A Three Stooges account of the failed effort to foment a transit system fare strike in San Francisco in 2005

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Kevin Keating
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Apr 25 2007 18:13
A Three Stooges account of the failed effort to foment a transit system fare strike in San Francisco in 2005

In capitalist society, there are capitalist politicians who win most of the time. There are capitalist politicians who lose most of the time. And then, there are capitalist politicians who lose all of the time, and that's the left in the US -- and that's what can be seen with the dishonest, prolix and pretentious account of the 2005 San Francisco transit system fare strike debacle, now being posted around the internet...

FARE STRIKE! San Francisco 2005: First-Hand Accounts...hmmmmm...an ideological truth-in-packaging law should apply here...

1. This prolix leftists' memoir of failure pamphlet is clearly intended for the consumption of people who were far away from San Francisco in the summer and fall of 2005, who can't check its accuracy from first-hand experience, and who might be hoodwinked into believeing its wildly innacurate depiction of the fare strike fiasco; mass spontaneous resistance on a class basis, and other I-stiil-believe-in-the-Easter-Bunny versions of reality;

2. The individual behind this account of the events (GH), etc, and a number of his fellow conventional leftist windbags, intervened from the right against an already existing radical effort, and did all they could to turn it into a typical, Bay Area leftist single-issue complaint phenomenon,

3. They were successful in this. They were able to make the effort a product of their "vision," or more accurately lack of vision.

Subsequently the effort was a flop. All the Muni operators, bus drivers and streetcar operators, I spoke to afterward, several dozen of them, were unanimous in saying this, and they were in a better position to judge than anyone else.

As a young woman cafe worker I know put it, "The fare strike lasted about a half an hour."

4. Now GH, consistent with his Warner-Brothers-cartoon-character comical pattern of dishonesty in all things, tries to paper over the abject failure of his politics in action by claiming that this clear and obvious failure was somehow really a great-moment-in-proletarian-history,

5. And after doing all they could to turn a potential mass transit self-reduction effort on SF's Muni into a typical SF Bay Area, left-wing-of-capital load of crap, we get an airbrushed history book version -- garlanded with refernces to 'Root and Branch' -- and quotes from Guy Debord!

These guys did all they could to denude the effort of any actual anti-capitalist content. All the pro-Situ references afterward can't reverse that.

There is a big disconnect between the fact that the Potemkin-Village group "Insane Dialectical Posse," posting here, and his buddies, acted in every way like conventional leftists of the Trotskyist, social democratic or idealistic left-wing of the Democratic party stripe during the failed effort to foment a transit system fare strike in San Francisco in 2005. In the one mass action that most of them have engaged in they were the most rightward-pointing faction of the effort

Revolutionary consciousness is what it does; if what the person or people in question do in the larger world is the same old left-wing of capital crap, then that's what their politics are. All the references to Mattick, Pannekoek and the Situationists can't redeem that.

I suppose these leftists offer a good example of what results when a gaggle of nominally "Marxist" college town slackers in early middle age attempt, in the case of almost all of them, for the very first time in their lives, to engage in some kind of substantial radical collective action -- nothing happens. The haven't honed their communications skills enough to effectively communicate any message they might have to convey to contemporary working people.

"...in the performance their interests prove to be uninteresting and their potency impotence...the democrat comes out of the most disgraceful defeat just as innocent as he was when he went into it."

Karl Marx, in 'The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon,' quoted here from

'Muni Social Strikeout -- the Failed Transit System Fare Strike in San Francisco in 2005,' is available on the 'Love and Treason' web page at the Mid-Atlantic Anarchist Infoshop:

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_social_strikeout.

'The Failed Transit System Fare Strike' article is also available on libcom.org, and in numerous other places on the internet.

Kevin Keating

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Comrade Motopu
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Apr 27 2007 06:02

Kevin, thank you for your interest in our pamphlet, have you read it yet? You mentioned on the other site we were debating at that you didn’t feel the need to. Just wondering.

KK:
1. This prolix leftists' memoir of failure pamphlet is clearly intended for the consumption of people who were far, far away from San Francisco in the summer and fall of 2005, and who might be hoodwinked into believeing its wildly innacurate depiction of the 2005 fare strike fiasco; mass spontaneous resistance on a class basis, and other I-stiil-believe-in-the-Easter-Bunny versions of reality;

CM: Now you keep harping on how long our pamphlet is (“prolix”). It’s interesting that when I combine your four Train In Vain articles on the Fare Strike/Social Strike, they are 27 pages (with part five on it’s way you note). Your “social strike out article” is 24 pages long. That’s 27 and 24 pages (text only) from one person, versus 27 total pages from ten people with pictures, analysis, historical background, footnotes, etc. Who is more longwinded? You are.

As for the claim we are trying to fool people outside San Francisco, can you please show me the people INSIDE San Francisco who are backing up your weird version of events? I don’t believe there is a single one. The pamphlet we put out has ten writers. The person who designed the web site is from Social Strike, and another person from Social Strike is writing an account we are going to add. People outside SF might not know how alienated you’ve become, but they do know in the Bay Area.

You claim our account is naive and false, but the reality is that thousands of people did fare strike, It’s not hoodwinking anyone to say that I think some people were radicalized in the process of Fare Striking. As one person in one day, I personally witnessed many hundreds Fare Striking. That's why I think it's accurate to say thousands did, and very possibly tens of thousands. I have no exact count, but it's been suggested that looking at Muni's revenue losses for the first day may be a good approximation. Can you back up your charge that all ten accounts were wildly inaccurate?

KK:
2. The people behind it, admin - name removed (GH), etc, intervened from the right against an already existing radical effort, and did all they could to turn it into a typical, Bay Area leftist single-issue complaint phenomenon. Any allegedly anti-capitalist politics that they claim to profess were so well-concealed from the working class Muni riding public as to be invisible.

CM: We didn’t intervene, we joined with an exodus of people who were moving away from association with you. That’s a big part of why a second group was needed, you surely must know this by now.
If anything, our methods were far more participatory than your attempted framework (rejected roundly) for Social Strike, and that means that everyone was expected to be smart enough to represent themselves, instead of just handing out your literature (virtually unchanged since the 1990s) and relying on you as their representative from above mediating between them and the drivers. Our efforts had nothing to do with any undefined “leftist culture of failure” red herring. Our pamphlet contains a lot of stuff written while the fare strike was still going, and it was never a single issue campaign with us.
If anyone has consistently denied the possibility of meaningful working class struggle in this process, it’s you. Your hierarchical approach was deemed oppressive and counterproductive.

KK:
3. They were successful in turning the effort into a typical single-issue, SF Bay Area leftist culture of failure event. They were able to make the effort a product of their "vision," or more accurately lack of vision. Subsequently the effort was a flop. All the Muni operators I spoke to afterward, several dozen of them, were unanimous in saying this, and they were in a better position to judge than anyone else.

CM: Note that you are engaging in a “post hoc” logical fallacy here. Nowhere have you ever shown that anything “everyone else except you” did was directly responsible for the alleged failure (certainly not for the drivers’ actions during the strike), or that it was connected to a “vision.” Ideas alone did not establish the material hurdles we came up against. In the case of the drivers, they were under different types of pressure, from reports of layoffs, to the actual disciplining of two drivers who had proposed a wildcat strike. At the meetings with drivers, your literature and posters were overwhelmingly rejected by them. You attempt to paint this as a “Kevin and the drivers versus the Leftists” but no where have you ever established you had any credibility with any of the drivers. It’s nice that you talked to drivers after the strike, but you also fail to acknowledge their many acts of solidarity with riders during the strike, and these are important to gauge the possibility of cooperation between riders and drivers. Again, this is a disservice to readers, who you claim we’re trying to hoodwink by giving both positives and negatives. I hope we set the record straight on that.
Now when we look at the collective Social Strike/Fare Strike effort, we come to the Day Laborers, who more than anyone else actually did establish driver rider connections, which is why the Mission was among the major strong points of the entire effort. This was one of the SUCCESSES of the Fare Strike, and had nothing to do with you. We don’t take credit for their work, but they did come onboard through our group, not you. Aside from this, many in the Fare Strike/Social Strike, rode and talked to drivers, delivered literature to band barns, met with drivers, despite your efforts to exclude people from the start. Your not giving an honest telling, it’s bad history Kevin.
One important reason people became fed up with you was your hierarchical approach. You acted as a choke point between the riders and the drivers, hand picking who would get to meet with drivers, despite their telling some of the people involved that they wanted to meet more of the riders in the campaign, as the saved e-mails from the Social Strike web site indicate. In fact, two of the core people involved with these early meeting groups were harassed out by you when you labeled them “leftists.” These were among the first casualties of your sectarianism. Eventually, every single person was labeled a dupe of the evil Leninists who allegedly stole “your fare strike” which you apparently own. But as has emerged in the Bay Area discussions, most anarchists and ultra-leftists see you as a liability, a liar, and unprincipled.

KK:
4. Now GH, consistent with his Warner-Brothers-cartoon-character comical pattern of dishonesty in all things, tries to paper over the abject failure of his politics in action by claiming that this clear and obvious failure was somehow really a great-moment-in-proletarian-history,

CM: CM: Your one to talk of lies. You reposted several accusations here that were already debunked, and you act as if you never received a response from us.
You don’t seem to get that what we’re doing is presenting first hand accounts in a democratically organized effort in which all authors participated directly. Nothing is papered over here. There is a lot of self-critique in the pamphlet, in the accounts and the group conclusion. You are displaying your basic contempt for materialist analysis when you insist that the “abject failure” is to be explained by someone’s supposed “politics,” which you also misrepresent, or don’t grasp.
Your model was to plaster your politics onto the entire effort, to the point that you didn’t consider who would be reading the flyers, or how to quickly get peoples’ attention. Our efforts included flyers (NOT written solely by Marc Norton as you’ve erroneously claimed for almost two years now), that were shaped by our experiences talking to people, comments from the drivers (remember them Kevin?), the Day Laborers suggestions, and discussion at meetings. The reality is that our flyers did not sum up our “politics.” They were something we used to introduce the topic of a Fare Strike quickly. Where the class struggle politics came in, almost always, was in the individual discussions. But there were a lot of people who never read _Capital_ who were interested in the Fare Strike for less fully developed reasons.

KK:
5. And after doing all they could to turn a potential mass transit self-reduction effort on SF's Muni into a typical SF Bay Area, left-wing-of-capital load of crap, we get an airbrushed history book version in pdf format -- garlanded with quotes from Guy Debord!

CM I prefer to describe it in this way. Your ego went nuts in your dealings with the Anarchist Action and Social Strike groups. They combined forces with us without alerting you. Together the groups moved forward. As more than one person pointed out at the recent BASTARD anarchist conference (which you’ve also denounced), valuable time was wasted over the fights that arose between you and Marc, mainly from your undisciplined sniping, and this delayed a well coordinated action, especially given that everyone who has actually agreed to sit down and think about the fare strike has stated we needed more people involved. But those of us who were actually still working together all knew the essential judgment of your role in the months leading up to the strike. We can say we’re anti-capitalist and you can scream “no you’re not” forever, but until you can back up your bizarre claims, our writing and actions will be the deciding factor. And I do encourage people to read our pamphlet at farestrike.org to see if they think we’re all leftist leninist dupes.

KK:
These guys did all they could to denude the effort of any actual anti-capitalist content. All the pro-Situ references afterward can't reverse that.

CM:
CM: I think your efforts at control from above are far more indicative of a sort of Second International/pro-capitalist position than ours. Your one man management is very different from actions based on spontaneous action from the participants themselves. We worked with radicals or people who were becoming radicalized in the process of fare striking. In contrast, you demanded a fully developed party line be parroted by everyone in your orbit. As I’ve explained many times, and you’ve never acknowledged, our class struggle focus was always front and center in our interaction with people. You were not at our meetings; you were not with us flyering; you weren’t with us during the fare strike; and you seemingly have not read our pamphlet; but you claim to know everything about our actions and the content of our efforts.

KK:
Oh yeah, by the way, did any of these clowns ever have the backbone or the even minimal integrity to ask Marc Norton, the guy who wrote their leaflets for them, and gave their effort its central political direction, what particular brand of Leninist he is?

CM: This loaded question was answered yes, why pretend it wasn’t and repost here as if we ignored the question? That is called lying Kevin.
This is what I wrote in direct response to your question:
You are dead wrong when you say that Marc Norton wrote our flyers. Our flyers were shaped by our experiences talking to people, comments from the drivers (remember them Kevin?), the Day Laborers suggestions that they be concise, and discussion at meetings. The reality is that our flyers did not sum up our “politics.” They were something we used to introduce the topic of a Fare Strike quickly. Where the class struggle politics came in, almost always, was in the individual discussions. But there were a lot of people who never read _Capital_ who were interested in the Fare Strike for less fully developed reasons.
What I want to know, is since you claim we were led by a Stalinist/Trotskyist/Leninist (your description has continually morphed to suit your fancy), why were you ever willing to work with people from the Drivers Action Committee? Isn’t it true that their leadership is essentially a Progressive Labor Party cadre? Doesn’t that make you a Maoist dupe? And can’t we extrapolate from the fact that you went to the retirement party of one of their members that you were working behind the scenes to lead the Social Strike into some kind of new Great Leap Forward, based on the teachings of your God Chairman Mao? Come clean Kevin!!!

KK:
Four of the nine -- not ten, as claimed -- people contributing to this prolix effort are beer-drinking buddies of the author, GH. As such I assume they are putative members of the Potemkin-Village leftist group "Insane Dialectical Posse." To fail to identify them as such is manipulative and dishonest.

CM: Sorry you counted wrong, it is ten, they are actually numbered in the online version. As for your years long ad hominem attack on Gifford as an alleged heavy drinker,that may be based on your friendship years ago, but as it pertains to the present, it’s an obvious case of projection. Your own reputation, complete with the documented “air rage” incident, is so well known that it merits no further comment.
And you claim we’re hiding our identities, but our names are given in the pamphlet, sometimes with only initials, but the initials are well known to anyone who would care who we are. You’re REALLY stretching here.

KK:
Maybe in this they are picking up some tips from Marc Norton, the Leninist who wrote their leaflets for them, and gave their effort some of its most significant political coloration -- ignoring the drivers and Balkanizing what needed to be a join riders and drivers effort into a mostly riders-only effort.

CM: In typical Bolshevik fashion, you keep insisting that it was our job to organize the drivers, when in fact we wanted to meet them halfway. None of the drivers ever called for a Fare Strike. The main liability to gaining a closer relationship with them was your self appointed role as choke point. As stated, the drivers criticized your literature for being too ideological and too verbose. You claim we wanted to ice the drivers out and then imply that it was our fault that they didn’t participate in larger numbers. None of that is true. Our crews were among the people who did meet with drivers early on, and who also were talking to the drivers on the busses about the strike up to and throughout the strike. The biggest show of solidarity from drivers came from the Mission district, where the Day Laborers helped cement their trust. Recall the Day Laborers were brought onboard through the Fare Strike group. Your charge of our anti-driver stance is totally specious. The punishment of two Muni drivers who had suggested a wild cat strike was partly responsible for adding to the drivers’ hesitations. It had nothing to do with how one or another flyer was worded. To suggest that is absolutely unsupported by any evidence, like most of your outrageous claims.

KK:
"...in the performance their interests prove to be uninteresting and their potency impotence...the democrat comes out of the most disgraceful defeat just as innocent as he was when he went into it."

Karl Marx, in 'The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon,' quoted here from 'Muni Social Strikeout -- the Failed Transit System Fare Strike in San Francisco in 2005.'

CM: In response to your Marx quote, I quoted this about you:

About a year before, I had read an article of his in a magazine, written with a terrible pretension to the most naive poetry and, at the same time to psychology. He described the wreck of a steamer somewhere on the English coast, of which he himself had been a witness and had seen how the perishing were being saved and the drowned dragged out. The whole article, quite a long and verbose one, was written with the sole purpose of self-display. One could simply read it between the lines: “Pay attention to me, look at how I was in those moments. What do you need the sea, the storm, the rock, the splintered planks of the ship for? I’ve described it all well enough for you with my mighty pen. Why look at this drowned woman with her dead baby in her dead arms? Better look at me, at how I could not bear the sight and turned away. Here I am turning my back; here I am horrified and unable to look again; I’ve shut my eyes--interesting, is it not?”

(Fyodor Dostoevsky, _Demons_,85)

janky
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Apr 27 2007 23:25

it's amazing that kevin is still writing this drivel.

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Bubbles
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Apr 28 2007 01:55

i wonder how old kevin is and the life expectancy for white males that try to dress like they are in Ye Ol 1950????

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thugarchist
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Apr 28 2007 06:37

Is there someone from NEFAC that still has the exchanges between me and Keating published in the NEA? I hate that dude and I'm out of porn.

Sam Diego
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Apr 28 2007 16:23

random personal insults removed, that's enough

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MJ
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Apr 28 2007 18:47

From Letters, Northeastern Anarchist #6 (Spring/Summer 2003):

Union Bashing From The Ultra-Left

I read your article in The Northeastern Anarchist #5, "Voices of Anarchist Union Organizers."€ Boy, was I impressed! I eagerly await a series of similar articles, I can see it now: "€œanarchists as social workers,"€ "anarcho-communists as small business owners,"€ and, one guaranteed to bring sentimental tears to the eyes of the people at Anarchy magazine, "€œanarchists as doormats for the Stalinists in the Spanish Civil War."€

Unions (some unions, anyway) were once defensive organizations for working people. In their day, anarcho-syndicalist unions were among the best expressions of working class antagonism to capitalism. But the evolution of capitalist society has compelled all unions to become auxiliary organs of capitalist exploitation, and the unions that couldn'€™t adapt to this were driven out of existence, or rendered irrelevant, like the current-day, Potemkin-Village version of the IWW.

Unions exist to negotiate the sale of their members'€™ labor power to employers, and to keep their members from getting out of line --€“ and there is nothing potentially liberating in this. Sixty years worth of labor legislation has turned these business organizations into law-enforcement mechanisms of the capitalist State. All over the world, a central role of unions is to police labor disputes. This was true of the CIO in the United States in the 1930's. But this could also be seen in the counter-revolutionary actions of the CNT during the Spanish Civil War, and later with Solidarnosc in Poland in the 1980's.

As one of America'€™s greatest union leaders, John L. Lewis, put it in 1937, with a precision and coherence you'€™ll never find in an anarchist publication:

Quote:
€œContrary to communism, syndicalization presupposes labor relations. It is based on the wages system and fully and wholeheartedly recognizes the institution of property and the right to profit stemming from investment."€

From World War II to the current holocaust in Iraq, unions in the United States have enthusiastically supported every episode of mass murder committed against working class people in defense of US business interests. Unions defend the profit requirements of individual employers and of the national economy as a whole at the expense of union members in particular and the working class as a whole. Unions have successfully pedaled a false sense of middle class consumerist identity and individualist ideology to a significant segment of the working class. Unions always, without exception, act to restrain and defeat union members struggles when those struggles threaten to get out of control. And now that American capitalism no longer needs a large, relatively well-paid proletariat, unions are in the forefront of attacks on the wage levels and working conditions of unionized workers. For example, look at the recent give-back contract of West Coast longshoremen, and the sacrifices demanded of United Airline employees.

This isn'€™t a question of "€œbad leaders"€; this is fundamental to what the unions are, to the role they must play in today's society.

Many working people in the US and Canada who have had first-hand experience with unions are hostile to unions because they have seen how unions are cops for what the bosses want. A great deal of supposedly reactionary hostility to unions by working people is based on real experiences of what the unions do to them. The union apparatus exists to keep union members in line. Unions are a part of the system that fucks us over. Unions are openly hostile to or indifferent to our needs. Leftists, anarchists and other a-historical types who spread illusions about the unions are cheerleaders for the organizations of working class defeat.

All union leaders, rank and file functionaries, economists, elected officials, and most intelligent business leaders recognize the inherently conservative and capitalistic function of unions. Only a few clueless leftists don'€™t. And union functionaries are often happy to have leftists do their donkey-work for them; union functionaries aren'€™t idiots; they are politically sophisticated enough to know that no amount of shit-work by leftists can alter anything about what unions are and what unions do.

The essence of what unions are about is shown in a sequence in the film "Roger and Me."€™ Having negotiated away the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Michigan auto workers, the UAW is described as having plans to retrain some of its remaining members for jobs as prison guards. As prison guards, these UAW members will oversee the imprisonment of other former UAW members whose vanished auto industry jobs have driven them to turn to crime to make a living. There are no depths to which unions won'€™t stoop in their service to the bosses against the working class.

Unions have played a completely reactionary role in the class struggle for many decades. That'€™s not going to change because some NEFAC members close their eyes and click their ruby-red Doc Martens together three times while chanting, "unions don'€™t really pimp us to the bosses, unions don't really pimp us to the bosses..."

The proletarian rejection of unions is a product of the real struggles of the wage-slave class against the world of wage labor. It'€™s telling that Chekov Feeney appears to base his faith in unions on the dismal reality of Ireland, where the working class has no track record of going beyond social democracy, as opposed to what was seen with the workers assemblies movement in Spain after the death of Franco, and in Italy in the 1970'€™s, and in France in May 1968. These are situations where millions of working class people have challenged capitalist society in major struggles. A central element of those upheavals has been an awareness, among a sizeable number of combative wage-earners, that the unions are against us, that unions are on the same side as the bosses and the government in attacks on our wages and working conditions. Action outside-of-and-against-the-unions have been a part of smaller social struggles, too, like in the strikes and unemployed movement in France in 1995. As wage earners in North America, we have a lot to learn from this --€“ and nothing to take from a pro-union perspective.

A commitment to organized, long-term, collective action outside of and against the unions is the only authentic anti-capitalist perspective in workplace struggles today. This is a fundamental dividing line between the real enemies of capital and the state, and the left-wing of capital'€™s political apparatus; social democrat, Trot, anarchist, or whoever. The article on "Workplace Resistance Groups"€ from the UK Anarchist Federation offers an excellent starting-point for what we really need to be doing:

€

Quote:
Such groups must not seek to be alternative unions; they must be anti-capitalist, anti-company and act outside of the union structures and all political parties... The important thing is that such groups have no official dealings with the union (even though members might be in the union)... Their aims should be to hammer the company as effectively as possible and to link up... with similar groups.€

Every real enemy of capitalism all over the world is against the social democratic perspective on unions put forward by NEFAC and Chekov Feeney/WSM. (See, among others, the Anarchist Federation and No War But the Class War in the UK, Wildcat and Kolinko in Germany, ORAS-Solidarita in the Czech Republic, CRAC in Bologna, Italy, Ta Padia Tis Gallerias in Athens, etc, etc, etc, etc.) But why be relevant to the realities of our time, when you can join the ancient mariners of anachro-syndicalism, and experience the satisfaction of being trapped in a time machine that only operates in reverse? Anachro-swindicalism has been all-dressed-up-with-nowhere-to go since 1936; it is a politics of vainly hoping for lightning to strike twice in the exact same spot, under extremely specific historic conditions that disappeared forever 70 years ago. Actually, the politics in "€œVoices of Anarchist Union Organizers" are qualitatively to the right of Jon Bekken and the 'Anarcho-Syndicalist Review'; since Bekken and company at least claim to be for working class self-activity outside of and against the control of capital's labor brokerages, AFSCME, SEIU, UFCW, and the always-vile UAW.

Clearly, NEFAC has a long way to go in developing a politics relevant to the real experiences of contemporary working people, as opposed to the Trotskyist or anachro-syndicalist paleontology museum that you'€™ve been borrowing your ideas from up to now.

Anarchists who peddle illusions about capitalist institutions like the unions are, in their own hapless way, active enemies of our struggle to recover our autonomy as a class from capital, a political independence that was lost in the United States under Roosevelt'€™s New Deal. The unions are a part of the same continuum of exploitation and social control as temp agencies and welfare-to-work schemes. I'm sure NEFAC's union organizer members are sincere, but anarchists who work for capital'€™s labor brokerage apparatus might as well be working for revolutionary change from inside the real estate industry. The role played by NEFAC members in capital'€™s union apparatus doesn'€™t make your politics more relevant to todayâ's working class, but it might make you a small part of the problem!

For anti-state communism,
Kevin Keating
Mission Yuppie Eradication project
San Francisco, CA

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MJ
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Apr 28 2007 19:08

From Letters, Northeastern Anarchist #6 (Spring/Summer 2003):

NEFAC Responds...

Dear Kevin,

Boy, was I impressed with your letter. I would also like to see articles about anarchist social-workers and even anarcho-communist small business owners. I'm interested in what anarchists do and I think delving into it a little further can show where there are conflicts and poor critique from an anarchist perspective. With this in mind, I think you misinterpret some of the intent of the original article.

First, as is common with pithy raconteurs such as yourself, you make a huge leap of thought by assuming that any particular article in the NEA necessarily represents the viewpoint of NEFAC. For the slow-witted among us, I'll help out a bit: if it's signed by an individual the individual is responsible for the content. Contrarily, if it's signed by NEFAC, then it is a NEFAC position. With this difficult concept cleared up I'll take responsibility for the article, but I'd like to point out that it was an interview piece. One of the people interviewed is a NEFAC member. A second is a former member. The rest have nothing to do with NEFAC. I would suggest that it usually makes sense to attribute statements and ideas to the people who make or utter them. An interviewer asks a question, then the interviewee answers the question. If the concept around this process is too difficult to comprehend, feel free to contact me directly (I'm registered on Flag) and I'll explain it further.

Obviously we have different perspectives on Unions. However, I completely agree with some of your critique. In fact, I made some of the same critique in my editorial comments preceding the interviews. Are Unions in the U.S. revolutionary formations of workers? No. Do they have revolutionary potential? Well, yes and no. I certainly don't believe that any particular Union as we know them today will wage war against capitalists and/or the state. On the other hand, workers joining together against their bosses (whether private or public) furthers a consciousness and activity amongst workers that must be in existence to move towards an anarchist social revolution. Not the only thing that encourages this, but one that does it explicitly and rather quickly. In addition, when Union bureaucracy limits the action and intent of workers on the ground in the interest of the boss, then workers learn the lesson well, that the loss of democracy in workers organizations is destructive to them as individuals and their co-workers as a whole.

The bulk of militant worker uprisings in the U.S. (even preceding the Knights of Labor) occurred when workers took control of their activity in direct opposition to the Union leadership. I'd suggest reading Jeremy Brecher's book STRIKE! for some good detail on this phenomenon. Un-coincidentally, Union membership has generally catapulted after militant actions that bucked the suppression by Union leadership. Why is that? Perhaps because workers are savvy enough to understand that without a complete social revolution, they will have to go back to work and will need to be protected from retaliatory acts. Go figure.

If the point of your letter is to say that Unions mediate between workers and bosses, then no shit. That is exactly what they do. Is your point that instead of opposing our bosses collectively, we should suffer the whims and dictates of capitalism until the world rises up and throws off our oppressors? If so, that seems a tad masochistic to me. When you point to examples of "give-back" contracts, are you then suggesting that without a Union the workers would be doing better under unfettered capitalist exploitation? I would most humbly suggest that you rethink that position. I hate to tell you, but most workers, when asked, would like to be in a Union. When boss anti-union campaigns are successful is when organizing drives lose. Why is it that most workers, regardless of a lot of negative realities of Unions, would want to be in one? Why is it that bosses will spend millions of dollars on anti-union campaigns to suppress worker organizing? Why is it that most Union bureaucracies have no commitment to organizing new workers? I have my own opinions, but you think about it.

Anyway, let's actually talk about the article. What was my point in doing it? Well, my point was that I think anarchists should be involved in Unions. Unfortunately, because of a lack of vision and common effort, anarchists have no program whatsoever on what that would mean. So what does a pro-union anarchist do? They either run for office (a dead end strategy for anarchists politics), become Union organizers (another dead end strategy for anarchist politics), or become totally frustrated, pay their dues, and stay quiet (this would also be a dead end strategy if anyone is paying attention). Do I think anarchists should become Union organizers as some form of our strategy? No, and I said so in my comments in that section of the article. Do others? Some do, some don't. I think that part of the interviews showed clearly that there is no anarchist strategy whatsoever and I would argue that one should be developed and implemented. I'm sure you disagree. So what. Don't form a Union.

I would assume you have some good ideas on worker-struggle that don't include Unions. This also has to be part of anarchist strategy on workplace struggles. There are radical and revolutionary forms of worker activity that can be counter-posed to the traditional union model. Councilism, networks, sabotage, etc. What I would support is whatever activity workers can utilize collectively that opposes bosses and can, at least potentially, be successful. These alternatives don't get rid of the Union question though. Unions are still the largest organized force of workers in North America. Often times, they are the first place people come to understand that there is something wrong with the exploitation of their labor. I can't help but believe this is a good thing.

Once we see a positive in Unions, we must then take a serious look at who remain the driving force in regards to worker suppression in the unions. How to do workers coming into unions become oriented? The first contact is most often with an organizer. Who are the organizers? Well, they are mostly bureaucrats, liberals, and Leninists. I see that as problem. The role of an organizer is to teach workers how to oppose their boss. I would rather that be done by anarchists than any of the three groups I just mentioned and I see the current state of unions to be, at the very least, some partial fault of ourselves. So, while I see it as bad strategy for anarchists to advocate that we all go become organizers, I also see anarchists as the best possible organizers there could be. Take that sentiment however you will.

In conclusion, I'd like to thank you for your letter. Just to be clear, NEFAC doesn't have a detailed position on worker struggles as of yet. We will have one by the end of our March conference. Please write back when that is made public and you can actually critique NEFAC's ideas rather than base your assumptions on a random interview with people mostly not in NEFAC. Of course your snide remarks against NEFAC, ASR, the IWW and others made my day. I guess all of us anachronists just can't be as revolutionary as you are. Has your decade long poster campaign against yuppies and irrelevant authoritarians brought on the social revolution yet? Let me know when it does. Until then, I'd be much more interested in the work Tom Wetzel and others are doing in your neck of the woods than anything you wheat paste around town.

Duke
Roundhouse Collective
NEFAC-Baltimore

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Apr 28 2007 20:21

Sweet.

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Apr 28 2007 21:48

Thanks.

I found the first on an anti-politics thread via Google, and typed up the second one. Buy me a beer.

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Apr 28 2007 21:51
MJ wrote:
Thanks.

I found the first on an anti-politics thread via Google, and typed up the second one. Buy me a beer.

Did you say bear?

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Apr 28 2007 22:01

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Apr 28 2007 22:03

eek

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Apr 28 2007 22:08
x357997 wrote:
eek

Shocked at the picture or that I was nice to the iww, asr and Tom?

heh

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Apr 28 2007 22:13
thugarchist wrote:
x357997 wrote:
eek

Shocked at the picture or that I was nice to the iww, asr and Tom?

heh

the picture...not shocked...just uh...cant explain....I figure youll be nice to people and groups when they get their act together...cuz everybody knows duke is straight up.....

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Apr 29 2007 08:48

I'm not letting some wacked out walking adbuster mess with people dedicated to class struggle. Even if its retarded class struggle. groucho

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Apr 29 2007 10:20

It's interesting that MJ mentioned Tom Wetzel. He was a participant in the Fare Strike/Social Strike, and although he is independent from the Fare Strike group, he was at several of our meetings. He recently posted a rebuttal to Kevin's distortions at:
http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=5372

fare strike happened
by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity) Monday, Apr 23 2007, 5:31pm

Several thousand people did participate in the fare strike. The fare strike was a failure in that it did not gain enough support to force the Muni bureaucrats or city politicians to back off on the fare hike and service cuts. The people who put out "Fare Strike" were in the Muni Fare Strike group, which kevin criticizes as being to the right of the Muni Social Strike group, which he participated in. But the Muni Fare Strike group was more successful than Social Strike in its outreach efforts to other community groups, and this resulted in the one major extension of the strike, through the participation of the day laborers' organization in organizing among Spanish-speaking immigrants. KEVIN'S OWN INTERVENTIONS IN SOCIAL STRIKE WERE A CAUSE OF THAT GROUP'S LACK OF OUTREACH SINCE KEVIN DENOUNCED JUST ABOUT ANY OTHER GROUP DUE ITS NOT PASSING KEVIN'S IDEOLOGICAL LITMUS TEST [emphasis mine-CM]. I've also written a piece on the fare strike at:

http://libcom.org/library/post-mortem-on-the-san-francisco-fare-strike-2005-tom-wetzel

CM again: I guess some people in the UK are not familiar with Kevin's shenanigans, but in the Bay Area, he's becoming extremely isolated. Not one single person has stepped up to back his account of the Fare Strike, and many who worked with (under is more like it) him during the strike are now openly critical of what is widely described as his authoritarian modus operandi.
As far as slander, he does engage in it. He has repeatedly called me and another Fare Strike! author "pro-wage labor" with no writing or actions cited to back up his claim. He has repeatedly claimed that one individual wrote a flyer for us but that's not true and Kevin did not substantiate the claim in any way, but continues to post it worldwide. And he simply made up the story about all the anarchists falling under the spell of a "Leninist" who was supposedly the "leader" of our group. The reality, as I've written, was that the boundaries between Fare/Social Strike were always porous, and the main reason a second group formed was to be away from Kevin. Eventually, almost everyone had bolted from Kevin's top down one man management of the Social Strike group, but everyone in Fare Strike and Social Strike worked closely together, always controlling their own actions. The only one who attempted a controlling role in the entire effort was Kevin, and the reason he is now posting a pack of lies about everyone else is because we finally got our democratically organized pamphlet together and he just hates that he's been exposed as a fraud.

We got ten people to contribute to our accounts, with more on the way, and our website was put together by a Social Strike participant. There are a couple more Social Strike people who say they will write something for us to add to the online version. Kevin has himself to back up his account, and since he seems to be his own favorite primary source, no one's ever supposed to question him.

He does not answer questions put to him, so there can be no debate. He has tailed us at nearly every single site we posted an announcement for Fare Strike! and reposted what he has to know are lies, which have already been addressed over the last two years on countless web sites, and yet acts as if he's making fresh legitimate charges. At this point it's like trying to deal with an insane robot stuck in spam mode. The danger was that his version was the main one out there getting attention and it was basically a hit piece on all of us, with not that much about the actual events on the ground during the strike, and people were believing his weird version.

By the time we presented at the Bastard conference, there had been a few reports of people telling Fare Strike participants "oh yeah, we heard that strike was subverted by Leninists"---Kevin's writing. At the Bastard conference one audience member said "We heard you were all Marxist Leninists." By the time the discussion session was over, he was disabused of this ideat, and another person was saying "if that Kevin Keating guy baits us again on anti-politics I'm just going to ignore it." The conference went well, and the forty or so people there had a lot of interesting contributions.

Kevin has also posted to sites calling people "Downe's Syndrome" sufferers and has cleverly altered my "motopu" handle into "puto" or faggot in Spanish. This is what he calls "great writing." It's sad, because he fancies himself an ultra-Left Dostoevsky, but he's just barely a Vanguardist Don Rickles, not to mention his clunky compound adjective laiden prose (how many times can you fit "Leftist-culture-of-failure" into the space of a couple of paragraphs before you might realize it's tedious and transparently manipulative?)

While his version offers an easily digestible tale of a hero versus the Leninist led cabal, he has to ignore everything we did and everything we've ever written about it, as well as our other publications and actions. For example, Gifford the "Leninist" just taught a seminar called "All Power to the Worker's Councils" on the various tendencies Lenin labeled "infantile." I wrote a pamphlet critiquing a Leninist anti-war front group, called "ISOnuts: One Stop Activism and the Gentrification of the Left" about the International Socialist Organization and helped carry out a revolt against their front group at San Francisco State University. We keep explaining that our class struggle politics were open during the Fare Strike, as Social Strike members can also attest to, but Kevin keeps reposting that we had no class politics or that we were actually Pro-Wage labor. Why? Because he is a liar, it's just that simple.

http://farestrike.org/

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Apr 29 2007 10:26

Yeah MJ. Its awesome how you took Keating to task in that letter.

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Apr 29 2007 12:04

Haha. Comrade M just for the record I didn't write that letter, though I agree with a lot of it, and Tom Wetzel posts here from time to time btw.

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Apr 29 2007 16:16

Just a point of clarification: the BASTARD conference was attended by over 300 participants. The Fare Strike workshop/presentation had about 40.

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Apr 29 2007 16:31

good to come back to things like this to remind me that I do, after all, have a lot in common with Duke and MJ

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Apr 29 2007 17:30

Comrade Mobuto:

Tell the readers of this thread about how name removed the author of "Fare Strike! 2005, First-Hand Accounts...", and a habitual internet stalker -- used the e-mail address on the leaflets that we gave out to Muni operators, angryworkers@yahoo.com, to stalk and harass a woman from France named Geraldine.

Kevin Keating

admin - posting up people's real names without their permission will get you banned, last warning

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Apr 29 2007 18:41

The decision celebrity must possess a complete stock of accepted human qualities.

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Apr 29 2007 21:34
Black Badger wrote:
Just a point of clarification: the BASTARD conference was attended by over 300 participants. The Fare Strike workshop/presentation had about 40.

roll eyes

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Apr 30 2007 02:32
Kevin Keating wrote:
Comrade Mobuto:

Tell the readers of this thread about how GH - - GH, the author of "Fare Strike! 2005, First-Hand Accounts...", and a habitual internet stalker -- used the e-mail address on the leaflets that we gave out to Muni operators, angryworkers@yahoo.com, to stalk and harass a woman from France named Geraldine.

Kevin Keating

Right well you lose credibility when you name him as the 'author' of something that was written by 10 people.

And that's a heavy accusation for you to make, why the fuck don't you provide some evidence? It would only be fair given as how you've demanded several different wobs to post details of their activities in the class war.

If you don't back it up, then you need to retract it or I will formally petition to have you banned (and you'll probably be kicked out of more meetings than you already are, particularly if there are wobblies or anyone else who isn't a piece of shit liar there).

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Apr 30 2007 02:34
Kevin Keating wrote:
Comrade Mobuto:

Tell the readers of this thread about how GH - - GH, the author of "Fare Strike! 2005, First-Hand Accounts...", and a habitual internet stalker -- used the e-mail address on the leaflets that we gave out to Muni operators, angryworkers@yahoo.com, to stalk and harass a woman from France named Geraldine.

Kevin Keating

Argue a politcal idea or make a stupid joke. Otherwise crawl under a rock somewhere. God you're tedious.

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Apr 30 2007 03:16

Also "resolutionary cynicalists" is way funnier than "anachro-swindicalists".

Jeez, go to comedy school.

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Apr 30 2007 03:21

Kevin Keating unites the left!

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Apr 30 2007 04:14
thugarchist wrote:
Kevin Keating unites the left!

laugh out loud laugh out loud laugh out loud laugh out loud laugh out loud

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Apr 30 2007 04:40

leftists love to unite - he managed to unite anarchists, much much harder to accomplish.

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Apr 30 2007 10:27

the only thing I agree with KK on seems to be that I could care fuck-all about "anarcho-communist [sic?] business owners." Anarchist social workers are a-ok with me, and enjoyed that book review in NEA from several years back. Don't recall reading anything on anarcho-businesspeople, so perhaps that was humor in Duke's response.