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by Bob Roman
The second Solidarity Day march in Washington, DC, was about half the size of the original ten years ago, and the size was symbolic of the current condition of the labor movement. Still, a turnout of 300,000 people is impressive, and the march was much bigger than might have been forecast from the fragmented, disorganized mobilization for the march in Chicago. It was a pleasant surprise indeed.
In Chicago, each union looked out for itself, and there was very little outreach to non-labor groups. The Chicago Federation of Labor contented itself with doing a few mailings to its constituent unions urging them to participate. And some of them did. But the biggest participants were industrial unions that do not directly participate in the Chicago Federation of Labor. The Steelworkers, for example, had nine buses on the rode to DC.
Chicago DSA's participation was smaller this time as well. Ten years ago, DSA did not actually exist. But the first Solidarity Day march was one of the first major joint projects in Chicago between the Democratic Socialist Organizing Commitee and the New American Movement. Not long after the march, DSOC and NAM merged to form DSA. That year, the Machinists provided the bus, and DSOC and NAM pretty much filled it. This year, our delegation was much smaller: Maggie Shreve, Michael Hernandez, Jim Madigan, and myself. Our host this year was IBEW Local 188. These are the folks who deal with our telephones.
There were about 75 participants in the DSA contingent at the March. There were quite a few more DSA members in Washington who marched with other organizations; we kept meeting them. The DSA reception after the march drew a larger crowd.
Our hosts, IBEW Local 188, were perfect. Pearl Jackson, the Treasurer of IBEW Local 188, deserves special thanks. She was determined that everything run smoothly, and everything did. It was also a pleasure to meet the President of Local 188, Sandra Murray, who turned out to be a University of Chicago graduate from the journalism school.
While the march itself was quite the success, one does have to wonder what the point was. Washington understands money and organization and the turnout is much more likely to be attributed to these by Washington cynics, rather than to a mobilized membership. The bottom line is not really what happened in Washington on August 31st, but what happens elsewhere the rest of the year.
Bob Roman is the Comptroller of Chicago DSA.
by Kathy Devine and Carl Shier
The Bush Administration this summer abruptly and prematurely lifted U.S. sanctions against South Africa, and tried to sell the American people on the notion that apartheid had been scrapped and the conditions of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 had been met. While federal sanctions were lifted, however, local and state governments have maintained their sanctions.
In fact, the South African government has failed miserably to meet the minimum conditions for the lifting of sanctions. The enactment of sanctions had one goal: to dismantle apartheid and establish a non-racial democracy. U.S. sanctions were to be lifted only when certain specified conditions had been med. These conditions were not met, as a few examples will illustrate.
There are still hundreds of political prisoners in South Africa's jails. The statute which authorizes the South African government to enact a state of emergency is still in effect, with the same broad and unbridled police powers, such as arrest without warrant and detention without charge.
While the South African government unbanned political organizations, it at the same time aided, funded, and organized violence against these organizations, and there is no vehicle for South African Blacks to participate in the political process. Nelson Mandela cannot vote; neither can millions of others. And millions of Blacks are still denied the basic rights of citizenship by virtue of their residence in the so-called "independent homelands".
The South African government has made little progress toward dismantling apartheid. Take education, for example. Education is the cornerstone of any society. In South Africa, education continues to be grossly unequal and segregated. Apartheid is intact in the classrooms. The government spends $1429 per capita on white students and $370 per capita on African students. (In rural areas, this figure is even lower at $259 per capita.) Education is compulsory only for white students. There is one teacher for every 14 white children and one for every 70 African children. Last year the government's "reforms" allowed white public schools to integrate if 72% of the white parents vote for integration.
Similar types of "reforms" were enacted to replace the Land Act, the Group Areas Act, and other laws underpinning South Africa's system of racial segregation.
During the 1980s, the mass resistance of the South African people combined with the campaign to isolate apartheid in the international community caused the structural crisis which compelled the National Party of President F.W. DeKlerk to seek certain "reforms" to get the international community off its back, to bring international corporations to South Africa, and to extend apartheid for as long as possible.
The South African government has done more than continue apartheid. "We believe the South African government is following a conscious strategy to use violence to undermine and demobilize our organizations," Cyril Ramaphosa, General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, told New York trade unionists a year ago. "The government wants to negotiate with a weakened ANC to achieve peace on its own terms." And weakening the ANC includes "aiding Inkatha leader Gathsa Buthelezi's violent power grab for a place at the negotiating table."
Since 1985, political violence led by Inkatha warlords loyal to Buthelezi against the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and other ANC-allied organizations has plagued the Natal region. After Mandela was released, the violence escalated and spread to other areas. Thousands have been butchered.
In a statement issued July 25, 1991, COSATU said: "The evidence which has now come to light proving government funding of Inkatha and UWUSA (United Workers Union of South Africa), and security force involvement in orchestrating the violence, confirms what COSATU has said for years: The South African government has engaged in an illegal war against the people of South Africa and against the democratic forces of this country. This illegal war is not a project of individual Ministers: the Government as a whole, and all its arms and tentacles, is involved and bears collective responsibility for the massacres, destruction, and destabilization...This plan was in place before the banned organizations were unbanned in February 1990, and still continues today...The security police set up UWUSA in 1986 with the sole purpose of trying to destroy COSATU and the unionization of workers in this country. UWUSA has brought only division, intimidation, and violence to workers in the mines, factories, and shops."
On September 14, 1991, a new peace agreement was signed between the African National Congress, COSATU, Inkatha, the South African government and various political parties, to end the violence. It remains to be seen if the agreement will be adhered to.
Even if the violence ends, it will take decades to rebuild South Africa from the ravages of apartheid. But that process cannot even begin until a new democratic political structure is created.
Ironically, despite the fact that apartheid denies political participation to Blacks in the governing of their country, South African Blacks have a long tradition of building democratic organizations "on the ground": in the townships, in the factories and mines, and in the schools and churches. While apartheid is fighting for its last breath of life, the anti-apartheid movement around the world connects to the democratic forces "on the ground" in South Africa.
In Illinois there are many anti-apartheid groups in operation, and many unions and other groups which are part of anti-apartheid activities. None has been more effective in recent years than the Illinois Labor Network Against Apartheid.
The Labor Network was organized four years ago as a broad coalition of international unions, headed by Chairs Jack Parton of the Steelworkers, Bill Stewart of the Auto Workers, and Johnnie Jackson of the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Its Co-Chairs come from AFSCME, United Food and Commercial Workers, Clothing and Textile Workers, Ladies Garment Workers, Government Employees, Teachers, Machinists, Mine Workers, Service Employees, and Teamsters unions. The Chicago Federation of Labor has contributed to its work. The coordinators are Kathy Devine of the Newspaper Guild and Harold Rogers of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. [Chicago DSA honored Kathy Devine with this year's Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington award for her work with the Labor Network. Ed.]
The overall goal of the Labor Network is to create a network of labor affiliates to educate and activate members in solidarity with South African trade unions in their struggle to build their unions, to create a new democratic South Africa, and to end apartheid, a system built upon the forced labor of black workers and sustained by the gross denial of human, political, and labor rights in South Africa.
The Labor Network seeks to: (1) identify common interests that advance labor rights and the working and living conditions of workers here and there, recognizing today's global labor market; (2) foster joint efforts to improve conditions and to protect workers' rights among common employers, industries, and sectors; and (3) work with local anti-apartheid groups on actions which both enhance labor rights and strengthen the anti-apartheid movement.
The Labor Network has contributed to educating a broad spectrum of the labor movement. It works to continue economic sanctions and the boycott of Shell Oil, a major corporation assisting apartheid.
The Network supported the campaign to free Moses Mayekiso, General Secretary of the South African metalworkers union and co-chair of the Mass Democratic Movement (functioning while the African National Congress was outlawed). Moses was one of five people kept in jail for years on charges of treason because they organized a community organization in Alexandra Township that was separate from the government-appointed authorities. The case received worldwide attention. The Labor Network did more than its share in the fight that finally forced the judge to free the five defendants completely.
The Network supported the establishment of a sister community relationship with the Alexandra Civic Organization, has sponsored the visits of several South Africans to Chicago, and plays an important part in the annual Soweto Day Walkathon which raises funds for the struggle in South Africa.
But most important is the Network's task to educate trade unionists on the issues relating to unions in South Africa. Why is COSATU, the South African labor federation, so important? COSATU was organized in 1985. At that time, it represented 460,000 workers in 33 unions. COSATU has grown rapidly despite severe state repression. Many of its offices have been destroyed. Many of its leaders have been arrested or killed. Nevertheless, it now represents over 1.2 million members organized into 14 industrial unions. The three main principles upon which it is grounded are: one industry/one union, non-racialism, and democratic control of all union structures.
The Network has reported to union members that COSATU has born the main brunt of the attacks of Inkatha, and that the South African government is financing Inkatha in order to create the impression in the international community that "black on black" violence is the cause of the problems in South Africa.
Recently, the Labor Network sponsored a visit to Chicago by two South African nurses, Thami Skenjana and Khumbu Mtinjana, who are members of the COSATU-affiliated National Education, Health, and Allied Workers Union. For more information on the activities of the Labor Network, call Kathy Devine at 312-583-6661.
by J. Hughes
Some leftists I know are incensed that the U.S. has preferential trade status for the Chinese butchers, and sends Baker to kiss their butt, while penalizing the long-suffering Cubans with a trade embargo. Democratic countries should, of course, levy a complete trade embargo against all dictatorships, from Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Burma, to N. Korea, China and Cuba. But if any subtle distinctions are to be made among dictatorships, Bush's "silent diplomacy" with China and sanctions on Cuba are the right distinctions.
It is true that Fidel hasn't yet had the opportunity to kill pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets of Havana that Deng Ziao-Ping has had, but Fidel has imprisoned his democracy activists and completely spurned international calls for elections in Cuba. If one agrees that sometimes sanctions should be used, as most of my friends seemed to agree in the case of Saddam Hussein, at least in January, then the question is when those sanctions might be counter-productive. Cuba's dictatorship will probably last as long without Soviet aid and U.S. trade as the Israelis would without U.S.-Western aid and trade, which is not very long. China's dictatorship could survive forever without trade with the West.
In fact, the Chinese see the major threat from the West as being the cultural pollution of democratic and individualist ideas that comes with the exposure to Western goods and exchange. Castro, on the other hand, apparently doesn't see ideological pollution through aid and trade as being much of a threat to his dictatorship since he has thrown open Cuba's doors to Western investment and tourism.
Secondly, countries with a billion people and a lot of nuclear weapons probably do deserve a little more international circumspection than island nations with a few million people. I don't want to see this acknowledgement elevatedto the status of Realpolitick principle. But I would support sending U.S. Marines, as a part of U.N. or O.A.S. forces, to Haiti to restore Aristide to power, while I would have opposed N.A.T.O. military intervention to restore Gorbachev to power during the attempted coup. Might doesn't make right, but it makes you a lot more careful.
Some may object that Fidel is actually a popular leader, the hero of a popular revolution, and that his government is therefore legitimate, while Deng is a shriveled toad hated by his people. In the complete absence of free polling data in either country, I'm not sure how anyone knows who is more popular, and secondly, it doesn't make any difference. If Bush maintained a 99% popularity rating I wouldn't say "OK, no need to hold an election." Multi-party elections, and a free political process, are simply the best ways of ensuring the legitimacy of a regime, no matter how many schools and hospitals they have built, or how much aid they have given to other progressive movements, or how much they are loved by old revolutionary cadres. Any fascist can build a social welfare state and maintain popularity, but it takes a democratic socialist to do through a democratic process.
So this is my proposal: if Castro and the "U.S. friends of Cuba" want the trade sanctions against Cuba to end, lets put our energies into convincing Castro to hold elections, release his political prisoners, and guarantee civil liberties. If Castro were a popularly elected leader, in a truly free election, it would be impossible for the U.S. to maintain trade sanctions. If Castro were to go into opposition like the Sandanistas have, perhaps that would also be for the better.
Time in opposition usually shakes the careerists out of radical movements, leaving only pure-hearted souls and ideologues. After thirty years in power, and after just discovering that heroes of the revolution had been running drugs, the Cuban Revolution probably needs a good barnucle-scrape.
J. Hughes is the Political Education Director of Chicago DSA.
by Wayne Heimbach
That the U.S. national health care system needs reform is not something with which anyone is disagreeing these days. Millions of people are uninsured or underinsured, hospitals are closing throughout the cities of our country, and the cost of health care has reached dangerously high levels.
Many of our country's unions have taken up the challenge of health care reform, and are trying to find the best kind of health care system appropriate for their members and for the population as a whole. Jobs with Justice, an interunion and community-based organization new to Chicago, is helping to clarify the different approaches unions are taking on this issue by sponsoring an educational forum on National Health Care.
The forum will have speakers from the Service Employees International Union, the United Auto Workers, and the Illinois Nurses Association; each speaker will support a different type of health care reform. Eugene Moats, president of the Illinois Joint Council of SEIU, will present the "Insurance for All" model. Bill Stewart, Director of UAW Region 4, will present the "National Health Insurance" model. Lynn Unruh, Political Concerns Chair of District 21 of INA, will present the "National Health Service" model. The forum will be moderated by Dr. Quentin Young, the national president of Physicians for a National Health Program and host of a weekly health program on radio station WBEZ. [Dr. Young is also a long-time member of Chicago DSA.Ed.]
In addition to unions that are represented on the panel, the forum is co-sponsored or endorsed by a growing list of organizations, including the Campaign for Better Health Care, the United Electrical Workers, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the International Association of Machinists, the Coalition for New Priorities, Casa Aztlan, Physicians Forum, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Labor Coalition on Public Utilities, and the National Association of Social Workers. [Chicago DSA is represented in both the Campaign for Better Health Care and the Coalition for New Priorities.Ed.]
The forum will be held at the Chicago ACTWU hall at 333 S. Ashland on Friday, November 15 from 7 to 9 pm. For more information on the forum on health care, or on Jobs with Justice, call 312-829-8300.
Svend Robinson will be the guest of honor at a reception hosted by DSA's national Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Commission. Mr. Robinson is the only openly-gay member of the Canadian Parliament and is a chief spokesperson for the New Democratic Party of Canada, DSA's sister party in the Socialist International. Mr. Robinson is a spokesperson not only on gay, bisexual, and lesbian issues, but also on foreign policy and international human rights concerns. Robinson is also the chief sponsor of three bills before the Canadian Parliament which would protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from discrimination and hate speech.
At the reception Mr. Robinson will speak on "Inning and Outing: Lesbian and Gay Liberation in the 1990s". Everyone is invited to attend the reception and meet Mr. Robinson. The reception will take place at 6 pm on Saturday, November 9 at the Rodde Center, Chicago's lesbian and gay community center, which is located at 4753 N. Broadway on the 12th floor of the Uptown Bank building. A $3 donation is requested; proceeds will help pay the dues of DSA's national Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Commission in the International Lesbian and Gay Association, an international federation of organizations working for gay and lesbian liberation. Sign language interpretation will be provided.
by Bob Roman
A small civil war is simmering just across the Wisconsin border in Racine. It is there that the 136 members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union Local 187 have been on strike against Rainfair, a manufacturer of rain gear. The mostly female employees of Rainfair have been on strike since June 20, after the company provoked a strike by presenting a final offer demanding unreasonable concessions from their workers. The average wage of Rainfair workers was $6.60 an hour. The company demanded an increase in employee co-payment of health insurance to over $100 a month, the elimination of two paid holidays, and the scheduling of weekend work without overtime pay. Since the strike has begun, Rainfair has hired 72 scabs as "permanent replacements". The strike is widely seen as the opening move in a statewide campaign against organized labor.
Labor has good reason to be worried about this skirmish. Racine is a small industrial town with a population of some 80,000 just south of Milwaukee. It's a union town, but it's also a company town. The economy is dominated by Johnson and Johnson. Rainfair is owned by Craig Leipold, a relation to the Johnson family by marriage. While Racine is the Johnson family's home turf, the family's influence extends far beyond the town's borders. In Wisconsin in particular, the family is part of a network of interlocking directorates among a wide variety of corporations. The word on the street is that the Johnson family has been pushing a "get tough on unions" line in the corporate boardrooms that they inhabit. The IAM and UAW have contract negotiations coming up next year with some of these companies.
It's not just the union bureaucracies that are worried. The membership is worried and angry too. There's been no problem in recruiting support for the Rainfair workers from the rank and file of other unions. For example, one day recently some 500 members from the Communication Workers of America showed up at the plant gate, surprising pickets, police, and scabs alike. The police, of course, regarded the event as a "riot" and the company lawyers are attempting to use it as justification for an injuction limiting picket line activities, but the unions do have difficulty in telling their members to be non-violent. It's becoming dangerous to be a scab in Racine.
These "permanent replacements" were the occasion for a march and rally in Racine on Saturday, October 5th. The demonstration was organized to support the Rainfair strikers but also to demand the override of Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson's veto of Wisconsin legislation which banned "permanent replacements". A small, hastily recruited delegation from Chicago DSA attended the rally.
The rally was coordinated by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. Some 700 people attended the rally, representing an impressive list of unions: AFGE, AFSCME, CWA, IAM, IBT, USWA, and UAW to name just a few of the more obvious. Eleven speakers exhorted the crowd to support the strikers and to lobby both state and federal legislators on anti-scab legislation. Some speakers were very good and some were not, but it didn't seem to matter. The crowd's spirit seemed to carry each speaker regardless of ability.
But two speakers deserve special mention. One was Jane Brosseau, who represented the Racine chapter of the National Organization for Women. She began by stating that she was talking to the women of the labor movement and the female strikers at Rainfair. This was an immediate turn-off for much of the crowd. In particular, the small but vocal delegation from the Teamsters was not at all impressed, and began talking loudly amongst themselves. But they didn't talk for long, because they quickly perceived that Brosseau's message was a union message: that the fight at Rainfair was important because it was a fight for equality; the women were not working for "pin money" but to support their families. By the end of her speech, Brosseau had earned the crowd's enthusiastic approval. The other speaker of note was Illinois' own Congressman Charles Hayes. Despite all the militant talk and demands for justice, it was Congressman Hayes who brought upt the idea of class conflict. He did it deftly, without jargon; the crowd knew exactly what he was talking about and they approved.
It's hard to convey the spirit of the rally. Mostly it was a feeling of intense togetherness with an edge of nervous worry and anger. But there was something more. Frank Klein, a staffer with the ILGWU, observed that the labor movement is something of a counter-culture in America. The sociologist in me wants to substitute "subculture" in this observation, yet there is a romance to the movement that is instantly obvious to an aging hippie. On the final chorus of "Solidairity Forever", the low drizzly clouds finally and decisively broke. The rally was flooded with sunlight. It may not have been Woodstock, but it sure felt like it.
by Bruce Bentley
Perhaps the most difficult and strenuous aspect of being a leftist or activist is to decide upon the level of our involvement within a movement or organization. It is arduous enough to struggle internally with guilt and remorse that we can do more. We are generally in a perpetual juggling act, balancing the seemingly ubiquitous pressures of daily life such as career, family, and necessary leisure. Moreover, our task to create change, reform, and/or revolution can seem an act of futility against the dominant "Powers That Be".
These internal and external forces constrain us and can put us in perpetual static states of perplexedness, conflict, and contradiction. In other words, we experience conflict in our daily struggle to establish the ideal world -- Idealism -- versus the way the world really is -- Realism. Yet our internal state or struggle is merely a metaphor for or microcosm of the world. As we view this seemingly chaotic panorama of the external world, Marx's concept of "historical materialism" is applicable. For one tenet of this concept implies that growth, change, and development occur via the "struggle of opposites".
This "struggle of opposites" and/or process of "contradiction" apply to Hegel's dialectical process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Thus the external world is in perpetual motion in this dance of contradiction. Yet these concepts can be applied to our internal human state; let's call it dialectical humanism. Our internal intellectual (e.g. reason, logic) and emotional (e.g. instincts, love, anger) systems are in a constant process of conflict and mediation which Freud aptly coined the id, ego, and super-ego, or, as Plato described the Tripartite of the Human, the appetite, the spirit, and reason. My point is that our internal world of conflict is a natural phenomenon. Nevertheless, the key to facing this internal and external conflict is action.
It is this theme of action that I want to explore. Not only a call to action, free from pressure or guilt, but with the understanding that in changing the world through action, we change and transform ourselves.
Yet before I elaborate this theme of action, a few presuppositions must be explored. Why is it so difficult to engage in action? What are the socio-economic and political forces that affect our thinking, values, mores, and state of consciousness? As noted before, our struggle is not only the endeavor to find time for action, but there is another more insidious and powerful force. For we are inundated daily with the ideas and values (i.e. ideology) or the dominant socio-economic and political forces and structures, via TV, radio, newspapers, and institutions such as schools that promote the ideologies of individualism, materialism, competition, and the like. These ideologies perpetutate the interests of the status quo and hence perpetuate the ruling class. The concept of the ruling class is not conspiratorial, but solidly empirical. For example, 0.05 percent of the population owns over 30 percent of all wealth. The top 1 percent of the population owns 76 percent of all stocks. The economy is dominated by a few corporations that are linked via a sociological network of legal, accounting, and consulting firms. Finally, the boards of directors of the dominant corporations are over-represented by ruling class members (see, for example, W.G. Domhoff's Who Rules America Now).
Hence those of us who are primarily of the middle class function as a buffer for the ruling class in this quasi-democracy. This tactic is not a novelty, but dates back to at least the European monarchs of the 15th and 16th centuries. The U.S. ruling class, which is the most class-conscious group, has cunningly divided the social classes via regulatory laws, placating reforms (e.g. the New Deal and Great Society), criminal law (e.g. the Espionage Act), and even violence (like the Palmer Raids, the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937, and Kent State). Howard Zinn aptly remarks "how skillful to tax the middle class to pay for the relief of the poor, hence building resentment on top of humiliation" (The People's History of the U.S.).
These dominant U.S. ideologies establish what historians refer to as a "climate of opinion". The creation of this dominant "climate of opinion" is what Paulo Freire in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed calls "oppressed consciousness", which leads to a "culture of silence" (Freire) and what Marx calls "false consciousness". William Cantor (The Divided Left) states that this "dominating false consciousness" upon our culture has been the most effective mechanism for thwarting the efforts of the Left over the last 100 years. Needless to say, if we reflect upon our lives we have all experienced "false consciousness". During my childhood, I feared a Communist invasion and thought of Blacks as inferior. Who taught or ingrained these ideas into my mind? My family was not anti-Communist or racist. Nevertheless, there is empirical evidence from B.F. Skinner and other behaviorists, and social learning theorists such as Albert Bardura, that humans are socialized, learn, and hence are a product of their environment. In short, societal institutions and the ideologies and/or values that they promote are the structural conditions in which our thought, language, and hence our "humanity" are being framed or conditioned (Freire).
So how do we free ourselves from this false or oppressed consciousness which unremittingly assaults our minds and traps us into a state of internal conflict and contradiction, and consequently into the "culture of silence"? I argue that it is only through action, for Freire asserts that since the ubiquitous societal, life, or world theme is one of "domination", our response should be the antithesisone of "liberation". Moreover, Freire emphasizes that our human endeavor, work, and art should be engaged in the permanent transformation of reality in order to establish the liberation of humanity. The assumption of this humanizing process falls under the presupposition that we eliminate the dehumanizing elements of oppression (i.e. poverty, classism, racism, and sexism).
Freire is undoubtedly influenced by Marx, particularly the earlier writings of Marx the humanist, as portrayed in the "Economic and Political Manuscripts" of 1844. Yet not only is our ability to engage in productive action and labor inhibited by the ideology and technology of the ruling class, but Marx and Freire assert that if a human being is to experience truly humanistic growth, authenticity, or essence, they must participate in productive action and labor. Therefore if we neglect to participate in productive action, we will likely experience what Marx described as "alienated labor" or "alien object". Consequently we become alienated from ourselves (i.e. our nature, humanity, and social essence) and from other people.
Marx succinctly summarizes the power and beauty of Humanistic Marxism as related to our productive action and labor:
Supposing that we had produced in a human manner; each of us would in his production have doubly affirmed himself and his fellow men. I would have: (1) objectified in my production my individuality and its peculiarity and thus both in my activity enjoyed an individual expression of my life and also in looking at the object have had the individual pleasure of realizing that my personality was objective, visible to the senses, and thus a power raised beyond all doubt. (2) In your enjoyment of use of my product I would have had the direct enjoyment of realizing that I had both satisfied a human need by my work and also objectified the human essence and therefore fashioned for another human being the object that met his need. (3) I would have been for you the mediator between you and the species and thus been acknowledged and felt by you as a completion of your own essence and a necessary part of yourself and have thus realized that I am confirmed both in your thought and in your love. (4) In my expression of my life I would have fashioned your expression of your life, and thus in my own activity have realized my own essence, my human, my communal essence.
(from David McLellan's Karl Marx, pp. 31-32.)
Needless to say, Marx is not the only renowned author to expound a humanistic vision and philosophy for this complex dance of life and existence. For example, Martin Buber suggests that we should engage in dialogue and participation with humanity and the world as a "thou" and not as an "it".
Without the above ideals we have no motivational base to engage the world in action, but will only descend into a state of nihilism. Our task is not an easy one, but requires a conscious act of our "will to power" (Nietzsche) to engage in persistent praxis internally and take external action to transform the world. The result of our productive labor will create for us a sense of authenticity, or of being alive (Sartre) instead of the experience of alienation (Marx) and despair or hopelessness (Kierkegaard). McLellan says that
Marx considered that...man needed to interact with external objects in order to develop or "objectify" himself. For Hegel, all objectification was alienation; for Marx man could overcome alienation only if he objectified himself by using nature in cooperation with his fellow man.
A few years ago on PBS television, Bill Moyers stated that his most exhilarating political experience was his participation in local grassroots organizing in New York City. This initially startled me, for here was a person who had participated in the labyrinth of political power in Washington as President Johnson's press secretary. Two years ago, I experience a similar jubilation when I participated in State Senator Miguel del Valle's electoral victory. By the same token, I experienced frustration and gloom at the defeat of DSAer Ron Sable's aldermanic campaign. Nevertheless, despite our disappointments in life, whether personal or political, we must be compelled to endeavor and persevere, as did Sisyphus. By the same hand, it appears that our seemingly perpetual life experiences and conditions are inundated with these contradictions of hope, love, loss, and despair. Yet the brilliant educator Joseph Campbell remarked succinctly that throughout history and in myths, humanity has always experienced the contradictory forces of life in its cogent beauty or acute horror. Nonetheless, Campbell says that for some inexplicable reason, this is just the way life is and we must "participate" in life, with both its beauty and horror, and say yes to life. Hence we must "participate" to change and transform the world, humanity, and ourselves. "Change comes from power, and power comes from organization. In order to act, people must get together. Power is the reason for being of organizations." (Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, p. 113)
In conclusion, our life span is short, so let us not forget the words of the poet Horace: "Seize the day."
Bruce Bentley works with troubled adolescents.