Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thoughts from Raoul Vaneigem on the Spectacular-Commodity System

"Haven't you ever felt like flinging your pay check into the face of the pay clerk? In that case, you have realized that:

  1. The wage system reduces the individual to a bookkeeper's digit. From the capitalist point of view, a wage slave is not a man but an index of the overheads of production and a certain degree of purchasing power in terms of consumption.
  2. The wage system is as much the keystone of global exploitation as alienate labor and commodity production are the keys to the spectacle-commodity system. To improve it would be to improve the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeois-bureaucratic class. One can, therefore, only do away with it entirely.
  3. Wage slavery requires that we sacrifice over eight hours of our days for eight hours of work: in return we receive a sum of money which covers only a fraction of the work done. The rest is retained by the employer for his own benefit. In its turn our wage has to be exchanged for polluted, junk products, household goods sold at ten times their real value, alienating gadgets (the car that enables us to get to work and consume, pollute, destroy the countryside, and save some empty time and kill ourselves. Not to mention the dues owing to the State, to experts, and to the trade union racketeers...
  4. Anyone who believes that wage demands can endanger private or State capitalism is mistaken: employers award to their workers only that increase which the unions need if they are to give evidence of their continuing usefulness: and the unions demand of the employers (who can, in any case put up prices) only sums that pose no threat to a system of which they are the greatest beneficiaries but one.
So you see, you have had a bellyful of living most of your life as a function of money and of being reduced to obedience to the dictates of economics, of merely existing and not having the leisure to live life to the full. Already, consciously or otherwise, you are fighting for a reallocation of useful goods which will no longer have anything to do with the pursuit of profits and which will, instead, answer people's real needs."

"Contributions to The Revolutionary Struggle," Raoul Vanegiem

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Look For Me In Butte

One of the reasons for my joining the IWW was to challenge the dominant notion that, to qoute Margaret Thatcher, "There are no alternatives". I find the rigid, thoughtless, conformity of Americans to be a terrifying threat to democracy and justice for workers and so was heartened to find a group willing to step out of the mold and proudly proclaim it's difference. Therefore, when I walked up to the Union Corner in Butte last Friday and saw the IWW banner hanging there and my Fellow Workers wearing the Black and Red, I reflected on just how far we had come in so short a time.

Here was the very "alternative" Margaret said didn't exist! And what a perfect backdrop for our message of worker solidarity to resonate in, Butte America, with both it's historical connections to the IWW and it's present-day economic woes. Due to the predatory, boom and bust nature of advanced capitalism, the boarded up buildings and ever-present "for sale" signs spoke volumes about the struggle the people of this mile-high city face to put food on their tables.And here in the middle of it was a group of folks ready to talk about alternatives, resisting that conformity, unwilling to "go along to get along".

Whether sitting at the table selling shirts and books or sitting listening to the great old songs or just wandering the festival grounds those three days, I was constantly approached by people who wanted to learn more about what we stood for and what I thought and how the world might be changed for the better.People who saw us proudly wearing our Frank Little shirts (fantastic job, Dennis!)were inspired to tell us their stories and talk about unions and think about WORK. One shy young teenager approached me and said he had just started reading about socialism.Another guy came up to say he had seen our booth and gone home to dig up his grandfathers old union card, which he then proudly showed us. As my wife and Vicki were headed for the gospel tent a man called out "hello Sisters" and showed them his IWW pin. All weekend people tapped me on the shoulder and asked me "who was Frank Little?" or said "I didn't know the Wobblies were still around" and were genuinely interested to hear of our activities.One guy even wanted to talk about Gramsci and Guy Debord! (a theory wonks dream come true!) It is because there is a latent but ever-pressing yearning for deep, structural change that working folk are relieved to see we are still around. As the crisis of capitalism worsens (and it is going to worsen),this yearning can be channeled into organized effort if we stay on task, keep improving our own democratic processes and build our capabilities. Keep up the good work, Wobblies!

From Dave