Over several years, myself and other PLP members have been organizing among local transit workers to fight the transit bosses and build PLP. One particular transit worker, Jessica, has become closer to the Party.
Now, after nearly two years of shared discussions and actions, Jessica said she sees the need for a serious long-term, radical, transit rank-and-file study/action group.
Jessica and I attempted to organize a job action group. But when our campaign began this past summer, Jessica threw her energy into an Occupy anti-budget-cut campout led by liberal community groups and phony “leftists.” She thought the campout would “wake up” the whole city. The month-long campout got little media coverage past day one and none of it made front-page or top-of-the-hour coverage. Slowly the campout died out and the city passed the budget cuts.
Throughout all this Jessica stopped organizing for our rank-and-file job action group. Advancing little on my own, I stopped too. Many workers said verbally they would support job actions but in practice most were very cynical about organizing collectively to pull off slowdowns.
I had thought there was enough support for job actions to form a group in which I could spread CHALLENGE and raise the Party. Slowly I realized that a PLP comrade’s advice had been right all along: communist ideas would help build a base for collective job actions and strikes, not the other way around.
When the Occupy movement grew, the Party decided I should spend more time there, where I ran into Jessica. To the surprise of both of us, Occupy did wake up many people, or at least opened them to discuss revolutionary ideas. But Jessica also noticed that the media and ruling class supported OWS much more than the summer anti-budget-cut campout. The cops harassed and fined the month-long pre-OWS occupation repeatedly but with little mainstream media coverage. Somehow OWS, which initially was not much bigger than the budget-cut campout, was a front-page top-of-the-news-hour story.
A Democratic Tea Party?
I shared the Party’s analysis with Jessica, that U.S. Democrats wanted OWS to be a Democratic tea party. She agreed and said she was waiting for Obama to jump out from behind a curtain and tell Occupiers, “Gotcha!” We agreed that OWS was an important opportunity to raise militant ideas. She and I have met George, a fellow transit worker, at Occupy. But we both felt that without revolutionaries getting involved, OWS would lead to Obama’s re-election campaign or cynicism.
The Party decided we should pursue a transit study group more seriously. A comrade, Mikey, recently started working in transit. Two old friends of the Party have also recently contacted us and said they want to attend Party meetings about transit.
Mikey, Jessica and I formed a study group in late December. We noted how important correct ideas were. The last transit strike led many transit workers to cynical and reactionary ideas, not to revolutionary or even militant ones. We also discussed the basis of the study group: revolutionary communist ideas or just militant trade unionism?
Jessica agreed revolutionary ideas were important but feared driving people away. She thought the group would be too small if communism was all we talked about. I argued that it was important not to hide communist ideas and that, no matter how hard it was to challenge anti-communism among our co-workers, there’s no other way communists can build a communist movement. If we pretended we were only about militant trade unionism, workers would smell BS because the union hacks have all spit out the same militant trade union lines and then sell out.
‘Be Real About Revolution’
Jessica was still concerned how we would approach communism and the Party. But she agreed it was important to be real with people about studying revolutionary communist ideas. Otherwise other fellow transit worker activists would be driven away by the same hollow trade union rhetoric that the hacks spew.
We decided that for now we would begin the study group with non-Party readings that would enable us to raise communist ideas. Most importantly we each discussed who we would invite to the next study group, making sure to cast a wide net. In January our transit contract expired, although the union “leaders” agreed to continue negotiations. We will have the second meeting of a PLP transit study/action group. Hopefully, and with effort, it will be bigger than the first. The struggle continues.