Based on a talk given at the Feb. 5 webinar “Global Class War: Lessons from Sam Marcy for workers struggles today.” Go to youtu.be/5Arb33Q8SN0 to view the webinar.
Recently I was in a meeting with Comrade Larry Holmes reporting on obstacles in Boston for Starbucks baristas, fighting to win a first union contract from one of the world’s largest, richest, union-busting restaurant corporations.
“Only one thing’s for sure,” Holmes said. “Everything changes.”
I flashed back to Sam Marcy teaching a favorite subject, the materialist science of change. Sam would ask comrades to imagine themselves on a beach, watching the ebb and flow of the waves and tides, constant quantitative change, but amounting to the same beach, often for an entire human lifespan. But if one were persistent and prepared, one might be there when, inevitably, an epoch-changing tsunami wipes out the beach and the mansions on the cliffs above too, creating a punctuated, qualitatively new shoreline.
Some, even on the left in this country, are still arguing about whether largely young, many part-time, baristas are workers or not. But not the party of Sam Marcy, who explained this changing character of the working class in 1986’s “High Tech, Low Pay.” We moved early and quickly to join Starbucks Workers United’s struggle, which in 2021 sparked the first national labor offensive since President Ronald Reagan busted PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) in 1981, inspiring numerous “Generation Union” campaigns against icons of global capitalism from Alphabet to Amazon.
Since learning of the baristas’ organizing while in Buffalo — to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Attica Rebellion on Sept. 9, 2021 — the Boston branch of Marcy’s Workers World Party resolved to be on that front line with the Starbucks workers, as best as our capacity allowed.
We have experienced an historic, new generation of working-class leaders, including many gender and nationally oppressed warriors, birthing a new, consciously anti-capitalist workers’ movement, reared in the global Black Lives Matter streets.
For 64 days round-the-clock, last summer, baristas electrified the labor movement with a strike and occupation of a storefront on Boston University’s campus. Teamsters shut down deliveries, while other unions brought supplies and solidarity delegations. Barista leaders organized 24-hour pickets, food, strike benefits, mutual aid, security, COVID-19 mitigation, media, legal aid, birthday parties with radical karaoke — and daily meetings which made collective decisions like a workers’ government at war.
During overnight picket study-groups, disciplined anti-capitalists from across the city read communist literature and debated U.S. wars. This two-month showcase of workers’ power in the news on Boston’s busy Commonwealth Avenue is what the local Democrat ruling class eventually decided to smash with gold-star cops, armed Pinkerton goons and lawyers.
The Boston branch of Workers World assisted this embryonic, revolutionary-minded barista wave to survive 2022, in this extremely unfavorable balance of power — providing sound systems, resources, political connections, meeting space, vehicles and boots-on-the-ground solidarity at dozens of actions.
This is where Sam Marcy urged us to be, part and parcel of these big and small workers’ struggles. Because in nurturing these relationships and helping to strengthen their force, the Party can help tip the scale for the workers and give experienced guidance, when the inevitable tsunami of global capitalist crises and class war hit the beach where we live. Organize, dream and fight — so that a better world’s in birth soon.
Dare to struggle like Sam Marcy!