Thursday, November 17, 2011

“An Art of War for Organizers Around the World”

If the most urgent question in the world today is “What is to be done?” then the answer could not be clearer: “Organize! Organize! Organize!”

Vladimir Lenin asked that question in the early 1900s, quoting Nikolai Chernyshevsky who posed it a generation earlier. In the 1930s, in his novel The Jungle, Upton Sinclair gave the most concise answer possible, and wrote it three times to make sure we got the message.

But things are complicated in the 21st century. There is no doubt that mass movements are necessary both for human rights and for the survival of ecosystems. Yet building a mass movement is a science and an art which is not well understood. This art and science is called organizing, but to quote an old proverb, “there is many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.” How, where, who, when, and what must we organize?

For about a decade, I've been looking for answers to these questions. I've read ancient history and modern history looking for the clues to understand our current economic and ecological crisis and for possible ways to overcome them. From Sun Tzu to Lenin to Gandhi to Che to Martin Luther King to Saul Alinsky, I've read everything I could get my hands on about how to organize. I've also sought out living knowledge, and learned from a great number of teachers, seeking answers to this simple and yet neverendingly complex question. I've been trained in how to organize by a large number of organizations and individuals -- in student groups, the anti-war movement, in international solidarity organizations, by anti-globalization activists, in labor unions and in worker centers. I've put this knowledge to the test, organizing with all these groups, developing my own ideas and techniques to fill in the gaps, as every organizer has to.

While there is an immense amount to be learned about how to organize, this vital information is scattered. It's not easy to find. To make matters worse, a lot of what I've come across is a mix of outdated, too basic, too complex, too dry, or sometimes, in my opinion, downright wrong.

Luckily, and not a moment too soon, Eric Mann has put the pieces together for the 21st century. “Playbook for Progressives” will not be the last word on organizing. But it is the word of our time. Distilled from four decades of organizing on the front lines of the civil rights, anti-war, student and labor movements, Mann outlines the most important elements of successful organizing and advocates for “transformative organizing” (through which organizers seek to transform themselves) and “the social justice revolution.” Mike Davis calls this book “An Art of War for organizers around the world.”

Somehow, this book manages to capture most of what I've come across in a decade of learning how to organize, holds it together with a style that is both accessible and sophisticated, and never loses its foundation in radical, transformative, anti-imperialist politics. For experienced organizers, this book will to provide clarity, creativity, and courage to take on the system in these times of accelerating crisis. For those new to organizing, this book will jump-start your consciousness and catapult you onto the front lines of struggle to build a new world from the crumbling shell of the old.

There is one critique of this book I've heard which deserves addressing, because answering it will highlight one aspect of what I think is so good about it. Some experienced organizers I know have argued that the book is too basic. At first glance, the book is not theoretical. It is constructed around a list of “qualities”, and each of these qualities is illustrated with a story about a particular organizer who excels in that quality. Those who have been organizing for a long time may be familiar with most of the ideas that the book puts forward, and some might be frustrated that there isn't something more theoretically insightful for them to bite into.

At second glance, I would argue that the book is more theoretical than meets the eye. It is theoretical in the way that it is conceived and written, and not in any vague, wishy-washy sense. It is very much a historical materialist text, proceeding not from theory to practice, but the other way around. It derives ideas based off of the experiences of organizers, and then applies these ideas back into practice, from which new ideas and practices in turn emerge. The book is thus dialectical in both form and content. In this sense, it is a valuable lesson for critical theorists in how to walk the walk, both in their theory and in their practice. It is written by someone who has walked this walk of praxis for decades, who is well versed in Marxist theory, but who knows how to demonstrate dialectics without using the word. “Can dialectics break bricks?” a Situationist film asked in the late 1960s... Perhaps if more theorists read this book we might be closer to an affirmative answer.

Lenin famously wrote that there can be no revolutionary practice without revolutionary theory. But there cannot be either without organizers, who know how to forge them together into a life's work. In these times of upheaval, of economic chaos and climate catastrophe, more than anything we need organizers, people ready to hit the ground running with the know-how to do what must be done. “The skills of organizing that Eric Mann shares in Playbook for Progressives,” writes Vandana Shiva, “are the life blood of democracy, human rights, social and economic justice, and planetary survival.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

What is Wall Street?

[The following text has been distributed in pamphlet form at Occupy Wall Street, among other places.]

The question is both simple and complex. On every continent, in every city, even in the most remote rural villages, the power and influence of Wall Street are known and felt. But what is it exactly? Wall Street is a symbol and a system. But to fully understand what it is and what it represents, we have to learn its history...

Wall Street was originally a wall, built by the first colony of European settlers on the island of Manhattan. 3040 feet long and 12 feet high, it was one of the first enclosures of the commons on this continent, and the beginning of the conquest of North America. Built in 1653 to keep the Lenape people of the Algonquin civilization out, the wall defined a frontier and a fortress of settler colonialism. It was the cutting edge of a genocide which in the next 300 years would exterminate millions of native Americans.

Wall Street was also the beginning of the slave trade in North America. The wall was built by Africans enslaved by the colonists. Later, Wall Street became the first major slave market in North America. The genocide of millions of Africans, both through enslavement and the horrors of the middle passage in slave ships, has its origins here as well.

This double genocide, forged on Wall Street, was pioneered by the Dutch West India Company, which used the colony on Manhattan as its headquarters to oversee its pillaging of Asia. Thus Wall Street was also the beginning of transnational corporate rule.

From this corporate crucible was born the United States of America. George Washington, freedom fighter for colonists, master for slaves, and town destroyer for native Americans, was inaugurated as the first US president on Wall Street in 1789. The Bill of Rights was also ratified on Wall Street. This country's freedoms and atrocities thus share this birthplace. Wall Street embodies the central paradox of US culture and economy, the original sin we have yet to understand or overcome.

The enclosure of the commons, the conquest, expanded to new frontiers. The wall came down, was paved over, and became Wall Street. But Wall Street has always remained on the front lines. In
1792, the New York Stock Exchange was founded on Wall Street. It was the birth of what was to become finance capital, which in short time would rise to rule the world. Wall Street is the capital of capitalism. It is a symbol and a system of money. The same money that funded and facilitated genocide, slavery, and corporate rule in the 17th century is still at large today, running wild all over the globe. The history of Wall Street stretches in an unbroken line from the Dutch West India Company to the Bank of America, BP and Halliburton.

As the roads of empire are paved in money, they all lead to banks. The war machine and Wall Street are one. The bloody footprints of every US military action, from the Indian Removal Policy to the War on Terror, can be tracked to Wall Street, where bankers devised a thousand and one ways to turn blood into money, and that money into more money, to be invested into the spilling of more blood...

Wall Street is at the center of everything that threatens our lives and our planet. Those who profit from economic crisis, war, and environmental destruction all have a common headquarters here. We cannot fight them each in separate trenches. All of these crises converge around the capitalist system, for which Wall Street was and remains Ground Zero.

One of the busiest places in the world on days when there's money to be made, when the stock exchanges close, Wall Street is suddenly deserted. For hundreds of years, it has been a capital without community. Capitalism cannot hide that underneath all its wealth there is profound emptiness. See for yourself. The old order is dying and the new is struggling to be born.

“Now one of two things must take place. Either you must do something, or something must be done to you... Then something severe, something unusual must be done. What!
-Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street

Wall Street is a symbol of everything that is wrong with our world, and it is the headquarters of a system which will continue to destroy everything in its cancerous need for limitless profit and endless growth. Capitalism cannot be reformed any more than the leopard can change its spots. We need a path and a destination which can guide us out of this system that is suicide for humanity and for the environment. We need the shared goal of a post-capitalist society freed from exploitation, and in harmony with nature. One name for such a society is ecosocialism.

Ecosocialism is more a path than a destination, though it is a destination as well, which is prefigured in the walking of the path. Both path and destination reject the false comfort that by merely mentioning capitalism as the problem, and airbrushing it with warm and fuzzy words like sharing and cooperation, we have embarked upon a transformative and radical journey. Capitalism must be uprooted – torn from its points of invasion, from the soil under our feet and from the soul inside of us.

For this reason the ecosocialist alternative must be socialist, which entails a radical and final departure from capitalism. There are many definitions of socialism, and any magic in this name has been rather beaten up by history. Ecosocialism is a transformation of the original socialist project. It is the next evolutionary stage of socialism, reflecting the unprecedented ecological crisis, alongside the equally unprecedented economic crisis. Ecosocialism is a world-wide movement that calls for a socialism fully realized in society and nature, together.

Ecosocialism is a revolutionary response to a new turning point in history, though one with ancient roots. Ecosocialists honor the life-ways of the indigenous peoples of every continent, whose economies and cultures are guided by an understanding and practice of fundamental unity with nature. We draw upon the wisdom of the ages as well as the latest science. Ecosocialism is not a new kind of economy, but a new mode of production, and a new way of being. It is a visionary turn that calls for a spiritual as well as a material transformation, proceeding through prefiguration.

The praxis – a word bringing together the unity of theory and practice – of prefiguration is the capacity to think and act through the veil of our desperate times: to understand the present in terms of the possible future as well as the inescapable past. For while the future can only be imagined and the past can never be reclaimed, yet the past can be learned from, in both its errors and glories, so that a worthy future can be built now, in the light of possibility that this future casts on the horizon of today.

The general formula for this is simple enough in principle; it consists of a twofold movement: first, organize freely associated and ecocentric labor, and second, extend and interconnect the sites of ecosocialist transformation into larger wholes. Ecosocialism therefore encompasses the practical organizing of basic reforms such as free health care and public transportation, renewable energy, etc. It also requires that we organize worldwide networks, unifying the global South and North in great campaigns for economic and environmental justice, and in struggle against transnational corporations and the capitalist state. Wall Street is the cancer. Ecosocialism is the cure.

An inter-generational and multinational group is working as you read to build an ecosocialist organization and movement here in New York and internationally. It calls itself Ecosocialist Horizons. If you would like to get involved, send us an email at

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Unanswered Questions from the Catacomb in the Flower of Mankind

There is no point in saying it poetically. Yesterday an innocent man named Troy Davis was put to death by the US criminal justice system in the state of Georgia.

Despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence, despite decades of sustained organized support for Mr. Davis, from his family to international institutions, despite rallies in his defense attended collectively by thousands around the world, he was executed.

Up until the final minute last night, people around the world were hoping that a stay would be put on his execution, or that a reprieve would give his legal defense another chance to speak truth to power. In vigils from Georgia to New York and beyond, thousands united in prayer for Mr. Davis and his family, and in the hope that sanity and justice would somehow prevail.

Yesterday evening in St. Mary’s church in Harlem, I gathered with hundreds of others as the scheduled date of his execution approached. We watched a live stream of Democracy Now, reporting at the gates of the death row prison in Georgia, where Mr. Davis’ family and hundreds of supporters were gathered in protest against his execution. A few minutes after the scheduled time of his execution, a massive cheer went up -- he had been granted a reprieve! At this news, many of the hundreds that had gathered began a chant of “The people united shall never be defeated!”

It was a tragic prelude to what was to come later that evening. Our prayers were answered with nothing but contempt. But it is a sad truth upon which we must reflect: the people have united, and been defeated, time and time again. There is no single solution except to continue the struggle. But in what direction and by what means?

In the tense minutes approaching his execution, Benjamin Jealous, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) speaking with Amy Goodman, gave his impression of the significance of Troy Davis’ frustrated fight for justice:

"We hear a lot of definitions of ‘patriotism’ in this country, but patriotism is what was shown by Troy Davis saying, you know, let’s hold out hope to the last minute. Always hold out hope to the last minute… We are patriots. We believe in our nation."

For Mr. Jealous and the NAACP, Troy Davis seems to be some kind of modern day Socrates: a man who fell victim to his country, but who died believing in it. A man whose faith in his nation’s political system was so great that even a death sentence for a crime he did not commit could not convince him otherwise. The lesson seems to be that, despite our sadness and indignation, we should still try to work within the system for that famous “more perfect nation”.

Earlier this month, Mr. Davis wrote a message of thanks to all of his supporters. At the end, he says something that I think points in a different direction:

“no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.”

The name of Troy Davis is joined today with not only the hundreds of innocents still on death row, but with the names of all those before him who suffered the same fate. Hundreds have been executed with impunity in the United States, through similarly grotesque courtroom trials in which evidence played no role. Like Mr. Davis, many of them left the world with words condemning the system that killed them. Perhaps it may be relevant to reflect on one such case over 80 years ago.

In 1927, a sham trial sentenced Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti to the electric chair without a shred of evidence. Like Troy Davis, they were victims of a rigged system and its racist judges. Thousands protested around the world, for years on end, but to no avail. Nicola Sacco gave a final speech to the courtroom in broken English:

"I never knew, never heard, even read in history anything so cruel as this Court... I would like to tell all my life, but what is the use? …You forget all this population that has been with us for seven years, to sympathize and give us all their energy and all their kindness. You do not care for them."

Speaking after him Bartolomeo Vanzetti spoke to the thousands who mobilized around the world in their defense and were taught a lesson in contempt:

I am glad to be on the doomed scaffold if I can say to mankind, "Look out; you are in a catacomb of the flower of mankind. For what? All that they say to you, all that they have promised to you -- it was a lie, it was an illusion, it was a cheat, it was a fraud, it was a crime. They promised you liberty. Where is liberty? They promised you prosperity. Where is prosperity? They have promised you elevation. Where is the elevation?"

Today we must ask ourselves the same questions. As we contemplate the path forward, we must reflect on what we have learned, on what our history shows us. Do we mourn the execution of Troy Davis as a terrible and unnecessary sacrifice on the altar of the United States, the flower of mankind, the aspiring "beacon of human rights,” as Mr. Jealous described this country?

Or is the life and death of Troy Davis a moment of revelation, in which beacon becomes beast, in which execution becomes murder, in which flower becomes catacomb?

What have we learned from all this? What will be the meaning of the life and death of Troy Davis?

He lives on to the extent that we honor him, and we honor him to the extent that we carry his struggle for justice forward. But we cannot do either if we do not reflect profoundly on just what this struggle for justice requires, and who and what exactly must be overcome.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


by Quincy Saul
September 11th, 2011

Ground Zero
The 10 year anniversary of 9/11 is being commemorated at Ground Zero today, but not everyone is invited. Excluded from the ceremonies are New York City firefighters, police and other emergency personnel who are universally acknowledged to be the heroes of that tragic day. According to spokespeople from Mayor Bloomberg's office, due to the lack of space to accommodate everyone, the ceremony will be restricted to families of the victims. Oh, and some politicians. In addition to the big names like President Obama, former president George W. Bush, and former NY mayor Rudolph Giuliani, House Speaker John Boehner said that the government will be paying for representatives from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to attend the ceremony.

Unsurprisingly, this has provoked outrage among the first responders and their families. "It's a painful insult for many of the approximately 3,000 men and women [who] risked their lives, limbs and lungs on that monumental day, puncturing another hole in a still searing wound," reported CNN. This searing wound is not only emotional. According to a recent study published in the medical journal The Lancet, firefighters who worked at Ground Zero have a 32% higher rate of cancer than those who didn’t work in lower Manhattan. As these victims struggle for their lives and for compensation from a public administration enamored with the logic of austerity, their exclusion from the 9/11 commemoration can only be interpreted as adding disdainful insult to already deadly injury.

For these reasons, today's ceremony is being observed by many with indignation as an insane paradox. How dare the organizers of this memorial put politicians (and their massive security escorts) before the heroes who were on the front lines ten years ago? How dare these politicians bask in the spotlight even while ignoring, politically and fiscally, the real heroes, who still suffer?

But for different reasons, today's ceremony can be observed by many others with no surprise at all, as nothing but rational continuity. For those who have been following the stories and organizing efforts of many firefighters, World Trade Center employees, and others who risked their lives ten years ago today, the exclusion of these groups is perfectly consistent with how they have been treated, both by the state and by the majority of civil society, for the last ten years. It is not that their stories have not been told. It is that we have not listened.

Can the subaltern speak?
Perhaps the most prominent example is the story of William Rodriguez. Prior to 9/11, Rodriguez was a maintenance worker in the World Trade Center for 20 years. On 9/11, Rodriguez was the only person with the master key to the stairwells in the North Tower. That fateful morning, he personally rescued 15 injured people, re-entering the building three different times after the attacks had begun. He rescued people trapped in elevators between floors by lowering ladders to them. He also helped firefighters get into the building, unlocking doors for them, thus helping to rescue hundreds more. After exiting the building a final time, just before its collapse, he was buried under rubble for two hours before being rescued. He is widely believed to be the last person to leave the North Tower alive.

For his heroism, Rodriguez was personally awarded a special commendation of valor by President George W. Bush. Charismatic, fluent in English and Spanish, and sympathetic to the Republican Party, many saw Rodriguez as a potential politician. The Republican Party even offered to train him for political office and to put millions of dollars towards financing an electoral campaign. The only problem was that Rodriguez started talking about what happened on 9/11.

In his testimony to the Official 9/11 Commission, Rodriguez talked about bombs inside the building. He explained in detail the injuries that he witnessed due to the repeated explosions going off in all parts of the building, before and after the plane hit. He provided the Commission with a list of eyewitnesses to these explosions who were willing to testify under oath. Rodriguez was not alone. His testimony was joined by a multitude of first responders, all of whom testified to multiple explosions going off in both Towers both prior to and after the planes hit the buildings.

The testimony of Rodriguez, and indeed all testimony of these explosions, did not appear in the Official 9/11 Commission Report. In January 2009, due to public pressure, the commission's records were finally made public -- mostly. The testimony of Rodriguez still remains "restricted" to the public. The same can be said of the majority of firefighter and first-responder testimony, all of which dramatically contradicts the Official 9/11 Commission Report.

In the last 10 years, the stories of many of the heroes of 9/11 have been systematically ignored. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that almost every sector of our country, from the government to the media to the whole spectrum of civil society institutions, is determined not to hear these stories. The fact that they are widely available online doesn't seem to make any difference.

Is it any surprise, then, that first responders have been excluded from the official commemoration of the 10 year anniversary? Their exclusion at Ground Zero today is entirely consistent with their exclusion over the last ten years. In this light, the outrage about the exclusion of their bodies from this ceremony, combined with the silence about the exclusion of their voices, is the only real paradox of today's spectacle.

A radical awakening
Like everyone, I have a story about where I was when I first heard the news. I remember a teacher interrupting my ninth grade class to say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We crowded into a room with a TV for the next several hours. At that time in my life I had no particular political or historical awareness. I had been force-fed the standard liberal white-washed version of US history and current events for eight years of public and private schooling. I resisted it, but haphazardly. I was a case study of the rebel without a cause, suspicious of authority and its knowledge system, but without any idea of an alternative; without any way to understand my own insubordination. I remember watching the first allegation on live TV that Osama bin Laden was the primary suspect for the attacks, and I remember wondering how they could have found a suspect so quickly, before the dust had settled. I remember watching the live footage of the news being whispered in George W. Bush's ear, and his slow nod and absence of facial expression. I remember the words coming out of my mouth before I contemplated them: "It looks like he knew about it." I was quickly reprimanded by several of my peers and teachers. I didn't know anything about it, they said. And they were right.

9/11 was a wake up call for me. I suspected that the US government was generally antagonistic, just like other authority figures I was familiar with. But I was unable to hold up my end of a serious argument. My knowledge of history and politics had more blind spots than anything else. 9/11 silhouetted this for me in very stark light. I knew that there was a whole world of knowledge that would help me to understand what happened on 9/11 and what would happen in its aftermath. And moreover, I realized that I had to learn quickly, that there was no excuse anymore for not being informed. I had to grow up.

This germ of political and historical self-awareness that 9/11 sparked in me led me on a path of self-education that continues to this day. That search led me, two years after 9/11, to drop out of high school, and for the first time take responsibility for my own education. I devoted particular time and attention to US history and current events, and particularly to 9/11.

I spent several years of my life trying to figure out what happened on 9/11. I’ve read thousands of pages about it. I learned about William Rodriguez and his frustrated efforts to tell his story. I followed the stories of many other firefighters and first responders whose voices were similarly excluded from the Official 9/11 Commission Report, and their subsequent efforts to make their voices heard. I followed the story of the 3000 members of families of victims who made the Joint 9/11 Inquiry in September of 2002 before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, raising numerous questions about what exactly US government agencies like the NY/NJ Port Authority, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Federal Aviation Administration were doing on that day.

I learned about the Project for a New American Century, a Washington DC-based think tank, almost all of whose members became part of George W. Bush's cabinet. I read about their unabashed plans for world domination, and their famous quote that "the process of transformation" towards their goal of US world supremacy, "is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor." I learned about the warnings received by US government agencies prior to 9/11, of an attack on that day, listing specific targets, from governments and reputable press agencies all over the world. I learned about the organizations of engineers and scientists who challenged the physics of how the Twin Towers could have collapsed the way they did. I learned about the most extensive War Games in the history of the US military, which were being conducted on 9/11. I watched over and over the free-fall collapse of WTC Building 7, which wasn't hit by any plane, and was amazed to find no mention at all of Building 7 in the Official 9/11 Commission Report.

While I continued to navigate through all this, I did my best to get others involved. I became something of a 9/11 truth evangelist. I never claimed, nor do I now, to know exactly what happened on that day. But I knew that the official story didn't hold water, that it wouldn’t hold up in any serious courtroom. Over a couple of years, I gradually built a base in my small community of friends and family who shared my concerns about 9/11. With this group, among other things, I organized a public event in the local town hall, raising questions about what happened on 9/11, which over a hundred community members attended.

Deeper than fear or denial
All my efforts met with mixed results. I encountered many people who, similar to myself, had embarked on a course of self-education in the aftermath of 9/11, and shared my concern both about the truth of what happened that day, and about the trajectory of US history and foreign policy in general. Just as frequently, however, I met with dismissal and ridicule, not only from the usual staunch defenders of the status quo, "right or wrong", but also from people I considered friends and allies. People who I admired, people who I had learned so much from over the years, who I had come to trust about almost everything, dismissed my research and organizing efforts as "conspiracy theories," and lamented what they interpreted as me "going off the deep end." People with radical politics who are generally not afraid to take a stand on controversial issues regardless of the consequences, (people like Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman, everyone at The Nation and Counterpunch, etc, etc, etc.) nonetheless continue to believe the official story about 9/11. In so many words, they dismiss people who care about 9/11 truth as crazy, misguided, stupid, and even dangerous.

This behavior has bewildered and mystified me for a full decade now. For many years I operated under the assumption that if people took the time to look at the facts, they would change their minds. But years of working in the 9/11 truth movement persuaded that this is not the case. The Age of Reason has not yet arrived. People can read the testimony of firefighters and the families of victims, they can watch the collapse of Building 7, and still continue to dismiss anything but the official story as a conspiracy theory. Many are not moved by the extent of scholarship and emotional vulnerability that goes into questioning the official story.

I am now certain that the causes of this dismissal are not simple, but are deeply rooted in a psychological process that is deeper than just fear or denial. My friend John Wells has an insightful hypothesis, which he calls "the Santa Claus syndrome". I will quote at length from his thoughts in our correspondence on the subject:

"I think that psychologically, American culture has adopted what I think of as the "Santa Claus" syndrome. I think that as children they go through a period where they believe in Santa Claus, but there comes a time in their lives where they are faced with the overwhelming evidence that Santa Claus is not actually real. There is a period that follows where one has the choice of being angered by having been lied to, or to adapt to the symbolic order which embraces the Santa Claus mythology as a necessary and beneficial story. So in our society, over the years as evidence is revealed about how our governments engage in covert action, overall there is an initial shock, and then a psychological assimilation to a new world view that incorporates the lies as something normal and necessary. But also there is a factor of the time it takes to be clear about what really happened and the ability to hold anyone responsible, when so many years pass before the ability to do anything about it would ever occur (even the Iran Contra Affair was revealed in relatively short time to allow for a hearing, and the President admitted having been involved and explained that it was necessary, and nothing really could be done to him as enough people believed his idea). So American society will eventually accept that 9-11 was a covert action, but by that time they will be ready to accept it and forgive it, for what choice does a child have whose parents finally admit that Santa is not real? Well, there are many choices we have for we are not children, but these are not obvious to most people."

The Santa Claus syndrome relates to one of the insights of the leader of the Nazis. In relation to 9/11, Hitler's famous assertion rings true: "A definite factor in getting a lie believed is the size of the lie. The broad mass of the people, in the simplicity of their hearts, more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one." Most of us are ready to believe that we were lied to about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But we will still accept that 19 hijackers with abysmal flight skills were able to outsmart the most advanced military defense system in the world, and cause three steel skyscrapers designed to withstand the impact of a commercial airliner, one of which was not hit by anything, to collapse at free fall speed into their own footprint. That lie has proved simply too big to be disbelieved.

Since 9/11, the whole media spectrum from left to right has been saturated with "anti-conspiracy theory" tropes that do their best to ridicule those who question the official story, usually by falsely associating them with a variety of straw-man theories. In a 2002 essay, Gore Vidal, who was one of the first brave enough to speak clearly on this subject, wrote: "Post-9/11, the American media were filled with pre-emptory denunciations of unpatriotic 'conspiracy theorists' who not only are always with us but are usually easy for the media to discredit since it is an article of faith that there are no conspiracies in American life."

For these complex but very real and material reasons, I’ve found it impossible to mobilize a movement around 9/11 truth. I’m tired of asking the same questions and hearing the same dismissals. It’s excruciating when it’s from the people you respect. So as the years went by I moved on to other political organizing projects that seemed to have more of a future, and for the most part stopped talking about it. But 9/11 still haunts me. How is it possible that something of this magnitude fails to ignite mass public indignation? Is ten years not enough time to do your own research? How can so many continue to ignore the evidence, even when brought forward by those who lost and sacrificed most?

All of the victims
Today we acknowledge the people who lost their lives on 9/11, and open our hearts to their families and friends. But they are not the only ones we must remember. In addition to those who perished in the attacks ten years ago, we must also acknowledge the victims of the lies about 9/11. They are also victims of our failure to demand the truth. "A time comes when silence is betrayal," said Martin Luther King, Jr. In this case, our silence about 9/11 truth is complicit with the Global War on Terror, which uses the lies of 9/11 as a mandate to pursue its imperial objectives. Many have died for our collective, cumulative denial about what happened that day.

How many? Researcher, professor and author Gideon Polya calculates in an article titled "The Post-9-11 Decade by Numbers: The American Holocaust": "The (US-complicit) 9-11 atrocity killed about 3,000 people but the subsequent War on Terror has directly killed about 10 million people, the breakdown being 2.7 million (Iraq, 2003-2011), 5.0 million (Afghanistan, 2001-2011), 1 million (Somalia, 2000-2011) and 1 million (global opiate-related deaths due to US Alliance restoration of the Taliban-destroyed Afghan opium industry). In addition, about 7,340 US Alliance military personnel have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan." Before you dismiss these numbers as too high, please look at his statistical methodology.

In light of figures like these, many are hoping to get back to a pre-Bush Golden Age, before the War on Terror, before Afghanistan, before Iraq. Some think Obama can take us back and forward at the same time. But for many of us, the flash of 9/11 illuminated not only the present but the past. As a student of US history, is it cynical to ask what’s new about the War on Terror? It’s not about cynicism, it’s about imperialism. In a recent article in the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs, dedicated to today’s 10 year anniversary, Melvyn Leffler points out that while 9/11 was certainly a world-historic event, post-9/11 policy is old news:

"Many argue that U.S. foreign policy after 9/11 was distinguished by its unilateralism. But the instinct to act independently, and to lead the world while doing so, is consonant with the long history of U.S. diplomacy, dating back to President George Washington's Farewell Address and President Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural speech... The long-term significance of 9/11 for U.S. foreign policy, therefore, should not be overestimated... [9/11] did not change the world or transform the long-term trajectory of U.S. grand strategy. The United States' quest for primacy, its desire to lead the world, its preference for an open door and free markets, its concern with military supremacy, its readiness to act unilaterally when deemed necessary, its eclectic merger of interests and values, its sense of indispensability -- all these remained, and remain, unchanged."

In Leffler's surprisingly candid assessment, published in one of the central organs of mainstream political discourse, 9/11 was just another episode in the sitcom of empire as a way of life. One thing that did change on 9/11, Leffler points out, is that Muslims and Islam itself became the new targets abroad and the new scapegoats at home. They are being forced to suffer for all our imperial resentment and hubris. In retrospect that may be the most distinguishing feature of post-9/11 politics.

So in today’s moments of silence, we might take that time to consider what it might mean to have solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters, abroad and at home, especially all those behind bars, in the US, Guantanamo, and beyond, for crimes they have not been, and may never be charged with. They too are victims of our collective silence about the truth of 9/11. Our sympathy is not enough. What is to be done? As Malcolm X forewarned, “a delayed solution is a non-solution.”

Emptiness and empire
What is being commemorated at Ground Zero today is not a tragedy but the disfiguration of a tragedy. We are commemorating the subordination of the victims of 9/11 to a spectacle which exploits a false version of what happened that day. We are commemorating the perversion of our memories, and the corralling of our emotions into a degenerate political system and its war machine. We are commemorating the desperate efforts of a country in decline to get it up one last time for empire.

In his moving reflections on today's anniversary, cultural worker and former WTC security guard John Pietaro has written that "[t]en years hence, the stench of charred memories are dissipated but the gaping hole remains. The space where the Towers once stood is not the only emptiness we've come to know."

To me, 9/11 has come to mean this emptiness, this lacuna in the hearts and minds of us all. I'm wondering if anything has changed over the last ten years. Have we had enough time to heal? Are people more, or less willing to accept the official story? More, or less willing to challenge a big lie? Has the truth about 9/11 become an academic question, to be debated in books and articles, simply because historical truth is important in the abstract? Or is it still a living question with living consequences, one for which people are willing to make sacrifices to get answers? The first decade of the 21st century has been framed by this seemingly unfathomable question. The meaning of 9/11 depends on our answer. Either we will accept emptiness in addition to empire as a way of life, or we will accept that we must struggle for an alternative to both.

What will we be doing ten years from today?
Perhaps on September 11th, 2021
You and me and everyone
Will commemorate this day
A different way.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The War on Drugs and the Mexican Movement to End It

(first published in a Special to the Narco News Bulletin:

By Quincy Saul
August 6, 2011

The forty year anniversary of the war on drugs came and went this summer without any mention of the most significant movement to end it.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report in June with a clear and succinct conclusion: “The global war on drugs has failed.” The US government has now spent about a trillion dollars on this war, but drug consumption has increased and drug-related violence and incarceration have spiraled ever further out of control. Signed by a wide diversity of prominent names such as Paul Volcker, Ernesto Zedillo, Carlos Fuentes and Kofi Annan, the report went on to accuse the United States of “drug control imperialism.”

More than any other country, Mexico is dying from the sins of the war on drugs. As the bottleneck of the drug trade for all of the Americas, almost 50,000 have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico in the last six years alone, with the numbers of dispossessed and disappeared mounting ever higher.

It is not entirely surprising then, that the first mass movement to end the drug war has arisen in Mexico. More surprising is the almost total boycott in the United States and international media of this movement.

The Movement

Seen from the outside, the current movement to end the war on drugs in Mexico began suddenly. The brutal murder of the son of a prominent poet named Javier Sicilia prompted him to write a call to action urging all Mexicans to take to the streets to end the drug war. His voice reached and touched millions. Within days, tens of thousands had filled the centers of forty major cities, calling for the legalization of drugs and the demilitarization of their country.

Popular mobilization has been sustained since then through two major actions involving all demographics of Mexican society. Led by Sicilia, a week-long march to end the drug war from the city of Cuernavaca to the nation’s capital culminated on May 8th when 100,000 people filled the central square of Mexico City. That same weekend, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation led a silent march of tens of thousands out of the mountains, occupying the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas.

Several weeks later, the mobilization continued with a “caravan of solace,” in which tens of thousands more participated. The caravan traveled from Cuernavaca through a dozen major cities, for the first time sharing and organizing the pain which until now most Mexicans have suffered in fear and isolation. The caravan culminated in the infamous Ciudad Juárez. Renowned as the most violent city in the world, the caravan inscribed a fresh, new and indelible chapter in the city’s history. In the words of Antonio Cervantes, a participant in the caravan, on the eve of its arrival, “we are going to occupy Ciudad Juárez peacefully… We are going to fill the most violent city on earth with humanity and desire for life.” The nonviolent occupation of Juarez concluded peacefully with the reading of drafts of a pact which includes demands and a program of action.

By any measure, this movement is a game changer. Calling itself the “Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity,” it is the first nonviolent mass movement in the history of Mexico. Javier Sicilia is doing what all previous leaders in Mexico have failed to do—unite all sectors of society into a sustained movement in which all groups see their interests reflected. “We have to return to the era of Gandhi, to the era of Luther King,” said Sicilia, who on numerous occasions has promoted the legacy and tradition of civil disobedience. Slowly but surely, this movement is standing up, preparing itself to end this war, with or without the agreement of the government. A placard in the city of Chihuahua urged the caravan, “If Crime is Organized, then Why Not Us?”

Media Silence

With a few isolated exceptions, there has been a complete boycott by the US media of this movement. International press has been barely better. For the English speaking world, only a few small online news sources like Narco News are paying any attention.

Reporting on the horrific violence of the drug war in Mexico is abundant and detailed both in mainstream and alternative media. So why the silence about a movement to end it? After all, the development and consequences of this movement are guaranteed to have effects in the United States and around the world. Is it that the abundance of popular uprisings this year have newsrooms swamped, and that this one is just slipping through the cracks? Months into the movement, such arguments are no longer adequate. When a story of this magnitude consistently fails to break headlines for such a long period, we must ask if there are other reasons, other interests behind the silence.

The Drug Trade and the Global Economy

The ugly but undeniable truth is that the drug trade plays a pivotal role in the global economy. By nature there are no detailed statistics about the exact size of the black market, but even the most conservative estimates are in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Add to this the arms trade that is an integral part of the drug war and we arrive at a number that is a hefty percentage of the global GDP.

Where does all this money go? Again, the nature of the data is that it’s secret, but that doesn’t leave us completely in the dark. We know that this money isn’t going into mattresses and suitcases. This is the modern era! It’s going into banks.

The important question is not which banks are laundering drug money. If we’ve learned anything about finance since 2008, it’s that everything is interconnected—the savings in your local bank are intimately connected to all kinds of institutions and markets all over the world. So it’s not a question of who is connected to the drug trade—we all are. That’s how “globalization” works. A few banks have been exposed for laundering, and pointing fingers is important, but it doesn’t get us any closer to an alternative. The question we need to ask is, how deep does drug money go?

James Petras alleges that “every major bank in the United States has served as an active financial partner of the murderous drug cartels—including Bank of America, Citibank, and JP Morgan, as well as overseas banks operating out of New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and London.” To give only one example, in May of this year, The Guardian printed an article citing US Department of Justice records to the effect that Wachovia Bank alone (now owned by Wells Fargo) laundered $378 billion dollars of drug money between 2004 and 2007. Court cases involving these allegations are usually settled for miniscule fractions of the bank’s quarterly profits.

Where does the global economy begin and where does the drug trade end? Dare we wonder if the global economy can survive without drugs? An answer to this question became unavoidable in the US financial crisis at the end of 2008. In January of 2009, Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime, was quoted by Reuters: “In many instances, drug money [was]... currently the only liquid investment capital… In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system’s main problem, and hence, liquid capital became an important factor… interbank loans were funded by money that originated from the drug trade and other illegal activities… [there were] signs that some banks were rescued in that way.” If the terminology is obscure, the message is clear: the global economy and the drug trade are one. And yet that is only half the story….

The Guns Behind the Drugs

You can’t separate drug money from blood money any more than you can filter drugs out of blood. To understand the drug trade, we have to understand the drug war. Like an ocean, the arms market is impartial, accepting all tributaries, from governments to security contractors to major cartels to small-time gangs.

The matrix of the black market and the arms trade was clarified this year on the fortieth anniversary of the war on drugs. While representatives from dozens of civil society organizations met in Washington DC to discuss the failures of the drug war, and while a caravan in Mexico led by Javier Sicilia began to organize a movement to end it, politicians met in Guatemala to extend and expand the war. At a meeting in Antigua in late June, representatives from more than fifty countries met and pledged over $2 billion towards bringing the drug war to Central America.

This initiative was led by the United States. The principal representative of the United States at the Guatemala meeting, Hillary Clinton, seemed confident that the war on drugs is not in vain. “We know from the work that the United States has supported in Colombia, and now in Mexico, that good leadership, proactive investments, and committed partnerships can turn the tide,” she said.

In a fitting complement to this meeting, also in June, the United States led a massive special forces exercise in El Salvador, including troops from 25 different nations. This is only the latest event in a trend over the last several years of increasing US military presence in Latin America. In the last two years alone, the construction of bases by the US military in South and Central America has doubled, all under the name of the war on drugs.

The US militarization of Latin America comes in at least four different forms. Firstly, through the direct operation of US military bases on foreign soil. Secondly, through security partnerships in which US military personnel operate, train and gather intelligence on foreign military bases. Thirdly, through the increasing covert deployment of US special operations troops throughout Latin America, and finally, through the simple sale of weapons. In Mexico, 90 percent of the weapons recovered in drug-related violence are manufactured in the United States.

The evidence is piling up, but how you read it depends on which side of the fence you’re on. In the eyes of a growing global movement, the drug war is more indefensible every day. But in the eyes of others, it is every day in more need of defense. Investigative journalist Bill Conroy has described the escalating violence of the drug war in Latin America as “a situation not unlike a Chinese finger puzzle, with one finger, representing militarization and the other prohibition, each pulling against the other as more pressure is exerted and all to no avail in escaping the trap.”

A movement in Mexico is gaining momentum which has an answer to this Chinese finger puzzle, to this Gordian knot of drugs and guns which is like a tumor on the heart of the global economy. The answer? Legalize drugs. It is, in the words of Bertolt Brecht, “the simplest thing so hard to achieve.”

Behind and Beyond the Movement

In the time of a few months, this young movement is already historic. Javier Sicilia has been able to catalyze and sustain it with a poetic inclusiveness that no previous social movement in Mexico has been able to articulate. While radical ideas may be at the heart of the movement, it is organized in terms that completely eclipse the ideological divides which traditionally paralyze mass movements.“The pain caused by the sinking of this nation is so great that it surpasses any ideology,” Sicilia has said on numerous occasions. “We cannot lose sight of the moral of the story nor of the victims.” In response to many who have tried in different ways to co-opt the movement for a different cause, Sicilia has been politely blunt: “We cannot lose sight of the heart. Ideological and political speeches impose themselves over human dignity.”

The ability of Sicilia to articulate this radical unity in non-ideological terms may be largely responsible for the mobilization of thousands of Mexicans who have never before taken part in political activity of any kind. Moreover, it indicates a welcome escape from the seemingly insurmountable sectarianism that has plagued social movements for centuries. It is not to be taken for granted.

However, if the success of the movement depends on its continued ability to transcend ideological opportunism, this does not mean that the movement can avoid ideological questions. The movement’s demands—the legalization of drugs and the demilitarization of the country—may seem at first glance to be relatively technical political questions. But haunting the Chinese finger puzzle of prohibition and militarization is the specter of the global economy. More specifically, behind the war on drugs is the United States.

The movement to end the war on drugs doesn’t have to—and perhaps shouldn’t—articulate itself in these terms. But behind and beyond the movement is a global economy that depends on the drug war, and an empire, centered in the United States, which depends on the continued subordination of the Mexican government and people. Ultimately, the goals of the movement cannot be realized without confronting and overcoming these realities. The path towards these confrontations has begun and is inexorable. As Jose Martinez Cruz, head of the Independent Commission for Human Rights of Morelos, recognized, “the movement can’t drop its guard now.”

Some fear the future and denounce the movement, trying to silence its depth and significance. Others hope to channel it into a reformist course. Still others are struggling, for better or worse, to radicalize it. We would all do well to remember the words of Abraham Lincoln: “Be not deceived. Revolutions do not go backwards.”

Whatever the causes of this media silence—laziness, fear, money, politics or some combination of these—it is a silence of epic and historic proportions. Even among all the unprecedented social movements that have emerged this year, the movement in Mexico, due to its unique position as a bottleneck of the US empire and the global economy, may prove to be the most significant of them all. In spite of the media silence and also because of it, we must stay tuned.

A Movement Against Empire?

Pancho Villa, leader in the Northern front of the 1910 Mexican revolution, not long before his betrayal and murder at the orders of Mexico President Venustiano Carranza, wrote a letter to his counterpart in the South, Emiliano Zapata. In this letter, Villa invited Zapata to embark on a new and different course of struggle. Instead of continuing their bloody struggle for land reform, in which many hundreds of thousands of Mexicans had already perished, Villa suggested, they should unite against the common enemy to the North. “We have decided not to burn another cartridge on Mexicans,” he wrote. “And to prepare and organize ourselves properly to attack the Americans in their own lair.” He went on to prophetically warn that Mexico would never be free until this battle was fought once and for all.

A century has come and gone since Villa and Zapata fought for land and liberty. Today, the movement to end the war on drugs is struggling in the same shadow that Pancho Villa discerned so long ago. The fate of both Mexico and the United States will depend on the will of both peoples to see, behind and beyond the drug war and the growing movement to end it, a shared history and future. In Chihuahua rancher Julián LeBarón’s words, “The clock ticks as the hand of crime holds the heart of our country in a bloody fist.”

Narco News is on the Front Lines of Journalism in the 21st Century

By Quincy Saul
Class of 2011, School of Authentic Journalism
May 5, 2011

(First published on Narco News:

There is no hiding from it: historical time is accelerating. Whether we spend our time glued to the screen of the news, in a busy trance of distracted denial, or in a frenzy of organizing, the world is moving beneath us, more than we can imagine. The last five years have contained enough world-historical events for at least a few decades, and the last five months have been more consequential than some centuries. Even in the last five weeks so much has changed: revolution, scandal, disaster, and war, from the largest scale to the smallest. Dare we wonder what is to come? Dare we contemplate what is to be done?

We have entered an unprecedented and pivotal moment that will reverberate into the long-term future of humanity and planet Earth. Is seems that more than ever is now at stake.

Very few outcomes are inevitable, and no solutions will be universal. But some things are essential to us all. Whether we are struggling to change the world, or to just survive, whether we arrive to one of these gradually or find ourselves suddenly saddled with both at once, we all need to know.

We need to know our world to understand it, and we need to understand our world in order to act in it, and on it. On the front lines of interpreting our world are journalists. They are writing, recording, and risking their lives to give us all something more essential, precious and delicate than just truth; it is the living connection with our world, without which we are stranded, helplessly adrift in the immense orbit of history.

Of course I am not talking about the corporate journalists, the ones who mystify and contort reality for profit or privilege, out of ignorance or indifference. They are enemies of this fragile life force we call knowledge, and they bear more blame than they know for every tragedy they hasten and exacerbate.

Nor am I talking about the strict dictionary definition of journalism. In the 21st century we will all have to think outside the box of the newsroom.

Anyone who is reporting, reflecting, sharing and expressing their knowledge about current events for a wider audience, anyone who contributes creatively to this tangled web of real-time information that we live and breathe, which is the best foundation we have to build the future, these are the journalists of which I speak. Artists, orators, bloggers, videographers, fiction writers, performance artists, all of these and more are inheriting this calling. The old established news agencies continue to harbor a few journalists worthy of the cause, but can no longer be trusted to be the sole guardians of this vital profession.

On the front lines of journalism in the 21st century is Narco News. In its methodology and its content, Narco News blends history and theory with urgency and practice in a reportage of current events that demonstrates a commitment to both justice and fearlessness. Narco News runs several websites that frequently crack cutting edge stories. It has an online TV program, and runs a school for what it calls “Authentic Journalism.” This year, the 2011 class of the School of Authentic Journalism brought together 21st century journalists from five continents, all of whom are redefining the meaning and practice of journalism.

Few organizations in the world today can claim that they are doing as much as Narco News, especially considering its limited resources, to turn the tide in the war of ideas. Not only are its journalists providing an example of journalism at its best, but they are training the next generation. Narco News provides scholarships for all its students and pays travels costs for most of them.

I had what I consider to be the great honor of being among the class of 2011 at the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism. A decade of work as a student, organizer, writer, artist, and aspiring revolutionary led me there. On behalf of Narco News and on behalf of the pivotal role of journalism at the dawn of the 21st century, I’d like to ask you to make a donation to the Fund for Authentic Journalism. It helps Narco News to fight the corporate media establishment and to defy the structures and systems that be. It helps me and other radical journalists from around the world attend the only school of authentic journalism in the world. It helps Narco News keep up its cutting edge coverage. But seriously, it cannot do all this without your help!

Please make a donation today, online, at this link:

Or you can make a check out to:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism
PO Box 1446
Easthampton, MA 01027 USA

Falte lo que falte… convenceremos!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Viva Anas Maloul!

My mother asked
What terrible things await the world
That this young beautiful man should be spared them?

My pen and I are choked with grief
But I don't want to be a fair-weather poet.
There are never no words,
No matter how sudden or senseless our tragedy.

Those who didn't know him well enough
Didn't understand that he cared more about global warming than about Palestine.
He had a tone like Fela on the alto saxophone.
He studied Kierkegaard, Said, Foucault, Fanon, and pronounced "secularism" with disdainful relish.
He hated Marx and capitalism, but capitalism much more than Marx.
His mind was sometimes too quick for his big heart to follow.
He could be the life of the party and then cry alone in his room.
He taught me the meaning of occupation with his anger and with his joy.

He doubted himself severely at times, but it is no hyperbole to say
That he could have led armies with his voice and his eyes,
Even through his most troubled moments.
And he always emerged from himself stronger than before.

His approval and his disapproval gave us all more strength and wisdom than he or we knew.
He taught us to contain multitudes, to passionately love and disagree at the same time.
He made us laugh and cry and wonder every day.
He really made us think,
And he thought harder than any of us.

The world conspired to make him a cynic, but he had high, indefatigable hopes for the future and for the past.
In classes, he doodled M-16s and cracked jokes that even professors had to laugh at. He was an amazing student.
He was a poet, a prophet and a clown,
And he made the best cheesecake in the world.

He voraciously read authors he disagreed with,
And pioneered original translations of obscure Islamic philosophers.
His curiosity was bottomless.
He had an awe-inspiring capacity for memorization,
And he could free-style rap about anything, anywhere, anytime.
In all the years I lived with him and all the years after I saw an immense emotional spectrum which never included fear.

He was an old soul and a young soul in one, a little boy and a wise elder.
He lived Che Guevara's injunction: "Aunque revienta!"
Most of us were a little afraid of him,
Partly because we loved him so much,
And partly because he never stopped challenging us to rethink ourselves.
His life and his death are a legacy of an unfinished struggle,
Which is our responsibility and joy to carry on, and not just for Palestine.

Like all true believers, he doubted deeply,
In ways his atheist friends like me will never know or guess,
Just as we will never understand the complexity of his belief.
I think his mother was his hero,
His reference point for everything
From anti-imperialism to washing the dishes,
Which he begged us in the name of God to do.
He loved men and women passionately, if in different ways,
And everyone loved him back as far as they knew how.
He made a song of everyone's name.

He smoked prodigiously, and quit with equal vigor;
His discipline for excess and austerity was incredible.
He created an audience wherever he went.
Whether in high or low spirits, his energy never ebbed.
He was a terrific dancer; without being flashy he was always the star.
It sounds like I am inventing a character,
Yet somehow he really was all this, and so much more...

He was shot in school by the Israeli Defense Forces
In Jenin.
He survived to grow up under their guns.
Knowing death from his youth,
He threw stones at soldiers,
Stole from settlements,
Caught collaborators,
Buried brethren.
He had to go through 16 military checkpoints just to get to the airport to come to the school where I met him.
Nine out of ten of the hundreds of books on his shelves
Were about Palestine.
But he was not defined by the Israeli occupation.
It consumed him but could not digest him.
He transcended it. He mocked it.
His life-force was much, much deeper, much, much wider,
His vision of struggle was more profound and timeless
Than the question of Palestine,
Even as he dedicated his body and soul to its unconditional liberation.
His scattered prophecies touched the most distant horizons.
And like him, we are only beginning to fathom it all.

His life was a miracle so bright and full of promise
That even his death cannot extinguish it.
He lives on,
Not metaphorically, not theoretically,
But to the degree that we honor him,
Not only in our uncompromising struggle for justice and freedom,
But in our joy, our compassion, our creativity,
For the funny, the clever, the beautiful,
The mysterious, the sublime.
Not only in grand gestures and in dramatic designs,
But on the battleground of every day life,
The bottomless universe of routine and spontaneity
That Anas seized every instant of,
He lives on. Not a god, but no longer a man,
Something churning inside all of us, everywhere and nowhere,

Anas Maloul!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Master and Servant Revisited

“One hand washes the other”
Labor and Capital, Master and Servant

Once upon a time, the labor movement was the most radical movement in the world. Unions promised not only to improve the living and working conditions of everyone in the union, but they also promised to be vehicles of larger social and economic transformation. While contesting visions and methods have always struggled against each other within the labor movement, it is fair to say that today the labor movement is in a universal crisis. The crisis is particularly apparent in the United States, where unions are ever less capable of delivering on either their immediate or long-term promises. From the perspective of greater social transformation, the US labor movement today is a historic embarrassment: If unions were once synonymous with change, struggle and the greater good, today they are more associated with conservatism, survival and the status quo. How has this happened? By what logic and dynamic has this metamorphosis taken place? If we are to engage seriously in the many debates today about the revival and renewal of the labor movement in these times of unprecedented crisis, we must have answers to these questions. To find them, I propose that we must return to the root and origin of the labor movement: the relationship between capital and labor, and between master and servant.

In 1807, Georg Hegel published what remains today perhaps the most intriguing and insightful (if controversial) essay on the relationship between master and servant. While an incredible number of volumes have been written analyzing this single essay alone, some of the principal arguments can be briefly summarized as follows: The servant is ultimately the real master, not only because the master depends on the servant, but because while masters only need to be conscious of themselves, servants must have a more sophisticated double consciousness, both of themselves and of their master. However, the servant does not automatically become the master or equal to the master. Servants must first realize themselves, Hegel explains, through labor, and also through a confrontation with the master, which alone can force the master to recognize the servant as an equal. Before servants have realized themselves completely and have not received real recognition, they tend to recapitulate the master’s ideas and commands, believing them to be their own.

Hegel’s understanding of the relationship between the master and servant can go a long way in interpreting, if not completely explaining, the relationship between labor and capital that has culminated in our current historical moment: If capital is master and labor is servant, labor is ultimately the real master because capital depends on labor for the creation of value and hence profit. While capitalists can afford to entertain mystical ideologies that justify their rule, the working classes must not only understand bourgeois consciousness, but also have a concrete understanding of the world from their own perspective.1 However, has history has clearly demonstrated, labor does not overthrow capital automatically, despite its innate ability to do so. The working class must first realize itself through the labor process and through struggle against capital. Absent this critical struggle, labor is not recognized as equal but remains subordinate. And moreover, absent this struggle, labor recapitulates capital, not only in economic and organizational terms but also on the terrain of consciousness.

My intention here is not to engage in a complex debate about the influence of Hegel on Karl Marx.2 Nor is it to argue that the answers to our questions are to be found through the close re-reading of philosophical essays. Hegel, after all, was not a labor organizer. If the allegory between the master-servant dialectic and the labor-capital dialectic is not scholastically precise, it remains nonetheless practically useful for understanding how the labor movement has largely failed in its historic mission.

Recapitulating the Master

The organizational nexus through which labor recapitulates capital is the trade union. This recapitulation, or internalization of capital’s ideas and commands on the part of working class organizations, finds its most acute expression in what is known as ‘business unionism’. Even the name betrays the dynamic at work! Both in the realm of economics and psychology, business unionism is a crystal-clear example of how labor has taken on the characteristics of capital, just as servants take on the characteristics of their masters.

Economics. Business unionism is not an epithet coined by radicals but a well-established and powerful economic force. Perhaps no one said it more clearly than John L.Lewis, founding father of the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO):

“Trade unionism is a phenomenon of capitalism quite similar to the corporation. One is essentially a pooling of labor for the purpose of common action in production and sales. The other is a pooling of capital for exactly the same purpose. The economic aims of both are identical -- gain.” (Moody p56-7)

Business unionism not only implies a certain economic prerogative which is analogous if not identical to a corporation, but a political imperative as well. In the 1950s, Teamster president Dave Beck famously admitted that “[u]nions are big business. Why should truck drivers and bottle washers be allowed to make big decisions affecting union policy? Would any corporation allow it?” (Moody p57) Just as business unionism reflects the economic logic of the profit system, it also re-enacts the anti-democratic logic of the corporate political system. In 1940, Max Horkheimer recognized that “The leading man and his clique become as independent in the working-class organization as the board of directors in an industrial monopoly is from the stockholders.” (Horkheimer 1940) Business union leaders also take on the role of the foreman in the factory. These tendencies are generally apparent through the enforcement of no-strike pledges, etc, but are always particularly apparent in times of war. Steelworker president Philip Murray announced after Pearl Harbor that “[l]abor is determined to place itself in the forefront in the battle of achieving maximum production.” (Zieger p143)

In the last thirty years, unions have continued to mirror the development of capitalism as it has undergone perhaps the greatest transformation since the industrial revolution. Just as corporations have accelerated the trend towards monopoly, labor has followed, with a pattern of mergers that Kim Moody has called the transition from industrial unionism to general unionism. (Moody p196) Just as corporate mergers have brought together previously unrelated industries under the same corporate brand, so unions have merged workers across equally unrelated industries under the same union banner. The reason in both cases has been the same -- money. As it has become easier for corporations to generate profit by buying each other than by investing in the production of new value, so it has become easier for business unions to increase their coffers by merging with other unions than by organizing new workers. As AFL-CIO regional director Kevin Kistler explained to the master newspaper the Wall Street Journal “It’s a hell of a lot quicker and cheaper to add members through a merger than it is to organize new members.” (Moody p198)

A great deal has been written about the economic, political and cultural consequences of business unionism, both throughout history and today. But there has been no effort to my knowledge to take business unionism at face value and apply a frank economic analysis to unions as this analysis is commonly applied to capitalist firms. As business unions grow to resemble their corporate counterparts more and more, this seems increasingly possible. Unions today, in the words of their own leaders, are big business, and their business is the accumulation of capital. Just as there is a capitalist regime of accumulation, there is a unionist regime of accumulation. If their motives are distinct, and if profits and dues are utterly different animals, their methods of accumulation are strikingly similar.

The rising organic composition of capital prophesied by Marx which results in a declining rate of profit3 has a direct corollary in unions today. Just like corporations, unions are increasingly investing in fixed capital, that is, in resources that do not directly generate new value. The increasing primacy of service providing, carried out by business agents, health fund and pension fund managers, along with the increasing importance of research departments and computer database managers in unions today, contribute nothing directly to the accumulation of new capital (through the form of members’ dues) in the union coffers. Organizing, whose corollary in the business world would be investment in new production, is a very small percentage of the budget of business unions. All of this is difficult to quantify, however, because unions also share with corporations a vested interest in burying the numbers, if for different reasons. (For example, see Voss and Sherman 2000) The tendency towards financialization is evident in the union world as well. Union credit cards and finance plans are on the rise. The investment of union funds in the stock market is particularly consequential. In the stock market, the accumulation of capital by both corporations and unions follows the exact same pattern and logic, effectively binding the interests of union members with the interests of capitalist accumulation. If a falling rate of density as a result of increased composition of fixed union capital is as difficult to prove today as a falling rate of profit, it is enough for the purposes of this essay to point out that the resemblance is there, and that the consequences for the working class are highly inauspicious.

Psychology. Business unionism is not only about economics, it is also a world-view, a weltanschauung that both arises from the economics of unions as institutions, but also drives these institutions and manages their economic decisions. Here in particular the relevance of Hegel’s master-servant dialectic is relevant. Labor recapitulates capital and unionists adopt the ideology of businessmen as their own. This goes beyond the famous trite declaration of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) president George Meany at the end of his career that he “never walked a picket line in his life.” Meany himself was more specific about the world-view that guided his practice as a labor leader. “We are dedicated to freedom,” he wrote in 1955, “through a system of private enterprise. We believe in the American profit system.” (Moody p56) David Dubinsky, president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) went even further in announcing the complete subservience of labor to capital when he wrote that “[t]rade unionism needs capitalism like a fish needs water.” (Murolo and Chitty p241) Indeed, renouncing the existential struggle between labor and capital on both economic and epistemic terms seems to be a prerequisite for the presidents of the largest US unions.4 United Auto Workers (UAW) president Walter Reuther, using the royal we, insisted once and for all that “[w]e make collective bargaining agreements, not revolutions.”(Murulo and Chitty p240)

Labor leaders have not only adopted the ideology of capitalists, but they have also inherited the short-sightedness which is characteristic of the business world. Just as financiers from the 1920s to today do not see much beyond the horizon of quarterly profits, so a startling number of labor leaders throughout US history have had no long-term vision of their work or their movement. “We have no ultimate ends,” said Adolph Strasser, an early AFL leader, who continued, “[w]e are going on from day to day. We are fighting for immediate objects -- objects that can be realized in a few years.” (Moody p56) Decades later, William Olwell, director of collective bargaining for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) said in 1986 that “[w]e don’t have a national picture as to what we want. We can’t say we want 12% across the board for each year of the contract, in all areas of the country. It doesn’t work that way. We have to look at each local situation.” (Moody p204) This tendency has accelerated into our times. The most die-hard supporter of unions today will be hard pressed to point to a long term strategy and vision for the labor movement in the post-9/11 context of late US imperialism.

The psychology of the master pervades not only the union leadership, but the union membership as well. While the working class has always identified to some extent with capitalists (just as all servants identify to some extent with their masters), the trend towards business unionism has deepened this dynamic. The investment of union money in the stock market in particular forces workers to directly identify their material well-being with the ruling class and capitalist system as a whole.

However, many union members see through this, and in general have recognized the collaboration of their unions with corporate management. Dave, an African American worker at the General Motors factory in Lordstown, Ohio saw the relationship clearly when he said that the union and management “work hand in hand. One hand washes the other.” (Aronowitz p45) Labor absolves Capital of its exploitative excesses and Capital also absolves Labor -- due to capital, even a bad union is better than no union. But while there is an innate consciousness on the part of workers as to their real relationship to the boss and to capitalism, this consciousness is muted and blunted by the union bureaucracies which tend to repress or redirect most if not all the more subversive inclinations of its members.

The 1950s serve as an excellent case study of business unionism at its height. There were more strikes in the 1950s than any other decade in US history (Metzgar p207), but the profoundly conservative status quo was also more firmly entrenched than ever before. Bureaucrats had firmly seized control of almost all the major unions, and in spite of much resistance from the rank and file, (Moody p31) unions had never been more accepted and respected in US society at large. Because labor recapitulated capital, it was allowed to receive marvelous concessions in return.5 At the price of accepting the terms of the master, certain limited sectors of the organized working class achieved remarkable social mobility, illustrating Max Horkheimer’s maxim that “[i]ntegration is the price which individuals and groups have to pay in order to flourish under capitalism.” (Horkheimer [1940] 1983, italics in original) However, these victories were dubious on two counts. Firstly, they were not shared. If members of the Steelworkers union were catapulted into the middle class, larger sections of the working class were left behind. This disparity would grow over time, to the extent that Stanley Aronowitz could write in the 1970s that

“[t]he last thirty-five years of industrial unionism have failed to effect any substantive change in the distribution of income. Trade unionism under conditions of partial unionization of the labor force can do no more than redistribute income within the working class.” (Aronowitz p254)

Secondly, the labor-capital/servant-master relationship itself was never challenged. It’s still at the top of every union contract, titled “Management Rights”. Union members were afforded greater freedom, but remained wage workers whose labor power continued to be expropriated by capitalists.

Hegel foresaw that the servant could achieve a measure of independence while remaining a servant, writing about the master that “the aspect of its independence he leaves to the bondsman, who labours upon it.” Jack Metzgar’s account of the real victories of business unionism in the 1950s should be put into context, perhaps, of the famous quotation of Frederick Douglass, that “slaves are generally expected to sing as well as to work.”

The current stage of economic development in the United States today is often referred to as ‘late capitalism’. The qualifier ‘late’ indicates not necessarily that capitalism is about to end, but that it has reached a stage where it is both caught in the culmination of all of its fundamental contradictions, and also constitutionally incapable of resolving these contradictions in the old ways. Corresponding to this era, we might define the current stage of the labor movement as ‘late unionism’; in which unions are caught in their own web of crises from which they seem by all accounts incapable of extricating themselves. The servant’s recapitulation of the master has been carried to its utmost point, from where it can only continue to labor upon what independence it has left, but go no further. The servant must either accept mastery whatever the cost, or set about overcoming both itself and its master. To achieve this, however, several things are necessary. Following Hegel, the servant must be recognized by the master, and this can only be achieved if the servant experiences both “service and fear”, and finally, the servant must also pass through a “trial by death.”

Overcoming both Master and Self, Capital and Labor

The struggle to overcome the master is also a struggle to overcome the self. Both must happen at once and each is the precondition for the other. For centuries, the primacy and priority of the economic struggle (and the whole detailed history of discourse insisting on this point) has distracted many from understanding the real nature of this struggle. Because fundamentally the economic struggle is a struggle for the liberation of human consciousness. Our minds must be free for us to struggle. “Men live by fantasies as much as by reality,” as Melvyn Dubofsky wrote (Dubofsky p4), and animal spirits govern the shop floor as much as the stock market. Until these fantasies are overcome, the economic struggle against capital is a doomed struggle: “Only the consciousness of the proletariat,” wrote Georg Lukacs, “can point to the way that leads out of the impasse of capitalism.” (Lukacs p76, italics in original).6 The struggle of the servant to both overcome its illusions, and to overcome its master, is an ancient struggle. In fact it is older even than the struggle between capital and labor. “[T]he law of master and servant,” wrote Karen Orren, “was at the foundation of capitalist development and industrialism, and was not their result.” (Orren p70) Overcoming this ancient law is no small task, but it remains as urgent as it is daunting.

Recognition. When the servant overcomes itself and its master, the master will finally recognize the servant as a self-consciousness unto itself. For real recognition to be achieved, the moment must come when both master and servant see each others as equals. But Hegel foresaw the possibility of a false or partial recognition. “[A] form of recognition has arisen that is one-sided and unequal,” Hegel wrote. The corollary today is union recognition; the recognition that a capitalist firm gives to a labor union, in the form of a contract. This form of recognition is not only false but pernicious; it serves to actively preempt the struggle for real recognition. As part of a recognized union, workers and labor leaders mistake their own elevated status for emancipation from the master-servant relationship.7

In her book Belated Feudalism, Karen Orren undertakes an extensive review of the roots of US labor law in the feudal English common law, discerning “an unbroken line stretching from labor regulation in Tudor England... to labor regulation in Gilded Age America.” (Orren p14)8 She demonstrates persuasively that the law of master and servant defined centuries of law in the United States. But she takes a leap of faith when she argues that the common law was overcome in 1937 with New Deal labor legislation. While unions in this era did obtain a formal recognition from employers and the right to collectively bargain with them for the first time, this was, in Hegel’s terms, a one-sided and unequal recognition. First and foremost, this recognition obligated unions to enforce uninterrupted production. Collective bargaining and contracts disguised a one-sided and unequal class war. “The product of the charade that is characteristic of much of collective bargaining today,” writes Stanley Aronowitz, “is a mammoth document which reads more like a corporate contract or a mortgage agreement than anything else. In fact, it is a bill of sale.” (Aronowitz p220) As much as collective bargaining and contracts make an immense difference to workers, they do not challenge the law of servitude, and only grant workers a greater degree of independence. Servants obtain a recognition which does not liberate them from servitude.

Service and fear. In order for the servant to become truly conscious of itself and thus overcome its mentality of servitude, Hegel insisted that both service and fear are necessary. Furthermore, “both must exist in a universal manner.” Servitude and fear of the master must be so pervasive that the servant understands the full depravity of its position in relation to the master. If service and fear are only partial, Hegel argues that the servant may not come to understand the necessity of its own complete emancipation. If the consciousness of the servant is not “tottered and shaken” by fear and coercion, then the servant’s emancipation may be similarly limited, both in body and in mind. For the unshaken servant, “having a ‘mind of its own’ is simply stubbornness, a type of freedom which does not get beyond the attitude of bondage.” (italics added)

This is exactly what business unionism delivers to its members. While workers are granted a substantial measure of freedom, this freedom does not go beyond the attitude of bondage. Collective bargaining, the contract, the grievance procedure, and even the picket line or strike, by delivering the laborer from absolute service and fear of capital, does not challenge the law of the master but “is rather a piece of cleverness which has mastery within a certain range, but not over the universal power nor over the entire objective reality.” (Hegel) By protecting workers from the ruthlessness of capital, in Hegel’s terms, unions may actually serve to preserve the master-servant relationship. “If the trade union remains an elementary organ of struggle,” writes Aronowitz,

“it has also evolved into a force for integrating the workers into the corporate capitalist system... Even the most enlightened trade union leader cannot fail to play his part as an element in the mechanisms of domination over workers’ rights to spontaneously struggle... The role of collective bargaining today is to provide a rigid institutional framework for the conduct of class struggle. This struggle at the point of production has become regulated in the same way as have electric and telephone rates, prices of basic commodities, and foreign trade.” (Aronowitz p217-218)

This will come to many as a paradoxical and somewhat bewildering argument -- that the principal organization for the defense of the working class functions as a mechanism to prevent the working class from overcoming both capital and itself. But it must be reckoned with. To reject unions certainly seems suicidal for the working class, but if unions are preventing workers from overcoming capital, what then?

Trial by death. The final test which the servant must pass to overcome itself and its master is the trial by death. If the servant does not risk its own life against the domination of the master and enter into a mortal contest with it, the master will never recognize the servant as an equal and the servant will never recognize and overcome itself. This trial has its corollary in the labor-capital relationship in the class war. However, as with false recognition, Hegel foresaw that this trial by death can by preempted by a half-hearted struggle wherein the master-servant law remains ultimately unchallenged. In this false trial,

“there vanishes from the play of change the essential moment, viz. that of breaking up into extremes with opposite characteristics; and the middle term collapses into a lifeless unity which is broken up into lifeless extremes, merely existent and not opposed.” (Hegel)

This is the state in which the labor capital relationship as mediated by unions finds itself today. Unions negotiate a struggle that substitutes for a trial by death. Instead of a class war in which labor faces off against capital in a fight to the finish, unions facilitate a muted contest between employers and employees in which the real nature of the master-servant relationship is often largely obscured. The culture and procedures of the union itself can have many adverse consequences for the class consciousness of workers, who in many unions are systematically mis-educated about their ultimate relationship to the boss. Insofar as unions serve to prevent the trial by death of class war, they will preserve the master-servant law. Unwittingly, unions thus undermine themselves. For unlike labor leaders, capitalists are not fooled, and recognize in unions a real existential threat.

Seen in this light, the world-historic mission of servants and the working class to overcome themselves, their masters and the capitalist system, is in serious ways impeded by unions. They preempt the service and fear, the trial by death, and the ultimate real recognition which would signify the end of bondage once and for all. Until labor leaders understand the true nature of the master-servant relationship from which the labor movement arises, and until the union apparatus reflects this understanding, it is unlikely that unions or union members will be very successful or effective in struggling against an adversary that understands this relationship much more clearly.

Survival or Liberation?

The final promise of Hegel’s essay on the master and bondsman is that “bondage will, when completed, pass into the opposite of what it immediately is: being a consciousness repressed within itself, it will enter into itself, and change round into real and true independence.” (Hegel) It is in this framework that we should situate the debate on the revitalization of the labor movement. However, most of the discourse on this important subject does not acknowledge the master-servant relationship at the root of the problem. This leads to discussions that mistake the struggle for liberation with a struggle for survival.

Business unionism and its ideology is so pervasive today that we must be careful not to confuse the revival of the labor movement with the revival of business unions. Lukacs warned that “the highest degree of unconsciousness, the crassest form of ‘false consciousness’ always manifests itself when the conscious mastery of economic phenomena appears to be at its greatest.” (Lukacs p64) In the United States and throughout the so-called advanced capitalist world, we must ask ourselves honestly if we can even imagine what a revitalization of the labor movement would look like. Can we conceive of it? If a revived labor movement arose, would we recognize it?

We are forced to ask this question because declarations of victory and revitalization abound even in conditions where the master-servant relationship is firmly entrenched. Jack Metzgar for instance writes that “[i]f what we lived through in the 1950s was not liberation, then liberation never happens in real human lives.” (Metzgar p39) While his story is important and touching, we must wonder if the social mobility of steel workers is really comparable with a whole world history of successful revolutionary movements, from decolonization to communism. (His claim is further complicated by the fact that these steel workers were making Polaris missiles (Metzgar p74), and that the US in this period “consumed about one-third of all goods and services in the world.” (Metzgar p147))

Another example of dubious revitalization is illustrated in another story about members of the Steelworkers union, this time decades later, in Ravenswood, Virginia. “Never in the history of the labor movement has anyone achieved a victory of the magnitude that you have won,” union leader George Becker told a crowd at a victory rally. (Juravich and Bronfenbrenner, p196) Becker’s statement was more than slightly over the top. While workers at Ravenswood ultimately won an incredible victory and got their jobs back after being illegally locked out, the fugitive criminal financier who was the target of their campaign went free, scabs kept their jobs in the factory, hazardous working conditions were not improved, environmental issues were never resolved, and workers ultimately received only a symbolic pittance of the back pay which was owed to them. Moreover, the social movement which they had built dissipated immediately after their victory. (Juravich and Bronfenbrenner 1999)

While Metzgar and Juravich and Bronfenbrenner provide isolated historical examples of revivals in particular unions, in her book Forces of Labor, Beverly Silver provides a broader picture of the labor movement from 1870 to the 21st century. She describes how labor unrest has followed capitalist production around the globe, particularly in the auto industry. Wherever capital has gone, labor militancy has followed. Absent from her book is a discussion of the price paid for this labor unrest. In the United States, Germany, Brazil, South Korea and elsewhere, workers were exploited and the environment was despoiled for years before a labor movement arose which was capable of making headlines. When these unions did come to power, they did not challenge capitalism on a systemic level. And when industry moved elsewhere, unions were powerless to stop them. For all these reasons we must wonder if her book couldn’t just as easily be titled Forces of Capital. Silver’s book highlights the danger of fetishizing “labor unrest” – the struggle against capital and against the law of the master is obscured, and once again survival is mistaken for revival.

These examples demonstrate that the debate about revitalization of the labor movement has a long way to go. In this discourse it is especially apparent that unions must be emancipated from their illusions about themselves to truly move forward and play a role in the revival of a labor movement worthy of the name. The labor movement needs to free its collective mind. “It is an ideological crisis which must be solved,” wrote Lukacs, “before a practical solution to the world’s economic crisis can be found.” (Lukacs, p79)

A strategy to revive a labor movement must understand the immense and unprecedented crisis upon whose edge the world today hangs. Immanuel Wallerstein wrote in 2009 that “[t]he crucial battle... in the middle run (next 15-25 years)... is a battle not about capitalism, but about what will replace it as an historical social system.” (Wallerstein 2009) In these end times, the master-servant relationship remains as entrenched as ever. It may easily outlive capitalism.9 Meanwhile, as corporations have become transnational, unions are reaching in that direction as well -- for better or worse. Will labor continue to recapitulate capital? “Global unions are the future,” we are told. (For example see Bronfenbrenner 2007) Will they outsource strikes, and exploit cheap labor movements abroad? Or will labor, locally and globally, realize itself, overcome itself, and transform itself, from a movement of servitude to a movement of independence?

1 “[W]orking-class thought operates in a universe where it recognizes its general inferiority in knowledge without ever relinquishing the validity of its own point of view.” (Metzgar p134)
2 In fact, Marx never once mentioned Hegel’s Master-Servant essay in all of his writings. (Arthur 1983)
3 For readers unfamiliar with Marx’s economic theory, a good summary of the theory of the falling rate of profit by Ernest Mandel can be found here:
4 Max Horkheimer reserved some harsh words in his description of the job qualifications for such capitalist labor leaders: “Robust health, the good fortune of being acceptable to the average member and not unacceptable to the ruling power, a dependable aversion to adventure, the gift of being able to deal with the opposition, a preparedness to proclaim the greatest incoherence as a virtue to the crowd and to oneself, nihilism and self-contempt -- these are the necessary qualities.” Horkheimer 1940
5 “By 1980 the individual steelworker’s average wage was nearly 40 percent higher than the median income of all U.S. households.” (Metzgar p182) It is essential here to understand here that steel workers were near and at the very bottom of the social and economic hierarchy of the United States prior to the 1930s.
6 “As long as this consciousness is lacking,” Lukacs continues, “the crisis remains permanent, it goes back to its starting-point, repeats the cycle until after infinite sufferings and terrible detours the school of history completes the education of the proletariat and conveys upon it the leadership of mankind.” (Lukacs, p76)
7 “Status-consciousness -- a real historical factor -- masks class consciousness; in fact it prevents it from emerging at all.” (Lukacs, p58)
8 “The American preoccupation with liberalism,” she writes, “has been caused not by the absence of feudalism but its persistence... (p3) [T]he labor system in place in the U.S. after the Civil war was in its essentials changed since the late Middle Ages... (p4) Despite enormous differences between the feudal landowner and the American entrepreneur... labor regulation has been entrusted to institutions associated politically with the employing classes; the original justices of the peace were employers... legal formalities and their ancient pedigree provided social cohesion as well as legal.” (p12-13)
9 “Capitalism’s ability to outlive the market economy was announced long ago in the fate of the working class organizations,” wrote Horkheimer in 1940: “The call to unite in trade unions... was carried out to the letter, but these organizations carried out not so much the unnatural tasks of the united proletariat, namely the resistance to class society in general, as that of submitting to the natural conditions of their own development into mass organizations. They integrated themselves into the transformations of the economy.” (Horkheimer)

An Injury to All, The Decline of American Unionism, by Kim Moody, Verso, New York 1988
From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend, A Short, Illustrated History of Labor in the United States, by Priscilla Murolo and A. B. Chitty, illustrated by Joe Sacco, The New Press, New York 2001
The CIO 1935-1955, by Robert H. Zieger, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 1995
History and Class Consciousness, Studies in Marxist Dialectics by Georg Lukacs, translated by Rodney Livingstone, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA 1968
Striking Steel, Solidarity Remembered, by Jack Metzgar, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 2000
False Promises, The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness, by Stanley Aronowitz, Duke University Press, Durham and London, 1992
Belated Feudalism, Labor, the Law, and Liberal Development in the US, by Karen Orren, Cambridge University Press, 1991
Ravenswood, The Steelworkers’ Victory and the Revival of American Labor, by Tom Juravich and Kate Bronfenbrenner, ILR Press, Ithaca and London, 1999
Global Unions, Challenging transnational capital through cross-border campaigns, edited by Kate Bronfenbrenner, ILR Press, 2007
Forces of Labor, Workers’ Movements and Globalization since 1870, by Beverly J. Silver, Cambridge University Press, 2003
Master and Slave, excerpt from G.W.F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind, first published in 1807
Hegel’s Master-Slave Dialiectic and a Myth of Marxology, by Chris Arthur, New Left Review, November-December 1983
The Authoritarian State, by Max Horkheimer, [1940] Telos Press, Spring 1983
Breaking the Iron Law of Oligarchy: Union Revitalizaton in the American Labor Movement, by Kim Voss and Rachel Sherman, The American Journal of Sociology, September 2000
The Current Conjuncture: Short-run and Middle-run Projections, by Immanuel Wallerstein, Monthly Review Zine, December 15 2009