Thanks to all who came out for our collective flyering session last weekend! We were joined by some bus drivers, riders and friends. We got into many good conversations that are helping us in our organizing.
We will be doing another round of flyering with comrades from the Seattle Free Riders Union (FRU). BOC will be distributing both the FRU flyer as well as the one below. If you live in Seattle and have some time, come join us!
Monday Aug 1st
4:30pm – 6:00pm
Meeting spot: 3rd and Pike bus-stop (outside Walgreens downtown)
blogger and writer Ben Seattle wrote a thoughtful and supportive reflection on our experiences flyering today, and questions of political method and theory that it raises: http://www.revleft.com/vb/blog.php?b=1741. I’m reposting it here. Thanks Ben!
Combining the struggle for partial demands with
the struggle for a world without bourgeois rule
(Leafleting with the Black Orchid Collective)
I promised myself I would post a short summary of my leafleting experience this afternoon. A short timely public summary of these kinds of things is useful. Here it is:
About a half-dozen of us distributed leaflets to metro riders and drivers from 4:30 to 5:30 pm. We gave out probably one or two hundred leaflets. Maybe a few more. We had some useful discussions with the people we met. There are all kinds of people downtown at 3rd and Pike at that time. Many of them have enough resources to be relatively unaffected, personally, by the proposed cuts to bus routes. Many more are facing a lot of pain and are worried about what they will do if their route is cut. A number of people did not take a leaflet at first–but then doubled back to take one when they heard that it was against the transit cuts.
The Black Orchid Folks are hoping that there is enough motion in this section of the population to support the idea of a “free riders union”. People would pay a small monthly amount to the union–and then attempt to skip payment when they ride the bus. If they get a ticket for skipping payment–the union would then pay the fine. Apparently this kind of thing has worked elsewhere.
I have no idea whether such an idea might be practical here in Seattle in 2011. But the best way to find out–is to do what the Black Orchid folks are doing. I came and helped them a bit because this group, in my view, is doing the right thing–and they should be encouraged. They stood up, publicly, to considerable pressure from a section of social democratic misleaders in the street marches against the police murder of John Williams. Our movement needs this as a thirsty man needs water.
I went to one of their meetings last month. 40 people (nearly all quite young and serious) crowded into a small room. One older man, under the influence of the social democrats, came to lecture them and claim that they had (supposedly) disrespected the family of John Williams. This man clearly had been around, and had a lot of experience in struggle and in the movement. And the man spoke against them at the beginning of their meeting–without waiting until the discussion had started.
The tension in the room was visceral–as all eyes focused on this confrontation. They handled this exchange with a fair amount of skill and maturity. They let the man speak for two or three minutes, just the right amount of time, before asking if he would like to join everyone in the discussion that would follow their presentation. The guy said no and left.
This confrontation was useful because it illustrated, for every person sitting in that crowded room, the kind of pressure that any group of activists will face the moment it dares to lift a finger to do anything real.
The system we need to overthrow is sophisticated. The bourgeoisie is more intelligent than we are. The bourgeoisie is experienced and organized–and backed up by immense economic, political and social forces. We, on the other hand, are scattered, isolated from one another, ignorant and separated from our own history of struggle. It brings to mind the saying: “youth and inexperience is no match for old age and treachery”.
But there is, of course, another side to this equation. As activists working for the overthrow of the class rule of the bourgeoisie (and the eventual replacement of the system of commodity production on which bourgeois rule rests) our actions represent the material interests of the overwhelming majority of society. And the ability of the overwhelming majority of society to become conscious of their real interests will be steadily increasing in every decade of this century, as the revolution in communications steadily transforms the terrain of the class struggle.
The most interesting discussion, this afternoon, was with an older Metro bus driver. He told us he had worked for 45 years. He related a number of observations he had made concerning how municipal authorities made decisions that favored the more well off and screwed the poor. He was enthusiastic and liked what we were doing. It was rewarding, for all of us, to see this man’s appreciation and support.
The BOC leaflet included the comment that “Transporation is a basic human need — it shoud be free, and it should be run and organized by working people to meet our own needs.” That is a powerful comment and represents recognition that this particular struggle is a small part of something very large.
I like this statement. And I believe this statement can be improved although I do not, yet, know how.
There are many deep questions involved. Can free transportation, organized by and for working people, be brought into this world under conditions of bourgeois rule? Or will bourgeois rule need to be overthrown before such a thing can happen? And what do terms like “bourgeois rule” and “overthrow” actually mean? And is the victory of the working class in this struggle inevitable? And, if it is, then why?
My thinking is that as the BOC develops a deeper understanding of the theoretical issues involved–they will be able to express their deep understanding in a popular way–so that people who read flyers like this will be able to understand that a better world, a world of peace, abundance and genuine community, is not only necessary but inevitable, and that the struggles for partial demands today are part of developing a movement of countless millions for such a world.