The (End) Work Zone: Tales of Spontaneous Rebellion in the Workplace

End Work Zone

The normal course of a person’s working life typically produces a plethora of stories where the boss got one over on the employees and faced no retribution; countless unfair firings, anomalies with the paycheck, bullying, mistreatment and abuse. Hidden within, and on the periphery of these tales, is evidence of a small scale class-struggle springing into and out of existence in every imaginable kind of workplace.

While many of these instances of rebellion do not result in long-term organization and often include a small number of workers, these events still play an important role in the class struggle. They become major contributions to a person’s constellation of experience in the workplace that reveals the counterpoised interests of the boss, as well as the potential for resistance. Continue reading “The (End) Work Zone: Tales of Spontaneous Rebellion in the Workplace” »

Posted on July 27, 2015

Erik Olin Wright on the transition to socialism

By Tom Wetzel

In his new book Envisioning Real Utopias, Erik Olin Wright suggests that proposals for a what he calls “democratic egalitarian socialism” — and strategies for transition to such a society — should be evaluated “scientifically” — that is, based on evidence and our best understanding of society — and his book attempts to do this.

In what follows I will look only at Wright’s discussion of strategies for the transition to democratic, egalitarian socialism.

Wright divides transitional strategies into three types, which he calls ruptural, interstitial, and symbiotic. Continue reading “Erik Olin Wright on the transition to socialism” »

Posted on July 24, 2015

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Grassroots of the Class War

Short updates on three victories at the grassroots in the class war.

SEATTLE SOLIDARITY NETWORK:

“We won the Meniz wage-theft fight!! After months of making trouble for the Meniz Company (and their client, CWD) in every way we could think of, we have finally forced the bosses to pay Jose, in full. He got his money this afternoon.

“This win belongs to everyone who came to the demand actions, sat in the planning meetings, marched on the condo management offices, made a righteous racket to wake up condo residents at 7:30am on a Sunday, and would have come out for more if the bosses hadn’t caved and paid up today.

“We really had to earn this one. Jose had to earn it twice. But as he said today, it was worth it. I don’t know about you all, but I really enjoyed every minute of it. So, let’s revel in it, have a party, and then get ready to make more trouble.”

Video here. Continue reading “Grassroots of the Class War” »

Posted on July 24, 2015

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Are you sure that it’s Syndicalism we’re discussing here?

By Steve Ongerth – IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 15, 2015

I have been closely following the debate between various members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Tom Wetzel (a syndicalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area) which began with Tim Goulet’s review of Ralph Darlington’s Radical Unionism: The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary Syndicalism on April 22, 2015 and has bounced back and forth since then.

I want to say, before I go any further, that I consider myself a syndicalist, specifically a green syndicalist (the very first IWW member I met was Judi Bari, in 1995, and it was through her that I found my way to the Wobblies). I have been a dues paying IWW members since 1995, and I have a fairly deep knowledge of IWW history, as well as contemporary discussion on matters of strategy and tactics within the IWW.  Three years ago, I cofounded the IWW’s Environmental Unionism Caucus with two other IWW members. I am also a member of System Change not Climate Change, and I work fairly closely with a handful of ISO members that also belong to SCnCC. I think there is little to be gained by engaging in sectarian squabbles when our very existence is threatened by the capitalist economic system which all of us, syndicalists and socialists alike agree, must be overthrown and replaced by something different, and I suspect that we’d find much agreement on what that different system would look like and how it would function. Continue reading “Are you sure that it’s Syndicalism we’re discussing here?” »

Posted on July 24, 2015

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What is Class Oppression? Who is the Working Class?

By Tom Wetzel

Occupy Wall Street highlighted class inequality in the USA through its talk about the concentration of income and wealth in the hands of "the 1 percent." This does put a bullseye on the ruling class in our society. But much of the talk about class in recent times has focused on income inequality. The idea is that "the 1 percent" are at the top because they have the highest incomes. But this fails to get to the heart of the matter. The existence of different income levels doesn’t explain why there are classes at all. After all, what explains why there are such huge differences in income?

When American union leaders talk about a worker struggle as a “defense of middle class jobs”, you'd think they must lead an organization of lawyers and doctors. Again, this is about income. In the past, unions in some industries were able to use their leverage to secure wage gains that would enable some workers to “lead a middle class lifestyle.”

That way of looking at things is a product of the years of the so-called “class truce” after World War 2. By the ‘40s workers had gained major concessions from the capitalist elite in North America and Western Europe.

Continue reading "What is Class Oppression? Who is the Working Class?"

Modern Slavery and the Triumph of Capitalism, (Part One)

By Mike Kolhoff

“The ideological push for the “science” of free trade has unleashed enormously destructive forces for social and cultural change that have wreaked havoc on the populations of developing countries. Rapid urbanization and restructuring of agricultural activities, upon which people have depended for centuries, has spelled disaster. In rural areas, the loss of common land, combined with the switch to the production of cash crops from subsistence farming, has in effect destroyed people’s livelihoods.”

From: The Economic Foundations of Contemporary Slavery, By Justin Guay , Topical Research Digest, 2014

The extractive power of capitalism has always existed. The ability to extract profit from people, production and resources is necessary for capitalism to function. There was a time when this was accompanied by a sort of creative power of capitalism. Capitalism once built things, even as it extracted profit from people and things. It built electrical power plants, built libraries, built universities and paved roads. These activities were in no way altruistic, they were adjustments, investments made to improve extraction of profit and to prove the superiority of capitalism over any competing system, but they still benefited non-capitalists just the same.

Any creative power capitalism may have once had began to decline in the last half of the 20th century, well after capitalism had faced its greatest crisis: the crisis of over-production and under-consumption that brought on the Great Depression. This crisis continues today, despite World War 2 and despite the invention of consumer capitalism (a wasteful system based on the production and sale of mostly useless things) and the conversion of the wartime propaganda machinery to the peacetime sales machinery. An economy based on selling people things they don’t want, and people buying things they neither want or need, on credit, is an economy treading water.

Continue reading "Modern Slavery and the Triumph of Capitalism, (Part One)"

WSA Memories

By Mike Kolhoff

Part of a series commemorating 30 years of WSA

One of my fondest memories of my early days in the WSA was eagerly waiting for the next Discussion Bulletin to arrive in the mail. The DB had reports from comrades around the country on what they were doing, introducing new members, local actions and important news, international reports and letters from the IWA secretariat and other sections. Many phone calls were generated by the DB with questions and congratulations and offers of aid. Really the DB and the phone were the communication system that kept us in touch with the organization.

I miss that, a lot. Our current electronic instantaneous communications seem less substantial sometimes. The immediacy has, for me at least, degraded both the content and tone of our interactions. We have sacrificed thoughtfulness for speed, which isn’t a fair trade.

Continue reading "WSA Memories"

Recalling WSA

By Kevsota

Part of a series commemorating 30 years of WSA

I joined the WSA in 2009 after participating in an anarchist reading group set up by two other WSAers. I was excited by what seemed like a density of good, smart people in the organization and because I was attracted to anarcho-syndicalist politics. While I learned the organization was not as clear-cut anarcho-syndicalist as I'd thought, with regard to the people I was not disappointed. I stuck around as an active member for about three years, even I'd become burned out on political organizations, primarily out of a strong sense of loyalty to the good comrades I'd gotten to know.

Continue reading "Recalling WSA"

Why Consensus Decision-making Won’t Work for Grassroots Unionism

By Tom Wetzel

Syndicalists have always supported a form of direct democracy based on majority rule. Like most American unions, the Industrial Workers of the World officially endorses Robert’s Rules of Order — although some of their smaller branches use a stripped down version called Rusty’s Rules. The point to taking a vote is that it enables an organized group to come to a decision that expresses the collective will, even when there is some disagreement.

This doesn’t mean that all decisions are made by voting. In grassroots organizations based on majority decision-making, it often happens that most decisions are made without taking any vote — especially in smaller meetings. That’s because people are often able to come to agreement just by discussing the issue or proposal.

Continue reading "Why Consensus Decision-making Won’t Work for Grassroots Unionism"