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Re: Why is the left not internationalist anymore?
by Threehegemons
02 November 2003 17:32 UTC
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In a message dated 11/2/2003 12:24:11 AM Eastern Standard Time, 
spectors@netnitco.net writes:
> The left in the USA is clearly less developed than the left in Western> 
>Europe. But one thing that we have realized (although our efforts are also> 
>inadequate in this regard) is that capitalism must segment the labor market> 
>and that "race/ethnic/religious" segmentation is central to capitalism's> 
>functioning. Therefore, the struggle against this discrimination is CENTRAL> 
>to the struggle to build a working class movement. Not out of abstract> 
>morality. Nor to build "convenient coalitions". But genuine, grassroots> 
>solidarity. It is not a question of "winning these groups to follow the> 
>traditional ("white?") left movement" but rather to incorporate more members> 
>of these immigrant groups into the leadership of the whole left movement!> 
>This will obviously impact on the internationalist perspective of the whole> 
>movement by not merely adding more members to that movement, but> 
>qualitatively making it politically stronger. And also by helping to> develop, 
>via the immigrants, strong links to activists in > other countries.
My sense is that in the US the contrast is not so much between a traditional 
left and immigrants, but between traditionally strong unions (composed of 
largely white male workers in heavy industry) and a 'new', largely unorganized 
working class (service sector, often female, 'of color', whether native to the 
US or not).  The 'new' workers typically have less deep allegiance to US 
patriotism/racism.  As the traditionally powerful sector has declined over the 
last twenty years, the first impulse is to blame China (the major reason why 
unions mobilized for the demonstrations in Seattle against the WTO).  But I 
think the thinking is evolving.  There is more interest now in building links 
to workers around the world.  Many of the most dynamic struggles of the last 
few years (justice for janitors, Yale) have been among the new workers.  Here 
in NC, we have the housekeepers at UNC and the cucumber farm workers (in a 
standoff with Duke about boycotting mount olive pickles).  These struggles are 
typically funded in part by traditional unions.  The mobilization to Miami 
against the FTAA features several of these groups--the Omackalee workers and 
the Kensington Welfare Rights Union.  They are participating much more as the 
North American wing of the social movements of the South than as powerful North 
American Unions trying to protect what they have.  If these sorts of groups 
could become the leaders of the American union movement, it would be a great 
Finally, I would note the international women's workers convention that was 
recently held in Atlanta.  Again, for all the talk about how un-international 
the contemporary left is, would such a convention have been conceivable 100 
years ago, critiquing not only working conditions and capitalism but also 
patriarchy and racism, and bringing together workers from Hong Kong, South 
Africa, the US, etc.  A friend who attended this conference commented that 
speaker after speaker said there impression was that the in the US the streets 
are paved with gold.  Trust me that core country or no, this is not the case, 
particularly for women of color.
Steven Sherman

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