September 28, 2006

Salem, Oregon--All Out On Saturday, Sept. 30 Against Racism!

The NAACP, PCUN and other groups will be rallying and marching on Saturday, September 30 in Salem. The rally/march will start at noon at Riverfront Park and move to the State Capitol steps.

This event is being billed at a unity event between Black and Latino communities.

Everyone out on Saturday, September 30 against injustice in Oregon!

September 21, 2006

Salem, OR. and the Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan has been littering the Candalaria neighborhood in Salem with its literature. This particular Klan group apparently rides around at night--no surprise there--and throws its literature onto driveways in bags weighted down with cat litter. According to the Statesman Journal, this group is advertising itself as a "dynamic Christian organization." The newspaper quotes a Klan leader and Baptist minister in Arkansas as saying that he doesn't know who is doing the night-riding.

The KKK has quite a history here in Oregon and there are many elderly white people in the Salem area who remember the Klan of the 1920s fondly. And, with or without the Klan and similar groups, there are very few brakes on racism here. We hear comments and witness behavior every day which feeds and reflects the culture which supports racism. A skilled organizer could work with this history and culture and shift it into high and violent gears. There is an established Klan group in LaPine and the Minutemen have been active on the streets and on the web lately. The Klan and the Minutemen amount to the same thing, regardless of how much the Minutemen deny being racists. These are the kind of people who crawl out from under the rocks when a guy like Saxton runs for Governor and when ballot measures like 41 and 48 get taken seriously.

It is no accident that the Klan is active now here. This is a response to the immigrant rights movement generally and to the growing presence in the Candalaria area of Sikhs and the relocation of the Jewish temple to near the Candalaria neighborhood. The Sikhs have had a hard time of it recently. The Catholic Church near the neighborhood has hosted some great community and disability rights organizing efforts recently also. The neighborhood also has more people renting homes as housing sales drop and as development grows. There seem to be more state workers settling there as the effects of the wage freeze wear off and uncertainty over what will happen with PERS remains. This is a neighborhood facing change.

We need to be able to respond with numbers to the racists in our community. Racism is unacceptable in any form. Every progressive person, every religious person and every union in this town needs to be on the same side in this coming fight.

September 19, 2006

In Hungary The "Socialists" Slide Backwards

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has admitted lying about the state of the Hungarian economy and has admitted that his government and many of the experts the government relies upon also lied and tricked people into giving his Socialist Party and the Free Democrats a win in the elections in April. The Hungarian economy is in far worse shape than the Socialists and Free Democrats admitted. The austerity or "retrenchment" measures introduced by the government and its allies have been discreditied or, at least, are seen in a different light as rumors circulate about the liefestyles of rich and famous bureaucrats and capital being exported for individual consumption and pleasure.

Every government lies. The Prime Minister might be forgiven for this. And most governments pursue policies which enrich a few at the expense of the people. Austerity measures are common to most governments and govering parties these days, and have been for thirty years or so. However, the Hungarian Prime Minister's remarks were captured on tape and were punctuated with certain obscenities. The tapes were released just prior to scheduled anti-government demonstrations. This amounts to pouring oil on a fire. At last count in the foreign press, about 150 people had been injured in rioting--most of them police--and a crowd which had taken over the state television offices in Budapest had been dislodged by the police. The memorial to Russian soldiers in Budapest has been attacked by a mob and cars have been set on fire in the city. Protests are taking place in most cities.

The opposition is charging that their ranks have been infiltrated by the government and that these infiltrators are the ones leading the violence. In the American press it is being said that the far-right is leading the demonstrations and calling for the resignation of the government. A friend from Hungary wrote this morning to tell me that if the government does not resign there will be more and escalating violence. Gyurcsany must believe this also as he calls for calm and confidence in the government, calls in additional police forces and refuses to accept the resignation of the head of the police.

The "Socialist" Party and government inherited parts of the political and economic machinery of
Communist Hungary but little or none of its ideology. For instance, there is really no Socialist rural policy in place now and no will at the top to create a policy for rural redevelopment. Gyurcsany himself is a product of different times and humble beginnings. His opportunism was apparent when he headed the youth wing of the Hungarian communist movement 25 years ago. Hungary has lacked political and economic stability since turning to capitalism: this is the first government since that turn to have two successive runs in office.

When I was in Hungary in April and May it was clear that the Prime Minister was barely hanging on to power and that there was widespread and explosive opposition to his party. Much of this opposition, it seemed to me, was opposition to austerity measures which socialists have little business pushing in the first place. It also seemed to me that the social base of Hungarian Socialist Party resides among the secure and young professionals who identify with western Europe and the USA. The political and economic machinery they can marshall to win elections cannot be trusted to administer a complex economy or a divided nation.

If the crowds in the streets are indeed being led by the far right--and we do not know if this is so--the "Socialists" are still much to blame for having allowed this crisis to mature and grow to this point and for not having mobilized the workers who support the Party and government, however critically, to understand the crisis and defend social institutions. The "Socialists" opened the door to the crisis by not serving the people, with their dishonesty and condescension and with their austerity programs.

How much damage will be done if the government is overthrown and the far-right seizes power? We don't know. Today such a development seems likely. A regime in Hungary which mirrors the regime in Poland and approaches the kind of extremism seen in Croatia, Slovakia, Romania and Italy a few years ago begins to feel like a bloc which could easily go over to fascism. We must ask ourselves soberly what holds such a development back.

September 13, 2006

Pimping the Working Class

Every two and four years in November, American working class people have a unique opportunity; the chance to elect their own pimps! Yeah, and I do mean pimps, because what American government offers workers is the wider opportunity to be screwed, with the conditions of the act left entirely with the folks doing the screwing; read here "Employers". Harsh as it sounds, here's three examples of working people being pimped by their government.
Some folks may remember that in July, the Chicago City Council passed a Living wage ordinance aimed at Wal-Mart and 42 other large retail operations. The Chicago ordinance would have required these 43 odd retailers, those with over $1 billion in operations and operating stores of 90,000 square feet or more, to pay a minimum hourly wage of $10 and to put another $3 per hour into benefits, all to be phased in by 2010. Great piece of legislation, but at this point it's all history with Chicago's City Council being three votes shy of overcoming Mayor Richard Daley's veto of the ordinance earlier today. Making the story slightly more pathetic, the Mayor's veto (by the way, the first mayoral veto of a City council action in 17 years) could have been overcome but for three crossover votes from City Council members who originally supported the legislation.

Shirley Coleman, who originally supported the July Living Wage Ordinance, changed her vote based on a "verbal promise" from Wal-Mart to build a second Wal-Mart store in her district. Evidently, Ms. Coleman believes that its better to have twice as many jobs you can't live on, than to have half the number of jobs you can live on. Danny Solis, another Chicago Alderman who also voted for the ordinance, stated that on this issue, "... he's (the Mayor) absolutely right." I wonder how Mr. Solis came to see the Mayor's great wisdom now, but so missed it in July. The third crossover, George Cardenas, doesn't appear to be saying much at all, which might be the most honest political statement coming out of any of the three.

Then there's the State of Maryland. Maryland's Supreme Court recently overturned State legislation requiring Wal-Mart and other large employers to provide decent health insurance to all their employees. The cynic in me says that half the Maryland legislaters who voted to require the big retailers to provode health insurance, knew the l;egislation was unconstitutional to start with, thus allowing a lot of grand-standing without really having to tweek the corporate powers that be al all. But then, like I said, I'm a self-confessed cynic when it comes to government.

My third example is a year-old case coming out of the Supreme Court, Kelo vs. New London, Connecticut. This particular case comes out of an eminent domain situation where the city of New London seized and forced neighborhood residents to sell their homes and properties to New London based on a corporate investment scheme flying under the rubric of "economic development". The June 2005 US Supreme court decision upheld the City of New London's seizure of a non-blighted working class neighborhood by a vote of 5 to 4. In lots of ways, the Kelo decision is precedent making in that for the first time, government has been allowed to seize the property of lots of residents for the specific purpose of making room for corporate investment deals.

All of the above examples are politics as usual. Unfortunately, politics as usual looks all too much like pimping, where the role of government seems to be one of selling out the commonwealth to the bidder with the biggest bucks. If there is a common denominator in all of the above examples, it's that all of them were done with justifications of making life better for working people. Evidently, for Mayor Daley, Shirley Coleman and others, the opportunity to be screwed for as little as possible is better than not being screwed at all. I don't really know how else one can justify the creation of jobs when the folks working them can't make a living.

Kelo vs New London was also justified on the basis of jobs. New London says it copped the deal with the corporate investors because it would create jobs. New London never attempted to get guarantees around the number of jobs, what kind of jobs, what they'd pay or who they'd employed. All the same, New London's actions were justified by the Supreme Court based on the overriding economic development interests of the community.... Never mind that the community interests aren't defined but that a lot of working people are now out of a home.

So, I call it pimping. I don't know any better metaphor than this when time and time again giant capitalist interests are given the run of a community, its neighborhoods and people, and all being justified by government as being in the public interest.

Next, I'd like to rant about tax abatements.... You know? Where corporations and large businesses go to the government and say, "give us a break on our taxes or we'll leave and kill your town". In Oregon alone, tax abatements are worth millions and millions. Some used to call this stratgy blackmail.... But that's a different story....

Everybody Look Up--But What Do We See?

Our Comrade Chuck recently posted an article here called "Everybody Looks Up." The posting has provoked much discussion and has gotten us some attention. In his article Chuck tried to describe "a modern form of social pathology" which anyone who does organizing bumps up against every day. Chuck located the pathology by saying "...people are so in awe and afraid of institutional power, and have such an ingrained sense of powerlessness that perception itself has been altered, even for those who should know better."

If you're not struggling with this and against this you probably aren't organizing.

I disagree with Comrade Chuck's assessment of union leadership generally. And as one of the union staff mentioned in the article, I need to say that I felt fully supported by the formal union leadership in our not-so-successful recent statewide actions. I locate the specific problems which made the actions less-than-successful in our structure and in the opportunism present at the union's base (other staff and union member-leaders). I also take a long view and force myself to be patient: we are at the beginning of a contract campaign which may last one year or a bit longer and there will be forward and backward steps. At our best we are a school in which we train ourselves and others to take part in and lead bigger struggles than this. We have inherited very little from our history which is of much use in the present moment and so we must reinvent and learn as we go along. And Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) reminded us many times that not all movement is progress.

But Comrade Chuck has stated a truth which is larger than my disagreements with him. Here are some observations on how this truth works itself out.

Last weekend I led a training on "values-based organizing" which I constructed out of my past organizing experience, socialist and Christian values and my understanding of class. The training says that we can organize on the basis of sharing and joining our separate stories as workers, self-consciously considering our pasts and looking into our stories for lessons on how we experience power and powerlessness as workers. The training recognizes the kinds of crises in civil society which Chuck pointed out and stresses reflection through keeping a journal, using healthy one-on-one conversations for organizing, creating and winning people to a common "future story," using unions and workers' organizations as "recovery programs" from the bad values enforced under capitalism and developing self-disciplined worker-intellectuals. Getting through the training requires that everyone participating be vulnerable, self-critical and willing to struggle. I took some of the ethics used in the training from Mao's early writing and used this to argue about how we know if a concept is correct or incorrect.

I expected to get push-back from the union members on the amount of work expected in this training and I got it. Most union trainings are structured as call-and-response trainings and the member-leaders taking part know the "correct" answers and repeat them to staff and to one another. Most of us probably believe what we're saying, but most of us don't live those answers out or translate them meaningfully into our daily work. In values-based organizing the paradigm shifts: the standard questions aren't asked and the standard answers aren't acceptable. People look inward as a step beyond their experiences.

Most of the workers did not want to journal or reflect and share their reflections with others. I also expected that this would be a problem. People faltered on the basic question of class. I first asked the workers to tell who ever encouraged them to think critically and we came up with a good list. Then I asked the group to say who has encouraged them to think critically as workers. For many of the people in the group this led logically into a discussion of their jobs because they could not separate the identity of "worker" from work and apply it politically and culturally--at work and in the union they are "workers" but everywhere else they live as part of a middle-class. For some of us, this discussion was a radical step away from looking up.

The "muscle" of critical thinking weakens and eventually atrophies if it isn't used. We talked about how different the union might be if we encouraged critical thinking and if we made forming egalitarian relationships between workers and leadership a central task for union activists. I gave the workers a few chapters from Teddy Atlas' great autobiography and a recent political history piece from The Nation as an encouragement and springboard for future critical thinking and journaling. Atlas' autobiography may be one of the best books on organizing written in recent years. I'm not optimistic that most of the workers will take up the challenge, but a few will and I believe that the program is basically sound.

I did not expect that the workers would so quickly understand the differences between critical thinking and being critics, but they got there quickly and enjoyed that part of the discussion. I did expect that they would get the study-act-study model of approaching their work, an instinctively dialectical process we should bring to organizing, but this didn't ring true to them. They picked up and ran with our discussion on coming into healthy relationships with other workers and the ethics and import of containing individualism. The Maoist ethics I incorporated into the training made sense to almost everyone.

The training I did was followed by a political discussion led by a staffperson working in the union's political department. The group quickly fell apart as he raised the issues of immigration and immigrant rights. The values we spent much of the day working on and clarifying took second place to unconscious racism and the tepid, defensively liberal responses progressive union activists often rush to in these heated arguments. Unchecked by progressive leadership and radical organizing at the base, racism and the defensive arguments our people use to combat it always undermine unionism. I came away from the discussion thinking about how we can transform a dialogue on class and class values into an anti-racist discussion, whether or not white people can work from working class values towards anti-racism at the present time and the challenges of doing anti-racist and radical organizing among whites which we have so far refused to face.

We certainly do look up, and our perceptions are altered by power relationships to the point of being almost hallucinogenic, but what each of us sees and fears as we strain to see what is above us differs. Our white union sisters and brothers see people who look just like them slamming a door in their faces and this confuses them. When they look sideways and down they see unfamiliar faces. A recent study of some young African-American men is said to have demonstrated that their school drop-out rates and the use of mysogonistic rap music is tied to wanting respect from white peers. If this is true, its also a tragic form of dependency and the very opposite of self-determination. A white woman who has been harassed by her (white) boss and coworkers asked me yesterday why they are getting away with this. When I answered that "its their system and their country and their rules" her head snapped back in shock; perhaps my blunt reply forced her to reconsider what she sees as she looks up, but she may also be incapable of doing that because white or American identification works against self-consciousness and class consciousness. And so it goes...

We are in a more dangerous moment than we realize. Our left and union traditions may not carry in themselves the answers or strength we need to face reality. If that is the case, we can't blame the union leaderships or the petty-bourgeois tendencies on the left for our situation. For that matter, we are caught having to love, trust and serve the workers and the people as revolutionaries while the tendency to "look up" isolates us. This is a time to challenge ourselves and other workers on the fundamentals, to pull and push one another into the streets and into organizing projects and to admit that we're doing this in order to break out of social encirclement and stress the contradictions between what is and what is necessary and possible. We can shake ourselves and others out of habitually looking up, but many people will only stop looking up when the ceiling caves in.

September 5, 2006

Portland Immigrant Rights March


On Sunday, September 3, a demonstration and march calling for immigrant rights was held in Portland. The Portland demonstration, in turn, was to be part of a national mobilization day around immigrant rights, with demonstrations and marches planned in most major US cities.

In all cases, it appears that the large numbers expected by mobilization organizers did not happen. The Portland march and demonstration was attended by somewhere between two and three thousand. Mobilizations in other US cities also appear not to have drawn the big crowds, with very little demonstration coverage coming from such cities as Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Miami or anyplace else in the US.

A major factor in the lower than expected numbers might be the result of the very succesful large demonstrations around immigrant rights in April and May. No matter how one looks at it, the April and May demonstrations exceeded organizers' wildest expectations here in Oregon and throughout the United States. foto by Lucie

A second factor in the lower than planned numbers might also stem from a lack of impending legislation hostile to immigrant workers. In April and May, undocumented workers were faced with the Sensenbrenner Bill in the House of Representatives. If it had passed, the Sensenbrenner Bill would have moved undocumented workers to the status of felons. As such, the Seinsenbrenner Bill was a declaration of war against all immigrants and their families, and thus, seemed to have galvanized the immigrant community.

In some respects, the September 3rd mobilization wight be the more representative event as the movement for immigrant rights moves forward. At this stage, it appears that the Sensenbrenner Bill is dead, as is the possibility of any immigration legislation passing out of the current Congress and Administration. This lack of legislation is the result of a lack of agreement within the Republican Party as to how to deal with undocumanted workers. While Bill Sensenbrenner and conservative northern Republicans would be more than happy to beat up undocumented workers, there is also another wing of the Repblican Party, from the South and the West, who understand that undocumented workers are the key ingrediant to the nation's labor-intensive agricultural operations such as vegatable, fruit, nursery, and diary farming, not to mention other non-agricultural low-wage industries.

For the Immgrant Rights movement, the lack of pending Republican "immigration reform" is a two-edged sword. On one hand, the threat from the Republican right rapidly mobilized immigrant workers in a climate of fear and hostility. On the other hand however, the climate of hostility evident in April and May made mobilization possible without really having to define the purpose and meaning of an Immigrant Rights movement.

Without the fear of immediate harm from above, the Immigrant Rights movement will have to define itself, its aims and its goals. Self definition of a movement sounds easy, but indeed, fashioning is quite a bit harder as understandings will need to be forged across large numbers of immigrant workers and their allies. Hopefully, a future consensus within and immigrant workers' movement will include the notion that second-class vulnerable workers is a status that does all workers harm. Either way however, minus a major threat from the right, it will be up to the Immigrant Rights movement to pull itself together; a hard row to hoe.

In spite of the lower than expected turnout, the Sunday march in Portland did have its successes. The mood of the demonstrators was upbeat. A second factor tending towards success is that the demonstration was almost equally divided between immigrant workers and their families and mostly white, native born supporters of immigrant rights. Key on the support end of things was that workers and union members made up a disproportionately large segment of native born supporters. Truly, there does seem to be a sense on the part of progressive native-born workers that an injury to one is an injury to all, and that workers do need to stick together regardless of national citizenship and widely divergent cultural backgrounds.

September 2, 2006

Book Review--Outlaws of America

Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity by Dan Berger. 432 pages. AK Press, $20.00.

In June of 1969 Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) met in convention in Chicago and experienced a split which has defined for many of us the paths and possibilities of what was then called the New Left. One of the groups coming out of SDS stuck with the still-existing Progressive Labor Party (PL). Another group called itself the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM). RYM split as well. One RYM faction experienced a series of splits which eventually created a number of groups which came to collectively form an important base of the New Communist Movement. Another faction became Weatherman which then became the Weather Underground Organization (WUO). This book is primarily about WUO.

WUO may only have had a couple of hundred active members and supporters at its highest points, but its militant actions and the manifestos the organization issued from underground brought reactions far beyond what the small numbers of WUO's members might have suggested. Weatherman went underground almost immediately after its founding in 1969. The organization quickly formed collectives, toughened its members up through street violence and confrontations, declared war on the system and carried out a number of bombings in support of anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-racist movements here and abroad. Central to the WUO was a committment to work against racism and to militantly support Black liberation and struggles for self-determination in the US and across the Third World. WUO members engaged in especially difficult personal and political struggles in order to give these concepts ever-deeper meaning. The last bombing the WUO did was, I believe, in 1977. That action was done as the group was coming apart. An attempted change in political direction, police infiltration and stresses related to larger political changes taking place killed WUO. From that point to 1985 armed actions carried out by other groups involved some Weatherpeople and led to multiple arrests. A number of people associated with WUO also surfaced in this period. Many of the people associated with WUO and similar or associated groups remain in prison today. In 1975 the WUO began a process of above-ground political organizing. The still-active Prairie Fire Organizing Committee (PFOC) developed out of that organizing effort.

Berger's book is one of several recent books examining the WUO and the period of time in which it was active. This book will serve as an excellent introduction to WUO and the contexts in which it operated. The author is apparently close enough politically to the WUO line that we can see the strong and weak points of that line and how that line of thought and action may have developed to the present time. The book cuts through certain myths which inhibit our understanding of armed movements for social change. We learn about the real motivations and the criticism and self-criticism WUO militants worked with. I hope that the book will help to provoke a series of constructive discussions.

There are a number of relatively minor mistakes in the text. I think that Berger gets parts of the history of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) wrong. He does not provide a nuanced view of the Black Panther Party. He writes off PL too easily and does not give readers an understanding of the broader left in the 1960s and 1970s. He underestimates the importance and possibilities of what took place in France in 1968. He refers to PFOC as a "mass organization" and says that "...the 1970s were...alive with action" and so mistakenly inflates the standing and work of a faction and overstates the atmosphere and context of a decade.

There are more important errors in judgement and ideology, however. Berger uncritically accepts a strained dichotomy of a "New" versus "Old" Left. In 1967 the Russian Revolution was only 50 years old, the People's Democracies and Socialist Yugoslavia had barely existed for two generations and China had not yet been free for 20 years. These were still young revolutions and were self-conscious and self-critical of their work. Leftists all over the world engaged with these revolutions, and did so with considerable critical thinking. Berger seems only to see an exaggerated distance between these revolutions and some young American revolutionaries. In Berger's hands the critical point of departure is located in some radicalized American youth. By page 270 he is mistakenly counterposing a sterotyped "bureaucratic and authoritarian state socialism of the Old Left variety" to other national liberation movements. The book lacks much-needed critical thinking in this area.

Early in the book Berger exaggerates the nature and meaning of antiwar protests taking place in 1967. He builds on this error and arrives at the point of saying that the protests and building occupations at Columbia University in 1968 were a test of anti-imperialist guerilla strategy worked out in Latin America by Che Guevara and Regis Debray. This is exaggeration and bravado.

Berger seems to uncritically accept the formulation that people of color in the USA are colonized in much the same way as colonized peoples are overseas. He provides a sort of checklist of conditions which he may believe proves this point. The list documents special oppression, discrimination, uneven development and a failure in class formation and development which may be unique to the USA but it does not document the existence of internal colonies or colonization. It seems to follow for Berger that people of color in the USA can liberate themselves and that the proper role for white radicals is to organize in their own communities and engage in forms of armed struggle which take the heat off of an anti-colonial struggle waged here by people of color. This was, roughly speaking, a guiding set of concepts for people around WUO.

If people of color make up twenty per cent of the population in the USA they certainly cannot liberate themselves only through their own efforts, even assuming mass agreement here on a shared political program and the leadership of left-led anti-colonial struggles taking place elsewhere in the world. Moreover, it seems impossible that society could withstand the shock of a revolution and build something good out of the ashes without tested revolutionary organizations in the workplace. It seems not to have occured to Berger--and perhaps not to the WUO until it was too late--that an American proletariat will be largely led and made up of people of color. It is not a given that these forces will share the same interests or means of struggle with others.

The idea that white radicals have a primary responsibility to organize in white communities is certainly valid. SNCC arrived at this point in part because white presence in civil rights struggles brought down levels of repression SNCC was unprepared for and because it can truthfully be said that civil rights legislation was largely written for white people. Moreover, white people rarely listen to and respect Black activists. Alliances between disparate but cooperating radical forces rooted in different communities may better serve radical ends than unitary organizations based solely on social struggles or single objectives. The question of whether or not armed struggle is a form of organizing remains unanswered. The principle that whites can and should organize in white communities for radical and anti-racist ends remains untested.

When we deal with workplace struggles we leave that familiar terrain. Workplace struggles most often occur when workers' consciousness has stabilized and formed around sets of shared demands which can only be won through unifying organizations. In some key situations people of color have had to form separate organizations, or have had a history of autonomous and independent struggle in a workplace or industry, which have eventually moved others towards class consciousness and enabled the creation of unitary demands and unifying struggles. Surrender of autonomy and independent struggle, especially under such conditions, has always been a tragic step backwards. We cannot fault Berger and the WUO for not dealing with these questions in detail. However, we must ask why the 1968-1971 strike wave in the US and the lessons which parts of the left drew from those strikes so escaped WUO and why Berger doesn't reflect upon this.

Where does this leave Berger and WUO? By page 91 of the book, or by 1969-1970, the author and WUO sound as if they are fundamentally opposed to organization and organizing. By page 150, or by late 1970, WUO's armed struggle begins to sound not so different than the solitary pacifist witness WUO so hated. "Anti-imperialism" in the hands of WUO and Berger are by then identified almost solely with armed struggle. WUO, it would seem, is failing by even its own standards at this point, although Berger doesn't say this and may not agree. The reader feels as if we are lurching from disaster to disaster. By page 227, or 1975, we are reading a criticism of the first PFOC conference for "...abandoning self-determination in favor of party-building," as if one is inherently opposed to the other. The thinking of other anti-imperialists like Eqbal Ahmed and CLR James is nowhere in evidence here.

The book refers in several places to "a classical white Marxism that downplayed race" but the author does not name the people or organizations he is accusing and does not provide concrete examples of what is being criticized.

A number of practical questions arise. In the 1975-1977 period, summarized for us in part on pages 230-243, we see WUO attempting to form an aboveground organization (PFOC) while struggling internally with political questions which soon caused WUO to split. There was an initial period of interest then in WUO and some bridge-building between WUO and aboveground organizations which had parted ways years before. Those partings had often been charged with hostility. The bridge-building was slow but worked until WUO was finally rebuffed by many of those organizations. I remember this period well. There were individuals in WUO protesting that their organization was not democratic. Can an underground organization be democratic? Berger says that at this point "...it seemed that (WUO) had lost its humanist grounding." Can an organization focused on armed struggle maintain a humanist grounding? Could it have reasonably been expected to grasp and correctly interpret the signifigance of feminism and gay liberation from underground? The dispersion of the left which Berger describes in the twelfth chapter of the book is real, but he does not call for the creation of a new political party and clearly disrespects anything associated with the historic left. What is his alternative? Berger says that WUO "...provides a model for white people's participation in anti-racist movements." This book details a series of failures and missteps and tells the story of a small organization which was generally isolated and constantly in crisis. What is it exactly in the WUO experience which provides a model? When Berger says that WUO's impact must be judged on the basis of being a "...moral, pedagogical, and militant form of guerilla theater with a bang" he is unintentionally diminishing WUO's contributions. We read that some "middle class" Weatherpeople who surfaced did little or no jail time while Black revolutionaries accused of similar activities fared far worse. Some of these Weatherpeople have since moved on to white collar jobs. What we do not hear about is what happened to the white working class people who were drawn to armed revolutionary actions in this period. How have they fared and what do they think now? Naomi Jaffe is quoted on page 282 asking critical questions about movement-building, leadership and solidarity. Her questions go unanswered. By the end of the book class struggle has been almost entirely discounted. By the time we get to Jaffe's important questions we are hearing Berger say, in effect, that class must be viewed through the lenses of political questions and issues such as colonialism and imperialism. Is this not exactly the opposite of what should and does occur? Should we not look at all political questions through the lenses of class struggle?