Helping Each Other is Not Enough
Working class solidarity is an indispensable characteristic of a revolutionary movement, but it is not enough. If solidarity was the sole characteristic possessed by the working class, then all workers would assist each other where possible. These last two little words “where possible” betray the limitations of this approach. We, as workers, have very little in the ways of means. What little more any particular section of the working class has over another section should be shared and utilized by all to the benefit of all, but it cannot possibly hope to end the problems caused by capitalism. No, sharing our own resources within our class is not enough, we must seek to wrest resources out of the hands of the capitalists and bring them under worker control. Once in the hands of the working-class, the previously mentioned solidarity becomes necessary to ensure that the resources are best taken advantage of for our class rather than serving to create privileged sections of the working class which can be used as a whip against the less privileged sections of the working class. It isn’t enough either to simply take enough resources from the capitalist class to alleviate working class problems, we must seize the entire productive apparatus. Just as we, as workers, must sell our labor-power as a single unit, making no distinction between necessary and surplus labor time, so must we also seize the means of production, wholesale, making no distinction between what we need and what we don’t. Anything left in the hands of the capitalist class will be turned in to a weapon to be used against the working class.
Rather than simply leaving you with this, I think the process of arriving at these conclusions is very valuable to explore.
Red Tutors is an organization I helped found that assists students from underfunded schools to succeed academically. What this looks like practically involves the tutors making weekly house calls to the students and assisting them with studying for tests, homework, or projects. There are some emergent characteristics wherein the tutors will talk with students or parents of students about politics, but largely the work is centered around helping the student succeed academically. Even most of our emergent conversation that is not related directly to school work tends to be about college preparation and job choices etc. If you’re interested in starting your own Red Tutors chapter you can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We recently attended a May 1st demonstration where we were soliciting for additional students and tutors as well as talking briefly about the relationship between Red Tutors and Anti-Capital. One of the groups we encountered was Worker’s Assemble who said they were running a free school of their own. With such a natural point of overlap we were naturally excited to merge our resources, but upon describing our work to each other we realized we had two different models. Worker’s Assemble was hosting group sessions wherein the parents of the students would talk about a subject they wanted their students to know about that was not being addressed in school. I may or may not have misinterpreted a comment, but one of the Worker’s Assemble members involved in this endeavor remarked, with respect to the Red Tutors model of one on one assistance, that our model was what they would wind up needing to change to.
It is worth noting that the above is simply the impression I personally took from this interaction, as it turns out the IWW is the one hosting the local free school, and we just happened to talk to a member of all three. What is important isn’t what the IWW or Workers Assemble were actually doing, but the fact that they gave us a model to contrast our own with. This contrasting of models was valuable for the development of Red Tutors.
This difference in model and dissatisfaction with their results was the kernel of a solution to a problem Red Tutors had internally discussed before. Do we require a certain amount of political purity from our prospective tutors? We didn’t expect to get outright racists volunteering to tutor our mostly immigrant population of students, but we were concerned about liberals who may approve of bombings in Syria and elsewhere. We were, after all, using Red Tutors as a political project which we did not want hijacked by larger and more experienced leftist organizations.
The encounter with an alternative model of organization enabled us to see some of the shortcomings involved in taking the political angle to the extreme, namely, a dissatisfaction with academic results as manifested in grades. As far as we can tell, to emphasize a political approach in our attempts to foster academic success will only come at the cost of that academic success. From this viewpoint, we were able to solidify Red Tutors as being blind to an individual’s politics so long as the academic success of the student is prioritized. This does not mean we will stop trying to win-over future tutors, students, parents, and teachers to the cause of working-class emancipation, but it is a recognition that Red Tutor’s primary activity is to foster academic success.
Forgive me if I’m being a bit “meta” here, but upon submitting the first draft of this article to Anti-Capital, I was met with the criticism that what needs to be done with Red Tutors is to transcend the Maoist mantra of “serve the people,” and engage in the class-struggle. This set the gears in my head in to motion which lead to the writing of the new opener for this article. We now also have the rudiments of a plan to engage in class-struggle.
Worker’s Committee for Worker’s Aid or (Workers for Workers)
I mentioned previously that Red Tutors was formed in part out of an interaction with a local organization that offers legal aid to immigrants slated for deportation. Our plan, then, is to link up with this organization and create an organizing center for groups that are providing material aid to the working class. The purpose of the center would be to coordinate our resources to meet needs more efficiently. For instance, Red Tutors is looking for more tutors and students, rather than having to canvass all the various leftist groups in the area, we could simply put the word out through the committee. This allows Red Tutors to focus more on tutoring and less on looking for tutors and students. You will note, however, that this committee still isn’t engaging in the class-struggle. This is entirely true, but it gives us a platform to begin that engagement by concentrating activity in one place. So what does this committee actually look like? It doesn’t exist as of yet, but our plan for its structure would include regular meetings and representation based on aid rendered to the working-class. You can be sure I will provide updates on the development of this organization, and I welcome comments and suggestions on the provided plan of action.