TRAIN IN VAIN? Part One

My outline for how I see the events is this:

1. In response to the threat of austerity measures aimed at MUNI transit system riders, in the form of a fare increase and service cuts to begin this past Sept 1st, and measures against MUNI operators to commence later, a small group of people who claim to be against capitalism initiated a new type of working class-oriented, anti-capitalist direct action, uniting riders and drivers on San Francisco's main mass transit system.

2. This action, modelled on similar actions in other parts of the world, especially Italy during the unrest of the 1970's, was supposed to be a "social strike;" MUNI riders would board MUNI conveyances and MUNI drivers would "look the other way" when these riders didn't pay.

An action like this around mass transit would be an arena of conflict between proletarians and capitalism that hadn't yet been colonized by the left, the left-wing of capital; the pro-wage labor, pro-state, culture of leftist failure that is what passes for an opposition to the powers-that-be in this part of the world.

3. Unfortunately the people behind the action, in the manner typical of contemporary US anarchists, proved to be irresolute. They lacked nerve and backbone, practical solidarity with one another and political cohesion.

The result was that at a fairly early point in the effort the spineless anarchists ceeded the political initiative in the MUNI action to the first Leninist-led/culture of leftist failure group that came along.

4. The culture of leftist failure crowd, and the anarchists, sheepishly trotting along behind them, were unable to catalyze enough widespread and decisive resistance to defeet the austerity measures. And, more importantly, an arena of potential autonomous working class resistance to ever-increasing exploitation and impoverishment has now been throughly colonized by the culture of leftist failure crowd...


(The article itself begins here...)

...Most of the anarchists involved in this effort put an admirable amont of time and effort into the social strike -- on an individual basis. But collectively, we, myself included, failed to function in any kind of resolute COLLECTIVE anti-capitalist manner, with regard to the pro wage-labor left who attached themselves to this effort. By pro-wage labor left I mean people who wanted to see the fare hike and service cuts resisted without any larger opening for an anti-market/anti-state, direct action politics among working people emerging out of the issue.


This effort, and everything that happened city-wide with regard to it, was initiated by people in Muni Social Strike. But the initiative got taken away from the aspiring anti-capitalists by some of the usual crowd of leftist failures. At the end with both the press conference and the ridiculous, empty ritual march to City Hall, the anarchists had become the camp followers of liberals and at least one Leninist. This has happened time and again with anarchists, and it's extremely fucking exasperating to me.

The first pro-wage labor leftist who grafted himself onto the project was able to steer the larger struggle into a statist and completely un-radical direction. He was aided and abetted in this by people in Muni Social Strike not being capable of collectively deciding what we believe in as a solid group, and moving forward on that basis against leftist hustlers in a determined and resolute manner.

From the get-go, it was clear that Muni Social Strike was to be about:

--Drivers and riders taking action together,

--using direct action,

--antagonistic to electoral politics, market relations and the state.

There was no escape clause in any of this, saying, this will be a direct action, anti-statist effort, until someone who is more decisive than us comes along and plays us for suckers, at which point we will turn into work-within-the-system guys.

Everybody involved appeared to be clear on the character of the effort and agree on it. There was nothing vague or abstract or equivocating about it.

1. To begin our efforts, we held three town hall meetings to rally public opposition to the austerity measures.

Soon after the second town hall meeting, this other group, Muni Fare Strike, with a name almost identical to Muni Social Strike, sprung up toadstool-like, positioned to the immediate political right of Muni Social Strike. It rapidly became clear that Muni Fare Strike was going to be just like Muni Social Strike, only with all the better aspects shaved off. They wanted this to be exactly the sort of thing that leads to empty gesture demos on the steps of City Hall.

The leaflet that became the main tool for MFS's perspective said nothing about joint action with drivers; this was moronic for the practical effectiveness of the effort, as well as flat-out politically wrong. An effort like this could never fly if the drivers weren't at least passively going along. And an effort like this should never be mostly about the immediate smaller goal, but always mostly about the bigger goal, which has to be the creation of a larger movement of working people acting around our own needs against capitalist social relations, rooted in the everyday life conditions we face in the main problem country of the world. That means all exploited people together; not just some exploited people balkanized into a sort of sub-identity as an interest group of transit system riders.

The Muni Fare Strike leaflet was bereft of any argument for why Muni riders should engage in an action that doesn't have any precedent in this part of the world. It made no effort to pursuade. Being un-persuasive and un-radical in five languages only compounded the political worthlessness of the Muni Fare Strike leaflet. Working people around here need a convincing argument for why they should try something that might get them ticketed or arrested; this isn't Italy or Argentina, there's no collective culture of resistance right now in the US, here people are generally very timid and mystified. And from beginning to end nothing Muni Fare Strike did or said articulated any larger opposition to the world of wage labor and the market. The reasons for this are clear -- the leading figure of the Muni Fare Strike group, Marc Norton, is a pro-wage labor, pro-state leftist. Muni Fare Strike, its perspectives and its all-too-predictaible actions, were a function of the essentially pro-system politics of Marc Norton. Regardless of their subjective intentions or occassionally overheated workerist jargon, the leftists who grafted themselves onto the project proved to be a part of the left-wing of capital's political apparatus...

To be continued shortly...