Monday, February 27, 2012
Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Friday, February 24, 2012
The militant working class struggles of 2011 - from the strikes and occupation in Wisconsin, to the countless demonstrations against Wall Street Banks, the direct action and broad resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, to housing occupations throughout the country, to the defeat of regressive anti-Union legislation in Ohio, to the (inter)national explosion of the Occupy Movement - demonstrated the critical fact that the multi-national working class contained in the United States can stop the" shock doctrine" measures being imposed upon it by transnational capital and the neo-liberal state.
The initial returns on these struggles are not insubstantial. Just two months into 2012, we have witnessed ILWU Local 21 coming to an agreement with transnational conglomerate EGT/Bunge in large part due to the impact of the Port Shut Down actions in Seattle, Portland, Oakland, and Los Angeles on December 12, 2011 and the threat of mass industrial action in Longview by the Occupy Movement allied with the Million Worker March Movement and militant rank and file members of the ILWU. Inspired by the Occupy Movement, the mass action in Oakland on November 2, 2001 and coast wide actions of December 12, Truck drivers in California and Washington State took independent organizing and industrial action to win wage and safety concessions from employers and potential legislation in Washington State that that will enable the Truckers to unionize. The victory in Longview halts the concerted drive to destroy the ILWU and further weaken organized labor and the pending Washington State legislation could potentially reverse decades of circumvention of the Wagner Act and provide an opening for sectors (and with it oppressed peoples) historically excluded from its protections.
None of this would be possible without the militant mass action of the multi-national working class, both unionized and non-unionized, acting in open defiance of the rules of engagement established between organized labor, capital, and the state in the 1930’s with the New Deal. As the power struggle between capital and the working class intensifies over whom and how the economic crisis will be resolved, the working class would do well to recall the lessons of 2011 and build on them. In addition to reaffirming the lesson that the working class must rely on militant mass action – that is strikes, occupations, blockades, general strikes and other forms of industrial action – as a primary means of exerting its own will and power, several other critical lessons we believe must be affirmed. These lessons include:
1. That in order to halt and over turn the slide of the labor unions, the unions must wage struggle beyond the confines of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and/or the Wagner Act framework.
2. That mass action will only be successful if it pulls in and engages broad sectors of the working class, particularly critical sectors of the 89% of the multi-national working class that is not unionized, and directly addresses their issues and demands.
3. That new forms of working class organization must be constructed capable of organizing workers as a self-conscious class that encompasses and incorporates the broad diversity of its totality as differentiated by race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and legal status.
4. That the multi-national working class must build, maintain, and exert its political independence from the Democrats (and Republicans), and not rely on electoral politics and processes (such as the recall efforts in Wisconsin that worked to negate mass action) to exercise its power, realize its demands, and build the society it envisions.
5. That the struggle for equity and economic democracy necessitates struggling to reclaim and redefine as much public space as possible – particularly the Ports given their strategic importance to the distribution of the necessary goods that sustain life - in order to rebuild the “commons” and exert democratic control over various processes of social production and exchange.
6. That the decolonization of the entity presently known as the United States national state is fundamental to the social and material liberation of the multi-national working class, particularly its subjected and colonized sectors, i.e. Indigenous Nations, New Afrikans (Black people), Xicanos, Puerto Ricans, and Native Hawaiians.
However, it should be noted that the struggles of 2011 and the lessons gleaned from them did not come out of nowhere. The resistance of 2011 was in large part a culmination of an escalating number of militant initiatives of resistance throughout the United States following the financial and economic collapse of 2007 – 2008. These initiatives not only established critical precedence, but served as catalysts for the transformation of social consciousness that stimulated the resistance of 2011. Some of the most notable of these pre-2011 initiatives included the occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors Factory in Chicago, Illinois by UE (United Electrical Workers) Local 1110 in December 2008; the national Take Back the Land Movement housing occupation initiatives started in the fall of 2009 by the Land and Housing Action Group (LHAG) (which initially consisted of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Picture the Homeless, Survivors Village and Take Back the Land – Miami) of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN); and the Oscar Grant Justice Movement which commenced on December 31st, 2008 - January 1st, 2009 in Oakland, California following a national day of racist carnage against New Afrikans which saw the police execution of Adolph Grimes in New Orleans, Louisiana and the police shooting of Robbie Tolan in Bellaire, Texas. Of all the critical initiatives that occurred prior to 2011, the Oscar Grant Justice Movement was perhaps the most pre-figurative of the dominant feature of resistance in 2011: the Occupy Movement.
From its inception, leading elements in the Oscar Grant Justice Movement worked to establish a General Assembly as a model of collective decision making and social liberation and advanced the notion of organizing a General Strike to attain justice and transform social relations in Oakland and the Bay Area. The Oscar Grant Justice Movement also made critical links with organized labor, particularly ILWU Local 10, which conducted a demonstration and critical work shutdown of the Port of Oakland on October 23, 2010. Also from its inception the Oscar Grant Justice Movement confronted major repression from the Oakland Police Department, but gradually drew the attention of the Feds and massive monitoring and infiltration. What occurred in 2009 – 2010 was in effect a semi-national occupation of Oakland, which is a majority Third World city with a long and brutal history of police occupation and terrorism, particularly targeted at its New Afrikan population. As with the shooting of Scott Olsen on October 25, 2011 which prompted the call for a General Strike on November 2, 2011, the police repression of the Oscar Grant Justice Movement prompted several militant confrontations with the police. It was these militant confrontations that played a decisive role in the securing of a conviction (however slight) of Oscar Grant’s executioner, Johannes Mehserle. These experiences played a critical role in inspiring the militancy of 2011 and set the mold and tone of what is developing on the West Coast at present.
2012 can be a year of critical advances for the multi-national working class, but, only if it takes hold of these and other lessons about organizing to serve its own interests and in its own name. It must also take great pains to not repeat errors of the past and present, particularly the reactionary politics and polices of white settler unionism that views itself as a partner with capital and a defender of the US national state; promotes the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous nations; excludes New Afrikans, Xicanos, Asians, and other oppressed peoples; fosters the super-exploitation of immigrant and imprisoned labor; devalues the labor and contributions of women; stigmatizes sexual and gender non-conformity; promotes economic growth over ecological sustainability; and partners with US imperialism (i.e. the strategic partnership between the US government and US based transnational corporations and financial institutions) to undermine radical unions, social movements, and national governments in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
The opportunity now exists to set a course of action that creates new forms of working class organization that can meet the challenges of imperialist globalization and relegate the limitations of settler unionism and the co-optive restrictions of the NLRB framework to the dustbin of history. Occupy and the militant orientation of rank and file union resistance presents us with a vision and process to move forward. As we dream new dreams, struggle to decolonize the United States and fully emancipate the working class, let us press forward boldly to transform the world and ourselves.
Friday, February 10, 2012
by Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM)
Leith Kahl and Brian Wiles, Malcolm X Solidarity Committee (MXSC)
Friday, February 10, 2012
The Port of Longview, Cowlitz County, Washington State, is a small, depressed, rural, and overwhelmingly white logging town on the banks of the Columbia River. It is not necessarily the place one might have predicted that a struggle would develop which could be a critical turning point for organized labor and the multi-national working class in the United States as a whole.
On July 14th, 200 longshoremen sat down on a railroad track into Longview to block a train full of corn bound for a newly constructed grain export terminal built on the riverbank by a consortium of capital called EGT. The purpose of this sit-down action was to demand that EGT adhere to the coast wide system of labor agreements between Pacific coast grain transport operators and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) that have been in effect since the late 1930’s to obtain the human labor for this export terminal. In a deliberate effort to contravene, and ultimately destroy, the bargaining position of the ILWU and the coast wide agreements, EGT co-opted the conservative leadership of the Operating Engineers Local 701 and hired its members to work this port facility under sub-standard working conditions.
On September 7th through 8th, the ILWU's International President was assaulted by a cop while leading another protest to block the same EGT grain train's second attempt to reach the export facility. The longshoremen of the Pacific Northwest responded by shutting down all ports between Portland and Bellingham for 24 hours, and by mobilizing hundreds to Longview that night, where the train’s contents were dumped all over the railroad tracks. These actions demonstrate the determination and militancy of the ILWU, and the escalation of the struggle to a regional level well beyond the boundaries of one small timber town. ILWU Local 21, which consists of the longshoreman of that small timber town, has also shown outstanding fortitude and resolve over the many months of struggle, defying the injunctions of the capitalist courts, sustaining over 200 arrests and physical assaults by law enforcement, and standing up against the local county sheriff who has decided to behave as if he was a captain of EGT's private army of mercenaries.
In late January, after pressure mounted on EGT from the ILWU and its allies, particularly the Occupy Movement, following militant actions on December 12, 2011 to shut down ports all along the Pacific Coast, and the pending threat of a major mobilization to stop the next grain shipment to Longview, Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire was able to mediate a tentative agreement with EGT and the ILWU. The details of this contract agreement are actively being worked out with ILWU Local 21 and the International. However, it appears that EGT will comply with the coast wide system of labor agreements established with the ILWU. But, only time and struggle will tell.
However, this agreement, in and of itself is not going to stop a behemoth like EGT. EGT is an arm of one the largest conglomerates of capital in the world: Bunge Limited, a transnational agribusiness monopoly. Headquartered in the United States, it was originally founded by Dutch and Belgian slave traders . It is now one of four companies that literally control more than two-thirds of the world’s grain production and distribution. Bunge is a global powerhouse on a mission. That mission is to divide and weaken the working class on a global scale. EGT/Bunge’s attack on the ILWU is not just an attempt to break this strategic union, it is a deliberate effort to eliminate the gains of organized labor in the United States and to firmly discipline and control the multinational working class contained within it.
The full magnitude of the EGT/Bunge attack on the multi-national working class only comes into full focus when you examine the following map of Bunge's established operations in North America (see above which was taken from EGT’s website). As this map clearly illustrates, Bunge has concentrated its operations along what is essentially the fourth coast of the United States: the mighty Mississippi river and its tributaries. From this placement it is clear that their North American strategy has been to control the transport of grain from the Midwest and Great Plains regions to the rest of the country and the world. In order to control production and distribution on this level, Bunge has to control the labor of the region. It is no historic accident that most of the strategic states where Bunge operates are “right-to-work” states. Bunge has been and remains an avid promoter of “right-to-work” legislation for decades. “Right-to-work” legislation is historically enabled by the division of the multinational working class, which is divided by the system of white supremacy developed by the European settlers of North America and their descendants to ensure their continued domination of the continent and its peoples. Organized labor's failure to defeat white supremacy in its ranks provides monopoly capital enterprises like Bunge with the ability to press its advantages and initiate campaigns like the one aimed at destroying the ILWU.
The Battle against Bunge is a critical battle for the multinational working class of the United States, one that must to be won if any of the historic gains of organized labor are to be retained. To win this decisive battle, the working class, organized and unorganized, is going to have to go on the offensive and take the Battle to Bunge. The Malcolm X Solidarity Committee (MXSC) believes that an offensive campaign must be mounted against Bunge that includes a range of tactics including non-violent civil disobedience, mass industrial action, and most importantly, strengthening the organization of the workers in the port and transportation industries along the Mississippi River. In effect, we need an “Operation Black Belt” to organize and win where “Operation Dixie” failed.
Operation Black Belt is a conceptual organizing campaign that addresses the necessity of organizing the multinational working class in the South, particularly concentrating on organizing Black workers in the region who form the core of the oppressed Black or New Afrikan nation that has been superexploited for centuries and to whom reparations are due to rectify the crimes against humanity and colonial oppression it continues to suffer. Operation Dixie was a heroic but failed effort of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to organize the multinational working class in the South from 1946 – 1953. It failed due to the CIO’s capitulation to white supremacy and the suppression and expulsion of the radical left wing forces within that labor federation during this period.
With militant leadership, democratic coordination, unrelenting determination, and principled partnerships with oppressed peoples (First Nations, Blacks, Chicanos, immigrants, etc.) and the unorganized sectors of the multinational working class the EGT/Bunge assault can be defeated and enable a radical reorganization of the Mississippi River and the Black Belt South via “Operation Black Belt”.
We encourage everyone to stand in solidarity with ILWU Local 21 and support solidarity formations like the Committee to Defend the ILWU and the Million Worker March in taking action to stop EGT/Bunge. We also encourage everyone to spread the research information that we have compiled to educate the multinational working class about who and what it is up against in this struggle.
We would also like to encourage everyone to support the call for launching and organizing an “Operation Black Belt” campaign. Defeating the initiative of EGT/Bunge in Longview is not going to be enough to stop their onslaught against workers. In order to effectively push them and other capitalist behemoths like them back, we are going to have to effectively organize the historic rear base of capitalist domination in the US, the South. To join us in this initiative, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you would like more information about the Malcolm X Solidarity Committee, please contact us at email@example.com .
A Profile of EGT/Bunge Limited
Compiled by the Malcolm X Solidarity Committee
We hope that the links below will be helpful to you in your efforts to combat the reactionary initiatives of EGT/Bunge and provide some overall accurate context to this specific fight between labor and capital. The following links are the preliminary results of the online research conducted by the Malcolm X Solidarity Committee. However, this is clearly just the tip the iceberg. More research is needed.
According to its own website, Bunge begins in Amsterdam in 1818:
We have yet to uncover any specific info on the Bunge family prior to 1818. But, here are two links which thoroughly demonstrate that Dutch grain handling operations founded at that time were definitely founded by capital accumulated directly through slave trade (which, incidentally, is true of the capital that started nearly if not absolutely all the major shipping lines on the globe today):
Bunge's next big move to expand itself is by setting up operations in Argentina in 1884:
Here's what was done to native people in Argentina specifically to clear the way for Bunge and its ilk:
Bunge's map of its current operations in the northern half of Turtle Island, i.e. the United States and Canada (notice the extreme concentration of its capital in the Mississippi River Valley)
Rainforest Action Network accuses Bunge of using modern slavery in Brazil.
Article by the Washington State Labor Council which hypocritically only criticizes the "foreign" nature of Bunge's Korean and Japanese partners in the EGT venture
( http://www.panocean.com/ and http://www.itochu.co.jp/en/ respectively), while remaining silent on the apparently senior role of Bunge itself. The attempt to paint the fight against Bunge as an "American" struggle against non American capital is a dangerous tactic that will preserve craft consciousness and stifle class consciousness.
The following information provides a briefing about the industrial activities of Bunge in the California Bay Area. We strongly encourage others to prepare similar briefings on the ways in which Bunge's capital interacts with the respective cities, towns and counties up and down the Mississippi River Valley.
ON WAYS IN WHICH
THE ALLIANCE OF CAPITAL KNOWN AS EGT
(WITH WHICH ILWU LOCAL 21, LONGVIEW, IS CURRENTLY IN A LABOR DISPUTE)
APPEARS TO INTERACT WITH THE BAY AREA:
Important Facts to begin with:
1. EGT is a joint venture between three entities: Bunge North America (which in turn is part of Bunge Limited), Itochu corporation of Japan (a technology development firm), and STX Pan Ocean of Korea (the shipping line that intends to transport Bunge's grain westward across the Pacific Ocean to Asia). Bunge is by far the largest piece global capital in this operation, and is clearly calling the shots.
2. Bunge Limited (the global operation) is headquartered at the following address:
50 Main St # 635
White Plains, NY 10606-1974
Its website is www.bunge.com . This website includes a list of its global board of directors. All of them are Caucasian, including the CEO of Bunge Asia. Therefore, Jeff Johnson of the Washington State Labor Council is inaccurate in his public statement that EGT is a Japanese corporation (http://www.thestand.org/2011/09/heres-why-longshore-workers-are-so-angry/). It is important to know with which capitalists you are engaged in a struggle, and to demonstrate your awareness of it. Japanese capital is only involved to the extent of providing some research and technology for the new facility. The ships are expected to be supplied by the Korean line STX. But the corporation that Local 21 is struggling with is very clearly headquartered in the United States, and originates from Dutch capital.
3. The headquarters of Bunge's North American operations (Bunge North America) is at the following address:
11720 Borman Drive
St. Louis, MO 63146-4129
Its website is www.bungenorthamerica.com
4. A complete list of all Bunge addresses in North America can be found under the “LOCATIONS” link on this website.
5. There are two (2) locations listed in California, which are the following:
A Bunge Milling location....
“d/b/a Pacific International Rice Mills, LLC
845 Kentucky Avenue
Woodland, CA 95695-2744
and a Bunge Oils location....
“436 South McClure Road
Modesto, CA 95357
6. The Bunge owned rice mill in Woodland (above) has a website: www.pirmirice.com
Based on its location, it would seem likely that this mill might export rice through the Port of Sacramento.
7. The Korean shipping line involved in EGT, STX Pan Ocean, has a website: www.panocean.com
8. This website has a link called “fleet information” which has a complete list of the ships owned by the line. The exact URL is www.panocean.com/app/fi/fi_bk_handysize.asp . Here are the names of all of the ships:
STX ACE 1
STX ACE 2
STX ACE 3
STX ACE 4
STX ACE 5
STX ACE 6
STX ACE 7
STX ACE 8
STX ACE 9
STX ACE 10
STX ACE 11
STX ACE 12
1 LONG CARRIER:
1 HEAVY LIFT CARRIER:
STX ROSE 1
4 CAR SHIPS:
STX CHANGXING ROSE
8 CONTAINER SHIPS (WHICH APPARENTLY CIRCLE WITHIN THE INDIAN OCEAN):
9) The website of the port of San Francisco is www.sfport.com . If you click the link there that says “Maritime”, and then the link that says “Cargo Services”, and then the link that says “Carrier Information”, you will find the following page:
This page brags that STX PAN OCEAN does business in the port of San Francisco, bringing “Breakbulk and Liquid Bulk Services from Asia”.
10) If, under “Cargo Services”, you select the link that says “Cargo Facilities”, you come to this page: www.sfport.com/index.aspx?page=154 .
This page is a map of the cargo terminals of San Francisco, which seems to indicate that a breakbulk or liquid bulk ship docking in San Francisco would berth at either Pier 96, 94, or 80, which are all accessed off of Third Street.