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Industrial Unionism

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  • Saturday, April 21, 2007

    But I too want to live in the future.

    I have often asked myself this question over and over, yet I lack a good enough answer. What do I want? Better said, what would I like my community to look like? The obvious answer always seems to be a question or a statement on how I do not want society to look and operate. Also, with this very important question comes one more, how the hell do we get there? Capitalism seems to be able to adapt itself to any thing we throw at it and that is both good and bad, the never ending duality. Our lives are almost at the mercy of an economy run mad, almost. Our reforms and campaigns under the last few hundred years has always, sadly, allowed a smooth return to business as usual, with percentages here or there. Have we not gained anything genuine under our struggles, riots, activism, organizing, and strikes? Sure we have! Do I think we want more? Yes! In fact, I know we want more because the system is still breathing.

    Capitalism is as fascinating as it is horrible. I am always amazed at how it can recuperate after all blows we have given it. No matter how much we level the economic playing field, get more money or benefits, profit and reinvestment still goes on. It continues because we allow it to continue, our labor and creativity is the life blood and brain of capitalism. So no matter how good our hours, conditions, or pay we still produce a great amount of surplus-value for capital. The cycle continues. This tells us that no matter what we want to do or how he would like to live our lives there will always be a price as long as capitalism remains. The price, our work that benefits someone else and spending the little amount of money we have in comparison to the wealth collected off our labor.

    Anyway, I am drifting for my original thought, what do I want and how do I want to get there (how can we get there)? I would like to see communities standing up and organizing movements, campaigns, etc… that concentrates on the economic aspect of our lives and begins to redistribute the wealth horded by capitalism. I am not very interested in trying to coordinate some social experiment or alternative within the economy because that just takes to much time and becomes to ritualistic. Rather, I would like to see a community tackle the economic needs of human beings according to needs and equity, not equality or rations. Face it we all want different things on a material basis. I am not very interested in Cuban ration cards, though food being a right is an interesting thought (I still want more than rice and beans). In Lenin’s, What is to be Done, he argues against the trade union mentality of only dealing with economic questions (pay and the miniscule “% wage increase”) and the trade unions not being political enough. But I am beginning to see the economic aspect of our lives as the very core of our own captivity.

    Mr. Marx what would you say? “…It ought to have been said that with the abolition of class distinctions all social and political inequality arising from them would disappear of itself” (Critique of the Gotha Program, Part II. Marx, K). Yes, well how important is the economic aspect of our lives in comparison to the political? What was true for the Paris Commune is true for society today, “its true secret was this. It was essentially a working-class government, the produce of the struggle of the producing against the expropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labor. Except on this last condition, the Communal Constitution would have been an impossibility and a delusion. The political rule of the producer cannot coexist with the perpetuation of his social slavery. The Commune was therefore to serve as a lever for uprooting the economical foundations upon which rests the existence of classes, and therefore class-rule. With labor emancipated, every man becomes a working man, and productive labor ceases to be a class attribute” (The Civil War in France, Part III. Marx, K).

    So then, “What is to be Done”? As I said before, I would like to see a great deal of agitation on the issue of our material existence and how we spend our time. Why stop at a campaign for an increase in the cities minimum wage? Is it not also possible to demand more than our 1968 standard of living? How about taking up the Wobblies old struggle for the 4hr. work day (20 hour work week), is it not time that we got more “free-time”? The liberal/conservative twin joined at the hip seems very worried about putting people to work, well put your money where your mouth is! You want higher employment or even 100% employment, decapitate the 8 hour/1 person monster of drudgery, and let’s replace it with 4 hour /2 people monster drudgery. But don’t you dare try to counter with lower wages.

    A citizens, though not the absolute correct term, wage or global citizens guaranteed income could produce a security net and workers who are more eager to be productive and creative not only for the community but for themselves. More free time and money can only spark people’s interest in new and better things! The Situationist inside me tells me this is not radical enough, this is not good enough. But hell we have to start somewhere. Do we really want the responsibility, no burden, of taking care of it all? This is the withering away, the transition from the old to the new. No seizure of state power. Rather, the impending destruction of an out-of-date economic system. Our freedom will rise from the corpse of the working day; let’s do the everyday to make the revolutionary possible!

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