On August 18th, 2021, the People’s Transit Alliance led a political education session where we watched the first 32 mins of a documentary on the LA Bus Riders Union. We watched this together to inform our overall politics around organizing at the site of transit, but in particular to inform an upcoming ridership canvassing campaign we were developing.
Link to watch documentary: https://vimeo.com/362379614
Watch up to the 32 min mark, though feel free to watch further!
Reflection Point #1 - Review Timestamp 30:30
This scene does a fantastic job of illustrating the differences between policy-change oriented activism vs mass mobilization of a politically developed and unified base of people. In DSA, we put a lot of resources into winning elections (JB) and while this is absolutely fundamental to our strategy, electoral politics fall more cleanly into a policy oriented approach. I’m of the mind that we should not be organizing toward policy alone, and this includes elections, unless we are politically engaging and organizing in struggle with working people. The political process that is available to us is not designed to allow for the kind of revolutionary change that we all are working to win, in this case in public transit. The speaker in this clip references such a process - he says that the LA bus riders union is not going to sit around and wait their turn so that they can each speak for one minute and ask politely for the system that they want. Instead they are building their base to subvert the system directly through mass mobilization and direct action.
Reflection Point #2 - Review Timestamp 17:50
In this statement Kikanza points to how outrage and engagement can deepen one’s analysis of what informs the current political conditions that create the public transit systems we interact with. And though she doesn’t explicitly say this, we can extrapolate that outrage is an emotional driver that can ultimately lead to political activism.
Can anyone think of some examples, whether language or strategies, from the video that were good examples of this or can think of ways that we can use this framework when engaging with the ridership here in the east bay?
Reflection Point #3 - Review Timestamp 21:00
This section demonstrates how public transportation already isn’t a universal category and has classed and racialized options within a system, as well as how the segments that cater to a wealthier and whiter segment are often prioritized at the expense of bus systems, which commonly cater to lower income, non-white populations. And yet, because it’s part of one larger network, a movement in one corner inevitably has to engage with its placement in a broader network.
What do the pre-existing racial and class lines within public transit mean for how we communicate, organize, and mobilize for better public transit in the East Bay?
Reflection Point #4 - Review Timestamp 18:25
Time and time again we see public transit agencies, such as LA’s METRO or the Bay Area’s MTC, spend immense amounts of money on rail service or highway improvements, while at the same time saying there isn’t enough money to fully fund bus service. This scene illustrates why the leaders in charge of these institutions, like MTA or MTC can be politically, socially and most importantly economically in bed with forces who want to use public transit to extract as much profit as possible.
How can we use our institutional power, such as our connections with ATU 192, or our relationship with elected officials such as Jovanka Beckles, to build working class power to contend with the power entrenched economic interests have?