A Race Struggle, a Class Struggle, A Women's Struggle All at Once
Year Published: 2001
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20469
In Los Angeles, the Labor/Community Strategy Center is carrying out a difficult Left experiment in the age of the omnipresent Right. The center is an explicitly anti-racist, anti-corporate, and anti-imperialist think-tank focusing on 'theory-driven practice'—the generation of mass campaigns of the working class and oppressed nationalities, in particular the black and Latino workers and communities. These campaigns are historically relevant on their own terms, but also have real relevance to any transition to an uncharted socialist future.
This tactic of organizing the industrial and service working class through a city-wide struggle over public services allows us to re-enter the trade union movement through a new form of working-class union.
In 1993, when BRU organizers began their work, the only material expression of a unified or even nascent class or race struggle was in their brain cells. The bus riders and the bus drivers began with only one thing in common—they were pissed off at each other, alone in their experience and consciousness, thinking and speaking in different languages, with no sense of a common destination or destiny. This is the multi-racial working class doing its own spontaneous thing. The first steps involve commandeering the space—sending organizers on to the bus, militantly engaging the passengers, distributing leaflets, making loud speeches when many bus riders were yelling and screaming anyway. The aggressiveness of the BRU organizers is legendary. They often include young recruits from our National School for Strategic Organizing along with our most developed members. But how to shape the bus into an effective arena for organizing? To begin with, the BRU focuses heavily on the written word; agitational flyers that are very hard to write, because the story is so complex-the history of transit racism, the complex corporate and political forces, the specificities of our legal case, and the endless series of parliamentary maneuvers at the monthly MTA board meetings that require a level of specificity and at times technicality that would drive away all but the most committed. Still, we target 'the opinion leaders of the oppressed', those who are attracted to, even fascinated by, our protracted, and highly conceptual approach to long-term political struggle. Then we learn to refine our agitation, speaking at times to the whole bus, then settling in for one on one conversations, most leading nowhere, but again, looking for the attentive eyes, the open and inquiring minds.
Equal attention needs to be paid to the language of organizing. All of our leaflets are in Spanish and English, most of our organizers, Latino, black, Asian, and white are bilingual English/Spanish, and every team is always bilingual.