Thursday, November 25, 2010

Students, Workers, the Unemployed: One Direction, Insurrection

Broke Rage in Post-Election California


Hundreds of Modesto residents line up for Thanksgiving food donations. 
Everything that we read and hear about in the mainstream media leads us to believe that the economy is in dire straights. That the excesses of our "socialist" government have pushed us into the red, and that immigrants, unions, and environmentalism are to blame. However, the truth is far from these myths being spun by right-wingers. The economy isn't failing, in fact it's doing quite well! You probably didn't get the memo, but this quarter, Wall Street reported record profits. Meanwhile, many people fight just to get by. Lines for food donations this Thanksgiving stretched around the block in Modesto. Unemployed workers also must wait and see if the government will extend unemployment benefits in the next two days - the deadline being November 30th. As we speak, according to the newspaper Internationalism, "The official unemployment rate in the United States for March was already 10.2%, but if we count those who have given up looking for non-existent jobs, this number is raised to 11.5%, and if we add workers who are employed part-time because they can't find full-time work, the number is 17.5% of the civilian population." Meanwhile, prices continues to rise, homes continue to be foreclosed on, and millions are out of work as California has become a leader in unemployment. As Tom Eley wrote:
If any more proof were needed, the third quarter profit record exposes the lie promoted by Democrats and Republicans alike that only the “free market” and private businesses can reverse the nation’s 9.6 percent unemployment rate. The corporations and banks are sitting on a cash horde in the trillions of dollars. This money is not being used to hire workers, but to line the pockets of the executives and top shareholders.
Fat cat bastards.
As we suffer, the corporations and the fat cats are generating record profits. According to the Pensito Review, "U.S. corporations have reported the highest profits recorded since the Commerce Department began tracking corporate income growth 60 years ago: $1.659 Trillion. That renders as $1,659,000,000,000 in numerical values." As our standards of living continues to go down the drain, the ruling class swims in their filthy loot like a bunch of Scrooge McDucks.

Several weeks ago in the world of higher education, leaders of both the UC's and the CSU's decided yet again to raise fees. At CSU's, which Modesto students attend at CSU Stanislaus in Turlock, fees have risen a disgusting 242% since 2002.

But as Wall Street and education fat cats collect record earnings, the average income of workers continues to fall, millions more Americans are now in poverty, up 11% from 2009 to 49 million Americans, 1 in 4 US adults is without some type of health coverage, and 50 million Americans in the US in 2009, (that's 15% of all US households), do not have enough food in their homes during the year. Meanwhile, the net worth of the 400 richest Americans increased by 8 percent in 2010, to $1.37 trillion. An October survey by the Wall Street Journal found that employees at 35 of the biggest banks, investment banks, hedge funds, money management firms, and securities exchanges will be paid a record $144 billion in 2010. We, the working class have created their wealth - all through our labors. It's we who face the burdens of cuts and layoffs, furloughs, pollution, fee hikes, and police brutality. The rich are rich because we are poor, and we are forced to work for them because they own all the property and control the political system, the media, and the police forces.

Towards a Fresh Attack on the Ruling Class

Voting just encourages them!
With the election of Jerry Brown, who came into power masquerading as a 'friend of the workers,' or at least, 'not Whitman,' we can see (along with the horror that Obama has brought) the dead end of electoralism. Electoralism is the idea that we can better our lot through elections, and that we can progress towards a better society by electing 'good' people to run the government. However, the state exists to keep the economy intact, and to keep the various forces opposed to each other in society; the haves and have nots, from destroying this class divided system. Therefore, electoralism is always a dead end, and only fools us into thinking that we can better our conditions by supporting a new set of leaders from the upper class. As our comrades from the paper Internationalism wrote: 
Therefore, we must insist that workers resist the siren calls of the various bourgeois parties and their media mouthpieces to take sides in this or any other election. Clearly, the working class must reject the calls of the bourgeois right in this election. It is easy for us to denounce the Tea Party –now almost indistinguishable from the right-wing of the Republican Party...
However, as much as we must reject the right’s blatantly anti-working class program; workers must also not fall for the propaganda of the bourgeois left, which seeks to use the nasty extremism emanating from an increasingly belligerent and paranoid right-wing to scare us into a defensive strategy of protecting the state against the anti-solidarity rhetoric of the right. We must condemn all factions of the bourgeoisie regardless of their ideological stripe and political rhetoric. It is true that the Republican Party and their Tea Party allies are currently pushing a particularly nasty tone and without a doubt the politicians on the right increasingly actually believe the rhetoric they spew, but this must not blind the working class into taking up the calls of the Democrats to defend the bourgeois state. Once we fall into this trap, we find ourselves on the enemy class terrain and are quite simply lost.  
Leaving the dead end of the ballot behind, we can begin to look to where we can attack capitalism. As we look back at the last two years of struggle, the working class in the United States has taken a lot of shit, but we've also dished out our share of it as well. Let us learn and take stock of the strikes, riots, and occupations of the past years, and see where we can come together, against our enemies, and towards a new future.


Another set of bosses.
Capitalism is always weakest at the point of production. When workers go on strike, they refuse their labor to capitalists. Since the Great Depression however, unions have more and more used strikes less and less tactically. And, as we wrote in the last part of this essay, large unions like SEIU, despite all their rhetoric, have sold out their bases entirely, helping to bring into power politicians that will attack their workers' pensions and cut their hours and wages. While the unions represent large bodies of workers that could all enter into strike action - forcing the bosses back, instead, the unions are more interested in policing the workers. They want to make sure that not only do our struggles on the job don't get out of hand - but that we don't struggle at all.

Longshore workers refuse to cross picket lines.
However, many workers are not interested in taking orders or waiting around for union bosses to tell them when to fight. While in recent months we have seen a growth in strike activity in the US, the most inspiring strike action in the past year has come from the Longshoremen workers in Camdem NJ and Philly. There workers, again according to Internationalism: 
Engaged in an unofficial two-day strike against Del Monte who had moved 200 jobs to a non-union port in Gloucester, NJ which was joined by dockworkers all the way up New Jersey into Brooklyn refusing to cross the informal picket line. Right at the start of the strike, the New York Shipping Association got an injunction from a federal judge in Newark declaring the strike illegal and on the second day of the action, the International Longshoreman’s Association disavowed any association with the strikers, calling on union stewards to send the pickets back to work, and promising that they had convinced shipping associations and industry heads to meet with them a week later to “discuss” the eliminated positions.
What makes this action important is that workers decided to go on strike out of solidarity with others workers being cut, and also because they saw that the same thing could happen to them. They also did not wait for the union to take action for them, and as we saw, the union came down quickly against them, declaring their action as "illegal." The power of these workers to shut down an economy that threatens us all is clear, as one of them stated, "We ain’t gonna eat," [the worker] said, conceding that he and his brethren stood to lose pay. "But you ain’t gonna eat either. K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Sears. You name it, it comes through us."

While the workers went back to work after several weeks, and union officials are now meeting with industry leaders in regards to hiring back workers who have lost their jobs, we can only hope that these sort of actions grow larger and spread. This strike helps show a way forward; as workers themselves self-organize and take power into their own hands, deciding how, when, and where to fight - not taking orders from anyone but themselves, and showing solidarity with others.


Workers at the Republic Windows and Doors occupation.
"Chicago's a working class town! We're going to stand together until we win this battle!"

Another action that began without being called by the union directly, was the occupation of Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago in late 2008. Workers began the occupation, which lasted a total of six days, when they found out that they would be laid off, right before the holiday season. Instead of retreating into the cold, snowy gloom of the city, the over 200 plus group of multi-racial workers decided to occupy their factory until Bank of America, the bank in control of the businesses funds, paid them in wages and severance pay, as well as health coverage. The bank claimed it wouldn't pay, even though Bank of America - Republic's main creditor - was in line to receive $25 billion in taxpayer money, through the recent bailouts. The action became a rallying cry for working class resistance to the recession. The Republic Workers after six days won their demands and got their money back - while inspiring a whole new generation of working class militants to take action. The working class of Chicago and around the country also sent messages of solidarity, food, and much need funds to the workers - generating massive support for the occupation.

In September of 2009, less than a year after the occupation of Republic, students and staff at UC Santa Cruz launched another occupation that would also take the world by surprise. Students at the school took control over the graduate commons building, holding it for close to a week. In a statement released, the students declared:
We must face the fact that the time for pointless negotiations is over. Appeals to the UC administration and Sacramento are futile; instead, we appeal to each other, to the people with whom we are struggling, and not to those whom we struggle against. A single day of action at the university is not enough because we cannot afford to return to business as usual. We seek to form a unified movement with the people of California. Time and again, factional demands are turned against us by our leaders and used to divide social workers against teachers, nurses against students, librarians against park rangers, in a competition for resources they tell us are increasingly scarce. This crisis is general, and the revolt must be generalized. Escalation is absolutely necessary. We have no other option.

Occupation is a tactic for escalating struggles, a tactic recently used at the Chicago Windows and Doors factory and at the New School in New York City. It can happen throughout California too. As undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff, we call on everyone at the UC to support this occupation by continuing the walkouts and strikes into tomorrow, the next day, and for the indefinite future. We call on the people of California to occupy and escalate.
Occupy everything!
In the months that followed, schools across California erupted against the budget cuts and fee hikes. As student fees climbed 32% at both the UC's and CSU's, students walked out, occupied buildings, and fought with police on the barricades. Students fought not only against cut classes and higher fees, but also against cuts to staff hours and against faculty being laid off. More than anything, the occupations radicalized many young people, as it woke them up not only to the realities of modern capitalism, but also to the liberatory nature of resistance to it. Many non-students entered into the movement, stating that the occupation of the universities could become a staging ground where the working class could build counter power and attack capitalism. As one essay read:
Renew the strikes and extend their reach. Occupy the student stores and loot them. Sell off the computers in the lab to raise funds. Set up social spaces for students and non-students alike to come in and use freely. Appropriate the copy machines and make news of the revolt. Takeover the cafeterias and bars and begin preparing the communal feast. Burn the debt records and the construction plans. Chisel away the statues and vandalize the pictures of the old order. In short, create not an ‘alternative’ that can easily make its fit within the existent, but rather a commune in which power is built to destroy capitalist society. When faced with a university building, the choices are limited; either convert it to ashes or begin the immediate materialization of the international soviet.  
A UK protester walks atop a police car at an anti-Fee hike riot.
The fires lit from the occupation of the Chicago Windows and Doors in 2008 had spread to the schools and universities of the West Coast. As fee hikes and budget cuts continue in 2010, we hope to see a growth and continuance of the occupations and riots that happened in 2009. As the UK and Europe in general erupts in rebellion over the rising the student fees and the privatization of the public university system - bonds need to be made across the pond so we can feed on each others' energy and ideas. 

Foreclosure occupation in Stockton.
Another occupation that showed the strength of collective action, was the occupation of the foreclosed office/home of the Central Valley Miwok Tribe in Stockton California. Stockton, like Modesto, is a city that is in the center of the foreclosure housing crisis. When the home became foreclosed on when the tribe was denied monies owed to them by the state through Indian gambling, tribal members decide to occupy their residence in order to force the bank to call off the eviction. While the tribe was able to hold off the eviction for several months, the bank again decided to proceed with the eviction in early 2010. The tribe issued a call for support, and close to 40 people helped to occupy the building. The gates in front of the home were welded shut and people got ready for anything. Within a day, the bank had called off the eviction. Groups such as Take Back the Land and Homes Not Jails have also used occupations of land and housing to house the homeless, resist foreclosure, and take over unused space owned by the government.

While it may seem that occupations at work, at schools, and of foreclosed homes are isolated and separate from each other, they are all done to combat the attack of the capitalist class against the working class. These occupations were important, because they help people to gain confidence and win victories, and also show people that success can come to those that were willing to get organized and stand in solidarity with each other. Furthermore, occupations provide spaces where people in various areas can see what creative and combative resistance against capitalism, can, and does, look like.


The mob brings justice in Seattle.
In the past two years, class struggle has not been limited just to strikes on the job, and occupations of homes, workplaces, and schools. There have also been inspiring struggles taking place in our communities as well. The three that we would like to focus on here however, is the working class self-defense organizations that have developed out of the efforts of the Seattle Solidarity Network, the movement that has grown in and around the rebellions against the police murder of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California in 2009, and also the struggle against racist anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona.

Money returned from a landlord after a SCS action.
The Seattle Solidarity Network (SeaSol), is based on basic principles of working class solidarity. The idea is, when someone is swindled out of money at work, when their landlord refuses repairs or takes their deposit, or when someone is fired unjustly, SeaSol goes into action. The action happens when a large group of people comes together and pickets, demonstrates, and raises hell at bosses and landlords workplaces, property, or their homes. As more and more people come into the group and are involved in victories and struggles, they also become part of the group, showing solidarity with other working people when they are attacked. The group then grows bigger, and the network more powerful. Such groups are taking off across the West Coast, and in Santa Cruz, the recently formed Santa Cruz Solidarity Network recently won it's first battle! These kinds of networks are inspiring, because they show the power that an organized and united working class can have in any city, when we start to direct our rage against the bosses and the rich.

Free shoes for all during Oscar Grant riot. 
The riots and rebellions by the Oakland (and wider bay area) working class also show the strength of a combative people, unwilling to sit by while the police continue to slaughter us in the streets. When Oscar Grant, a young father and union grocery store worker was shot at the Fruitvalle Bart on New Years Day in 2009, his murder kicked off a movement against police brutality that caused the first major uprising in the Obama era. In July of 2010, after Grant's killer was found guilty only of involuntary manslaughter, people rampaged through downtown Oakland. Rioters, of all colors, fought with police, looted stores, and destroyed the property of banks and other large corporations. The intensity of the riots flew in the face of ongoing calls by the Left for "non-violence" that placed blame on "white anarchists" for the rage, even though the crowd featured white, black, yellow, and brown youth all coming together to fight the police and loot the property of the rich. Beyond rioting, the uprisings also created forums and new organizations for people to come together to tackle police brutality in new and better organized ways. People across the globe and the country were inspired to get organized and fight the police due to the Grant case; further radicalizing a new generation of working class militants.

Anti-Nazi and pro-immigrant riot in Phoenix.
Lastly, in Phoenix, the working class there was attacked by a set of laws called SB 1070, which would give police the ability to stop people and demand that they provide proof that they are American citizens. This law in effect would give the police extreme powers in racially profiling people and would mean the deportation and incarceration of many millions. According to a recent study, up to 100,000 Latino people have already left Arizona, in fear of the passing of SB 1070. The bill itself is driven in part by white supremacist politics and prison economics that stand to make millions off of the incarceration of millions of working class families - locked up, and soon to be deported. The law eventually had much of the legislation taken out of it, in part due to disruptive protests, lockdowns, street blockades, student walkouts, and massive marches. The movement against attacks on immigrants and the entire working class in Arizona is ongoing - but is important because it represents a struggle against the racialization of capitalist oppression within the working class. Recently in Arizona, anarchists, youths, and pro-immigrant forces rioted for over and hour against police and Neo-Nazis, who were attempting to hold a rally in support of SB 1070 in Phoenix. The intensity of the street fighting shows an escalation of tactics within the proletariat in Arizona, and shows how people within the struggles there are coming together, gaining confidence, and getting stronger. The recent DO@ bloc, or revolutionary group of indigenous and anarchist forces within the immigrant movement, is hopefully a sign of things to come, as working class people across the racial divide come together to struggle against capitalism.

We're All In this Together

Since 2008, and the start of the Obama regime, poor and working people have faced battle after battle, and attack after attack. The Left continues to tell us to 'stay the course,' and simply 'pressure the President to do his job right!' However, he's been serving his real masters far too well. Millions are now homeless. Millions more unemployed and without income. Services and benefits have been cut, and many are now faced with being taken off unemployment. Meanwhile, Wall Street is making trillions. The system isn't broke. It's working, far, far, too well.  

Class struggle - our struggle.
Still, we have made steps forward. Starting with the heroic actions of the Chicago Windows and Doors workers, to wildcat strikers in NJ, from student occupations in Santa Cruz, to occupied foreclosed homes in Stockton. From anti-police riots in Oakland, to anti-Nazi and pro-immigrant riots in Phoenix - we are growing stronger as a class. We are coming to see ourselves as a we, again. It really is us vs them. Let us look over these events and start to feel good about at least some of our actions. We can get organized. We can fight back against capitalism and it's governments. We can organize in our neighborhoods and better our conditions day in and day out, fighting bosses, landlords, and brutal police. We can also engage in struggles that transform space and create a way for people to come together and relate to one another in new and revolutionary ways. We can burn banks, loot stores, fight police, occupy buildings, all while being denounced by every union bureaucrat, middle class activist leader, and head of a non-profit that is paid to tell us what we are doing is hurting "the movement" - and grow more powerful while doing it. We've seen decades of sign waving and asking those in power to stop killing and exploiting us. It's done nothing. Now it's time to fight back on our terms. On our conditions. And fight for our lives. It is important that we feel good about so much of what has happened in the last two years - that we draw some confidence from our actions and our ability to organize and fight back. We'll need this confidence, and to take away from it some lessons learned so in the coming years we can start to win. And keep on winning.   

This is our world, not theirs.
These actions need to be just the start. What if more workers facing layoffs occupied their buildings? What if high school kids threated with school closures and bigger classroom sizes occupied their schools along with the college kids? What if unemployed workers started organizing mass lootings of Wal-Marts and Save-Marts when the checks stopped coming? What if field workers occupied their fields and declared them free communes? What if doctors and nurses occupied the hospitals and declared free health care for all? What if workers saw through the empty rhetoric of all the unions and launched general strikes across all industries? What if every neighborhood refused to let the police evict anyone and simply stopped paying rent? What if everyone feed up with the police simply drove them out and dealt with problems themselves? We aren't in this alone. There are millions of working people across the world already involved in the fight. Students in the UK call to us from the tops of smashed up police cars. Campesinos in Chiapas cry out to us with guns in hand. Immigrants in Greece salute us while throwing molotovs during running battles with the police. Factory workers in South Korea give us raised fist salutes while in the middle of an occupation. It is time for us to create the world that fits our needs and desires - and not continue one second further one that exploits and makes us miserable. We are the crisis now. For we are the ones that can destroy capitalism once and for all. Let the world know...



  1. Very interesting...but if this is 'part 2', where is 'Part 1'?

  2. couple posts down...