Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wobbly times number 126

For the record, I don't think the IWW was/ is an anarchist organisation.  Of course, there are plenty of anarchists, anarcho syndicalists in the IWW, along with communists, democrats and workers with various ideological preferences. How could it be otherwise in a union dedicated to classwide organisation? Workers are different, come from different backgrounds, different personal histories and from different cultures.  Workers are individuals and by definition, individuals are diffferent. There was never a time when Wobblies have been barred from voting in elections on pain of losing membership in the One Big Union; just as there has never been a time when the IWW barred members from believing in god(s). DeLeon was dishonest when he portrayed the IWW as being anarchist, all because the union didn't ENDORSE voting and instead leaving it a private matter for the member.  He took out his personal anger on the union, after being denied his delegate's credentials at the 1908 Convention of the IWW, denouncing the One Big Union as having been captured by people who would subject its members to being tartgeted by State sponsored, agent provocateurs because 'the political clause' had been dropped from the IWW Preamble by the attending delegates. While the fear of police agent infiltration is genuine in any revolutionary organisation, merely endorsing peaceful revolution via the Amendment Clause to the US Constititution is no guarantee of freedom from police spies and provacateurs in your organisation.  But more than this, the IWW doesn't endorse a lot of proscriptive ideological doctrines. For example, the IWW also doesn't endorse Socialist Realism as the only form of acceptable working class art, although some on the left would consider that a terrible misjudgement.  The truth is that the IWW doesn't endorse a lot of the left's pet reformist projects. What workers need to know is that the IWW is organised around its Preamble. What Wobblies want and struggle for is written there, out in the open for all to see.  Wobblies are individual workers (sorry, no member of the employing class allowed membership) who endorse the Preamble, no matter whether they believe in divine powers after death; the Pope's inherent infallibility or surrealism as the only revolutionary art form etc. You will find no mention or endorsement of violence, 'bombism' or 'anarcho-syndicalism' in the IWW's Preamble. On the other hand, you will find a resolution in its Constitution which was written in 1908 stating that the IWW "...refuses all alliances, direct or indirect, with existing political parties or anti-political sects." That said, DeLeon was on target in his definition of socialism and his conception of how a revolutionary political party should dissolve itself and the political State on the day of its victory at the polls, as the workers themselves, organised in democratic, socialist industrial unions take, hold and operate the means of production for themselves.

Industrial Unionism
by Daniel De Leon
from The Daily People, Jan. 20, 1913 
In these days, when the term "Industrial Unionism" is being played with fast and loose;
-- when, in some quarters, partly out of conviction, partly for revenue, "striking at the ballot box with an axe," theft, even murder, "sabotage," in short, is preached in its name;
-- when, at the National Councils of the A. F. of L., lip-service is rendered to it as a cloak under which to justify its practical denial by the advocacy and justification of scabbery, as was done at Rochester, this very year, by the Socialist Party man and International Typographical delegate Max Hayes;
-- when notoriety seekers strut in and thereby bedraggle its fair feathers;
-- when the bourgeois press, partly succumbing to the yellow streak that not a member thereof is wholly free from, partly in the interest of that confusion in which capitalist intellectuality sees the ultimate sheet-anchor of class rule, promotes, with lurid reports, "essays" and editorials, a popular misconception of the term;
-- at this season it is timely that the Socialist Labor Party, the organization which, more than any other, contributed in raising and finally planting, in 1905, the principle and structure of Industrialism, reassert what Industrial Unionism is, restate the problem and its import.
Capitalism is the last expression of class rule. The economic foundation of class rule is the private ownership of the necessaries for production. The social structure, or garb, of class rule is the political State -- that social structure in which government is an organ separate and apart from production, with no vital function other than the maintenance of the supremacy of the ruling class.
The overthrow of class rule means the overthrow of the political State, and its substitution with the Industrial Social Order, under which the necessaries for production are collectively owned and operated by and for the people.
Goals determine methods. The goal of social evolution being the final overthrow of class rule, its methods must fit the goal.
As in nature, where optical illusions abound, and stand in the way of progress until cleared, so in society.
The fact of economic despotism by the ruling class raises, with some, the illusion that the economic organization and activity of the despotized working class is all-sufficient to remove the ills complained of.
The fact of political despotism by the ruling class raises, with others, the illusion that the political organization and activity of the despotized working class is all-sufficient to bring about redress.
The one-legged conclusion regarding economic organization and activity fatedly abuts, in the end, in pure and simple bombism, as exemplified in the A. F. of L., despite its Civic Federation and Militia of Christ affiliations, as well as by the anarcho-syndicalist so-called Chicago I.W.W., -- the Bakouninism, in short, against which the genius of Marx struggled and warned.
The one-legged conclusion regarding political organization and activity as fatedly abuts, in the end, in pure and simple ballotism, as already numerously and lamentably exemplified in the Socialist Party, -- likewise struggled and warned against by Marx as "parliamentary idiocy."
Industrial Unionism, free from optical illusions, is clear upon the goal the substitution of the political State with the Industrial Government. Clearness of vision renders Industrial Unionism immune both to the Anarch self-deceit of the "No government!" slogan, together with all the mischief that flows therefrom, and to the politician's "parliamentary idiocy" of looking to legislation for the overthrow of class rule.
The Industrial Union grasps the principle: "No government, no organization; no organization, no co-operative labor; no co-operative labor, no abundance for all without arduous toil, hence, no freedom." -- Hence, the Industrial Union aims at a democratically centralized government, accompanied by the democratically requisite "local self-rule."
The Industrial Union grasps the principle of the political State -- central and local authorities disconnected from productive activity; and it grasps the requirement of the government of freedom -- the central and local administrative authorities of the productive capabilities of the people.
The Industrial Union hearkens to the command of social evolution to cast the nation, and, with the nation, its government, in a mold different from the mold in which class rule casts nations and existing governments. While class rule casts the nation, and, with the nation, its government, in the mold of territory, Industrial Unionism casts the nation in the mold of useful occupations, and transforms the nation's government into the representations from these. Accordingly, Industrial Unionism organizes the useful occupations of the land into constituencies of future society.
In performing this all-embracing function, Industrial Unionism, the legitimate offspring of civilization, comes equipped with all the experience of the age.
Without indulging in the delusion that its progress will be a "dress parade"; and, knowing that its program carries in its fold that acute stage of all evolutionary processes known as revolution, the Industrial Union connects with the achievements of the revolutionary fathers of the country, the first to frame a constitution that denies the perpetuity of their own social system, and that, by its amendment clause, legalizes revolution. Connecting with that great achievement of the American revolution, fully aware that the revolution, which it is big with, being one that concerns the masses and that needs the masses for its execution, excludes the bare idea of conspiracy, and imperatively commands an open and above board agitational, educational and organizing activity; finally, its path lighted by the beacon tenet of Marx that none but the bona fide Union can set on foot the true political party of labor; Industrial Unionism bends its efforts to unite the working class upon the political as well as the industrial field, -- on the industrial field because, without the integrally organized union of the working class, the revolutionary act is impossible; on the political field, because on none other can be proclaimed the revolutionary purpose, without consciousness of which the Union is a rope of sand.
Industrial Unionism is the Socialist Republic in the making; and the goal once reached, the Industrial Union is the Socialist Republic in operation.
Accordingly, the Industrial Union is at once the battering ram with which to pound down the fortress of Capitalism, and the successor of the capitalist social structure itself.

Wobbly times number 125

"At the end of the chapter [on primitive accumulation] the historic tendency of [capitalist] production is summed up thus: That it itself begets its own negation with the inexorability which governs the metamorphoses of nature; that it has itself created the elements of a new economic order, by giving the greatest impulse at once to the productive forces of social labour and to the integral development of every individual producer; that capitalist property, resting as it actually does already on a form of collective production, cannot do other than transform itself into social property. At this point I have not furnished any proof, for the good reason that this statement is itself nothing else than the short summary of long developments previously given in the chapters on capitalist production."   Karl Marx

I think that the 'development of every individual producer' was undermined by the very historical process on which collective production expanded. Through this lens we see the commodification of human relations. With the cheapening of the commodity through industrialisation came the cheapening of social relations of solidarity in both the working class and its masters. The commodity is corrosive to community.  Yes, communities can develop under class rule, even with all their dominance and submission fetishes. Reactionaries seize on the feelings of insecurity which generalsed commodity production induces and push the need to look backwards in time for salvation from moral corruption.  Liberals feel the commodity's alienating powers, describe them and then resign themselves to the absurdities of life and shop on. Use-value (the material core of the commodity, encased in its capitalist shell of exchange-value) is lost in a haze of electronic blips, buying and selling, gaining market share. And always, the relentless cheapening of the commodity mingling with capitalist class society as a whole. And the proletariat calls itself the middle class and thinks of themselves as individual consumers, competing for the lowest prices.  And with less and less labour time in the collective product, the fact that it is a collective product of labour disappears in an immense, constant sale. Wherever you look, you see an advertisement for a commodity. The 'development of every individual producer' is not something to be assumed.  History demonstrates that this development requires education, agitation and organisation by and amongst the workers themselves about who creates the wealth and which class appropriates the lion's share of both wealth and political power through the wages system of slavery.  

"Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material re-actions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate Nature's productions in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature. He develops his slumbering powers and compels them to act in obedience to his sway. We are not now dealing with those primitive instinctive forms of labour that remind us of the mere animal. An immeasurable interval of time separates the state of things in which a man brings his labour-power to market for sale as a commodity, from that state in which human labour was still in its first instinctive stage." Karl Marx 

But what also has happened is the commodification of human relations, of social relations. The discipline necessary to maintain the sophisticated division of labour within industrially developed capitalism, to keep it running the show, so to speak, is made easier for our rulers as the commodity invades our everyday lives at every level and even our relation with Nature. Commodification develops cheapness in critical thinking as it destroys Nature in the pursuit of market share. "We had to destroy the Earth in order to save the economy."   The commodity puts a price on everything. Our mind's eyes are fixed firmly on consumer prices. Reification is built into the language as corporations become thought of as subjects creating wealth. "Mercedes produces the best cars."  The legalised separation of the product from the producer is aided and abetted by commonplace notions, embedded in the cultural intercourse which distance concepts like 'expoitation' from 'wage' and hitch words like 'fair' and 'social justice' to more 'humanely' moderated wage-slavery.  

The possibility of securing for every member of society, by means of socialised production, an existence not only fully sufficient materially, and becoming day by day more full, but an existence guaranteeing to all the free development and exercise of their physical and mental faculties -- this possibility is now for the first time here, but it is here.
With the seizing of the means of production by society, production of commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation. The struggle for individual existence disappears.
Then for the first time man, in a certain sense, is finally marked off from the rest of the animal kingdom, and emerges from mere animal conditions of existence into really human ones.
The whole sphere of the conditions of life which environ man, and which have hitherto ruled man, now comes under the dominion and control of man who for the first time becomes the real, conscious lord of nature because he has now become master of his own social organisation.

Friedrich Engels, from Anti-Dühring, part 3, chapter 2 (1877)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wobbly times number 124

Globular Cluster 47 Tucanae

Beware the Secret synthetic Life

I knew
that face would haunt me
at my dying breath
The photo-captured time
still full of life
preserved moments
in a shrunken skull
Memories lost
in aftermath’s dusty cloud
invisible now
that consciousness is dead

Images lie
The truth is closer
to the quick
as soon as spoken

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wobbly times number 123

From the pages of the "Industrial Worker" circa 1995

RED LONDON, by Stewart Home ISBN 1 873176 12 0 Published in 1994 by AK Press 22 Lutton Place, Edinburgh EH8 9PE, Scotland, UK 5.95 Pounds + 10% handling U.S. order to AK Press, POB 40682, San Francisco, CA 94140-0682 $12.95 + $2.00 shipping

 RED LONDON is a novel about a revolt of the oppressed against their oppressors. Its protagonists spend their working lives as members of what is termed these days by official authorities from Clinton to Habermas as the "underclass". The sell their time as prostitutes, obscure rock musicians, porn magazine photographers and so forth; while devoting their free time to sexual pleasure and the murder of the ruling class. They are libertines with visceral passions. Their practice of meeting out class vengeance is both crude and ruthless. They are serious proles with serious lusts.

 RED LONDON is not for the squeamish or prudish of heart. Stewart Home's prose is on a par with the Marquis de Sade when it comes to sex and violence. Here's a taste. The setting is a rock concert for conservative teens, given by an older Tory rock star, Sebastian Fame, whose neurosis of choice happens to be pedophilia. Security for the concert is by a gang of fascist boot boys, known as the Aryan Youth League. Nobody suspects that the Soho Prostitutes Collective has planned a guerrilla action.

 "The minders jumped to attention when a van skidded to a halt outside the hall. Twelve masked wimmin leapt from the transit, while the driver remained at the wheel. The heavies relaxed. Obviously these birds were a part of some practical joke, one of their mates had no doubt set them up by writing to Jeremy Beadle. The two AYL yobs were mentally incapable of accepting the fact that many of the greatest fighters down the ages had been wimmin.

"'We don't need to see your faces', the fatter of the pair laughed,'just get your tits out.' "'Get your tits out, get your tits out, get your tits out for the lads!' his mate chanted, but not for long! "Cleo floored the sexist retard with a kidney punch that brought blood bubbling up through his mouth. Then the kung fu chick broke the bastard's spine by bringing her boot down on th back of his neck. There was the satisfying crunch of splintering bone and the fascist bore became just another name on the Met's long list of murder victims.

"Simultaneously, Melody Thrush slammed a clenched fist into the other minder's mouth. Having rearranged the brickhead's teeth, she landed a devastating blow to his stomach and within seconds, the prick was puking his lunch. If nature had been left to take its course, it looked like the bastard would have retched up his guts, piece by little piece. Instead the steel toe-capped boots of several SPC members rained in against his body. After the first few ribs had snapped with a sickening crack, a badly aimed kick hit the cunt's head and the beer boy's body went limp. It was bloody unfortunate that his brain no longer registered the searing pain which accompanied the early stages of the beating. But, to the fascist, the icy numbness of physical blackout was more welcome than a million pound win on the pools.

"Sebastian faltered and broke off midway through a song as the SPC cut through the hall in a flying wedge. After a few screams, the crowd fell silent and the only sound to be heard was the tramping of boots on the wooden floor. Cleo and Melody grabbed Fame. The other SPC members herded the audience into a side room. Adults were simply shot through the head and left where they fell.

"Sebastian was shoved across the stage and held against the wooden cross. Melody removed two hammers and a fistfull of six-inch nails..."

RED LONDON is Home's latest novel. Like his previous works of fiction: NO PITY, PURE MANIA and DEFIANT POSE, Home has set RED LONDON in a Britain which has already raced through the cautionary traffic light, flashing " a clockwork orange", into a nearly visible future populated by an increasingly class conscious, if semi-educated, proletariat, who live within the socio-economic boundaries of a capitalist system in terminal decay. In RED LONDON, the self-appointed vanguard of the lumpen and proles is composed of young men and wimmin, who have cut their ideological teeth on a tract penned by the then notorious K.L. Callan.

Callan's famously banned book, MARX, CHRIST, and SATAN UNITED IN STRUGGLE is passed in xerox copies between self-styled anarchist fighting units and individual anarcho-nihilists, like Adolf Kramer. Kramer is the main protagonist. His mental interior reads like a politico-genetic cross between Charles Manson and Ulrike Meinhof. He is the archetypical child of the urban terrorist movement, grown more sly; but just as psychopathically dogmatic as his forbearers. Adolf and his comrades are prone to using the blood of their class antagonists to dab quotes on walls at the scenes of their actions. It is invariably K.L. Callan's MARX, CHRIST and SATAN UNITED IN STRUGGLE which is quoted.

 "Adolf slit Gallon's throat with a flick-knife, then set to work ritually mutilating the bodies of the two class traitors. After dipping his fingers in the gouts of blood that were still spurting from Gallon's bulk, Kramer scrawled the following observation across the living room wall: Contrary to orthodox opinion, be it Situationist or conservative, it is quantitative--not qualitative--problems that lie at the root of the current crisis. "It was a quotation from MARX, CHRIST and SATAN UNITED IN STRUGGLE, magnum opus of that most mysterious of nihilists K.L. Callan."

 These exiles from main street move within a milieu of militant vegans, situationists, buddhist priests, nazis, skinheads and other assorted denizens of lumpen and prole origins. You follow them through the pages of RED LONDON as they drink, fight, and sexually amuse themselves in the public housing projects, whorehouses, streets and bogs of the city. RED LONDON is a simple book, written in a minimalist style, with more than a few repetitious icons e.g. the ubiquitous bottles of 100 Pipers Scotch, preferred brand of the underclass; the ever present sexual motif of couples, "beating out the primitive rhythm of the swamps." It's also an exciting bit of anarchist pulp fiction. The sex and ultra-violence can stir up your deepest Id-ish fantasies. But, I don't think that it should be read as an organizing prescription, the way its heroines/heroes seem to have read K.L. Callan's MARX... . Nor do it think that Stewart Home sees himself as the K.L. Callan of today. There is more tongue in cheek within RED LONDON than is to be found in the numerous scenes of oral sex. No. RL might better be read as a warning; much as the proles of yesteryear read Jack London's IRON HEEL, that foreboding tale predicting the advent of the fascist States of the mid 20th Century. The warining this time is for the bourgeois of the world, whose commodified morality leads them to treat their wage-slaves as nothing more than carbon-based biological work units to be thrown on society's scrap heap when they're all used up. Home has given us a novel about a pissed off underclass of midnight ramblers who are going to be the first to stick their knives right down the throats of the ruling class--and baby it hurts! The warning is as simple as that old working class aphorism--what goes around, comes around.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wobbly times number 122

When I was nearly two in Panama

I’d switch the car’s ignition off
then my mom and dad and I
would roll
engine silent
to a stop
in the driveway of our bungalow

I sat on sunlit front porch steps
with Janet
my first friend
the perfect girl next door
we two
dressed only in our diapers
legs all dotted
with dirty smudges
comparing notes
contrasting views
in babble-tones
me about some cars I saw
she about some baby things
at least I think that’s what she said
I could never really understand
but she was fun
that’s what counted
down in Panama
in ‘46 and seven

The days and nights were warm
not hot
just heat enough
so’s you didn’t  need
to be
encased behind
the airless glass
just some screens and louvers
That was all we ever had
or wanted when
a tropic breeze
for covers
was quite

All stretched out
like cats
were we
on starched
white cotton
evening sheets
those summers without end

Like the ancients
long ago
I didn’t know
what was meant
by time 
oh no
not then
Hours were not
measured so
in second ticks
and hard
short hands
Days and nights
passed by
like ships
cruising in a big canal
that’s what it was like
when I was nearly two

Magic lived within thin air
and all around 
the shadows dwelled
as monsters
under beds
in wells
in closets too
while spirits danced
most everywhere
under over
in my head
in places
which I’d  only dreamt
when I lived down in Panama
so very long ago