Seattle, WA — After nearly two months of struggle at various International Association of Machinists (IAM) union meetings and conferences, our rank-and-file Jena 6 support resolution was finally kicked upstairs to the District Human Rights committee. Last week, the Business Representative chairman informed us the committee decided to kill it. “If we supported this then anybody could come forward with his or her issues,” he warned.
“That would be horrible” was the sarcastic reaction of many members on the shop floor. Then more serious discussions began. What is the purpose of these human rights committees anyway?
The network of Human Rights committees was started in the mid-’70s. At the time, the union was flooded with new younger members just back from the Vietnam War, with experience in anti-racist rebellions and familiarity with left-wing politics. These new members expected action against racism both on the job and in society at large. The leadership answered with a human rights committee in every local. Carefully controlled by the reactionary leadership, these committees served as the hacks’ lightning rods. They diverted the efforts of honest anti-racists from militant class struggle into dead-end bureaucracy.
In our district, the activity of this committee is also driven by rank-and-file anti-racist struggle. But, once again, the misleadership used this committee to give an appearance of “diversity” while short-circuiting class struggle. The leadership even decided to cover their ass with diversity training for all union officers. Unfortunately, the International runs these classes. As explained by an International officer, diversity training is important to organizing. Their organizing slogan is “Defending Our Freedom; Defending Our Jobs.” Their logo features a U.S. flag and an armed soldier.
The picture is complete. The International’s version of Human Rights is multi-racial support for racist U.S. imperialism.
Communism: The Only Answer To Bosses’ Racism
Under communism the PLP would bring workers into the street to battle racists. Racism hurts all workers; communism requires anti-racist working-class consciousness and unity. In order to ensure the victory of the revolution, we must muster our class’s fighting might.
Today, with pro-capitalist unions, we have to expose the misleaders’ phony Human Rights committees. In that sense, being attacked by the hacks in this struggle has not been such a bad thing. Our CHALLENGE sales have increased a bit as we have worked hard to bring communist ideas to our fellow workers who have lost faith in pro-capitalist unions. We now have to turn those sales into bigger CHALLENGE networks and new Party members.
Where possible, we should encourage honest workers to join these misleaders’ committees. They should have no illusions about how far the hacks will let these committees mobilize rank-and-file class struggle. On the other hand, by pushing just such action, we can more profoundly expose the pro-boss union leadership.
As these struggles ensue, the revolutionary alternative will become more meaningful when we find ways to emphasize our communist politics.