Posts Tagged 'workers'

Black Working Class Radicalism in Oakland

Black Panther Party members outside of a Safeway, in the East Bay, during the Safeway boycott (photo by Stephen Shames).

Historian Robert O. Self, in his book on geography, capitalism, and its affects on the Black population in the San Francisco East Bay, wrote:

In the workplaces and communities of midcentury West Oakland, African American residents forged a distinct laborite culture that blended class politics with civil rights.  Based in the Brotherhod of Sleeping Car Porters and other black railroad unions, as well as the left wing of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) on the docks and the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union (MCSU) on the ships, this culture extended its influence broadly through the East Bay…This culture extended its reach across time.  Black longshoremen, veterans of the brutal class wars on the docks in the 1930s, articulated an internationalism that would, by the 1960s, influence Oaklanders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale as they founded the Black Panther Party.  Black leaders from the railroad unions established political strategies in the 1940s that would guide a generation of activists in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  From one decade to the next across the second half of the century, these neighborhoods were home to a rich range of laborite, community, civil rights, and eventually black liberation politics.

Oakland provides an excellent vantage from which to launch an inquiry into this history.  Best known as the birthplace of the Black Panther Party in 1966 and as a national fulcrum of black radicalism throughout the late 1960s, Oakland was also a major seat of African American influence in California politics beginning in the late 1940s and the home of an extensive tradition of black social advocacy and organizing.  Indeed, the generation of black activists before the Panthers developed strategies, alliances, and sources of power that profoundly shaped the political terrain of race in both the East Bay and California as a whole.  Recovering the story of that generation, men and women who achieved none of the national media exposure and fame of the Panthers and faced little of the state-sponsored harassment and investigations, allows us to appreciate both the surprising continuities as well as the jarring divergences between the activists of the 1940s and 1950s and those of the 1960s and 1970s…The long postwar black liberation movement in the East Bay featured a fluid political environment in which philosophies and strategies competed with and interpenetrated one another.  Above all, in the decades after World War II, civil rights in Oakland stood less for civil rights than for economic rights, the foundation on which black American political demands had rested since the 1930s (5-6, 12).

Reference

Self, Robert O.  2003.  American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland.  Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

The Worker, Scarcity, & Violence

The mines of Serra Pelada by Sebastião Salgado.

The mines of Serra Pelada by Sebastião Salgado.

Jean-Paul Sartre writes:

Engels was right to say that very often, when two groups engage in a series of contractual exchanges, one of them will end up expropriated, proletarianised and, often, exploited, while the other concentrates the wealth in its own hands.  This takes place in violence, but not by violence: and experiencing exchange as a duel in this way is characteristic of the man of scarcity.  Though the result is appropriated in violence by the dominant class, it is not foreseen by the individuals who compose it. (Sartre, 153-154)

Source

Sartre, Jean-Paul.  Critique of Dialectical Reason Volume I: Theory of Practical Ensembles.  Edited by Jonathan Rée Translated by Alan Sheridan-Smith.  London: New Left Books, 1976.

Genuine Trade Unionism in the Philippines

KMU Rally

Kim Scipes interviewed a top leader in the Kilusang May Uno (KMU, or May First Movement) Labor Center in 1986 about what it meant to be a genuine and militant trade union:

By “genuine,” we mean that the KMU is run by its members.  The members are given all information and decide the policies which run the organization.  By “militant,” we mean that the KMU will never betray the interests of the working class, even at the risk of our own lives.  The KMU believes workers become aware of their own human dignity through collective mass action.  By “nationalist,” we beleive the wealth of the Philippines belongs to the Filipino people and that national sovereignty must never be compromised.  The KMU is against the presence of the U.S. bases. (Scripes, 10)

Scipes states that:

The statement about never betraying the interests of the working class, even at the risk of KMU leaders’ own lives, is not hyperbole; many KMU organizers, leaders and members have been arrested and or killed. (ibid.)

Source

Scipes, Kim.  KMU; Building Genuine Trade Unionism in the Philippines, 1980-1994.  Quezon City, Philippines: New Day Publishers, 1996.

Rate of Exploitation

Karl Marx Peace

In Capital Volume I, Karl Marx (1818-1883 CE) stated that:

Since, on the one hand the variable capital and the labour-power purchased by that capitalist are equal in value, and the value of this labour-power determines the necessary part of the working day; and since, on the other hand, the surplus-value is determined by the surplus part of the working day, it follows that surplus-value is in the same ratio to variable capital as surplus labour is to necessary labour…

The rate of surplus-value is therefore an exact expression for the degree of exploitation of labour-power by capital, or of the worker by the capitalist. (Marx, 326)

Constant capital is capital that is constant throughout the labor process; all of the previous labor incorporated into the parts of production (money spent on gears and metal which a previous manufacturer had to spend money on in wages and other constant capital, etc.).

Variable capital is the value inputted into the labor process by the worker, or the value of the worker being interjected into the products she or he creates, makes, gathers, etc (value created by humans).

Surplus value is simply value created by the worker that gives the capitalist his or her profit.

Basically, Marx is showing us that profit comes from the workers and not from commodities or machines or capitalists.  Which is why capitalists get upset about strikes, as the workers are withholding their surplus value and surplus labor from the capitalist, causing a fall in profit during the period of the strike.

Source

Marx, Karl.  Capital: A Critique of Political Economy: Volume 1.  Translated by Ben Fowkes.  New York: Penguin Classics, 1990.


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