Wobblies & Zapatistas – Staughton Lynd

10/19/15
I was pretty disappointed in this book and didn’t finish it. The introduction and first few chapters did contain some interesting ideas:
  • We need Marxism to understand the structure of society and anarchism to prefigure or anticipate a new society
  • This is Zapatista education not Freirean education. If we are inventing the wheel, at least it is our wheel!
  • leadership comes from below, it is being someone to whom others turn for help. Personal loyalty is valued more than intellectual consistency.
  • The final and most intriguing component of Zapatismo, according to Teresa Ortiz, was the Mayan tradition of mandar obediciendo, “to lead by obeying.” She explained what it meant at the village level. Imagine a village. to use her examples, we feel the need for a teacher and a storekeeper. But these two persons can be freed for those communal tasks only if we, as a community, undertake to cultivate their miles (their corn fields). in the most literal sense their ability to take leadership roles depend on our willingness to provide their livelihoods.
    When representatives thus chosen are asked to take part in regional gatherings, they will be instructed delegates. If new questions arise, the delegates will be obliged to return to their constituents. Thus, in the midst of the negotiations mediated by Bishop Ruiz early in 1994, the Zapatista delegates said they would have to interrupt the talks to consult the villages to which they were accountable, a process that took several weeks. The heart of the political process remains the gathered residents of each village, the asambela.
  •  In the “Fourth Declaration from the Lacandón Jungle,” on January 1, 1996, it is stated that the Zapatista Front of National Liberation will be a “political force that does not aspire to take power[,]… that can organize citizens’ demands and proposals so that he who commands, commands in obedience to the popular will[,]… that does not struggle to take political power but for the democracy where those who command, command by obeying”
  • Marcos: you can participate without aspiring to public office, that you can organize politically without being in a political party, that you can keep an eye on the government and pressure it to “lead by obeying,” that you can have an effect and remain yourself…
  • Marcos: Mexico of those who don’t build ladders to climb above others, but who look beside them to find another and make him or her their compañero or compañera, brother, sister, mate, buddy, friend, colleague, or whatever word is used to describe that long, treacherous, collective path that i the struggle of: everything for everyone.
  • Wobblies
    • Lumber workers anxious to limit their backbreaking work simply worked off the job after eight hours.
    • Western towns and cities were notorious for prohibiting free speech. Wobblies thereupon would assemble from all over the region and fill the jails, to the point that their incarceration became so expensive that the town fathers, in disgust, would let them out of jail and permit them to mount their soapboxes in the public square.
  • The inadequacy of Social Democracy became apparent – once and for all – in August 1914 when each of the major parties instructed its parliamentary delegation to support war taxes for that particular government.
  • learned from Alinsky: I learned that before projecting my own ideas of what needed to be done, i should listen and try to be sure that a give issue “was there” in the minds of people on the streets before trying to organize around it. I learned that the most important leaders were informal, the people to whom others turned for advice. I learned that in forming a leadership group, one should initially assemble informal community leaders as a “temporary steering committee” in order to discover, in practice, who would best give the group direction.
  • In working class communities
    • Personal loyalty is valued more highly than intellectual consistency
    • youngsters who grow up in working-class communities are constantly under the thumb of figures of authority. they encounter, first the father, then the priest and school teacher, then (after high school) superiors in the armed forces, and finally supervisors in the mill. These rites of passage make it difficult for a person to value his or her own thoughts and feelings.
    • In organizing among workers, it is essential that from the very first meeting workers are in the majority and create the atmosphere and ton  of all occasions.
  • Solidarity Unionism
    • I had concluded that the problems with CIO unionism did not begin with class collaboration during World War II or the anti-Communist witch hunts after the war, but with the very first contracts in steel and auto, when trade union bureaucrats voluntarily gave up the right to strike.
    • The core idea of solidarity unionism is simple. Workers should look primarily to each other to accomplish their objectives, rather than depending on laws, government agencies, or distant unions. Collective direct action is likely to resolve problems more rapidly than filing a grievance or brining a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board.
  • Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, coined the term “dual power” to characterize the historical moment when the two powers – on the one hand the official, traditional state dominated by the possessing classes, and on the other hand, the new self-acting popular committees – confront one another.