Review: Steel City Revolt #1

Steel City Revolt #1 (Fall 2008)

48 pages, quarterly

(POG, c/o The Thomas Merton Center, 5125 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224)

(Full Disclosure: I was affiliated for a couple years with the group who put out this publication. )

I was unsure what to expect from this project, since I hadn’t been keeping up with POG’s recent activities, membership, or orientation. I recalled some members of the group had wanted to publish some kind of ongoing anarchist periodical for years, but election years can dilute the character of resistance (and make it hard to find reefer). It’s good that this finally came together.

The first issue of Steel City Revolt manages to walk a fine line. The covers and printing are professional enough to be taken seriously outside of radical ghettos, without being so slick that you wonder where that money came from. Good layout and graphics. The content is militant, without being too threatening or scary. A sizable portion of the magazine is composed of personal accounts which are much more readable than the kind of manifesto rhetoric that can only ever hope to preach to the choir, at best. The internal group documents and donation/membership forms are less obtrusive than your average subscription card. Overall, it adheres to a pretty orthodox left/activist anarchism, but pays some lip service to the insurrectionary project with a quote and illustration from the Harper’s stuff on the 1877 uprisings, a Bonanno quote, pretty cool centerfold world map listing various international ruptures occuring between July and September.

Fortunately there are no attempts to redefine anarchism and it’s relationship to presidential elections. The firsthand accounts of  the RNC actions did an especially good job of  capturing the mood of these kinds of events and the interview-style article on US elections was solid, all told, there’s a bare minimum of the kind of diplomatic mollifying that is required to keep liberals from spitting on you, because you disagree with them.

The sadly, largely neglected struggle against I-69, a time-line of anarchist hunger strike from Spain, the RNC 8, and a tribute to two recently slain activists make up some of the outside content. There’s also some features/cultural stuff including movie (which is also a personal account of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle) and book reviews, gift ideas, crafting, the mandatory ascetic recipes, and poetry (although an excerpt from P. Shelly’s “Mask of Anarchy” is erroneously labeled as “The Call to Freedom”, as it is in many places on ‘teh interwebs’. It seems like the sparts objected to the rest of the poem and cut their own favorite piece off and gave it their own title)

One of the things that I found less than thrilling was the “indivdualism” vs “collectivism” false-dichotomy that popped up in the “Get to Know an Anarchist from the Past” feature. An anarchist collective must by definition be composed of anarchist individuals, although some days I have to wonder.  Devoting four pages to business union boilerplate wasn’t entirely unexpected or entirely negative, especially the plain talk on the PAT/ATU situation. The unconditional cheerleading for big labor isn’t limited to POG, but is a shortcoming of left/activist anarchism in general, and won’t likely be solved in a periodical review.

All told, POG has put together a entertaining and informative magazine.While I have my doubts about formal anarchist groups, left activism, and their capacity to attack State and Capital, during periods of low revolutionary actvity, a project like Steel City Revolt proves they can publish a worthwhile periodical. I’m glad to see more time devoted to radically-oriented media as opposed to the futility of trying to get honest treatment from corporate media. I look forward to the next issue.


Greece, Patras, URGENT!! fascists cooperate with the police now‏

There have been confirmed informations about groups of fascists in action with 
police forces at the city of Patras. This is happening now it is not a joke! The 
media speak of  'civilians' who attack anarchists. ---- We know very well the 
concept of 'angry civilians'. Already know faces of fascists from other cities 
(including athens) are seen in patras, walking down the streets accompanied by 
policemen in civilian clothing, attacking and arresting anyone who looks 
suspicious. At least one student is at the hospital stubbed because of them. 
People are reported to hide protesters from these fascist groups who already 
have spotted such houses with protesters hidden in there. They stand outside 
throwing rocks, yelling "come out or we will come in", threatening the owners.
Since the police forces cannot handle the riot situations along greece,
their right hand is being unleashed, the fascists and neonazis.
Please repost this whenever you can!
A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E
By, For, and About Anarchists
Send news reports to A-infos-en mailing list

The “special relationship” between fascist/neo-nazi groups and the State is the same the world over.

“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”.

Plotting a Comeback?

It’s amazing how many hits the YT has gotten during our health, legal, and technology induced sabbatical. Way more than when it was still being updated. The web can pretty interesting when you haven’t seen it for awhile, not to mention, intimidating. The email account associated with this has had all of its messages deleted, because it had been so long since it was accessed. Sorry if any of those were emergencies or important.

Save the Restaurateurs!

I guess it’s flattering that Cap’ns of industry such as the Carlton’s, Kevin Joyce, have time to comment on marginal blogs, like this one, and if the proposed drink tax goes through, and these proprietors end up on the streets we need to figure out ways to help them. I think the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association could do with a better PR person, though. The real tragedy is that I’m so sleazy and corrupt that I’d probably forget about all of this for a big, thick steak and go back to bleating on about recruiters and New SDS.

Just so he doesn’t think we ignored his remarks:

I think that you embarrassing and changing editing needs to continue! “Despite the fact that the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, the primary source of FACT’s funding”How can you make that statement? I told you yesterday that the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association kicked in $20,000. I also told you that we passed the hat and received over $40,000 in trade dollar donations for the billboards alone. We have also raised enough from other individuals in our industry who know what is on the line to be able to run some radio spots and help pay a hired executive. In other words, the $20,000 from the PRA is not the primary source of FACT’s funding.

What I meant by primary, was that according to you, the PRA is the single largest contributor to your campaign. It’s been corrected.

Could you please explain to me this affiliation? I have been a volunteer leader in this industry for 12 years at both the Chapter and State level of the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association. I never considered myself or our organization affiliated with ABI. I did use some of their research on the issue of DUI checkpoints versus roving patrols (patrols work and checkpoints harass) for a column that I wrote for PRA Matters a few years back, but that is the only interaction I ever had with ABI. A lot of chain restaurants support ABI, but we do not contribute to them and I have never seen a line item in our budget to indicate that they have supported us. So can you please support your statement?

I was hoping that you could do the same. I suggest that you nix the link to them on the PRA website, then.

“Volunteer leader”? Just like it said above the entrance to the H-Blocks in the notorious Maze prison: “Don’t complain you bastards, you volunteered”.

To the absurd column itself:

“Unlike yourself, I truly believe that bus drivers…deserve a decent material standard of living.”

How can you presume to know what we believe or that we could all universally believe the same thing? Both of my grandfathers were immigrants that drove street cars to support their 12 offspring. They both owned homes and supported families. Many of my employees own homes and support families and are contributing to their kid’s tuition. Many of them participate in a 401-K program and contribute to their way too expensive health insurance plan. Do I wish I could afford to pay my cooks more? Damn right I do! I also wish that I could educate the rest of my children without going into major debt, but I do not see that happening either. Is $2.83 + tips for a server a fair wage? I did not design the tipping practice, but it is a fact of life in our industry. From my standpoint, the tipped employees (and I have been one for much of my life) are not the ones that I worry about. They are making a fine hourly wage for very difficult work. The chefs and back of the house employees are generally the class of employees that deserve to make a higher wage. They work harder during the busy times and yet, unlike the tipped employees, make the same wage. A drink tax will further depress the ability to give deserved and needed raises to these folks.

I can’t help it that you and your grandparents were irresponsible and yes, not being able to figure out when to get out of bed and get dressed leads to large families. My grandparents and parents were just as bad. Neither myself, and hopefully not your employees, believe that you can’t pay them more. That is your choice. At least you are lucid enough to admit that the workers in the back of the house (of which I was one) don’t receive their fair share. You can remedy this, not me.

It is not just profits we are concerned about. It is staying in business and keeping folks employed. Additionally, this is not about the Port Authority. The county was only required to increase their share by 5% this year. They have contributed $25 million for many years and were required to increase only $1.25 million. This tax will generate $35-50 million. This tax is about fixing a structural deficit in the county’s budget. If you had attended any of the County Council Finance Committee Meetings, you would have understood that. This was only about transit so that Dan Onorato could pit guys like you that need and value public transportation against guys like me. Many of our employees depend upon public transportation. Every time the schedules change I need to adjust my overnight pastry shifts. I have testified at more than one hearing supporting public transportation. I just do not believe the entire burden for the public share for mass transportation should be borne by my customers and my employees. It is not a fair or equitable tax. It should not be accepted just because a few politicians shared a back room in Harrisburg this summer and made it happen. This back room deal was done without economic impact studies or stakeholder involvement.

Change a few words, and this is the same song and dance that you rich folks perform out whenever a minimum wage proposal comes up or workers try to join a union. It’s funny that you don’t treat your vendors the same way when they raise their prices and blame it on fuel. Why would I attend those meetings? The politicians exist for your benefit, not mine. You and I have been pitted against each other since the day I was born. Food, water, and oxygen are our only common interests. Are you familiar with the concepts of social war or class struggle? Why can’t you and the other exploiters hammer out some kind of agreement on public transportation? Personally, I’d rather see the ones who abuse their non-profit status, such as UPMC or Highmark start to pull their weight, considering how dependent they are on public transportation, but like the Penguins, they’d hold the County hostage, until they got their way.

In my 39 years as an employee, manager or owner, I don’t ever recall being pitted or pitting anyone against one another. One of the beautiful facets of the hospitality industry is just how close you are with the folks that you work with every day. You care about one another and are usually a happy family. It is hard for me to understand how you could ever have lasted 11 years in our industry. No doubt you bounced around hurting morale in every establishment that you toiled. I am sure that every establishment became a better place….after you left.

As an exploiter, and apologist for other exploiters, your unicorn and rainbow fantasies about the joys of food service are no surprise. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I was considered a ‘good employee’ and ‘teammate’, although I have no idea how I lasted 11 years in that business, either. Around age 30, it got to me, I guess I grew up, and realized I was better off looking out for my interests, rather than yours.

The rest of your rant is not worthy of my time. If the restaurant industry was so terrible I surely would not have let any of my five children toil in it – and they all have. My wife is up at 4 AM each morning to go in and open her quick service Market and delivery and take care of her breakfast customers and I put in over 12 hours at least 5 out of my six work days this week. Just like the folks that we employ, we work hard. Independent restaurant owners are generally hard working folks that contribute to the betterment of their communities in more than a number of ways. You have painted a poor portrait that is just not true.

Of course you won’t respond to any less than favorable, but near universal impression of your industry; that would make you an even lousier apologist than you seem to be. Unless of course I had the misfortune to only work in rough places, and to only know people who worked in rough places. You’re one of the lucky ones, I guess. There are miners, farmers, loggers, and military types, to name a few, who would all state that those awful industries are suitable for their loved ones. Apparently you’re a competent restaurateur, but you’re no kind of PR person.

Straight-Edge Anti-Authoritarians, Rejoice

A former Christian Peacekeeper has heard your pleas and has created the Mormon Worker, which seeks to re-unite Mormons with their faith’s communitarian roots.

There is also an LDS Anarchy blog. 

It’s much easier for me to accept faith based anarchisms than to accept the idea of deconverting religious folk who choose to recognize no earthly authority. That sounds like a lot of work. I wonder if the EZLN would have been as popular in Mexico, had they sought to abolish the local religions?

While It’s Still Amusing

Maybe it was just a product tie-in for an ailing US car manufacturer or maybe he’s turning on the radical populist chic to woo the peaceniks and the armed mid-west farmer, but either way, John Edwards had this amusing exchange with a retired farmer in Charles City Iowa:

“If the American people understood what’s going on all over, there would be a revolution tomorrow morning,”

To which Edwards replied, “I’m with you, brother!”

I’m not sure if the right-wing commentators have gotten ahold of this yet, because like Edwards, they seem to be fixated on Hillary (not Duff). I’m not sure if this is because she is leading in the polls or if it’s just laziness and years of old Clinton material that they still having lying around.

Ron Paul channeled Guy Fawkes to appeal to his stoned college student and 9/11 tinfoil hat supporters and manged to pocket a few million dollars with a November 5th themed telethon or something.

The dumb iron bombs that are banner ads and their indiscriminate use are creating some hilarious predicaments for the candidates. Mormon Mitt Romney was already freaking out the Republican theocratic base, and his banner ads on lewd fan fiction and mainstream gay websites couldn’t have helped him any. McCain and Giuliani have both had their banner ads turn up on liberal blog sites.

Even the computers know there really isn’t any difference.