OBU Manifesto # 50: A, B, & C

A.

It happens. It will happen. It’s happened.

There will be conflicts and acrimony between people with different senses of what comes first and how the parts fit together. The workshop on grassroots organizing will announce its allegiance to models like Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ organizing, the struggles for DACA and other immigrants–all of them good–and leaves out Labor.

They maneuver through all the intersections and omit the highway!

No, that’s trite and glib. If you’re black, being black is the highway. And yet, everyone works. Adam’s curse; capital’s wage.

Can you neglect the fact that the chief site of oppression, unfreedom, and hierarchy is the workplace? The chief site of political contestation is the workplace? Who can get what jobs? Who is relegated to what kinds of work? Whose jobs bring decent pay and social prestige? How do people get to their jobs? What forms of education, what forms of transportation are available? What kind of health care comes with the job? What power do people have over the hours they work? How exactly does the system function so that minorities and women and immigrants get the jobs with the least pay and prestige? And how can people organize to oppose these oppressions and unfreedoms?

If we’re talking about civil rights, Black Lives, gender and sexuality, immigrants’ rights, then we’re talking about work, the workplace, the power of workers, the places where power needs to be exerted.

If we’re talking about civil rights, Black Lives, gender and sexuality, immigrants’ rights–and now we should mention also gun control–then we’re talking about schools, retail stores, shipping warehouses, hospitals, nursing homes, private homes where nursing care is provided. These are the places where people are stripped of power; these are the places where people will come together to take power back, or hold it, in a public way, for the first time.

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B.

So, why is this forgotten? OBU is told, stop giving introductory lectures on labor history. All this is well known, of course, and of course. Everyone knows already that the face of labor today is not longer the white guy in the hard hat, that when we say “the working class,” we’re not talking just about those guys. The miners and steel workers and auto workers and lumberjacks and longshoremen. Those guys. They still exist, in lesser numbers. Labor today is women doing care work and retail and teaching and programming. And men too. Brown and white and black and the whole deal. Everyone knows that. Far be it from OBU to repeat what everyone already knows…

But if everyone knows that changes in labor are central to the status of women, minorities and immigrants, then how is it that Trump and his supporters didn’t know it and–more crucially and surprisingly–Hilary didn’t know and even, apparently, Bernie didn’t know it. Somehow all these very knowing  people thought the American working class was predominantly white and that blacks and other minorities and women and immigrants and queers, et.al. were only interested in their rights and their “identities,” or some such, and that unions were only for people with big mustaches.

And if everybody knows that political power is lost and won in the workplace, then why did the workshop on organizing somehow forget to include labor?

It didn’t forget. There was nothing to forget. It’s true that the organizers knew (since, as we know, everybody knows). But the knowledge of labor and the workplace and the knowledge of other group organizing existed in different areas of their collective brain. There were somehow no political synapses or neurotransmitters to connect the oppression/marginalization of minorities with the realities of unfreedom and powerlessness at work.

OBU is the building of those synapses. The construction may be difficult. Some parts of OBU may lose their acccustomed tact.

Ah humanity! Ah, the Left! Ah OBU!

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C.

And now we’re all pissed at each other. And some of OBU feel neglected and some of OBU feel insulted and some of OBU feel condescended to and some of OBU feel intensely guilty and ashamed and some of OBU feel resentment toward their partners or former partners, and every one of OBU’s parts now is thinking, “well, fuck you too” and nobody even ever said “Fuck you” first! But now everyone’s responding with it!

Fuck you.

No, fuck you!

My personal pronoun is “Eat shit.”

My personal pronoun is, “Go form your own organization ‘cause I ain’t gonna be in yours no more.”

Because you’re a white black queer cis privileged self-righteous whiny, know-it-all motherfucker and I’m tired of listening to your crap.

And where are your papers?

What papers?

Your official “I have authorization to be at the vanguard of the Left” papers.

Well, they’re right here, let me assure you. I’ve been in this goddamn movement for longer than you’ve been alive. And where is your authorization?

My authorization is that you and your little group are full of shit.

Bernie Bro!

Hilary Hoor!

Queer black greengrocer!

So, who is going to pull us back together from this???