Wednesday 14 March 2012

Only People Power Can Save Our Ports

Aussie Rules: Mass, nonviolent picketing on the Melbourne docks encouraged the Australian judiciary to find in favour of the Maritime Union of Australia. Without the mass action, however, the 1998 Patrick's Dispute may have ended very differently. If our own watersiders are to win their present fight with Ports of Auckland Ltd they will need to organise a similar injection of people power.

IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE sometimes, the sheer mendacity of our fellow human-beings. Hard to believe and all-too-often deeply dispiriting. We ask ourselves, if someone is prepared to do something like that – what are they NOT prepared to do?

I’m referring, of course, to the leaking of confidential information about MUNZ member, Cecil Walker. This latest development in the Ports of Auckland dispute has sickened a great many of us. And make no mistake, that’s exactly what it was intended to do. POAL and its surrogates have made MUNZ and its supporters the targets of a carefully calibrated campaign of  psychological warfare. It has only one purpose: to make them give up the fight.

The “internal” legal advice from the Auckland City Council “staff”, suggesting that no Councillor has the right to table any resolution tending to limit or undermine the “independence” of the directors of council controlled organisations, may or may not be part of POAL's campaign, but its effect is the same. Ordinary people are encouraged in the belief that they, and the democratic institutions in which they place their trust, are powerless against the power of the employers and the laws which protect them.

POAL and their secret supporters in the council bureaucracy know that the moment the members of MUNZ and those who stand in solidarity with them cease to believe that they can win this fight, then they will lose this fight. That’s why it’s so important they reaffirm their conviction that, in this dispute, surrender is not an option.

This dispute will be won. And people power is the force that will win it. Every other tactic must be secondary to the goal of mobilising mass support for: 1) the workers and their families, and 2) the democratisation of the Port’s ownership structures.  Nothing else matters. Even if the union wins its arguments in court, POAL is bound to appeal. The wheels of our legal system grind extremely slow and unbelievably fine. Those who seek justice in the courts are almost always disappointed: justice and law are very different things.

Besides, the courts do not exist in a social and political vacuum. As the Maritime Union of Australia discovered in its 1998 dispute with Patrick’s on the Melbourne docks. If the alternative to the courts coming up with an acceptable compromise is massive and on-going civil unrest, then the courts are usually smart enough to come down on the side of compromise. The court which delivers a judgement guaranteed to further inflame an already fraught situation risks transforming a straightforward industrial dispute into something altogether more intractable.

Immoveable Objects: The MUA's hundreds-strong picket-line on the Melbourne docks.

The key element in Melbourne: the factor that made some sort of compromise imperative; was people power. Mass protest on a scale well beyond the capability of everyday law enforcement to control. A protest that left the authorities facing two, equally unpalatable choices: backing-down and losing face; or ramping-up the use of force and quite possibly losing lives. That’s what made the courts step in with decisions favouring the MUA. Without the mass action; without the palpable fear of serious violence; those judicial interventions may have been much less favourable.

So, while Saturday’s splendid march and rally made a fine beginning, the right-wing bloggers were quite correct. Five thousand people are nowhere near enough to defeat POAL. The only winning strategy is the one which steadily builds the numbers of people coming out in support of the port workers, their families, and a democratic ownership structure for Auckland’s municipally owned assets. That can only be achieved by increasing both the frequency and the disruptive effect of the solidarity campaign.

The picket-line confrontations of Monday morning (12/3/12) gave POAL a taste of things to come. But the numbers involved were too small to achieve anything more than a token level of disruption. But just imagine 500 picketers sitting down in front of each gate. Faced with that many people, and without resorting to considerable violence, the Police and POAL’s security guards could not keep the Port functioning.

The CTU needs to issue a call for volunteers to form mass, non-violent, flying pickets: people ready to assemble quickly and committed to providing the human mass necessary to shut down all access and egress from the Port.

And I really want to emphasise that word “nonviolent”. I love you like a brother, Willie J., but talking about bashing scabs’ cars with placards only makes it harder to recruit the numbers the union needs to win the fight. It is vital to retain the high moral ground in this dispute: to let the employer and his supporters throw the first punch.

If history is any guide, that moment will not be far off. The bosses reaction to staunchness and solidarity both here and overseas is to recruit a “security” force to intimidate (and, if necessary, assault) strikers and their supporters.

One hundred years ago, in the gold-mining town of Waihi, that’s exactly what the employers, backed by the Commissioner of Police and the right-wing Reform Party Government of Bill Massey, decided to do. They were not nice people: prize-fighters, ex-convicts, violent bullies looking for a bit of sport. A century later, I would not be surprised to see such “goons” (as the Americans call them) again – most likely wearing the uniform of some private “security” firm.

The American activist, Gene Sharp, has quite literally “written the book” on how to win political and industrial struggles without resorting to physical aggression. His three volume survey, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, sets out the nature of power and struggle, along with the methods and dynamics of nonviolent action. The CTU and MUNZ should read Sharp’s book. They should also call upon 1981 Springbok Tour veterans John Minto and Sue Bradford to act as “advisers” to novice picketers. Like the Springbok Tour protesters, the pickets must be prepared for “nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action”.

Fortunately, there’s still plenty of time to arrange all this. POAL’s stevedoring companies are nowhere near ready to begin working the wharves. The training of those foolhardy enough to take the bosses’ thirty pieces of silver is going to take weeks.

In the meantime, MUNZ and the CTU need to prepare a schedule of activities designed to retain and build the numbers participating in their solidarity campaign. Pickets and protests have their place, more effective, however, are the sort of mass demonstrations we witnessed on Saturday. Aucklanders, and MUNZ supporters in other centres, need to be given the opportunity to show Mr Key, Mr Brown and POAL’s directors that the employment relations practices they have chosen to employ are not acceptable to the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders.

The sixteenth-century French writer, √Čtienne de La Bo√©tie, in explaining the power of tyrants wrote: “He that abuses you so has only two eyes, has but two hands, one body, and has naught but what has the least man of the great and infinite number of your cities, except for the advantage you give him to destroy you.”

It is time to cancel POAL’s advantage. Power requires obedience. It is time to say “No!”

This posting is exclusive to the Bowalley Road blogsite.


guerilla surgeon said...

Pinkerton's got a leg up in the business world by strikebreaking. Just thought you'd like to know :-). But honestly, do you really think that we're going to be able to get that many people to engage in active picketing? This country has been through decades of social engineering, which has encouraged the denigration of unions and working people. Those with skills that are in demand are doing really well, They won't have a bar of any of this. I'm not optimistic.

Anonymous said...

Amazing that although younger than me you are still firmly rooted way back in the past. It's people like Willie Jackson who are advocating the very thing you suspect the employers of doing. Many of us have been involved in unions during our working life (whether we wanted to or not!)and have found that it is a place where the thugs soon surface for the union.
This man slagged off the company and yet when we get the complete story we find that he has been better than well treated.
This is what happens so often these days in the news-we are given an incomplete set of facts and invited to make a judgement -when (or if!) we get more facts it often turns out we were being manipulated to make an incorrect judgement in the first instance.
If he didn't want us to know the full circumstances he should have stayed out of the spotlight from the beginning.

Than said...

This post is naive and dangerous Chris.

To your credit you do say "And I really want to emphasise that word 'nonviolent' ". But surely you have seen the aggression on the early morning picket lines over the last couple of days? Do you genuinely believe a gathering of hundreds of motivated, highly charged picketers trying to shut down the port would remain non-violent? Even if a brawl didn't break out while people were trying to get to work, it certainly would once the police arrive

Kid yourself that it will definitely be the other side that throws the first punch. Kid yourself that it matters. Regardless, you are advocating a course of action that will almost certainly end in violence. Please consider whether what is at stake is worth that much human suffering.

Madison said...

One, love the call for non-violence. At least someone has the balls to say that once the violence breaks out it's a loss all around. BUT. . . The call for overwhelming mass as a protest to give the threat of violence is pushing very close to the call for violence. At that point the courts and police will be reacting to the threat of violence, and if I'm not wrong then threating is supposed to be pretty serious as well?

If it is solely a fear of overwhelming numbers rioting that stops this problem then I think there would be a bigger problem in that you've already been shown the port will be able to limp along in a limited capacity for long enough to recover without the union. At that point winning the strike is more about trying to win face and pride rather than the true fight. If it has already come that far I think there's been far more damage done to MUNZ than has been realized.

Scott said...

What are these right-wing freaks and rejects doing sniffing around your blog Chris? I'm particularly taken by the wargaming ubergeek talking piously about pacifism.

The comical thing about these types is that they whinge about the prospects of a few scabs getting clipped around the ears, but are happy to defend the massive violence inherent in the throwing of hundreds of people out of their jobs. They call for the respect for the law, without recognising that the law exists to protect property relations and criminalise workers' action. They imagine themselves as speaking on behalf of some eternal, ahistorical ethical system, when they're really only reflecting the grubby self-interest of the local bourgeoisie.

The question of the correct tactics for the workers' movement and the left to adopt will be settled by internal debate. I think this post is a good contribution to that debate - I just wonder why certain people think they have the right to contest it, when it's clearly not addressed to them.

Chris Trotter said...

Well, Guerilla Surgeon, if we're not up to it, then MUNZ will lose. But if we don't at least try to generate mass support for the union we'll never know whether we were or not. What's that old saying? "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees."

As for those who, with one breath, complain about picketers preventing people from going about their lawful business, only to dismiss the illegal invasion of a man's privacy as being no more than he deserved for daring to criticise the bosses, with the next. Well, I find it difficult to express the full measure of my contempt.

And I wonder, Maddison, if you would have counselled Dr Martin Luther King not to proceed with his protest in Selma because of the potential for violence from the Klan.

That nonviolent direct action often elicits violence from those against whom it is directed is not the fault of those who organise such action, but of those who violently resist its moral challenge.

Than said...

Scott - it is something that has impressed me about Chris's blog is that he allows dissenting views (even wargaming ubergeeks like myself) to post comments.

If all he wants is to preach to the choir, comments are moderated so he could simply cease allowing anyone who disagrees with him to post. To me it reflects highly on Chris that he does post opposing views, and I thank him for it.

barry said...

Chris - I can see that you are in your element here. Your dreams of class warfare have taken over your good sense and I fear that the dam of frustration that you have has burst forth in a rush of ideas that Im starting to think that you cant control. Almost daily articles.

I heard it reported a day or so ago that infact the confrontation at the wharves could have been resolved at the first meeting between the Ports of Auckland and the Union - but for some reason it wasnt and from that moment forward it all went to Ego satisfying levels and it was never going to be solved. Its no longer worker versus bosses, its who is being thwe stupidist (If there is such a word). Of course the really big question is the actual location of the wharves - they are in the most silly location and this has to be addressed sooner or later, and its a factor in the current confrontation.
Its a very messy fight that just might be solved by the boats not coming to auckland any more.
In our business we are now instructing our suppliers to ship to any north island port except auckland. I cant see a good reason to change back.

Anonymous said...

dying in the ditch for a bunch of well paid feather-bedders not one of my ambitions ...comrade !

Chris Trotter said...

In both the tone and content of your comment, Barry, you exemplify perfectly the lofty detatchment of the middle-class businessman.

The sneer, the inability to empathise, even a little, with people who have just had their jobs stripped from them, it's all of a piece.

New Zealand cannot advance while people such as yourself constitute its ruling class. The contrast with the men who came back from WW2; men who had learned the true equality of all people by fighting alongside them; gave us 40 years of prosperity and progress.

What will your legacy be, Barry?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps employ Parihaka tactics... "Instead of violence, the soldiers were greeted with hundreds of skipping and singing children offering them food."

Brendan McNeill said...

Actually Chris, New Zealand employment relations have progressed in a positive way largely because of people like Barry whom you disparage.

He and many others like him, myself included, have rejected the notion of class warfare that appears embedded in your psyche, and in the minds of those who organize MUNZ.

Instead, we recognize the value of our employees, engage in good faith bargaining with them on individual contracts, and encourage them to make the most of the employment opportunities they have in life, either in our employment or outside of it.

"Them and us" belongs to the past, and thank God, most New Zealanders have moved beyond this kind of thinking.

If you don't feel valued by your employer, you are always free to move on. Of course, if you are overpaid in your present role, given your skills and experience, then moving on and retaining your existing income becomes problematic.

This is the real issue facing those working at POA, and of course why the POA are looking to address the matter in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Chris – firstly, I agree and thank you for your openness for allowing dissenting bloggers to contribute – congratulations (although it seems more centre right have a say than your comrades). However, I wonder what eulogy you would like on your tombstone? A ragging pinko to the last – give it up, your defending the un-defendable? What we need is the return of Massey’s Cossacks riding down Queen Street in full gallop smashing the Union Workers for good. I’m sure plenty would sign up and you just might get your class war.
Secondly, with some more investigative journalism (I note your leftie blogs are silent on this) I see your so called working classes have some skeletons in the cupboard: LABOUR MP Melissa Walls Civil Union partner owning her electorate office and charging rent Ms Wall has no idea what it is - and she wantS to run the Government books someday, Unite Union and the Maritime Union owing thousands in back taxes – the so called champions of the working class sucking of the public tit, taxes that are needed to pay for the underprivileged, YEAH RIGHT.

Tiger Mountain said...

Agree Chris, mass tactically flexible pickets are the answer here.
• Re Courts: two years on from the Dairy Workers Talley Open Country Cheese lockout the court finally ruled scabs cannot be employed in such a CEA setting, a little late, but maybe of use in the AFFCO lockout.

• one way or another the wharf has to become a ‘no go zone’ to knock the saw dust out of the judiciaries ears.

• seeing as how the CCOs are happy to play the “family game” via Sleazy Slater, some polite home visits may be in order to the Peirson, Gibson, Brown and Slater family pads to see how they like a bit of unwanted privacy breaching attention.

Scott said...

It's not so much that you're not allowed to have an opinion, Than - it's that, by pretending that you sit on a cloud and issuing ahistorical, acontextual moral jeremiads, you end up saying nothing at all.

We only have rational debate within certain parameters. These parameters are set, ultimately, by mutual interests and shared tasks. The left and the workers' movement is debating tactics and strategy. If you don't understand the history and sociology of the movement, don't share the goals of the movement, and don't understand the class standpoint you're expressing, then you're unlikely to have anything interesting to say.

As somebody said here the other day, members of the middle class are distinguished by the fact that they don't identify as belonging to a class. Unlike the bourgeoisie, which is intensely organised and class conscious, and the working class, which has its own organisations and historical consciousness, the middle class is made of folks convinced of their social and intellectual independence. As a result we get these tired postures of neutrality and appeals to ahistorical systems of ethics. But the historically and socially determined nature of the moral judgments delivered by the middle class is easy to discern.

Let's take, as an example, Than's professed horror of violence. Chris has explicitly called for a non-violent but (under the present pro-business Employment Relations Act) illegal blockade of the Auckland wharves, and has cited the 1998 blockade of the Melbourne wharves as an example of what he advocates.

But any mass non-violent illegal action inevitably leads to a bit of pusching and shoving, and sometimes a good deal more than that, depending on the way it is policed. The 1981 anti-Springbok protests were intended to be non-violent, but violence flared after protesters were attacked by right-wing vigilantes and cops.

Than's position seems to be that Chris' call for non-violent illegal action is immoral, because it could lead to violence. Even if the violence comes from the cops, the protesters will, it seems, be responsible for getting their own heads cracked, because they had the temerity to break the law. Following Than's logic, nearly every protest movement in history, including the violently repressed movements led by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, would have been immoral.

It's curious, though, how Than's horror of violence only extends as far as the vision of his class. He associates violence with war and rioting - with guns being fired and fists flying. He's apparently oblivious to other, more insidious forms of violence. If he drove through South Auckland or through Kiwi towns like Moerewa or Kawerau or Huntly, would he recognise the rubble and ruined lives left by decades of economic violence? In the late 1980s and the '90s, and now again in the second decade of the twenty-first century, working class New Zealand is being subjected to massive violence by capital and the state, as factories and other worksites are closed, important services disappear, and infrastructure is allowed to decay. All of this is done in the interests of cutting losses and maximising profits. Overseas, the same violence can be observed on an even larger scale: in the north of England, for example, the barrage of Thatcherism and neo-Thatcherism has reduced whole sections of towns like Scunthorpe and Grimsby to ruins.

If terrorists or a foreign government were bombing Huntly or Kawerau or Scunthorpe, then the likes of Than would be full of indignation and calls for justice. They'd be the first to support those locals who chose to resist the onslaught. When the victims of neo-liberalism's scorched earth programme try to hit back using weapons like the strike and the picket line, though, Than and other middle class handwringers can only condemn them, in the name of a phony moralism.

guerilla surgeon said...

Lack of empathy and mean spiritedness is common in rightists. They just look on people as 'stock unite' - never mind their families, ambitions, or security. Just something to be cast aside for convenience, money, or ideology. But they expect workers to be 'loyal'.
Interesting - when the ECA came in the managers all thought it was great, until there was a labour shortage, and wages went up. Then came the wierd argument that wages couldn't go up in good times because bad times might be ahead. They want it both ways. You can't win :-). that's the sort of mentality you're fighting, supremely selfish.

barry said...

Ah Chris - how wrong you are.
I used to have a full time job - good pay but long hours including weekends - all on salary (ie: no overtime). Then the yanks came along and bought the outfit - they dont like people who have a bit of get up and go - they want people who will tick the boxes and dont come up with inovative ideas - after all anything not thought up in the USA just isnt a real thing!!.

So I started my own business - using my own money and worked hard and took all the risks and work very long hours and have to earn my income with my own efforts. So far its worked well, but I dont have a gauranteed job and if the market changes Im in trouble. Im not detached from reality - Im right in the middle of reality. I have to decide when to order more stocks so that we dont run out but we are not overstocked. I have to decide prices and who we sell to and who we give special prices to and I have to chase the late payers (after all its MY money Im chasing - and if and when we get bad debts its my loss)

My legacy will be leadership to my children - an example of hard work and risk taking and moderation. If I can teach them to earn a living and do it well, then I will be very proud of that legacy.

Tiger Mountain said...

Scott at 10:33 is correct, there are times when people should butt out. Particularly the tiresome limp ‘middle class’ apologists. No fire in your belly? don’t want to support the wharfies? then give your keyboard a rest-please. There is work rather than pontification to be done here.

Anon. Y. Mouse said...

Nothing polarizes people like a work dispute.

Workers and Employers have a symbiotic relationship, both are reliant on the other. Employers need workers and workers need jobs. If an Employer is not prepared to give his/her workers a fair go, then all they have to do is DO THE WORK THEMSELVES! No-one says that they have to employ anyone.
If the discrepancy between the top managers and the workers is not resolved there will be a revolution and it will be bloody. Take a look at history!
If the POA wants to increase profitability then cut the pay to Gibson and Pearson et al. That would go a long way to reducing costs. Not only is cutting pay of the workers (who generate the POA's income) as course to rough waters but the cuts should be across the board including the manager and directoers.

Madison said...

Chris, first let me say I agree with many people on here who like how you have dissenting opinions in the comments. As long as it's not too nasty it shows that you among few others are really getting to debate and discuss with the opposite sides. You are willing to open up to challenges and take them on, it also means that the other side is frequenting your blog due to the intelligence, reason and research that goes into it. That and as a true writer this is much more than a blog.

As to the comment I made, I was referring to your statement in the header about people power and overwhelming numbers of people on the wharfies' side to win the day. This is the implicit threat of violence and the win by fear of revolt that I was referring to. The current picket being outnumbered often is the tougher side to stand on at the moment, but when there are overwhelming numbers there you are now winning as much by fear of violence as if you were actually committing organized violent actions.

Summed up, if you are relying on the other side worrying about the violence your side would unleash if pissed off because of your mass numbers then you are relying on violent actions. If MUNZ is at this point then it's not a good spot to be, this is where the Klan and the police ended up very quickly in the 60's and this is what only hastened their demise. If MUNZ is to keep the fight up they have to avoid this trap somehow, but I can't say I know how.

I think Slater's posting of serious personal details is really shitty but have we seen much better of him over the years? Not really.

Sanctuary said...

"...Im not detached from reality - Im right in the middle of reality..."

No, you are in the middle of A reality. And your assumption that your world view is not only the only valid one but morally superior to anything else places you squarely in the insufferably dreary middle class.

Alex said...

There is a petition going round in support of the workers, you can sign it here:
I would strongly encourage those who haven't signed it to do so, as a gesture of solidarity with those who are being shafted through loss of job security.

Chris Trotter said...

Thanks, Madison. I've always believed it takes two sides to have a debate. Although, I also take Scott's point, that it is much more helpful if everyone attempts to debate the same issue/s.

In any situation involving mass protest - even those committed to nonviolence - the authorities are faced with some pretty daunting choices.

If they stand back and let the protest pressure build, they come under fire from the targets of the protest. If they attempt to repress the protest - which often involves the use of violence against the protesters - they risk drawing more and more people into the confrontation.

In the latter circumstance, the state will eventually be required to deploy massive force - which immediately throws into question its ultimate legitimacy.

It is for this reason that, in a functioning democracy, mass protest action is one of the most effective methods of securing compromise resolutions to political and/or industrial disputes.

It's not the violence of the protesters, but the violence the State is unwilling to deploy in order to "win", that carries the day.

Anonymous said...

I see that your post outlying the strategy that MUNZ need to enact, if they want to win their dispute, appeared Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

Chris I think, as well as the date, put a time stamp on your posts, as they do over at 'The Standard'.

If you did this, you might be able to follow a clear time line from when The Standard's right wing author, EDDIE clicked on your post, to the time he launched into an unprovoked personal attack on you.

Not having the guts to attack your post directly, Sneakily EDDIE has launched a sly attack, based on something you posted some while ago, something with no relevance, in any conceivable way, to current events.

In my opinion there can be little doubt that your post suggesting a mass action based strategy for victory, would have been the spur for EDDIE's attack.

From the beginning of the dispute at the Port of Auckland EDDIE has used his prominent position at 'The Standard' to try and isolate the wharfies and argued strongly for there to be no mass campaign of support.

EDDIE in his post "1951 it ain't, for now" derided the the dispute on the wharf as a "skirmish" and called on the Labour Party and the Greens and even the occupy movement to turn their backs on the wharfies struggle.

In effect EDDIE called on these three organisations and the wider left to scab on the wharfies.

EDDIE's post "1951 it ain't for now" with it's faux worker slang, is the exact opposite to your post. Where you have called for mass support to beat contracting out at the ports. EDDIE has called for the opposite to happen, that the wharfies be left to fight alone.

Rather than draw on the rest of the Union Movement and the wider left to beat the port management, EDDIE would prefer to see MUNZ to go down to a miserable lonely defeat.

In an exact counter, your post laying out a clear strategy calling for MUNZ to use their mass support to win through, would have made EDDIE's blood boil.

It is hard to tell how influential EDDIE's call to isolate the wharfies has been, but a regular commenter at 'The Standard' who goes by the nom-de-plume The Voice of Reason, and who has admitted to being a trade union leader, has vigourously backed and defended EDDIE's call to isolate the wharfies.

Keep on challenging the defeatist line coming from EDDIE and 'The Standard'.

Great stuff. Keep it up. As the wharfies struggle hangs in the balance, to have someone like you putting forward a positive way forward might really make a difference.

Than said...

"We only have rational debate within certain parameters. These parameters are set, ultimately, by mutual interests and shared tasks. The left and the workers' movement is debating tactics and strategy. If you don't understand the history and sociology of the movement, don't share the goals of the movement, and don't understand the class standpoint you're expressing, then you're unlikely to have anything interesting to say."

Scott - I have re-read this paragraph (and the rest of your post) several times. And I cannot find a way to parse it that allows for reasoned discussion.

The first sentence - "rational debate within certain parameters". Right out of the block you set limits as to what you consider open to discussion, which is never a good sign. And claiming anyone who doesn't "understand" (i.e. support) your perspective is "unlikely to have anything interesting to say"? That sounds very much like an excuse to dismiss anybody who doesn't agree with you. If you only want like-minded people to debate the tactics and strategy of the workers stuggle, then a public blog is not the correct forum.

If Chris asks me (publicly or privately) to cease posting on his blog, I will respect that request. Until then I will continue posting, with no parameters except my own beliefs.

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna step in, step outa the rain
I'm gonna step on up to the waterfront
Even a million years from today
I'm gonna move on up to the waterfront
I'm gonna get in, get out of the rain
So far
So cool
I'm gonna move on up to the front
I'm gonna walk on up to the front
I'm gonna live on up by the front
I'm gonna walk on up to the front

I said I'm gonna come in, get outa the rain

I'm gonna move on up
I'm gonna step on up
I'm gonna walk on up
I'm gonna live on up
Don't, walk away
So far
Don't walk away
Oh don't, walk away
On up to the waterfront

Scott said...

It's bad enough that you want to play the voice of our consciences, Than, without you also converting yourself into a martyr. I'm not trying to silence you: you do that very well yourself, on a site like this, by blundering into a discussion about left-wing strategy and tactics and making a series of acontextual and irrelevant remarks.

The point about the meaning and rationality of a discussion being context-dependent isn't just a tenet of Marxist epistemology: you can find it in any many other strands of philosophy - pragmatism, for example, or most types of existentialism.

Think about the discourse of a game like, say, cricket - the intricate terminology to describe field placements and shots, the rules, the precedents for the interpretation of those rules - and then imagine how much meaning that discourse would have if it were divorced from the playing of the game. We don't talk about leg slips or leg before decisions except in the context of an attempt to describe or interpret or umpire a game of cricket. To participate in the discourse, you have to know the game.

In the same sort of way, the meaning of a term like solidarity is tied up with the history of the left and the workers' movement. It is a layered meaning, created by hundreds of separate experiences - strikes, protests, persecutions, victories, defeats, factional fights, and so on. You can't blunder into a discussion about solidarity within the left and the workers' movement with an understanding of the term taken from the dictionary or wikipedia or the impoverished discourse of the mainstream media.

To turn up and offer left-wing activists and intellectuals a lecture on proper and improper forms of solidarity, without having any history in the left or any apparent understanding of left-wing history, is the height of insouciance, and removes from the rest of us the obligation to take you seriously.

Frank said...

Than, re, your earlier post;

"This post is naive and dangerous Chris."

Au contraire, there is nothing "naive" or "dangerous" about people standing up for their rights.

" Do you genuinely believe a gathering of hundreds of motivated, highly charged picketers trying to shut down the port would remain non-violent? Even if a brawl didn't break out while people were trying to get to work, it certainly would once the police arrive"

Whether it be the Suffragettes; the US Civil Rights campaigners; the anti-war protestors; anti-apartheid campaigners; gay rights - there have also been those who take to the streets to protest at a status quo that denies someone the same human rights, dignity, and equality that the rest of society enjoy.

"Kid yourself that it will definitely be the other side that throws the first punch. Kid yourself that it matters. "

Oh, it matters, Than, it matters more than your fantasy world of inanimate figurines, which care nought for the world around them.

I think you have spent too much time with those figurines; you have become a part of their imanimate, synthetic world where there is no passion - only a re-enactment of other peoples' past struggles.

"Regardless, you are advocating a course of action that will almost certainly end in violence. Please consider whether what is at stake is worth that much human suffering. "

That's right, Than, it may end that way. Or it may not.

But look at the figurines you play with - especially the Second World War ones - and wonder at the human suffering that they endured.

The port workers don't have the luxury of playing games with past lives. For them, the lives that matter are theirs and their families. It is their ability to put food on their tables that matters to them.

I've no idea why you berate the cause of men to struggle to preserve their livelihoods. I can only put it down to an inexperience in life; a shallow understanding of the human condition; and youthful naivete.

Men will continue to struggle; to risk everything; to overcome that which offends our sense of justice. That is an aspect of humanity that dictators through time have tried to crush and failed miserably.

Before Gaddafi was shot by his own people, he demanded, "What happening? What's wrong?"

He was out of touch with other people, right to the end.

Now you can go back to plastic people. They do not demand your empathy.