Friday, September 28, 2007

A Different Angle

A friend invited us over last night to watch the film Zietgeist. I had no idea what it was about and was surprised to see the whole 9/11 conspiricy thing slightly re-arranged from the last version I saw a couple of weeks ago and wrote about. (and which no one really cares about,I know, I know) I am fascinated from a sociological point of view, what it says about our present historical moment, that this form of extreme discontent seems so creepily prevelant.

Zietgeist takes a somewhat different approach to get to the same non-conclusion. Whereas Tim's documentary was "faith based", relying on old testament scripture and prophesy to buttress it's revelations, this film begins by deconstructing Christianity and locating it in an astrological/mythological continuim in order to demonstrate the degree to which humans are susceptible to brainwashing-indoctrination-propagandizing etc.. From there we go through the libertarian litany of corrupt monetary policy, central banks, Rockefellers, gold standards blah blah to get to "false flag" operations, Lusittania, Tonkin Gulf etc to finally arrive once again at the pancaking Twin Towers. Skipping the whole Illuminatti, Mason, Bohemian Grove ,Skull and Crossbone angle we go straight to the International Bankers, Central Bank, Federal Reserve cabal to find our evil doers mixed with Bush Family ties and Packistani ISI.

I don't know. I still can't buy in and I still can't figure out what these folks want us to do. The film ends withthe slogan "The Revolution Is Now" but I can't figure out what got replaced by what.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blood on Your Hands

Maybe it takes a black-light like they use on the cop shows to tell who really has blood on their hands. Sen. Joe Lieberman thought the invitation to Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia was a mistake "because he comes literally with blood on his hands" , but I think that slimy wretch is drenched in the stuff. I read a letter to the editor in our local paper that says : "Reid, Durban, Pelosi, Murtha, Kerry, Kennedy, Clinton and Schumer , along with the rest of their ilk, have the blood of our soldiers on their hands." He believes himself to be clean, though it sounds as though he might be willing to draw a little of mine when he says : "Before we can defeat our foreign enemies, we must first defeat the enemy within." Remember, Strength Through Unity, Unity Through Faith! Im sure the government in Myanmar is using much the same language to quell dissent, with their own Department of Homeland Security denouncing the "terrorists".

I have written before about complicity, collaboration, collusion, compliance, duplicity,docility, conformity, acquiescence, obedience and passivity. These all describe our Age and yet somehow fail to acknowlege the malice and stupidity which also run rampant. Here is Colombia Pres. Lee Bollinger upbraiding his invited guest, establishing his own credentials for an admiring populace of cows: "Can you tell them (brave US soldiers) and us why Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq by arming Shia militia targeting and killing US troops?" Has the concept of hypocricy totally left the planet? Does he know what his own country is doing in his name?Guiliani can take Saudi Princes on a tour of Ground Zero? Toby Keith can now write anti-war songs? Does consistency have no meaning? Raoul Vaneigem described it as "the poverty of our daily actions." We all have blood on our hands. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

River Runs Deep

The Jena 6 seemed to have tapped into some kind of undercurrent, a latent discontent simmering just beneath the surface of black society. You just never know what will put people into the streets. Curious though, the media frenzy surrounding this action of a few thousand compared to the silence following the gathering of thirty thousand plus anti-war demonstrators. I can just imagine the anti-Sharpton right-wing talk radio venom spewing forth in their homage to the Duke Lacrosse team. The President weighed in with this bit of wisdom: "All of us in America want there to be ,you know, fairness when it comes to justice." That will be inscribed on the Bush Monument at the Bush Library.

As long as were into Black experience, Bob Marley pleaded for Africa to unite, but post-colonialism has been one nightmare after the next. Late Capitalism does not seem much more promising. Now they have the curse of oil , floods, drought and the War On Terror. "At least 200 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in 17 countries as torrential downpours and flash floods submerged whole towns across Africa."

Establishing AFRICOM will, according to President Bush,"enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development , health, education, democracy and economic growth in Africa." In other words, the kiss of death. The new "development aid" in the form of weapons is pouring into Kenya, Djibouti, Algeria, Nigeria,Mali, Ethiopia, Libya and Liberia. Mix with oil and stir.

Bryan Mealer describes a boat trip up the Congo from Kinshasa to Kisangani in his story The River Is A Road. Describing the traders camped out on the deck: Our neighbor Lucy sold the second-hand clothing worn by almost everyone on the barge and along the river, the ubiquitous American T-shirts donated to charities and dumped on the African market. Everywhere you looked was a strange remnant of home; the old grandmother who advertised a strip club in Kentucky or the stoic fisherman whose shirt read IM THE BIG SISTER.

The 1996-2003 conflicts had sucked in six African armies, and more than 4 million people had died, most of them from starvation and sickness as villagers fled through the jungle to escape the gunfire and pillage. "The war had ended, but peaceful revival had done little for the crowds of children who lined the forest track, their stomachs bloated from hunger, their mothers begging us to save them, begging us to do something."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No Time Like the Present

Let's do it! General Strike! November 6th don't go to work, get out in the streets. In response to my mention of Garret Keizer's call for a general strike, d.o. glen& jean replied : "It will take a TREMENDOUS effort to pull off a general strike here and now in the belly of the beast." I totally agree but don't see that as a reason to not try. Even if it fails, it will get folks thinking a bit more radically, beyond the usual march-demo-sign waving protest mode. So go to every web site you can ,put out the call, (I know, I know, this takes time but the internet speeds things up) see what happens! Lots of other people read that piece and have to be thinking "YEAH!"

Our new IWW chapter has been struggling with this same dilemna, on a smaller scale ; how can we distinguish ourselves from the rest of the movemeent of movements? How do we energize people, create excitement, get something fresh going with our limited resources?
From the book Constituent Imagination (AK Press) : "This type of community organizing assumes there is an aggrieved section or class of the population that need to be organized in order to make it's demands heard to the larger society. Classically stemming from the 1930s and 1960s ,this invloves a range of confrontational techniques including sit-ins, zaps, demonstrations, boycotts,marches ,STRIKES, picketts, civil-disobedience, teach-ins and festive carnivals. The aim of these practices is for those with little financial power or access to use "people power" to apply pressure to or disrupt carefully chosen targets."

People everywhere are chafing, frustrated, perplexed by the insidious enclosure of possibilities for resistance, so how to channel that? The strike is, of course ,the perfect action, but we all tend to think of it as a "final" piece to the puzzle, something "down the road" that has to happen at "the appropriate time". When is that time? There are Peace actions happening this Friday and talk of "Moratoriums", events that had their share of success in the seventies. Rather than picking up my No Blood For Oil sign again, I'd rather pick up a Strike Till He's Gone sign.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lovin Harpers

Graeme opens up a good discussion on the feature article, Disaster Capitalism, by Naomi Klien (put her name on The List, Beak) but I want to mention the opener in the new Harpers, the notebook piece. Titled Specific Suggestion: General Strike by Garret Keizer, it is the first thing I have read in some time to confront the Spectacle head on and present the only real solution to our present historical dilemna. Check it out:

"Of all the various depredations of the Bush regime, none has been so thorough as it's plundering of hope." I personally would extend that analysis way beyond "the Bush regime" but whatever... "What was supposed to have been the crux of our foreign policy- a shock-and-awe tutorial on the utter futility of any opposition to the whims of American power- has achieved it's greatest success in the American soul."

Again, we would have to probe a little deeper into the workings of the Fog Machine to understand why people like Beak actually cry out for more hosing while trying to convert others to the hose, but this aptly describes the average drone, wandering the concorse of the Mall looking for some meaning. And his prescription is right on. November 6 2007. General strike with the sole purpose of removing this regime from power. A "velvet revolution" of the kind praised so warmly by the Bushies themselves. Im in!

We spent three mind- numbing hours last night watching a documentary produced by a local joe who shows up at our meetings looking for converts to his fight against The New World Order. Ive blogged about Tim's "unified theory" before but I never realized the grand nature of it's pure totality. Using the Holy Bible, Nostradamus, and Alex Jones' infowars.com he has woven a tale of intrigue going back to the Illuminati, through the Masons and Skull and Bones clear into the Council on Foreign Relations. Tied in of course are the the USS Liberty,the Tonkin Gulf, Federal Reserve Bank, Karl Marx, the Bohemian Grove, the assasination of Kennedy, burning of the Reichtstagg, the Oklahoma City bombing, Nero,Bush's grandfather and the Carnegies. And way,way more. It all leads to, you guessed it, 9/11 and it's all foretold in Revelations. It is a crazy mixture of left-wing ideology, right-wing raving, libertarian theory and pure paranoia.

I love it! All history is wrapped up with a neat little bow, far neater even than Marx's dialectical materialism. Apparently, all the lovers of freedom need to do is surround the Bohemian Grove ( I used to spend childhood Easter vacations in Gurneyville, California!) and take out the revelers as they are burning the giant statue of Mamon. It's what Superman would do.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Reading Lolita in Montana

We went to an interesting panel discussion yesterday concerning experiences with censorship within Montana's highschool english lit departments. A number of the panelists discussed their run-ins with local parents, churches, school boards or administrations over particular works of fiction they had in their curriculums. The greatest number of challenges seem to come from conservative Christians (not much in the way of other faith communities here) and they generally concern sex but it was telling that Fools Crow ,by Montana author James Welch, had generated so much controversy. The sexual content is miniscule but Welch is a native and the book is about the native experience and apparently this is not something some folks feel their children need to be educated about.

My perspective on the whole thing is that rather than educators always being on the defensive and always worrying about the oh-so-subjective "community standards"or dominant attitudes, they should be out there challenging all conventions and morays at every chance and this includes proposing ever more and more "challenging" works of literature to be included in curriculums. Democracy is a messy business and the dissemination of ideas one of the messyist aspects of it. The tension which results is a GOOD thing and those of us who advocate that ideas are never scary or harmful in and of themselves (this should include all educators) need to be on the front lines , taking the fight to the thought police rather than fighting rear-guard battles in fear. Attitudes are shaped and one of the best ways for this to happen is the process of fighting, in a civil manner, over content. Easy for me to say, Im not an untenured , single parent teacher fighting to make her car payment but in principle..

By the way, Happy Birthday to Me ,born in 1953! The year Mussadiq was overthrown in a CIA supported coup, Nasser took power in Egypt, the cease-fire was signed in Korea, the USSR aquired the hydrogen bomb, Stalin died (thankfully, sonia) Rosenbergs executed, Arbentz overthrown by CIA trained forces in Guatemala, Castro attacks barracks at Santiago, one million southern blacks registered to vote (20%). Go Niners.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dumkopfs

How the Germans do struggle with a certain"tendency". From an article in the Nation: "Dr. Anderj Holm, a 36 year old urban sociologist at Berlin's Humboldt University, was arrested July 31. Holm's alleged crimes are that he had 'close contacts' with the three charged academics (of arson) and possibly other; participated in the 'extreme left-wing' protest against the 2007 Heilgendamn G-8 economic summit..and that he 'intentionally'left his cell phone at home hours before a meeting. In a Kafkaesque touch, his lack of a cellphone- hindering the efforts of German authorities to track him- is deemed 'conspiritorial behavior'.The authorities also cited Holm's frequent use of the terms'gentrification' and 'inequality' in his work as pointing to his alliance with the militant group." Guilt by association is bad enough but Using The Wrong Words?

This whole Global War of Terror thing is really over the top, and one might expect the Germans to be particularly sensitive to civil rights, given certain "instances" in their not-to-distant past. What might I be charged with for not even owning a cellphone? I lived in Germany for four years in self-imposed exile and found them a joyless and anal lot. With exceptions. Dick Cheney would fit in quite well. Might have something to do with the grey, wet weather.

As I was waiting in line at the little country store in Wisdom Montana (pop.85) I overheard a gentleman commenting on the dry, hot weather and asking the clerk how much snow they recieved in winter. She replied that they didn't get near as much as in the past and the fellow said: "That lunatic Al Gore would probably try to tell you it was because of man-caused global warming!" They both got a chuckle out of that. As usual, I thought of the perfect rejoinder about ten miles down the road.
"I think there are still those that don't believe global climate change is occurring because they are constantly bombarded with information in the media.. said UM Climatologist Faith Ann Heinsch. "And this brings a sense of anxiety and a fear that their way of living is going to change and they don't want to accept that." A polite way of saying ignorant greedy people are in denial. She is leading a series of conversations intended to "help the local faith community embrace the reality of global warming." Buena suerte.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another Anniversary

These days (such as 9/11) which are endowed with historical meaning are laboratories in which the "normative" is developed, pushed and pulled by our collective understanding and those forces which hope to influence the final shape. This process of design is certainly in evidence on 9/11 and a short cruise through the blogoshere and other media outlets is a reminder of the dynamic nature of this struggle over myth and memory. On the Rabid Right (Gates of Vienna, Green Footballs, Atlas Shrugged etc..) a militant and zenophobic patriotism is on full display. Emotionally charged, religiously inspired, the battle cry is sounded with renewed fervor and I understand the Bush administrations first name for the invasion of Iraq, Operation Something (freedom?) Crusade. Vengeance is a powerful emotion, one harnessed throughout history with often terrifying results. On the Left we are reminded how events have been used historically to push for expanded empire, how emotion must be tempered and that we should look beyond the ideological and examine the economic for answers. In the middle we get everything from Cindy Sheehan to George Will, trying desperately to attach their particle of meaning to the overall meme.

Ira Glass did a good thing on his radioshow, This American Life. He produced a story about the phobic anti-Islamism of a returned soldier and his extradorniary and courageous effort to overcome what he knew to be irrational. Listening to this personal story reminded me that there is hope despite the Dog and Pony shows, punditry, and assorted zealots. But we can't underestimate the opposition to truth and reason. Take for example this veiled assault by crafty spinmeister Pat Buchanan, "explaining" Liberal's reluctance to force the issue of troop withdrawal: "Scourged for twenty years over 'Who Lost China' ,they don't want to spend the next twenty years answering 'Who Lost the Middle East'." Do any serious historians contend Roosevelt gave away the East at Yalta? Of course not. But the corporate spin machine and rightwing think tanks, foundations and the politicians and pundits (including Buchanan) they employed surely tried their best to make this myth the dominant narrative. Buchanan omits that part of his "explanation". He extends this straw man with the further twisting of fact: "Come then Vietnam and the credible charge that the Liberal Establishment, the Best and the Brightest , had marched us in then cut and run, abandoning our Vietnamese and Cambodian allies to a holocaust and bringing on the worst strategic defeat in US history." To deconstruct this would take awhile but suffice to say Buchanan knows full well it is a pack of lies yet he plays his important propagandist role. And enough of the poorly informed and easily manipulated "citizenry" of this country believes this myth to cause current politicians to fear for their jobs if they "abandon the troops" or "cause another defeat".

And of course every politician starts his speech, either pro war or con, with this important message: "We all understand that the US has vital interests in the region.."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Signs of Decline

Surely the ghost of Nero was among the crowd of "pop stars"in Vegas last night, watching the Spectacular display of Western decadence know as"The Return of Brittany Spears". Is she an al Qaeda operative or a sad bimbo? Prancing awkwardly in her underwear amongst fellow pornographic images and symbols, she screeched out a "song" about sucking big things. Lots of young"gangstas" in the crowd with sagging pants (soon to be criminalized) and hats on backwards. It was almost as pathetic as watching poor Ted Kennedy on Face The Nation Sunday as he struggled in vain to complete a coherent sentence. He wants the troops home but "doesn't have the votes".

Speaking of al Qaeda, the freshly dyed Osama sounds like a spokesman for Answer!: "your information media... manifested itself as a tool of the colonalist empires." and "you should liberate yourselves from the deception, shackles and attrition of the capitalist system." He even borrowed from my shtick on the Spectacle of protest: "after the failure of your representatives in the Democratic Party to implement your desires to stop the war, you can still carry anti-war placards and spread out in the streets of major cities, then go back to your homes, but that will be of no use..." As Jimmy Durante used to say,Everybody Wants to Get Into the Act! His idea of "liberating ourselves" is to join Islam, an interesting take on emancipation.

Meanwhile, on the second act of the Today show, the comedian/stock analyst known as Mad Money (Jim Kramer) looked a bit forlorn, perhaps suicidal, as he tried to explain the "the economic situation". His pants weren't sagging but he shills for the decadent society just as pathetically as Brittany, just a slightly different role. His prop was a half full/half empty glass and he begged Ben Bernahnke to intervene. You can't make this stuff up. I was reading an article by some other stock guru/illusionist named Barton Biggs and was struck by the brutal language of financialization. :"Major financial institutions have suffered GREVIOUS WOUNDS and numerous lesser BODIES HAVE DRIFTED TO THE SURFACE BELLY UP." Capitalism as a fishbowl of survival. How about "WHEN THE BEAST IS FALLING".His warning is that"the giant hedge funds are run by people who, like us ,are susceptible to greed and fear." Is he trying to demonstrate some basic human bond? Fuck that comparison. He goes on to explain: "Most are not particularly intellectual , analytical or studious." well, burst my bubble! How did they get to be Masters of the Universe? Is he saying fearful, greedy morons are controlling the wealth of the world? His final word of advice is to "do the opposite of what the lunatics in the asylum are doing, own the big companies." Osama couldn't have said it better .

Finally ,from a report by Scott Johnson for Newsweek International we learn "the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism group...nine countries in central and western Africa.. designed to..generate support and suppress radicalism by both SHARING U.S. weapons and tactics with friendly regimes and winning friends through a vast humanitarian program assembled by USAID. 'It's the Peace Corps with a weapon'. Sharing is so nice! Especially with freindly guys like the Ethiopians. Venezuelans can tell you something about the "humanitarian program" of USAID. Im picturing all the folks over at CENTCOM and AFRICOM and The Today Show and Mad Money and The Stock Exchange at a big Convention in Vegas, watching Brittany, pohpoohing Osama and Ted Kennedy and sipping scotch as the world burns.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Democracy In Action?

We all desperately want to believe in the dream of representative democracy, the idea of a majority choosing the right leader with the right policies ,in a peaceful process. It is intoxicating and especially appealing to the lazy man inside us, no organizing, no confrontation or antagonism, no struggle, just a simple X next to a name on a ballot. I went to hear John Edwards speak two days ago and admit to being caught in the spell of the charismatic and good looking national celebrity right there in a room in little ,old Missoula Montana! With his progressive, populist exhortations about closing Guantanamo and universal healthcare and bringing the troops home it is easy to temporarily forget he is a rich, white,Democrat sold on the virtues of capitalism. It is telling though that Missoula Matters.

His "universal healthcare" is actually pooled Healthcare Markets rather than a single-payer,nationalized system. It has some good points and would improve on the status quo but...There is also this quote on his official website: "We must confront terrorism with the full force of our military might." This is problematic. It goes to what will probably be the discussion tonight at our bookclub when we talk about George Lakoffs book, Don't Think of an Elephant. He argues for the need for Progressives to re-gain the upper hand in the "framing" of issues. I will argue that Lakoffs "democracy" is a sham and "progressive" has no real meaning.

I see a big sign has gone up on the corner announcing a soon-to-be-built-mini-storage complex. You know,rows of ugly little metal buildings filled with the surplus commodities people felt compelled to purchase (a patriotic fervor, perhaps) but had no where to put. What a concept, paying rent to store all the crap you have no use for. The Greatest Country in the World.

John Bolton must be fuming about those Evil North Koreans signing deals with Chris Hill. He so wanted to annihilate them and soon we will be sending food and technology. Our Favorite Dictator Musharrif is scrambling to hang onto power and our Nigerian oil interests are looking less and less secure. Bolivia is deep into a constitutional crisis, a fight that goes straight to the soul of the country and will test the strength of the indigenous majority. Margaret Warner has been doing some great reporting for the Leher Newshour, filing stories from Turkey and Pakistan which probe a bit deeper than the norm.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Other Considerations

In 1948, the ink barely dry on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, George Kennan (head of State Dept.policy planning staff) said: "We have about 50% of the worlds wealth, but only 6.3% of the worlds poulation.Our real task in the coming period...is to maintain this position of disparity...We need not decieve ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction..The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in STRAIGHT POWER CONCEPTS. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better." Realist.

Andy Stern, president of the growing Service Employee International Union, said in a Labor Day speech that "The American economy is not a zero-sum game", by which I assume he means enough wealth can be "created" to benefit all so there is no need for class warfare. Putting aside the whole discussion of how wealth is created and being a cheerleader for the "rising tide" theory, what of this idea of wealth being zero-sum? His is an international union, is he advocating equality of wages for ALL service workers the world over? Can everyone have as much wealth and consume as many resources, use as much energy, etc. as American workers?

"Cultural hegemony" was Gramscis' term for the insidious tendency for "the perspective of the ruling class to be absorbed by the mass of workers". As Naomi Klein says "Sometimes we were crushed by army tanks and sometimes we were crushed by think-tanks".

The other day I walked out of the hardware store proudly clutching my "energy saving" light bulbs only to notice my Escort surrounded in the parking lot by no less than seven huge, new, three- quarter- ton pick-ups. None of them had anything heavier than a labrador in the bed.

Lindsay Graham,the boyish Senator from S.Carolina, kicked off the" Surge Is Working" campaign on the Sunday talk shows and it has blossomed into a full fledged Spectacle of Secret Flights and newspaper editorials andRepublican presidential hopefuls. The Petraeus Report is the latest in a long line of "Much Anticipated" events and the hype is both predictable and banal beyond belief. There seems to be less general enthusiasm, but I havent been watching FOX. "Still I Look To Find A Reason To Believe"

"Working class resistance to different forms of exploitation does not in itself give the workers the capacity to organize the production/distribution process better simply on the basis of direct democracy. A social alternative is a complex system that has to be invented.Workers need (and sense they need) more than a radical political vanguard in order to resist the capitalist environment and to participate in another mode of production."
Catherine Samary

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Movin On Up

Upward mobility, the American dream. My friend asked for a post on "how a best friend moved uptown" to try to expand this conversation on class consciousness. So : I was working in a textile factory across the river from Springfield Mass. many long years ago, hard, monotonous labor with exposure to lots of dangerous chemicals. Shitty pay with minimal benefits. I started having beers with a couple of guys after work, one my direct supervisor and one who did the same job I did but who had been at it for awhile. They were raised in these tough, post-boom towns with their racial problems and poverty, as poorly educated as myself, and we griped about the bosses, our prospects for the future and conditions in general. One day I showed up and there had been a "re-alignment", my two buddies had been moved up the chain of command, recieved little raises and a little more authority. Sensing an opportunity, I approached my friend with a couple of suggestions about changing parts of our process, thinking he could now use his expanded power to help us out down in the trenches. I was totally shocked when he told me he didn't need advice on how to run the operation, that if there were any problems he would be the one to identify them and recommend any changes!


Halfway through that shift I took my gloves off, told them I was quitting and walked out the door. I realized what "promotion" could mean and how it truly was a dog eat dog system of ass kissing and back stabbing, to which I just could not relate. This goes to the heart of that contoversial term "false consciousness" and the hegemonic nature of the Spectacle which is late capitalism. The good bureaucrat or coordinator learns quickly how to get his toast buttered and the lowest worker on the line will scrap with his mates for the bone which gets thrown his way. When Adam Smith extolled the virtues of the "discipline" which the Market imposed, he was talking also about the growling of the stomach which makes realists of us all, the authority we all listen to.

A great song which expresses some of this "What is Wrong With Kansas" angst is Redneck Blue Collar. "They don't like to think about it ,they don't really care

They just want to do their job and get on out of there

sixpack in the pickup and bacon in the boat,

take em to the cleaners , when its time to vote

Redneck blue collar, paycheck few dollars

you can wave Old Glory, it's the same old story.



This is an old theme of course, I found this old song (1913) by Joe Hill expressing the same frustration: Please give your attention, Ill introduce to you
a man that is a credit to "Our Red, White and Blue"
His head is made of lumber, and solid as a rock;
He is a common worker and his name is Mr.Block
And Block thinks he may Be President some day.

The commentor Anonymous likens me to Pol Pot because I criticize in generalizations. He would prefer I stick to particulars perhaps because he realizes how ineffectual such critique is.Whatever. I could save my judgment for myself but I want more than just the freedom to choose that which is always the same.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Some of My Best Friends Are Bosses

In fact, my wife is a boss! Call me a nit-picker when it comes to discourse, but I'm not crazy about rhetoric like this in the first sentence in the preamble to the IWW constitution: "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common." Is a capitalist social relationship always a "commodity relationship"? Are all relationships? The fact is, me and my boss (my manager, supervisor etc..who can hire and fire me) have a great deal in common on many levels as do many of my other friends who own their own businesses and have their own employees. (who they admittedly exploit) If the "division of labor" is harmful to the human project of peaceful self- realization and cooperation, it is exactly through the construction of these impermeable barriers of isolation and alienation. For those dedicated to the socialist project to carelessly (unknowingly?) employ these self-same tactics seems counter productive. These potential allies are needed on a broader political project and their (potential ) committment to worker emacipation, self-organization and participatory democracy far outweighs any vaguely defined "commodity relationship".

At our general meeting we decided my wife could be a member of the IWW because she technically only made "recommendations" for hiring and firings but this hair splitting does not improve the general lack of depth demonstrated by this imprecise terminology. Since she works for a non-profit, where is the capitalist? My good friend who owns a small housekeeping and catering business has a great deal more in common with her employees than she does with "real" capitalists, even if she does extract a little profit. Many in the "coordinator" class share the values of the "rank and file" and would associate with our demands if we can express our logic coherantly .And if I have a little "capital" invested in a pension fund I still can be in solidarity with a worker in China who can do what I do only much cheaper. Luckily, the IWW "is a democratic, member run union" and "decisions about what issues to address and what tactics to pursue" (hopefully including language) are made by the workers directly involved"

Another issue which arose is the the degree to which "self interest" can be harnessed to build a movement of resistance to capitalism. It is a fact that self interest motivates many union members to adopt a protectionist, anti- immigrant, anti-"outsourcing" stance which runs counter to an international socialist agenda. I still remember being assaulted by union "hard -hats"who associated with a nationalistic self interest which they felt was threatened by my opposition to the war in Vietnam. Self interest is of course the motor of Adam Smiths laissez-faire market mechanics and is something each of us considers in every decision we make. Is this tension something we need to resolve? I love being a fly in the ointment.