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Union International - The IWW and the Other Campaign
by Worker Freedom
Thursday Aug 10th, 2006 8:34 AM
Disclaimer - The following is an editorial by members of the Bay Area; it is not currently the official position of the IWW.

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation, (EZLN), has been fighting for democracy, liberty and justice in the Southern Indigenous lands in Mexico well before 1994. Today, the Zapatistas are struggling for more than the indigenous people in Chiapas, but for all those across the world who have been exploited and robbed by the rich and the bad governments that serve them. Like the I.W.W., the EZLN is a humanitarian internationalist organization, who fight for the "humble and simple" people, the common, everyday working folks who belong to "civil society", the majority who do not belong to political parties.

By Zapatita and Dean Dempsey - Bay Area General Membership Branch, IWW

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation, (EZLN), has been fighting for democracy, liberty and justice in the Southern Indigenous lands in Mexico well before 1994. Today, the Zapatistas are struggling for more than the indigenous people in Chiapas, but for all those across the world who have been exploited and robbed by the rich and the bad governments that serve them. Like the I.W.W., the EZLN is a humanitarian internationalist organization, who fight for the "humble and simple" people, the common, everyday working folks who belong to "civil society", the majority who do not belong to political parties.

It was these folks, the working class, who from all over the globe, stood up for the Zapatistas when they first publicly began to defend their lands in Chiapas. The large international support that was received in many different forms, was really what prevented worse state funded attacks against those resisting in indigenous communities. Yet again recently, in Atenco and Oaxaca, the world witnessed the same brutal class war against organized indigenous and Mexican workers and their communities. The electoral fraud in Mexico has left the doors open to growing violence and repression. Once again, the need for international support from fellow workers is critical.

In the Sixth Declaration of la Selva Laconda, the Zapatistas recognize and thank all who demonstrated support, from those individuals and organizations within Mexico and from all over the world. Prior to the declaration, many international 'Encuentros', (encounters or gatherings) have allowed the Zapatistas to learn from the other struggles against capitalist empire. They express in the declaration, that after listening and learning from others,

"...our hearts were not the same as before, when we began our struggle. It was larger, because now we had touched the hearts of many good people. And we also saw that our heart was more hurt...not wounded by the deceits of the bad governments, but because when we touched the hearts of others, we also touched their sorrows. It was as if we were seeing ourselves in a mirror".

The EZLN reports that since the first few years of the Zapatista communities organizing, government documents show that it was only in those indigenous territories which show significant improvements to living conditions. Zapatistas note that the progress has only been possible by the support they had received from the support of "civil societies", the working class, grass-roots organizations throughout the world. "As if all these people have made "another world is possible" a reality, but through actions and not just words".

Now, twelve years after the EZLN declared war against neoliberalism, against oblivion, they understand that the only way to continue going forward is by being united with other communities with similar struggles. In Zapatista words, "A new step forward in the indigenous struggle is only possible if the indigenous join together with the workers, campesinos, students, teachers...the workers of the city and the countryside". This "globalized rebellion" includes not only the working class, but also focuses on the resistance of women, of the youth, of the LGBT community, of immigrants and migrants, and many other groups who are not seen until they rise up against empire, against capitalist exploitation and in defense of their own human dignity, and that of others.

The Zapatista’s Other Campaign is organizing in a national campaign, (that is non-electoral), to listen and help organize the word of the Mexican people in order to create real democracy, liberty and justice. This other form of political organizing, for a "program of national struggle" is aiming to create a new Constitution, from below and for below. It is also a way for the Zapatistas to communicate to all those who are resisting and fighting, to show them they are not alone, to learn from other people's struggles, and to both give and receive hope and strength to continue.

The Other Campaign is not interested in leading the movement, or to demand that others do as they have done...its purpose is to find agreements between communities in resistance, and at least in Mexico, to develop a "national program of struggle".

Internationally, the Other Campaign’s international Encuentros for its adherents have already helped create new relationships of mutual respect and support, with those who are against neoliberalism and for humanity. Autonomy and independence of organizations is respected, as the purpose is to build alliances among those with mutual interests, and mutual enemies.

The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee, which is the General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, has by the Sexta Declaration, send out an inspiring invitation to every (non-electoral) organization and individual who are also against capitalist globalization, who believe in national sovernty against corporate privatization, to become adherents to the Other Campaign, and to participate to encourage the growth of alliances, and help further develop another form of organizing, that is from the workers and for the workers, and of course, very much from the heart.

Throughout its history, the IWW has not only encouraged, but has very much been a part of international movements for working class solidarity. Today, a great opportunity presents itself again, to unite with those, from below and to the left. As adherents, the IWW could demonstrate their support to the Zapatistas, and many other worker communities in resistance. IWW members can be invited to future Encuentros, and individually or as an organization, contribute in how we may. Perhaps by participating in the “Other Campaign”, our hearts will also grow a bit more, as we learn and unite with fellow workers in different but very similar struggles.
The Industrial Workers of the World was the first American union to truly welcome all workers, as equals, regardless if they were immigrants, women, or African Americans, with our organizational structure free of bias and segregation. We have always organized industrially, as a class, emphasizing the importance and potential of cross-cultural, ethnic, and national relationships. Some of the most influential members of the IWW have been immigrants, women, and people of color, such as Ricardo Flores Magón, Mother Jones, Carlo Tresca, Lucy Parsons, Ben Fletcher and even the token Joe Hill. The tradition of this commitment to include all workers carries on to contemporary union organizers of all branches of our union, from all parts of the globe.

When we formed, the IWW wasn’t “sympathetic” for foreign-born workers, many of whom were unskilled. To be sympathetic for immigrants would imply them as a secular set of workers. Rather, many of our founding members were immigrants themselves, and some of our main resources were geared entirely to immigrant members and communities. For example, the Industrialisti, the Finnish-language IWW newspaper, printed daily at 10,000 copies per issue, and even Tie Vapauteen, another IWW publication in the Finnish language, was printed monthly. These efforts by the ethnically-diverse members of the IWW to include minorities in the union was a practice not taken by other labor unions at its time.

Within a year of our union’s inception, a branch formed in the UK, and shortly after that, in Australia. They are still active today, and IWW branches and contacts also exist in Canada, Japan, Finland, Greece, Luxemburg and Germany. The IWW has always had, and still has, international standing.

As the new movement for social justice unfolds in the United States, there is fresh impetus for the expansion of IWW and immigrant worker relationships. As globalization escalates, migration and displacement is reaching all time highs, working conditions are dropping and under-class families are provided less economic options. Consequently, the working people of the world are made more vulnerable to under pay, little or no workplace benefits, insufficient job security and exploitation of our labor. As global capital expands, the need for international solidarity unionism becomes evident.

The heart of the Industrial Workers of the World has been trans-national solidarity and the belief that “An Injury to One is an Injury to All.” An example of such camaraderie was made earlier this year when the International Solidarity Committee released the IWW Resolution Of Solidarity With Striking Miners In Mexico to demand that “all levels of the Mexican government end their repression of protesting miners and steelworkers and withdraw their police and military forces from the SICARTSA steel mill and that the union autonomy of the SNTMMRM is respected.”

The recent American immigrant rights movement is occurring concurrently, among many movements, with the Other Campaign, the current tour and campaign launched by southern Mexico’s Zapatistas. The Other Campaign encourages all, especially Mexico’s indigenous and working peoples, to abandon the corrupt electoral system and to alleviate their problems by taking matters into their own hands. Similar to the IWW, the Other Campaign advocates for worker’s empowerment rather than abdicating our collective strength to the political ruling classes. Although organized by Chiapian Indians, the Other Campaign extends past the compañeros and compañeras of Mexico, into the work fields of Central and South America, on north into the United States, and across all oceans on all parts of the earth.

It has become a popular idea in the Bay Area, and perhaps elsewhere, for the Industrial Workers of the World to become adherents to the Other Campaign, which has the theme, “from below and to the left,” providing us the ability to mutually share resources and organizational skills while reviving the wobbly spirit of multi-national partnership. This will also expand our international contacts and relationships, introducing us to like-minded individuals and organizations. It is clear the historical diversity the IWW was made of (as we have always been a worker-based union, not a national or racially-based union) all types of world people. Such alliances with native, foreign or foreign-born individuals, is still essential in building an international union of industrial workers.

As Staughton Lynd mentioned during the Chicago IWW Centenary, business unions such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, endeavor to keep Mexican truck drivers from crossing the Rio Grande, when perhaps a conference should be held with workers from both north and south of the Rio Grande to work together in developing unified demands. These ideas of collective dialogue are not new to the IWW, and we need to organize to be on the forefront of trans-national comradeship, bringing workers together in a common cause of organizing as a class to ultimately create a better world for ourselves.

Corporate outsourcing and anglocentrism has agitated anti-foreign sentiment in recent years, but as jobs get pushed past American borders to places around the world, such as in Mexico where labor is often unorganized and exploitable, the battle ground of class war is not moved, but rather expanded. Taking steps to promote not only American job security, but a culture of internationalism, must be made.

By becoming adherents the Other Campaign, we align ourselves with all the workers who, as Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas said, “[are] of those who don't build ladders to climb above others, but who look beside them to find another and make him or her their compañero or compañera…or whatever word is used to describe that long, treacherous, collective path that is the struggle of: everything for everyone.”

We must offer union support and membership to workers who are a part of the Other Campaign, just as the Other Campaign would provide to us the heart of international struggle and resistance of movements from around the world, putting us in contact with people and groups with whom we can very well organize. Simply put, the Other Campaign is a step in the direction of furthering our collaboration with immigrants from here and across the world, while expanding the IWW army of production. Too many people who would agree with our Preamble do not know who we are or how to organize. Through this friendship, many workers of many different languages can be introduced to the IWW, harbingering the realization of the absolute power each worker has.
§Zaptisata Women
by Worker Freedom Thursday Aug 10th, 2006 8:34 AM

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