of success.

Whenever possible, we take the copy for a story about student actions back to the students involved, even getting their approval on which pictures to run. We use tape recorders extensively, each paper consisting of almost fifty percent quotes from students in the various articles. One student we have never met wrote an article for us and requested that it be on the front page because of its importance to the students at her school. If a demonstration or struggle goes on for several days we are there for the duration, walking the picket lines and attending the meetings, occasionally speaking up when no one else is making a particularly important point that should be made.

It is the junior students, the grade nines and tens, at which the paper is aimed, although it appeals to all high school students. And it is junior students that write and produce the paper with the non-student marxists from the labour centre. We have by no means created the perfect mediation between the left and the masses, theory and practice. But Z MINUS is the result of a viable working relationship which we hope to extend to the entire working-class community of Windsor.

Dear Iris,
Thank you for your letter. We are very pleased that you find Z MINUS informative. That you don't doubt our integrity is a statement which is very flattering, and I'm not sure flattery is what we need. You do, however; balance this flattery with ample criticism, which I will try to answer in this letter.

You criticize our use of localisms, colloquialisms, and slang. To point this out, you have generously included a page from the paper thoroughly underlined, crossed out and corrected. One of the phrases you have labelled as slang is "ripped off". Granted the phrase, correctly speaking, is slang. I am sure however that any student, not to mention David Lewis, will tell you that it has become a quite acceptable phrase in our language. Furthermore, it conveys a specific meaning that no other English expression can adequately convey. You also object to our use of the word "cop". I submit that any policeman will admit, albeit somewhat reluctantly, that "cop" is very much part of our language.

You are, of course, right when you say that the noun "students" demands the pronoun "who", not "that". I sheepishly read your note in the margin that "students are people", and I promise never to make the mistake of implying that they aren't, again.

As you have probably detected by now, this is where our agreement ends.

You see, our philosophy is based on the fact that the world is constantly changing. As the world changes, so does our way of communicating with each other, our language. As the old ways disappear, so do the forms of expression. As the new forms of society emerge, new forms of expression are necessary to describe the new reality. People change the world, and as the world changes, the forms of thought and communication change. As these forms of thought and communication change, so the world must change.
In criticizing our grammar and our use/misuse of English, you have extensively corrected the article entitled "Tilbury Students Suspended". I would like to point out that almost every phrase or sentence you corrected was enclosed in quotation marks. Any journalist knows that to misquote people is only a step away from libel suits.

This, of course, does not answer your criticisms. Why were all the quotes used in the first place?

The quotes were used because we believe that the people taking part in any particular event can describe that event more completely and fully than we can. People use the language of that particular event, of that school, of that locale. To translate that language into our own is to change the meaning of what those people are saying.

The Windsor Star interviews people and gathers information. It then translates the information into its own style of writing and reporting to fit its view of the world. If I may give an example:
Recently the Star reported a story about the current Union Gas strike. It stated that the strikers were picketing the Carousel Motel in London which is "reportedly" the headquarters of Gas Company personnel during the strike. On a recent drive past the Carousel, I noted at least 25 Union Gas trucks lined up in front of the motel. The motel is not "reportedly" the headquarters, it is.

The Star did not lie, it did not give false information, it just did not give all the information. If you ask why the Star chose to leave out this information, you begin to see what its particular view of the world is.

There are other papers which are directly opposed to the Star's point of view. These are the "underground", "radical" or "vanguard" newspapers. They, too, take the information, the facts, and present them so as to present their view of the world. Their view of the world, is however, that it must be changed, that people must get together and get rid of the old ways, and of course, the old newspapers (i.e. the Star). They go farther, though, and tell people not only why, but how the world should be changed. Drawing from their vast experience, they offer not only answers to the problems of the world, but also the right way to go about solving those problems. This is like English teachers saying there is only one correct answer to an opinion question on an exam, and theirs is the correct one.

Most newspapers in existence fall into either or both of these two categories. This is not to say that we do not have our view of the world. We do.

Our view of the world is embodied in the actions and language of the students who are changing that world. Here is an important distinction. We are not telling students that they should be changing the world, or how they should be doing this. We recognize that students are changing their schools and developing new ways of learning. We see our job as reporting the actions and words of students as they go about doing this. We also see it as necessary to report the actions and words of principals, teachers, administrators and others as they respond to these changes.

We are not trying to say that we are unbiased, that we just report the facts. That is impossible.

As we report the facts, we see many trends, many similar things happening in many different places. It is our job to point these trends out clearly, and to try and understand why they are happening. Why is semestering being implemented all over Ontario, for example?

There are also many similar things happening in similar situations, that are not immediately obvious. It is our job to point these out and why they are happening. These are the things that nobody ever knows about: who organized a walkout, why did the student council refuse to support it, what other important issues are beneath the surface?

In this way, we provide information that is necessary for this student movement to move ahead. As we have more experience with the student movement, as we investigate it further, so we are better able to understand it and help it move forward.

We do not see it as our job, therefore, to condone or to condemn violence and vandalism. It exists, so we report it. We also try to understand why it exists.

A kid throwing a rock through a school window is destroying the barrier which separates the dull, stuffy classroom in which he can only be bored, from the sunny outside, where he can play baseball, or ride a bike or hang around.

Not that the kid thinks this as he throws the rock, ilk, pro hably only thinks that he is doing something wrong, that feels good. Actions speak louder than words.

To say that students are stupid, apathetic, that they don't care, is missing the point. Students aren't interested in taking part in the school. making it better; they are fighting against it. They are developing new ways of learning together, wavs that don't include school, or classrooms, or teachers whose job is to "give knowledge".

So, in the end, you see, my only defence for using all those quotes is that "that is how most students speak."

You say that most students are illiterate. If you mean that school doesn't teach them how to read, I will agree. School teaches us not to read. They do this with boring textbooks and irrelevant tests on novels that could have been exciting if they weren't taught in school. Book-learning is emphasized to the point where you almost believe that you can't learn in Phys. Ed. or after school, because there is no reading required.

The author of the article in Z Minus on science fiction was dismayed to find Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlen being taught in school. Even such a book as this, which so fundamentally criticizes society, can be turned into nothing more than another "boring English novel."

It's not that students don't read, or can't. They read comic books, science fiction, newspapers (if only the movie ads), the T V guide , magazines , and of course, a lot read anything and
everything. Anyone can learn to read, if hey find something interesting and informative that they want to read. We hope that Z Minus can be this kind of paper. If talking in students'
language means using awful grammar, we will use awful grammar.

So, I think you see that criticizing our use of the language means much more than it seems. As Lazarus Long puts it, "Freedom begins when you tell Mrs. Grundy to go fly a kite".

I don't know if Mrs. Grundy teaches grammar, but I think you know what I mean


Danny Cooper


The foregoing material contains all the basic elements of our position at present. Only two points remain, points which, although implied throughout, require explicit expression here: the derivation of our perspective, and the direction we intend to pursue in the future.

As we have indicated, our various experiences led us to a rejection of certain forms of organization. At the same time, we have begun a more intensive study of the writings of Marx and Engels. In addition, much of the theoretical basis of our perspective was developed from the work of C.L.R. James and other members of the Facing Reality group. To their credit, we consider that many of the observations being made by Marxists to-day were first realized and recorded by James and his co-workers immediately after World War II. An important example
of this was their early recognition (1950) of the independent validity of the movements of blacks and women. The correctness of the theory and its dialectical nature are evidenced by the fact that the theory is capable of being developed as time goes by - something we have tried to do in this paper.

Practically, we see continuing to work in various workplace situations and within the movements we have discussed. We have plans for the immediate production of a small, locally distributed newsletter in which we intend to develop our analytical and writing skills. We see this as a necessary interim stage toward the production of a community-wide newspaper.

In addition, we will continue to make available relevant pamphlets and material through Mile One Publications. This includes leaflets and newspapers cited herein, specifically Z MINUS and the Pole and Tower News.

Ron Baxter
Pat Noonan
Mark Buckner
Stephen Shirreffs
Sheila Dillon
Bron Wallace
Jim Monk
David Walsh