Saturday, November 21, 2009

This item from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)comes from yesterday, but the issue it speaks about is 365. It was once that socialism and "the left" believed that all that was necessary to liberate humanity was to remove the bosses of the economy. Worse than that the majority of socialists believed that the best way to to this was by replacing private bosses with government bosses, nationalization either by electoral or revolutionary means. That dream is over in many different ways. The "public bosses" have proven to be just as tyrannical as the private ones. In the case of revolutionary regimes they have usually proven to be far, far worse. Besides that, the wheel of history has travelled far down many other roads as well. Nowadays it is pretty well understood that improving the human condition involves many more aspects of life than the purely economic.

Anarchist socialism has always stood solidly against the 'political illusion', has always known what has been proven repeatedly over the course of the last century- without a single exception -that humans are too fallible a creature to allow economic power to be concentrated in the hands of a "benevolent" elite. The disease of inequality has never been cured by political medications, and far too often the result has been not just that the original disease worsened or remained the same. Far too often a new and much more horrible syndrome has developed. In medicine it's called "iatrogenic disease".

Anarchist socialism has also historically actively stood for the concept that the "liberation" of humanity doesn't just involve economics. In recent decades, as socialist movements rebuild, pretty well 100% of the brightest economic ideas- self management, producer coops, community control, etc., have come from the anarchist grab bag where they have been sitting for almost a century and a half. How well and, unfortunately in some cases how honestly, the lessons that anarchism always had to teach have been absorbed may be questioned, but the historical trend is clear.

Nowadays socialism, and the general labour movement, is also rediscovering the fact that "liberation" is not just about economics. To a large extent even the economic goals of labour will be unachievable unless labour ties itself to a much broader movement for justice. Only some of these causes are from the anarchist tradition. Others are much more recent, brought to light by the glare of the past few decades. The advantage anarchism has always had, in relation to more well known forms of socialism, is that it is at its basis an ethical choice. It is not a set of theories, though those it does indeed have aplenty. Its ethical basis has always been a safeguard (not an infallible one-there is no such thing- but a pretty damn effective one) against the sort of perverted pathways that other socialisms have far too often taken. New emphases/causes slide more easier into place in such a system of though than in statist systems. These news causes are, of course, just as susceptible to perversion as the economic cause has proven to be. One can hope that anarchism has an advantage there as well, that its ethical basis provides the sort of "natural immunity" that can prevent malignancies other than economic from taking hold.
I take no special view of anarchism, that it is some sort of infallible guide that can never go wrong. Regular readers of this blog know very well just how critical of some 'anarchist" ideas I am. Some fashionable "anarchisms" I hold in complete and utter contempt. History is also full of examples where large numbers of anarchists went down ways that were not just wrong but visibly absurd and even evil from top to bottom. Yet....the centre held.
Today the wider labour movement is also rediscovering what exactly it should be- part of a wider movement for general human betterment. Labour is increasingly realizing that it must rediscover ethics and its place in a wider movement if it is even to succeed in its own goals. Most often this rediscovery is being done by workers who are not anarchists, people who may never even have heard much about it. People whose only acquaintance with it may come from reading about the "kindergarten terrorism" or silly freak shows that a minority of anarchists practice. Some may even know more or less what the word means but may still disagree, honestly or otherwise. As I said I do not see anarchism as some GPS system that will always tell you where to go, but what it is is at least a crude map that is a better guide than any other available.
But I'm sure the crowd is getting tired of Molly's soapbox. Here is one bright example from CUPE about how labour is setting down new roots in very fertile soil. It is merely one happy story out of tens of thousands.
Remember and Organize:
November 20 marks the 11th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to remember our transgender sisters and brothers at home and abroad who have been murdered as a result of transphobic violence.

Toronto’s 519 Community Centre estimates that more than one trans person per month dies from transphobic violence and that trans women of colour who are sex workers are disproportionately affected by violence. Most often, these tragic events are not reported in the mainstream media and the perpetrators are seldom prosecuted.

Most instances of discrimination, however, are more subtle than these shocking acts of violence - and today is an opportunity to think about some of the ways that, as trade unionists, we can commit ourselves to working toward the full equality of our transgender sisters and brothers in our workplaces, in our communities and in our union.
We can:
**Educate ourselves and our members about the challenging affecting trans people in the workplace. One way to do this is the Pride in CUPE workshop offered through our union education.
**Put trans issues on our list of priorities at the bargaining table. Sample language can be found in CUPE's Bargaining Equality guide.
**Work with our divisions to lobby for inclusion of gender identity and gender expression in our human rights legislation.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to security of person and to protection from violence or bodily harm. The labour movement embodies these principles through our sense of solidarity with one another and the notion that an injury to one is an injury to all. Let us honour those who have died but let us also commit individually and collectively to re-energize our support for trans communities and their struggle for equality – in our locals, in our divisions and nationally.

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