Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right

**The views represented in this post represent solely the views of the author, and not of the UAW 2865, the AWDU caucus, or the BDS caucus.

December 15, 2014 two hit pieces were published against our unions work. One was a Zionist rallying cry against the now coming tide of BDS resolutions in the labor movement that the author predicts our union will initiate (let's hope they're right!!). The other is a laughable rant by the former leadership who lost our union elections by a landslide. I think there's articles speak volumes about the successes of our union in the last year as much as it says about their authors. I want to take a moment to discuss both articles, both in correcting some some of the (many!) (deliberate) errors in the articles, and to talk about what they mean for us.

The Zionist piece starts off as a hit-piece, using all the old tricks trying to delegitimize our vote in one breath but then later admitting that we out organized them and had way more grassroots support. For a caucus called Informed Grads they seem to not understand how our union works, and after months of this its just kinda cute and funny. The most obvious tactic they have tried to delegitimize the vote has been to claim that a small unrepresentative population voted, therefore it means nothing. This is a strategy that was thought up BEFORE the vote even happened, see this email between UCLA Hillel and a PR firm that they hired to try to defeat the UCLA student govt vote to support divestment. In Informed Grads press release after the vote was finished and BDS won 65% to 35% they claim that "2,189 UC graduate students voted out of a total of over 52,000 potential voters." Usually they misrepresent by choosing the say out of 13,000 potential voters, since that's how many workers are in our bargaining unit, however only about 50% of those are union MEMBERS (and therefore eligible to vote). This time though, to make their talking point seem even more hard hitting they picked the totally absurd number of 52,000. Why 52,000? Well because technically every student in medical school, law, school, business school, etc could sign up for union membership even though only the tiniest fraction of them will EVER work in our bargaining unit. A union is ORGANIZED LABOR, and the fact that these people will never work in our bargaining unit should explain why they never do join, and why their 52,000 number is completely absurd. Its like saying that less than 1% of workers voted to strike in a Fast Food strike since potentially ANYONE IN THE WORLD could get a job at McDonalds...

Their first point is that the vote wasn't fair. Bullshit. If anything the union gave way too much to the (very few) Zionists in the union, as I explained in an earlier blogpost. Read that post for more, but this sentence is the most revealing, "BDS supporters were also able to use an already mobilized base of union members and leaders to swing the vote their way." In other words, the union leadership, and their grassroots base are pro-social justice and pro-BDS and Zionists aren't involved in the union, and that's not fair. In other words they admit that they have no interest in the union and its long term project of worker democracy and power, and social justice, and they have to act as outsiders trying to convince those not already engaged in the union. OK, that's a fair assessment. But its also not a point of complaint. They don't give a shit about the union, they are only involved because they are staunchly anti-BDS and once this campaign is over they will rescind their membership and move on.

Their next point is that its not fair that we have a simpler narrative. Its not fair that the Pro-BDS side can talk about oppressor and the oppressed, while their argument is more nuanced, complicated, convoluted to the point of obfuscation. OK true. Our narrative is simple. But that is because the situation is pretty damn simple. Let's let this one picture explain:

Their third point is when they finally get honest and take a sober assessment and stop lying to make us look bad. They admit that they lost because BDS is a grassroots movement not some top-down ZIonist lobby funded astroturf campaign like them:

"Organized Israel advocacy at this time focuses largely on established politicians, who are completely irrelevant here, or appeals to right-wing supporters, who are not voting in union elections.But BDS takes a grassroots approach, shaping the opinions of the next generation of leaders on college campuses across the nation. Dismissing BDS as marginal or anti-Semitic is not a convincing response, especially as it draws on a small number of Jewish supporters. As of now, there is no progressive organized grassroots movement to oppose it."

Thanks for the compliment. We are following a model of social movements and social justice unionism. This is a model that we have defeated the admin caucus bureaucrats with, the model we defeated the UC with in contract negotiations, and now the Zionists are admitting that this is how they lost. Its nice to get a little recognition now and then. ;)

They conclude:
"we should be ready to defeat BDS on its own turf: through grassroots organizing and clear, pro-peace messaging that highlights the destructive and discriminatory nature of the BDS platform. In the coming months and years, Jewish organizations and individuals must articulate and implement a compelling, fearless response to BDS. Now is the time to make that happen."

It is this final piece that is most revealing. These people may have awful oppressive politics, but they are true to their values, and they care for this cause. This final part is a sober assessment of their strengths and weaknesses (well OK basically they only had weaknesses). While the must engaged in some mythmaking to delegitimize the vote and to save some face and rally their troops, their commitment to oppressing Palestinians and white supremacy forces them to be reflexive about their loss so that they might win next time. I'm not one of those "right side of history" people, I don't think progressive change or justice unfolds in a linear fashion. So I don't think that just because truth and justice are on our side that BDS will win or that Palestine will be free. I think that oppression breeds resistance, but its not inevitable that the oppressed will win. Genocides happen. So this is obviously a bit of a frightening prospect to think about - that their side might shift tactics to building grassroots support in order to defeat Palestinians solidarity work. 

However, compare that to the article against social movement unionism by Struna and Ackermann. Its basically all lies and misrepresentations, other than the fact that yes our union membership numbers have declined. However there's no mature nuanced conversation as to why and as to what those number really mean. Check out my earlier blogpost that tries to address what membership numbers do and do not mean. I'm not going to address all the factual problems with their article, I'll just point you to my post about why AWDUs model wins.

What I do want to address though is the noted difference between these two articles. The Zionists in Informed Grads may be like the KKK, the Minutemen, MRAs, or the Tea Party in that their politics are a reactionary right wing ideology that props up oppression, while Struna and Ackermann are merely union bureaucrats trying to show their loyalty to the UAW admin caucus (so that like Ackwermann they can be reward for their loyalty by getting a paid position in another local after losing the election and no longer having a career in 2865). They are opportunists and careerists, they have no values or cause. This is why Informed Grads's article ends with a soul searching moment of reflection and constructive criticism, and the Struna and Ackermann piece just call for the end of AWDU and social movement unionism with no real assessment of their failures (pre AWDU or in the recent election). 

AWDU's first challenge was to retake the union from the bureaucrats and the iron first of the UAW International. The union has become more democratic, and we have become a militant fighting union. But now that we are fighting some serious battles (ex: BDS) we are going to be making some serious enemies - enemies that aren't just in it for a cushy gig in the International after they graduate or drop out, but rather enemies that actually have a cause and may try to engage us in our own game of building a grassroots base.

UAW 2865 may have turned a corner by being the first major US union (besides the IWW) to join the BDS movement, and with that means both the good and the bad of being in the front lines - the excitement and sense of victory of being at the cutting edge of the US labor movement, but also attracting all the enemies that that entails.

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