Work

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"What's The Economy
For, Anyway?"

John de Graaf

"If they can get you asking the wrong question, they don't have to worry
about the answers" — Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow {1}

Suggest any alternative to the status quo these days — greater
environmental protection, for example, or shorter working hours — and
the first question reporters are likely to ask is, "But what will that
do to the economy?" Immediately, advocates must try to prove that their
suggestions will not adversely affect economic growth or the Dow Jones
industrial average.


It's long past time for a new framing offensive, one that turns the
obligatory question on its head and shifts the burden of proof to those
who resist change. Imagine bumper stickers, posters, internet messages,
a thousand inquiries visible everywhere, asking a different question:


"What's the economy for, anyway?"


It's time to demand that champions of the status quo defend their
implicit answer to that question. Do they actually believe that the
purpose of the economy is to achieve the grossest domestic product and
allow the richest among us to multiply their treasures without limits?


For in practice, that really is their answer.

[Continued from the first part, of this essay, here.]


CHAPTER FIVE: Considerations on the Causes of the Advances and Retreats of the Workers' Assembly Movement

"In what concerns our war, it is a great truth that, when men are fighting, they imagine that they are in the greatest of wars and, once peace has returned, they prefer to admire the wars of yesteryear. Without a doubt, a simple examination of the facts will make us see that we have here the most important conflict ever." Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War.

The workers' assemblies, defended by pickets and co-ordinated through revocable delegates, were not only the weapon of the social revolution but also its signal. They implied that the working class, dispersed into a multitude of organisations that divide them into a thousand parts, had joined together and that no one part existed independently. They meant that the entire class was preparing for its communal existence with equal interests, formulating its own ideas from its own practice. The assemblies were not born as organs of power but as a stronger and more representative form of organising strikes, in which workers dealt with their own concrete and immediate problems, and negotiated with management. Before exercising power, they acted as defensive organs for their everyday existence. At this stage of struggle, the proletariat did not concern itself with an assured and permanent organisation of industrial sectors and branches, areas, and provinces or at the level of the State. This indicates that it had not planned a systematic large-scale offensive against the dominant power. But by beginning simultaneously at various points, the historical logic of struggle changed the assemblies into organs of power whose enormous strength the proletariat was not fully conscious of. When assemblies existed as a real power alongside the fictitious power of the unions, opting for one or the other became the order of the day. It was a knife-edged balance. Either assemblies or unions! The unions were too weak to oppose the assemblies but the proletariat was not sufficiently conscious to feel the need to destroy the unions. All throughout the first half of the year, an immediate alternative was posed: either the autonomous affirmation of the proletariat or the defeat of the movement. For the unions an inverse alternative was posed — either lose their dominant position conferred on them by the bourgeoisie and the State as spokesmen for the workers or finish with the assembly movement by enframing the workers within the unions. The unions had to accept the workers' conquests and recognise the power of the assemblies, thereby hoping to smash them in a moment of reflux that the workers, in order to hold on to their gains, were obliged to follow through; they had to extend the movement to every sector and every town, and defend it. The end of one fight could only be regarded as the beginning of a more tenacious and decisive one. If this was not to be, if the working class did not use the victories obtained to radicalise and consolidate its struggle elsewhere — and after a more or less favourable outcome to strikes, just let the assemblies dissolve and all communication channels along with them — then one had to regard this as one of those unusual situations in which a victorious army abandons the field to a conquered one, as happened in May 1937. The unions would recover lost positions and the workers would begin the next strike in worse conditions than before. A victory never can have repercussions if it is not exploited. The pursuit of a conquered adversary must begin at the moment when, abandoning the struggle, it leaves the field of combat. The assemblies had to go on until the unions were smashed. The proletariat must know how to end a strike, keeping open its path of retreat — which is the same as that which it had advanced along — so that it can begin the next one in the best possible circumstances.

NOT BORED! writes:

Commentaries about Wildcat Spain in the Run up to the Second Revolution

By Workers for Proletarian Autonomy and Social Revolution


"There is nothing more improbable, more impossible, more fantastic than a revolution one hour before it breaks out; there is nothing more simple, more natural, more obvious than a revolution when it has waged its first battle and gained its first victory." — Rosa Luxemburg, Der Kampf (7 April 1917)

CHAPTER ONE: The Social and Political State of Classes in Spain in the Hour of Francoism's Relief

It is somewhat trite these days to say that the general crisis in Spain is caused by the democratic evolution of Francoism. It is the same crisis facing every country of the world, bourgeois or bureaucratic, which is exacerbated for instance in Portugal, Greece or Poland — by a long period of stagnation resulting from a counter-revolution, as well as by the accelerated breakdown of the dominant political forms. We shall not, therefore, be examining the formation of a new society but rather the senile Iberian rebirth of a society that is everywhere in the process of dying. Francoism was the extreme defence of the Spanish bourgeoisie threatened by proletarian revolution, a triumphant counter-revolution that, through a state of siege, provided the first urgent rationalisation of Spanish capitalist society; and saved it by incorporating the State under its wing. But when Francoism became the most costly form of maintaining it, it was forced to leave the stage for the benefit of stronger and more rational forms of the same order.

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The Institute for Anarchist Studies presents

The Chicago Couriers Union: Challenges and Potentials

A talk by Colin Bossen of the IWW

Friday, June 8 at 7pm

Provisions Library, Washington, DC

(Dupont Metro, above Ann Taylor Loft on Connecticut)

$5 suggested donation

For the last four years, courier Colin Bossen has been
organizing with the Chicago Couriers Union, a minority
labor union of primarily bike couriers affiliated with
the Chicago General Membership Branch of the
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Due to both the
nature of the courier industry and the ideological
orientation of the union’s organizers, the CCU has
been organized using what Staughton Lynd has called
"solidarity unionism." Solidarity unionism is the idea
that workers have the most power when they organize
around specific workplace grievances rather than
struggle for legal recognition and the right to
negotiate a contract. Using this model, the union has
met with modest success, and over the past three year
it has built a small but stable base of militant
workers in the industry and won several small
victories including a wage hike effecting
approximately 100 workers at the third-largest courier
company in Chicago.

This talk will examine the CCU as an example of
solidarity unionism, chronicle its success and
failures, and suggest the lessons the union has to
offer anti-authoritarian and anarchist workplace
organizers.

Peter Waterman writes:

Labour After the World Social Forum, Nairobi, January 20-25, 2007
Can the Unions Become Again a Sword of Justice?
Peter Waterman


"It seems clear that in many countries, unions have lately come to be widely perceived as conservative institutions, primarily concerned to defend the relative advantages of a minority of the working population. One of the challenges which confront trade unionism in the twenty-first century is therefore to revive, and to redefine, the role as sword of justice." — Richard Hyman, UK (1999)

"Transformative politics needs to be firmly anchored in ethics. We need to rethink our strategy, our structures of organisation, our goals… everything, in relation to a radical ethics of equality. This means an ethics of care for the other. This is important because so much left politics has traditionally rejected the relevance of ethics. In the past, dominant traditions of left politics were more about organising and struggling for the sake of a Truth, than for the sake of myself and my equals. Left politics was – and still often is – more inclined to be faithful to an Idea (or to a programme or party) than to the people around us…For obvious reasons, this faithfulness to ideas and not to other people creates serious problems when it comes to co-operation for shared political goals." — Ezequiel Adamovsky, Argentina (2007)

"Reality is for people who lack imagination." — http://www.geocities.com/Wellesley/2052/grafitti.h tml

Abstract:

The increasing participation of the ‘old, institutionalised, inter/national trade union organisations’ within the ‘new, networked, World Social Forum’ raises problems for the latter as well as the former. This report and reflection on the Nairobi WSF, January 2007, argues the existence two trends in labour’s participation. The major and dominant one comes from the traditional international unions, promoting ‘Decent Work’. The other comes from new unions, base organisations, labour networks, or other left bodies, for which the name proposed is the ‘Emancipation of Labour’. It is not difficult to trace the dependence of Decent Work on the hegemonic International Labour Organisation, on 20thC West-European notions of social (i.e. capitalist) partnership, on Keynesianism and collective-bargaining unionism. But the relationship of the Emancipation of Labour concept to a few recent, marginal and minor projects at Nairobi remains speculative. It is proposed that any EofL project would need to advance not simply new policies and a networked form but a new ethic. Whilst considering such elements to be present within the WSF, it is argued that these and other necessary elements are here only ambiguously present. There is also a certain complicity between the traditional unions, mediating between workers and inter/national hegemons, and a WSF dominated by non-government organisations (NGOs) of a mixed and often ambiguous nature. Whilst placing hopes on the WSF and on the emerging labour projects, the paper ends with reference to a Global Labour Charter Movement of a radically-democratic and utopian nature.

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Anonymous Comrade writes:

Fazel Khan Solidarity
Letter from Fazel Khan to his Comrades in his University Workers' Union (COMSA)


The Dismissal of Fazel Khan

On Wednesday 25 April, 2007 Fazel Khan was summarily dismissed from his position as a lecturer in the Sociology Department at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban South Africa. He is not the first academic to be forced out of the university for political reasons in recent months. He had been charged with ‘bringing the university into disrepute’ after he had made comments about the authoritarian climate at the university. These comments were made in response to questions put to him by various newspapers after he was removed from a photograph and the text of an article in UKZNdaba on the international success of a film that he had co-directed.

The University Management initially tried to argue that Fazel had had himself removed from the photograph (they ignored the fact that he had also been removed from the text of the article) as a ‘plot’ to embarrass the university. But in the hearing a witness for the prosecution acknowledged that in fact Fazel had been interviewed for the UKZNdaba story making any claims of a ‘plot’ patently ludicrous.

Fazel had argued that he had been excluded from the UKZNdaba story because there was an intimidatory climate at the university which had singled him out for his role during the strike as a unionist. UKZNdaba has never corrected the story or apologised for the excision of Fazel. The UKZN management has never explained why, if Fazel was not been targeted, he was publicly threatened by the vice-chancellor, for his work with the shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali base Mjondolo or why the vice-chancellor had threatened Fazel that ‘I will deal with you’ for ‘helping shack dwellers on the Westville campus to write a letter’ and for his activities as a union PRO via the Gautschi Commission.

In the run up to the hearing the vice-chancellor circulated entirely unsubstantiated and plainly slanderous and libellous allegations against Fazel. Fazel is not the first academic to have been slandered by the management in this way. Just before the hearing began a second charge was added and Fazel was also accused of passing on a Senate Sub-Committee Report on authoritarianism on the campus to The Mercury.

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Quick and Dirty Pedal Power

Employees Of Mount Washington Bike Shop Go Union

From The Baltimore City Paper

Ed Ericson Jr.


It's day three of the union at Joe's Bike Shop in Mount Washington, and
owner Joe Traill steps outside to say that nothing has changed "so far."

Traill wears a worried look and chooses his words carefully so he won't
sound too defensive. On May 1 he learned that all 10 of his employees
had joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)--the storied Wobblies.

"My guess is the significance of May Day was not lost on them," he says.

The IWW formed in 1905, and while it never numbered more than about
200,000 members, its radical influence is still felt today. Wobblies got
the eight-hour day for lumberjacks, put backbone in the dockworkers
unions, integrated racially and across gender lines, were imprisoned for
sedition, and were lynched. Legendary leftists like Big Bill Haywood,
Mother Jones, and Joe Hill were red-card-carrying Wobblies, and the men
and women of the rank and file were tough, fearless class warriors
fighting mine barons and government repression.

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Wobblies Organize Brooklyn Warehouses

Caitlin Esch

From the Brooklyn Rail


In 1903, when Japanese and Mexican immigrant workers wanted to unionize in California, the American Federation of Labor denied them a union charter, refusing to work with non-whites. The Industrial Workers of the World, on the other hand, embraced workers of all colors, as long as they were a little “red.” At less than $4 an hour, some Mexican workers in Brooklyn today earn little more than they would have in 1903—and these workers are again turning to the IWW.

On March 10, in the sparsely inhabited industrial graveyard that straddles the borough divide between Brooklyn and Queens, 15 to 20 people picketed outside EZ-Supply/Sunrise Plus, a food distribution warehouse, to protest labor abuses. EZ-Supply/Sunrise Plus employs about 25 workers and is the largest of five food distribution warehouses in the area where workers are trying to unionize. The others—Amersino, Giant Big Apple Beer, Top City and Handyfat—employ about 65 workers total.

IWW organizer and do-rag bestyled Billy Randel explains that the point of the small picket, far from the eyes of the public, is to remind the owner, one Mr. Lester Wen, that he is being watched. Randel elaborates, “This warehouse is really bad. It’s one of the worst. When we first came in here about a year ago, workers were working 60 to 70 hours for around $350 a week.”

"The Worker's Economy:
Self-Management and the Distribution of Wealth"
International Self-Management Conference

Buenos Aires, July 19-21, 2007

The University of Buenos Aires, Facultad de Filosofia y Letras, the Center for Global Justice and the Argentina Autonomista Project are excited to invite you to:

FIRST INTERNATIONAL GATHERING
TO DEBATE AND DISCUSS
SELF-MANAGEMENT
(AUTOGESTIÓN)

Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Buenos Aires

Dates: July 19–21, 2007

Location:

University of Buenos Aires

217 - 25 de Mayo Avenue

Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Argentina

CALL FOR PAPERS AND PROPOSALS FOR: COMPLETED OR ONGOING PROJECT
PRESENTATIONS, PAPERS, ROUNDTABLE THEMES, DEBATE AND DISCUSSION THEMES

Please send a 250-word (max) abstract by May 15, 2007, or any other
correspondence to:
Correspondence in Spanish: fabierta@filo.uba.ar

Correspondence in English: UBA.selfmanagement@gmail.com

The current
debates surrounding self-management: A brief overview



Workers' struggles have reemerged with force in the last decade in
numerous forms — union-based struggles, self-managed workspaces, rural
movements, unemployed workers' movements.... These are responses to the
hegemony of neoliberal globalization imposing itself throughout the
world with absolutist pretensions after the debacle of so-called "real
socialism."



At the same time, the old methods and strategies of
struggle — class-based parties and traditional unions, amongst
others — have by now shown themselves to be, at minimum, insufficient.


Old debates and ideological frameworks are now in crisis. The dominant
discourses used to describe the functioning of the capitalist world
system can no longer explain quickly enough (never mind predict) the
changes in this system that have been occurring over the past few
decades, while popular struggles have had to create new paths without
having a clear horizon in sight from which to map out a final destiny.
And the plethora of means ever available for capitalism to respond to
threats against it, as well as the sheer force and relentlessness of
its repressive power, amply overcomes the popular sectors' capacity for
change...with tragic consequences.



While the taking of State power has been the driving objective of
political forces for more than a century now, more recently there have
appeared compelling movements that, on occasion, have questioned such
objectives for revolutionary action. At minimum, these movements
distance their strategies and tactics from the aims of taking State
power, recognizing the difficulties of such a task. But, as evidenced
in various Latin American contexts, some popular movements with solid
historical roots have ended up allying themselves with national
governments swept into power via electoral triumph. And so, when they
least expected it, these movements found themselves at times
controlling key sectors of the State's administrative apparatus which,
in turn, needed to be profoundly transformed in order to be oriented
towards grassroots-based policies.

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Starbucks Workers Union Expands to Maryland in Spite of Harsh Anti-Union Effort

Rockville, Maryland- Employees at a Starbucks store here announced their
membership in the IWW Starbucks Workers Union today
and served a list of demands on their manager including a living wage, secure
work hours, and the reinstatement of union baristas illegally fired for
organizing activity. The action marks the expansion of the SWU to a third
state- baristas began joining the union in New York City and the campaign grew
to Chicago last August. Starbucks cafes were completely non-union in the
United States before the Industrial Workers of the World initiated its
organizing drive in 2004.

"No worker should have to deal with understaffing on one hand and the inability
to get enough work hours on the other," said Seth Dietz, one of the Maryland
baristas who declared his union membership. "Only an independent voice on the
job will win baristas the respect we deserve and that's the why the expansion
of the organization to Maryland is so gratifying."

The union believes that consistent pressure applied against the company at
Starbucks locations, in the community, and in the public arena has resulted in
higher wages and more steady work hours for baristas. After about two and half
years of organizing, many NYC baristas saw their wage increase almost 25%. The
SWU has also remedied individual grievances with the company in areas as
diverse as sleep-depriving work schedules, unsanitary working conditions, and
abusive managers. The campaign has captivated imaginations around the world
with support for the baristas coming from Europe, Korea, and New Zealand, among
other places.

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