Edited per vote in new york
Where We Stand
Under the existing social system - capitalism -- we can only live by selling our time, our talents and energies, to employers for a wage. When people must work, not simply to do things for each other, but to build up the power and wealth of a few, this is exploitation. This system of wage labor gives to the bosses the power to make the decisions about what will be produced, how it is produced, and, thus, how we will spend our time. This hierarchy or pyramid of power divides society into "classes" with a basic and irreconcilable conflict of interests. The struggle between workers and bosses will go on as long as society is thus divided.
What the individual bosses do is shaped by how the system as a whole operates. Though each company makes its own decisions, these decisions are determined by what will make a profit in the marketplace. They will pollute the environment, speed up work, lay people off or ignore unhealthy conditions if these things will help them make more profit.
People in this society are encouraged to define "freedom" in terms of buying things. Yet, a healthy environment and genuine control over our lives are not to be found in the marketplace.
The capitalist market, which subordinates human life to money-making, is a global system. The bosses' control of production, communication and finance has become increasingly integrated across national boundaries. Since the bosses' system is international, effective workers' struggle must become international as well, based on direct solidarity and coordination of struggles across national frontiers.
The Role of the State
We believe that the capitalist system and the modern state play an increasingly negative role in the organization of production, distribution and social life in general. They are clearly unable to deal with the deepening economic and political crises that they themselves have created. Since governments and capitalism have always rested upon domination and exploitation, both are inherently oppressive and cannot be reformed, won over, or used in a progressive way in the modern-day struggle for human emancipation.
Although the government and individual companies do not always see eye-to-eye, the basic function of the State -- the courts and prisons, police and army, regulatory agencies, and other State institutions - is to defend the collective interests of the employing class. It is useless to try to change the system by electing representatives to government office. Nor do we advocate the seizure of State power. A state is a top-down institution that puts power in the hands of a few. All efforts to construct a "workers state" have only led to one form of oppression being substituted for another.
Russia, Cuba, China, and the other countries that have a top-down system based on the fusion of economic and political power in the State, are not societies run by the workers, nor are they a step in the direction of human emancipation. The conflicts between these countries and the capitalist nations are not merely ideological but are dangerous skirmishes over territory and profits.
Since states exist to defend the power and wealth of bosses, wars are struggles between the bosses in different lands. Organized slaughter under state auspices will continue to happen as long as society is based on exploitation, hierarchy and competition.
Workers' Role in Social Change
Since oppression and exploitation take a variety of forms in this society, so must the struggle for social liberation be multifaceted. Movements expressing the will of various communities, women, sexual minorities, young people, national and cultural groups, the aged, the disabled, and those who have specialized knowledge helpful to social progress, must be seen as having equal footing and input into decisions affecting the welfare of the people. We are opposed to all forms of discrimination and oppression that bar people from fully participating in society and realizing their potential as free individuals.
Educational work carried out by working class organizations on a multi-cultural and multi-racial basis is basic to any movement for working class self-emancipation. The best aspects of working class culture must be preserved while new forms of interaction and discussion in workplaces and communities are developed. Movements in this direction serve as an organizing force as well as a model of what a new society can be, since they challenge established social divisions, the oppressive aspects of modern culture and the false assumption that the worker lives one life on the job and quite a another at home.
In pursuing social change, we put our main emphasis on the role of people as workers, not because we think that all of the ways that people are oppressed in this society stem directly from the boss/worker hierarchy, but because no sector of society can emancipate itself unless the power of capital is overthrown. All workers have a common stake in the struggle against the employing class.
Workers have a collective self-interest in the creation of a society based on freedom and equality since we can only have power if we manage society together, through mass direct democracy. The potential power of worker solidarity for overthrowing the bosses and creating a new society based on collective workers' control of the economy has been demonstrated in numerous general strikes and revolutions in this century.
Our health and quality of life depends upon the integrity of the natural environment around us, the purity of the air we breathe and the water we drink. Our fate is linked to that of countless other species of plants and animals who also inhabit this planet. But to business, the only value to the natural environment is the money that can be made when it is converted into merchandise. Forests may provide habitat for many species, but capital only sees the price of lumber.
The existing system only minimizes waste of things that carry a pricetag. The air and water have become polluted because businesses have not had to pay for the use of the planet's air and water as wastedumps for their production systems. Antipollution technology is underdeveloped because expenditures to minimize pollution don't increase revenue. Competition means companies will pollute in order to survive.
The disappearance of many species of animals and plants is a sign that the common basis of life is being undermined. This deterioration in the natural environment has its origin in hierarchical, competitive social structures where decisions that affect all of us are made in air-conditioned offices by an elite preoccupied with shortsighted concerns of profit and power.
As the threats to the common basis of life have become more acute, and social protests have become harder to ignore, governments have been forced to set limits to pollution. But government action has been inadequate because it is an institution of the business class.
The horrible pollution in the so-called "Communist" countries shows that state control is no solution for the environmental crisis. Any system that is top-down, lacking in social accountability, will pursue power and wealth for the elite at the expense of the environment. As long as human beings are exploited, subject to authoritarian bureaucracies and conditions ruinous to their health, we cannot expect an end to the ruinous exploitation of the earth.
A human social order that is ecologically sustainable over the long run must be globally coordinated rather than competitive, and it must be directly, democratically accountable to everyone so that our life and health cannot be sacrificed to an elite's short-sighted search for power and wealth. Such a system would chart a different path for technological development, consistent with worker mastery of production, protection of human health, and longterm environmental sustainability. This democratic revolution in the organization of production can only be carried out by the workforce itself. Taking responsibility for the survival of the ecological basis of life is an historic task that now confronts the working class.
An effective fight to protect the health of the workforce and the community against pollutants, and against ecologically destructive actions by the bosses' system, requires direct action and a mobilization of the widest support within the workforce rather than relying on lobbying the bosses' representatives in legislatures or actions by small, elite groups.
Capitalism, which thrives on inequality, has sustained social divisions on racial lines, where people of color are labeled "inferior" and subjected to discrimination which limits their freedom in society.
Early capitalist development in America was only made possible by the bondage of people of African descent, and the slaughter of the original inhabitants and the expropriation of their land. The ideology of "white supremacy" came into being to justify this oppression. Capitalism continued to benefit from a racist heritage, which has provided pools of cheap labor and permitted me people to be subjected to worse treatment.
Solidarity, which is essential to making changes in society, must be based upon genuine equality, rejecting the idea that privileges can be founded on race or nationality. We stand determined to retain our humanity in the midst of a racially oppressive system by identifying with all the oppressed to the end that we will win full equality or fall together in the effort. We affirm that we are the enemy of racism and inequality everywhere. To this end, we support people of color in their struggle to achieve economic and social justice and equality.
Women are subject to systematic prejudice that limits their freedom in society. A century ago, the system defined the role of women in society in terms of taking care of men and children in the home. Even today, married women who work for wages usually have "two jobs." The age-old division between "men's work" and "women's work" is still reflected in the jobs that people do and the lower pay for women workers.
Women want the same conditions for livelihood as men, and we support this aspiration. Women also have a right to control their own bodies and behavior. To this end, we support free abortion on demand and free contraception. The struggle for women's rights is a necessary part of the struggle for a free and egalitarian society.
Reproducing the species is a social task, but women have been burdened unequally with this task. Free, quality childcare is needed as part of the effort to make childbearing a collective responsibility.
The liberation of women can only be accomplished as part of the revolutionary reorganization of society. But a revolutionary workers movement that overthrows the power of the bosses cannot ensure equality between the sexes in the new society if that is not a goal it has fought for all along. Since the goal is shaped by the means used to achieve it, we must strive to build a workers movement that fosters equal participation of women and that fights for women's rights. We also support the development of an independent women's movement as part of the struggle for sexual equality and the emancipation of women.
The oppression of lesbians, gays and bisexuals is inextricably linked with sexism. A patriarchal, capitalist society cannot see homosexual practices as the normal human variations they are because they blur that society's rigid gender roles and sexist stereotypes. Therefore, the oppression of people based on their consensual sexual practices will not end until sexism is eliminated. Homophobia leads to divisions in the working class and limits the flexibility of all people, gay or straight, to choose sexual expressions and relationships that are right for them. The ruling system encourages and benefits from the division of the working class and the isolation of working people. Therefore it will be difficult to achieve a lasting freedom for lesbians, gays or bisexuals until capitalism is defeated.
Since working people are the only force capable of a revolutionary transformation of society, we encourage lesbians, gays and bisexuals to make themselves known and express their concerns in working class forums. Because sexual oppression affects a large section of the working class, we urge workers' organizations to fight for the rights of these groups. In light of the fact that homophobia and sexism are distinct phenomena from - although linked to - class oppression, we also support the autonomous organization of lesbians, gays and bisexuals in their struggle against sexist oppression. Further, we support full sexual freedom for all people.
Sexism is systematic prejudice based on gender or sexual orientation. Women, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, even straight men, are all subject to the freedom limiting effects of sexism in this society.
Prejudice against women is pervasive in America today. From childhood women are educated differently to prepare them for an inferior position in society. This is evident in the way that young women are steered away from traditionally male courses of study and in the practice of sending girls to home economics classes, while boys must attend shop classes. This teaches children that men and women are assigned different roles in society. It sets them up to accept these limitations as they grow up.
Women are expected to slave for wages at work and to take full responsibility for maintaining a household and rearing children. The ideal woman of the fifties was the perfect housewife. The ideal woman of the nineties is not only a perfect housewife but also the breadwinner. Even if there were no other manifestations of sexism, this ideal would place severe limitations on women. Childrearing is a community responsibility. Free quality child care is necessary to give women more control over their lives. Men must also take responsibility for the care of children.
In the workplace, women are paid less than men. They often have less opportunities and less protection than men. Sexual harassment is commonplace at work as is the practice of hiring women based on their looks rather than on their talents. Women want the same freedoms in choosing their work and practicing their livelihoods as men. We support this aspiration.
The way to fight for social change is through direct action. Action is direct when it is people fighting for their own aspirations, not relying on politicians or trade union leaders to fight for them. For direct rank-and-file control over struggles against the powers-that-be, movements have to be based on the direct participation of the people in the struggle. Direct action must be collective because only solidarity provides the power to transform society.
Forms of direct action that we favor include "sit-down" strikes, where people maintain control over the place of work; "squatting," where people jointly occupy unused buildings for their own use; "hot cargo," where workers refuse to handle products in order to support the struggles of others; "social strikes," where workers continue to provide their labor for the benefit of other working people in the community but deny the revenue or control of their labor to the bosses; and community or nation-wide general strikes, which demonstrate the power that the workforce has when it is united.
On the other hand, a strategy that relies on indirect action, such as electing representatives to government office, encourages a division between leaders and led, between those who make decisions and those who follow them. Electoral politics also leads to statist solutions because it tends to define the issues in terms of what State policies a set of leaders will implement. Because a political party is a vehicle for putting a leadership into State power, a political party cannot serve as a vehicle for people intent on creating a nonauthoritarian society.
We particularly reject the so-called "vanguard" party as a model because it can only serve as the embryo of a bureaucratic state machine, as we sec in the "communist" countries. Such parties exist at the expense of independent working class movements and they have, once in power, developed managerial elites every bit as fascinated with the arms race and the profit motive as their capitalist counterparts.
As the labor movement has failed over the years to mount a fundamental challenge to the power of the bosses, the unions became increasingly top-down in their structure and integrated into the system. The officials who run these organizations work to contain workers' struggles within the framework of their longstanding relationship with the employers and politicians.
Since the problem does not stem from "misguided" leadership, we do not seek to change the labor movement through a strategy of electing a different union leadership. As the existing unions are not suited to overthrow boss rule, a workers movement that can transform society will be built independently of the existing union hierarchies.
The system's economic crisis, and the resentment against the bosses and against the union hierarchy as well, will engender struggles in the coming years - struggles that could lead to the development of a self-managed workers movement. We cannot hope to play a role in these struggles, to put forth our ideas and our program, if we remain aloof and abstain from them simply because they take place within the existing trade unions. So long as workers struggles are organized through the existing unions, we participate in those unions and their struggles.
As workers move towards more militant action and more widespread solidarity, the creation of organization on a new basis becomes a more realistic possibility, as workers move to take over more direct control of their own struggles. Independent rank-and-file organization, which exists to some extent today, is a forerunner of the movement that can change society.
Self-managed workers' organization, such as workplace assemblies, rank and file coordinating councils, and unions free of top down control, are the kind of organization that can be the basis of self-emancipation. Such organizations tend to have a more transitory existence during a period when fundamental social change is not on the immediate agenda. On the other hand, the development of self-managed organization of workers in solidarity with each other on a mass scale would mean a revolutionary crisis for the bosses' system.
For the development of a workers' movement that is "self-managed' by the rank and file, we advocate direct democracy, with basic decisions made in assemblies, not imposed by leaders. People who are elected to coordinate struggles or negotiate with the bosses or the government should not be paid officials and they should be subject to immediate recall and mandatory rotation from office after a short term.
To encourage the development of a workers' movement based on direct action, solidarity and direct democracy, we favor the formation of action committees in workplaces as well as networks of anti-authoritarian workers in industries or companies.
Towards a Self-managed Society
Workers in every nation repeatedly pose their own desires and demands in opposition to the programs of private capital, corporate and state bureaucrats and political party hacks. Workers create, sometimes with great clarity of vision, movements and new forms of organization which pose demands that no State can fulfill, inherent in which is a desire for freedom and a vision of what a new society could be.
We favor the development of a workers movement based on direct democracy, not just because it will be more effective in the present-day fight against the employing class, but also because it foreshadows - and lays the basis for - a society of freedom and equality, without authoritarianism or exploitation.
Self-emancipation means that the working class, through its own united action, must seize and manage the entire system of production, communication and distribution. Tenants must take over the management of the buildings where they live. Dangerous technology must be redesigned or dismantled. The time that people must spend in work can be greatly reduced by eliminating the unnecessary work created by the current system, and sharing the necessary work among all those who can contribute.
The most basic organ of decision making in a self-managed society should be the face-to-face democracy of assemblies of people in workplaces and neighborhoods. But self management cannot be isolated in small, local units. The economy as a whole must be managed by the entire working class.
To do this it is necessary to create some means for bringing together workers from the different industries and localities in order to decide what to produce, what sort of technological development to have, and how to organize the defense of the revolution. This can be organized through conferences of delegates, elected by the rank and file and subject to immediate recall and rotation from office. The delegates would present, discuss and act on the ideas and goals developed and approved by the local worker assemblies. This would provide the people with a means of establishing priorities for production that are not determined by bureaucratic decree or the capitalist market but by collective, democratic decision-making.
We do not want to fight a revolution only to find that we have placed in power a bureaucratic elite that pursues its own interests. Any administration elected to carry out the will of the workers should be subject to mandatory rotation from office after a brief term, immediate recall, and no special privileges in comparison with the average worker. They should operate under specific mandates from the various democratic decision-making bodies in society, and not attempt to impose their own policy.
The interdependence of production on a global scale means that a workers revolution must be an international movement. A movement for social change will be subject to the dictates of the world capitalist market and the power of the bosses' military forces insofar as it is not a movement to change the world-wide organization of society.
Economic reorganization on the basis of self-management can be realized on an international scale through the same kind of decision-making bodies as would exist on a regional or national basis. The alternative to a world of warring nation-states is a world human community of self managed regions united on the basis of common interests and mutual respect.
For more information contact:
Workers Solidarity Alliance
339 Lafayette St -- Room 202
New York, NY 10012