Labor Rising?

I tend to be pretty skeptical of the business unions leadership, although some of them are nice folks. But as organizations they are top-heavy, top-down, conveyor-belt for the ruling class, safety-valve against revolt, jingoist war profiteers, democratic patsies, historically racist and sexist, textbook example of recuperation, those “Don’t Bite The War That Feeds You Buttons,etc. blah blah blah. I had to get that out of my system, since the unraveling of capitalism may be forcing them to change their ways.

Big Labor tends to unconditionally support the democrats both morally and financially, and has gotten little in return, since Reagan was president. The recent corporate reparations and the success of the Republic Window occupation in Chicago may have reminded organized labor how they were originally able to force the capitalists into giving union members lower-middle class lifestyles, in the first place. I want to believe the that anarchists who work as organizers and bureaucrats played a role, and that their brutally hard work has not been in vain. I mean that sincerely.

The diffuse nature of consumer capitalism means that more workers than just those in Michigan will be affected by the collapse of the US auto industry and more unions than just the UAW will be losing members. The US senate voting against granting reparations to the US automakers has backed the unions, already weakened by years of ‘right to work’, so called “free-trade”, and the transition from an industrial to a consumer economy, into a corner. They appear to be ready to fight for their very existence when United Steelworkers International president, Leo Gerard, on a conference call for labor PAC, Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) says,

If we have Republicans who oppose us, we are going to take to the streets, we are going to occupy places. We are not going to allow any more of our members’ lives to be destroyed.

Then he shouts down a market-fundamentalist pundit who questions the USW solidarity with Colombian workers, saying

We should not do deals with countries that allow the shooting of people who represent the workers!

Not only do Leo Gerard and the Kaiser Chiefs predict a riot.  Gerald Celente, relatively accurate trend predictor, sees food riots, revolutions, and squatter uprisings in the US by 2012.  He also addressed our capacity for denial.

America’s going to go through a transition the likes of which no one is prepared for,” said Celente, noting that people’s refusal to acknowledge that America was even in a recession highlights how big a problem denial is in being ready for the true scale of the crisis.

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, said, while referring to the auto bailout,

We’re going to have riots. There are already people rioting because they’re losing their jobs when everybody else is being bailed out. The fairness of it becomes more and more evident as we go along. The auto companies may be hurting,” he said, but “there are very few companies that aren’t hurting and they’re going to hurt. We don’t have enough money to bail everyone out.

Too bad that wasn’t a campaign promise.

Glad to see the unions are trying to tap into the old fighting spirit. Hopefully we’ll see them on the barricades. Gerard’s a big dude.

Can It Happen Here?

No, I don’t mean that kind of open mutiny, as is occurring in Greece, but the State running out of tear gas. Road salt, or anything else, yes, but never weapons, lethal or otherwise. Occasionally, they will cry like spoiled debutantes and pretend their gear is falling apart, but funding is first priority, survival for bureaucracies, even the ones entrusted with dispensing legal violence. The physical militarization of US police forces, (as opposed to the granting of law enforcement powers and duties to other government agencies, businesses and citizens)  the kind that’s easy to see, with carbines in every radio car, mechanized infantry patrols, and this little drug war machine, helped keep defense contractors in the red, between the end of the Cold War and the 9/11 attacks.

The US Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Officials Act, in 1981 which allowed for the sharing of information, facilities and equipment and training by active-duty military personnel in 1981. The policies of the “liberal”  Clinton administration facilitated a massive increase in paramilitary raids and the issue of absurd amounts of military hardware to civilian police departments:

Between 1995 and 1997 the Department of Defense gave police departments 1.2 million pieces of military hardware, including 73 grenade launchers and 112 armored personnel carriers. TheLos Angeles Police Department has acquired 600 Army surplus M-16s. Even small-town police departments are getting into the act. The seven-officer department in Jasper, Florida, is now equipped with fully automatic M-16s

Greece

Greece

The Greek police look almost naked and empty-handed compared to the toys that police in the US are issued. I literally own more riot gear than the average, individual, paid terrorist in Greece, from what I’ve seen. Contrast that with the kinds of equipment deployed for even the smallest demo in the US. A stark contrast to the Ninja turtle suits, APCs, grenade launchers and tons of other shit that this jealous little boy wishes he had. Even a minor traffic stop quickly turns into an unpermitted FOP convention with traffic jams for the rest of us.

USA

USA

It’s also been the better part of 40 years since shit has actually gotten out of hand, in any kind of big way, so it’s not easy to predict how contemporary, widespread civil unrest would be dealt with.  Would you see the National Guard machine-gunning apartment buildings ala Newark, ’67 or state bombings not unlike they did to MOVE?  We know that the less lethals are reserved for white folks, as it stands, but there’s no way of knowing if they’d go to live ordinance for anyone who can’t pass for white, as they have clearly done in the past. The violence directed towards Katrina victims by State and mercenary forces in New Orleans, not to mention the media , may be a preview of the kinds of treatment that will accompany the acceleration of the crumbling empire.

Race is obviously a factor in the US equation and the Alexis’ assassin was a member of an organized neo-fascist group called the Golden Dawn. There is obviously no kind of reasonable evidence to begin to quantify how many US police are members of neo-fascist groups, but given the level of institutional racism in the US, from the 3/5 compromise to racial profiling, there is really no reason to bother with such wannabees or their little clubs, except to protect them from the rest of us. The heavy reliance on informants and illegal combatants plainclothes infiltrators further blurs the line between official and unoffical hate groups. The situation with the Love Park 4 is a good example of this kind of symbiotic relationship. This is to say nothing of the role of liberals who confuse “free speech” with hate speech.

There have been some grumblings regarding the deployment of regular US troops for domestic purposes, but this is nothing new. Despite the alleged protections of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, the rarest of birds, a one sentence law enacted by southern democrats after the US civil war, Federal troops have been used to break dozens of strikes, before Big Labor was successfully recuperated. The State must not trust the local cops at the end of the day, and maybe their loyalties will lie with the people in the end. In more recent years, super-secret Delta Force commandos were on the ground at the 1984 summer olympics in California, the 1993 State murders of religious kooks and their children at Waco and  the 1999 WTO demonstrations in Seattle.

Whoever, except in cases and under such circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or by Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined no more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Aside from the cop-toy shortage in Greece it also seems bizarre that the terrorist who murdered Alexis would be charged with any miscounduct, a rare occurrence in the US. Of my two cop relatives who have murdered civilians, neither of them did any time for killing, but one of them was briefly detained and released without charges for allegedly stealing from the victim. The police didn’t make this system and they are a relatively new development. If the US ran out tear gas, I imagine law enforcement types might begin to protect and serve the people. The local medical examiner, who by all accounts is something of a megalomaniac, has spent a good deal of time in federal court over machine politics as usual, and the only thing that makes him any different than the rest of the region’s bottom-feeders, was his suggestion that State violence was unjustified in several incidents.

It was also strange to read that this was the first teenager murdered by the state in Greece since 1985, but apparently there are consequences for such behaviors. Here, it happens so often that no one seems to notice and the media loves to blame a victim,  and brandishing a firearm (or old-timey cell phone) at members of a specialized warrior class with a license to kill is a high risk behaviors, and the outcome of these incidents is not very surprising.

This another example of the multi-tiered US justice system, where the privileged classes (the wealthy, the famous, politicians, informants, security forces) are exempt from the both the spirit and letter of the law. A clear, simple example of this is the removal of civilians and media to make room for off-duty police to intimidate witnesses and jurors in cases where civilians defend themselves from State violence.

Another tier is for those who appear repentant (and/or attractive) enough to be willing to retain an attorney, with punishments well below the level stated by the law. At the bottom is everyone else, (the poor, the mentally ill, the illiterate) who are subject to the brunt of the law. The “impeach Bush” wingnuts refuse to acknowledge this as sure as the right-wing constitution worshippers who too act surprised, when ‘the rule of law’ is ignored by privileged groups and indviduals.

I must admit to being ignorant to the nature of the Greek legal system, as well as other objective realities (I have personal comrades on the ground there, as of 12/14) but the notion of a constitutionally mandated “no-go” zone such as is the case with Greek universities seems like a parallel universe to someone as ignorant and provincial as me, who has never left North America. The only “no-go” zones that have existed in the US, that I can recall firsthand in my lifetime were created with firearms, during the upsurge in entry-level capitalism in the early 90’s.

Maybe the sheer numbers of personal firearms in the US, as opposed to Olde Europe, provides the justification for the supression of dissenters? Obviously media complicity is a factor, as is institutional racism, and the US epidemic of Stockholm syndrome, which results in a lack of sympathy for freedom lovers and fighter, but I’m sure I must be missing something. I guess that’s why the urban guerilla-type groups in Europe fared so much better than their US counterparts. Who knows, maybe the police will get tired and quit? Part of the job is creating the appearance of being superhuman and that’s not easy to keep up. We don’t often get to see these types of things out, normally the unions sell it out pretty quick, and I’ve read something to that effect. This appears to be more youth than labor oriented so maybe ther is no central command to accept concessions.

“Joe the Plumber” & The American (Pipe) Dream

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
-Jay Gould, Robber Baron

The 15 minutes of fame awarded to republican mascot, Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber”, confirms what I have long considered to be the single greatest psychological problem afflicting working people in the US. Not the taste for mass-produced,  country “music” that is pumped from Nashville into large motor vehicles and  suburban and rural homes like sewage, but that steady journey to a mirage of an oasis, in this social desert. Mr. Wurzelbacher embodies the economic Stockholm syndrome of working people confusing their desires with those of the elites.

A lesser evil was the form that some of the corporate media/liberal blogger attacks against Mr. Wurzelbacher took. Not having internet access, at the time, I missed out on some of the more entertaining, but sadly untrue rumors such as the ones where his dad was Charles Keating’s (of McCain’s “pre-maverick” days) son-in-law. There’s no way I wouldn’t have bitten on that one. I fully comprehend that he volunteered to be a partisan combatant and should not have been surprised when bureaucrats in Ohio and elsewhere ran his numbers. The media focus on his back taxes and inability to complete a specialized training program and obtain professional licensing, portrayed being working poor as a moral failing, since millions of us have been in those kinds of situations. The liberal strategy of combating phony populism with genuine elitism seems somewhat misguided.

Why such a “great american”  who is connected to an astrofturf pseudo-union would choose to lie and associate himself with something as “marxist” as trade union (on myspace and facebook) is beyond me, especially when said trade union had given the member dues to the opposition candidate. Personally,  I’d no sooner pretend to be a member of plumbers union than a motorcycle “club”.

Like many people in the US, Wurzelbacher suffers from the delusion of cross-class mobility. Some people are willing to suffer any indignity, not just higher taxes in the here-and-now and allow the wealthy to get away with anything, in anticipation of a massive rise in personal income, like lottery winners and Bill Gates and Michael Jordan and Metallica and they can’t bear the thought of their dream wedding, hypothetical fortune being overtaxed. It’s Stockholm syndrome. How many people toil their lives away under the mistaken impression that they will one day buy the business they work for? I have about the same chance of buying that plumbing company as he does. Is it just another version of “being rewarded in heaven” or an economic Rapture? If a corporate entity is large enough, even the working poor who toil for it can buy stock in the company they work for. It is regarded as great privilege to possess a speck of a symbolic representation of the means of production. You become a gambler, although a less than insignificant one, and your low wages and paltry benefits and even your layoff, should it be deemed necessary, are all fixes implemented to benefit and improve the odds, for you, the shareholder. Your 401(k) depends on large groups of other workers and the planet itself being done even worse than you are.

Even in the US, these market fundamentalist, folk traditions often exact an even higher toll than mere degradation and wholesale boredom and they are not without their martyrs. Some people work themselves to death much faster than others in pursuit of the “American (sic) Dream”.