bosses

bosses

strikers

strikers

Someone brought up the point about why don't people support what is nominally in their (sometimes long-term) class interest, like the strike. Or, the classic example as Thomas Frank in his liberal bestseller Whats the matter with Kansas? articulates, why do working class folk in the middle of country vote republican. Any marxist will tell you its because of 'false consciousness' or something like that. And hence, the approporiate strategy is to explain to people how ignorant they are about their class interest, and woo them over to the class side. this capitalistic tactic (appealing to pocketbooks) will likely lose if you're up agains short-term given benefits (like tax breaks) vs. long term benefits hard work and struggle (ie self-management after the revolution). In 1969, in Listen, Marxist, Bookchin goes over all of this and why its a destructive and misguided strategy.

Well, one reason, different than Bookchin's more standard anarchist response, is White Privilege (something which Thomas Frank totally misses) . I urge people to watch/listen to Tim Wise's talk on "The Destructive Pathology of White Privilege" he gave in LA thats archived at Free Speech TV.

video | text | Tim Wise website

His simple point was that its not always 'working-class people' (that questionable blanket term) that vote against their own class interests, but usually and almost always the majority is white working class people. This is for a plethora of reasons, as Wise explicates; one is that white folk can identify with the 'people' (whites) who made it on their own not just on the basis of class, but skin color. Theres a material advantage as a white person to vote against their class interests. Whites have always won in the US. Working class people haven't. Why side with the losing team when you can, because of white privilege, identify with the winner? (these are simple statements obviously but see the video for context. . .im just rehashing him). People can have real class consciousness and choose cynicism and white identity above it because fighting the class system is a massive, systemic, unending battle with no publicly memorable victories here.

Now, this rgument might have NOTHING to do with why "working-class" people didn't support the strike, because honestly i haven't watched the news or know anything about who actually was for and against it. Also, New York City's racial and ethnic demographics are so different than most places in the country that its hard to make a stable claim about race and ethnicity here without essentializing x, ignoring y, and boxing in z. However, whites are still the majority:

"As of the census of 2000, there are 8,008,278 people, 3,021,588 households, and 1,852,233 families residing in the city. The population density is 10,194.2/km² (26,402.9/mi²). There are 3,200,912 housing units at an average density of 4,074.6/km² (10,553.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 44.66% White, 26.59% Black or African American, 0.52% Native American, 9.83% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 13.42% from other races, and 4.92% from two or more races. 26.98% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. 35.9% of the population was born outside the United States of America (18.9% born in Latin America, 8.6% Asia, 7.0% Europe). The ethnic makeup is 11.5% African-American, 9.8% Puerto Rican, 8.7% Italian, 5.3% Irish, 5.1% Dominican, 4.5% Chinese, and 1.7% Filipino. New York City is also home to the nation's largest community of American Jews, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, with an estimate of 972,000 in 2002, and is the worldwide headquarters of the Hasidic Lubavitch sect and the Bobover and Satmar branches of Hasidism."

From Wikipedia.org

But we do know that TWU metro workers are disproportionately people of color. And that ignoring race in this issue is the easiest mistake to make.

Zita Allen from Amsterdam news caught this when she wrote, "To Paterson and others, there are disturbing racial overtones that are highlighted by the language and symbolism used by parties on both sides. Several point to what ACORN’s Bertha Lewis calls the “despicable racialized language” used by Mayor Bloomberg calling union leaders “thugs,” childish and irresponsible. TWU Local 100 leaders cite the MTA’s remarkable arrogance, pointing to MTA Chair Peter Kalikow’s failure to show up for contract negotiations until 1 1/2 hours before the deadline, when Toussaint was there hours before. Toussaint chided Governor Pataki for “wagging his finger” at transit workers and “talking to us the way we would to our children." On the other hand, there is the union’s TV commercial with four sisters explaining they don’t want to strike but the MTA gave them no choice. It ends with a beautiful wide shot of all four saying, “We are the union.” The 6,000 union members who showed up at the Jacob Javits Center a few weeks ago for the strike vote were a diverse mix of African-Americans, Latinos, Irish-Americans, Russian immigrants, Asians, and more. The once predominantly white immigrant membership of TWU Local 100 is predominantly people of color, many of whom are immigrants like its president, Trinidad-born Roger Toussaint, himself. And, like the women say in the commercial, they are New York. Observers say that is an important fact that should not go unnoted."