Letter from Los Angeles Transit Club Discusses How to Build the Party in a Union Shop
In the last meeting of our club we discussed the article “Building the ICWP Among Mechanics”, from the Red Flag edition (Vol 8 # 16). We went over the activities that we have developed within the union to get in touch with other workers. We talked about what we have achieved and also about the long-term plans of the club.
There were no political disagreements with the above-mentioned article, but there were tactical disagreements. Some comrades thought that the article had too much unnecessary information that was not relevant to the case and that could rather be harmful to the advance of the Party in our workplace .
Right now we want to avoid a direct confrontation with the union, to have the opportunity to participate in its activities and spread our communist ideas. We are sure that communist and reformist ideas will eventually collide, but by then we will have a broader base and more ICWP clubs.
One comrade asked, “What would be our position if the union is attacked and there is a strike?” “Are we going to be against the strike, are we neutral or are we going to support it?”
Another comrade answered, “Our Party will be together with the members of the base, taking advantage of the opportunity to sharpen the contradictions between the struggle for reforms and the struggle to take power. We’ll be promoting the idea of converting the reformist strike into a political strike. “
A third comrade said that he liked the article because it reflected the line of ICWP. But that personally he would have liked the article to have been more tactical in relation to the union, attacking the ideas that the union represents and not as an attack to destroy the workers’ organization. That’s because some workers have the distorted idea that our Party wants to destroy unions. And that stops them from joining the Party. Understanding that it is a political struggle and he suggested that we write or talk more about the irreconcilable struggle between reform and revolution, so that the people in our base will understand more easily the difference between these two opposing ideological currents.
A fourth comrade suggested that due to the disagreement on the article that we should not distribute it publicly, but not only with the workers of the base of the club on our jobsite.
Then he proposed to discuss it with the Leading Committee in the City, which was done, and as we expected, there was a lot of discussion. And although the workers in the club distributed it only to our base, other comrades distributed it publicly.
There are several things that can be highlighted from this meeting, but we will mention the most important. 1.- The next time we write an article of this nature we discuss it in the club before publishing it. 2.- That there is an industrial club that is taking seriously building ICWP among the working class. 3.- We hope that more comrades and friends participate in this discussion and help us to have more clarity on how to develop the struggle for communism within the union.
—LA transit club
Tradition and Culture
I wanted to reflect on the letter from the Mexican-American comrade responding to the letter sent by a comrade from South Africa about traditions and culture. I think it was a really great letter in terms of bringing out the experiences that she has had with her father and the sexist tradition that we practice in capitalism.
She made a really good point that tradition and culture are not things that are automatic or spontaneous to civilization.
I want to reflect my particular experience, the reason I live in this area. I am a Barta by ethnicity. South Africa has so many groups, with different cultural traditions. Our tradition is that we always sacrifice a sheep to our ancestors for the bravery and kindness that they provide us. Of course, that is idealist. I am a communist and a materialist and I don’t accept that. But anyway, they slaughter the sheep, as opposed to the goat, which most other groups slaughter when they do their sacrificing.
What happened is that the Bhaca are people who went into exile from the rule of the Zulu. The infighting in the Shaka family between groups led to the establishment of our exile.
That’s why I say that Communism will create its own culture, its own tradition, as opposed to capitalist culture.
For example, in capitalist society the intimate relationship between individuals is shaped by capitalist thinking. When someone marries here in South Africa, they have to pay lobolo. That is sexist within itself. When someone is having an intimate relationship with someone else, why do they have to pay money? Why is it not a decision from both of them?
Our culture perpetuates the scourge of sexism: that the groom has to pay a certain price for the bride. That is wrong. It gives the impression that the man actually owns the woman. Therefore now he can literally do anything he wants to her because he bought her. So I think that these are things we need to address in our culture. How will our communist society deal with this? We need to talk about these issues more.
Tradition and culture is not automatic or spontaneous. It is set in tribal civilization and continues in capitalist civilization. In a communist society we will have our own traditions, not in the sense that it is used now. We will have principles guided by communist ideas whereby communal living, the collectivity of individuals living in a collective, is in the forefront of everything that we do. Everything we do will be for the benefit of the workers and the collective.
The culture that we practice is influenced by the system that we live in. Communist society will produce its own culture. We know that destroying capitalism and building communism will pave the way for this new system and new culture.
—A comrade in South Africa
Editor’s note: This letter was dictated to us over the phone. We haven’t been able to contact the comrade author, so we’re not sure that we’ve spelled Barta correctly.
In the recent discussion about racism and Marxism a letter writer suggested that, when we meet a promising person, we should not only bring up communism as soon as possible, we should also involve them right away in communist work.
I tried this idea and it worked! (Not for the first time, actually.)
My wife has a friend, Erik, who was a former colleague. I like Erik a lot but (as it turned out) didn’t know him that well. Recently I had a chance to hang out with him for a few days and it was a revelation.
We were talking about politics in general and he started coming up with surprising opinions. He really bowled me over when he said that everyone should have the same salary, whether a secretary, a custodian, a technician or a professor. Of course, I agreed, saying this was a communist suggestion. Or rather that the communist position is no salary at all. I pointed out that this would mean no more bosses with the power to demote or fire people. With the power to demand sexual favors …
At this point I had to make a choice. One possibility would be to look for further areas of agreement. Another was to look for a point of disagreement and start debating.
Instead, I seized the opportunity to move to a higher level – action. Erik has a side gig as a professional translator and ICWP can always use translations. So, I asked him to help translate the editorial on sexism to German. I said it deals with many of the topics we just discussed. And during the translating we got into the communist approach to these issues. One interesting point was how to translate “communist leadership”, which is ambiguous in English.
End result: a high-quality translation of an important article and a promising individual moved closer to communism. How this will play out in the end, I don’t know, but I don’t make any negative assumptions.