Lessons of MWR - Interview with former McDonalds Workers Resistance member, 2006

The Glasgow MWR group in 2000

libcom.org interviews one of the founder members of the workplace group McDonalds Workers Resistance about the experiences and lessons learned from one of the UK's most important recent attempts at libertarian organisation.

So, who are you?
The proletarian formerly known as Funnywump.

Briefly, what was McDonald’s Workers Resistance?
It was the sexiest rebellion ever launched in a burger bar. It was a name adopted by a group of McDonald’s employees working at a restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland. We publicised MWR and encouraged workers at other McDonald’s to participate. The name was adopted by groups of workers around the UK and abroad, and the movement involved hundreds of people who didn’t previously know each other through radical politics!

Near the end of MWR’s existence, we formalised some basic principles:

- Support for all hourly paid employees against the company, regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, etc.
- Non-hierarchical organising.
- Belief in direct action and confrontation.

In the end we failed spectacularly.

How did it get started?
In the past I’ve answered that by referring to particular events that encouraged us to organise. Events such as management reneging on their promises to pay bonus money, or the time a customer died and we were told to keep working (the customers managed to step round the corpse). But since these events are unlikely to be repeated and since, in any case, they do not necessarily (or even logically) provide motivation to organise, I’ll try and answer differently.

The demographic of our workplace was probably conducive towards organisation; it was staffed by school kids and school leavers, kids who were not yet fully socialised into their productive roles. There were also university students who struggled to get out of bed, and low skilled workers, many of whom were used to changing jobs regularly. Nobody worked there ‘through choice’ or thought it was a ‘good job.’

It would have been harder to start the same thing at other McDonald’s. For example, at the height of our struggle I had the privilege of talking to workers organising at a store in London and they were mainly recent immigrants, many of them illegal. They obviously had severe restrictions on their potential to organise.

Another thing that helped us to get started was that before we ever organised explicitly, the workers at our restaurant had strong social ties. Everyone went to the pub on payday and many of us became friends or dated each other. So when someone said, “we should really do something about this,” it didn’t seem as mental as it might have done, and rebellion spread through our incestuous little world like a venereal disease.

It was also important that those who formed the core group of MWR were the best and most experienced workers at our restaurant (at McDonald’s you can be an experienced worker after about a week). It’s a high pressure, big volume business operating on very tight labour costs. The pressure is passed right down the hierarchy so that our immediate managers were often dependent on us to keep their bosses happy. This helped to create a degree of space.

I suppose the crucial point is a bit axiomatic: we got started because of agitation by people who were respected in the workplace. That’s probably a precondition for every workers’ movement there ever has been, or ever will be. And all the Marxist theorising in the world won’t change that.

Why did you not just join a trade union?
That was never an option for us. You might as well ask why we didn’t just fly to Olympus and demand Zeus punished the corporation with a terrible deluge.

During the Mclibel trial, the high court described McDonald’s as “antipathetic” towards trade unions; that’s like describing Ed Gein as a bad neighbour. They’ve used polygraph tests to screen for union sympathies, been convicted of illegal harassment of labour organisers on numerous occasions and have shut whole restaurants when workers threatened to organise. There has never been a McDonald’s successfully unionised in the Anglophonic world. We did try initially - we collected forty signatures from about sixty workers - but the staff turnover is so high that this tactic is not realistic.

Of course, as we learned more about trade unions and spent time with them, we saw other reasons why this wasn’t a desirable route for our struggle. But the ‘What’s wrong with the unions’ approach misses the key point. For economic reasons the trade unions are not interested in organising low-skilled high-turnover workplaces (they used to call McDonald’s “the black hole” of organising) and the question of trade unions is of limited relevance to workers in many casualised industries.

This may change - we had contact with the radical wing of the labour establishment (not in the UK but in several countries abroad) and there are people who are committed, idealistic and imaginative. They bought us drinks. They were very interested in what we were doing and keen to learn new tactics for organising in workplaces that excluded them. They may yet evolve new forms of struggle and successfully organise young workers. Obviously, if we want to see confrontational, revolutionary, direct action based struggle then we would hope that this space would be filled by libertarian self-organisation. But that has to start somewhere and, can we match the trade unions for innovation and openness to new strategies?

What problems did you come up against at first and how did you overcome them?
Well, without that legal protection our position was very precarious. In the first two years, when the group existed at only one restaurant, we were successful in slowing the pace of work, ensuring bonuses were paid, opposing victimisation, etc. But any overt struggle would have resulted in us all being immediately sacked. It became apparent that to take things further we would have to organise in the workforce as a whole. At this point I suppose we went from being a practical group to being an ideological group. By that I mean that the scale of the task confronting us was such that the effort put into organising was unlikely to be rewarded by any material gain. This didn’t put us off.

What remained problems the whole time?
For reasons already stated we had to organise anonymously and operate as a clandestine group. This meant we were reluctant to speak in public, be photographed, meet journalists or do television interviews. There were ways around these problems: when we addressed meetings we either requested no photography or wore masks. Similarly, we agreed to do a TV interview with the BBC, on the understanding our faces would be covered (our participation on the show was cut by the producer [Tim Henman’s wife, apparently] before the interview was ever filmed). But the major drawback was that our extended organisation was always infiltrated and we never met most of the people involved. We were never able to organise something like a conference.

Of course, the whole thing with our anonymity became a bit of a game. Once we knew that they were looking for us and that our presence within their workforce was a source of embarrassment to them, it was important to be as elusive as possible. I think we started to feel like Zorro or the Scarlet Pimpernel or something. We used to send them provocative communiqués from time to time. The masks thing was also important because, apart from me, MWR were a mob of right ugly fuckers.

When did things start to take off?
We produced the first issue of our magazine and made a public statement through the McSpotlight website in October 2000. We launched our own website in 2001 and by the end of that year we had contact with a rapidly increasing network of McDonald’s workers.

Could you describe the makeup and activities of MWR at its height?
We had about twenty groups in the UK. Some of these may have been one or two people but at least one involved workers from several stores in a town. Some of these groups were very proactive in producing their own leaflets and websites. There were several groups in Australia and half-a-dozen in North America. We also had a very extensive contact list. It was stored on all these different Yahoo addresses and Yahoo only let you send out a hundred e-mails an hour so to send a message to the whole list took all day. In late 2002, however, the influence of MWR in the workforce briefly grew exponentially. By early 2003, some of us who were still involved from the original group had moved about and were working at McDonald’s outside of Scotland. We didn’t admit to our new co-workers that we were familiar with MWR and had to listen as they recited jokes that we had written. I think we got pissed off with it to be honest. But that would suggest that our influence was substantial. Influence maybe isn’t the right word, our ‘profile’ perhaps.

Did you pull off any strikes?
The high point of our organising was on October 16th 2002. Some of what went on that day is recorded at http://www.geocities.com/globaldayofaction.htm 1. A couple of the reports we received turned out to be inaccurate but four years on that doesn’t seem that important. It was massive, much bigger than we’d expected and got me, for one, totally carried away. I really didn’t think anything would happen but when I checked the e-mail that morning, there were all these reports already coming in from Australia. It was a very exciting time. As well as what was active sabotage, numerous technical problems and examples of standard incompetence were attributed to the invisible hand of the resistance! Other events were, less successful shall we say. And of course, October 16th was only successful symbolically.

Did you ever think of approaching rivals like Burger King for money?
Ha! No. Do you mean with masks on and bananas under our jumpers? Some of us had worked for other fast food restaurants so we weren’t too keen on them either.

When did things start to wind down?
They didn’t wind down- they came crashing down! At the end of 2003 really.

And why?
Well I’ve alluded to some of the tactical errors we made and that was related to the decline of the initial Glasgow group. By 2003 I think there were only three of us still working at McDonald’s and because of the secrecy problem, we didn’t get new people to take over. We grew older, became less in touch with the workforce and our communications no longer connected to the extent they had. And we just got tired - you’ll know yourself how much work this sort of thing is. It was great that so many employees contacted us but it meant hours of work answering e-mails. Plus, we’d been working at McDonald’s for six, seven years. It’s a long time. It was time to stop and we tried to write our obituary.

Now of course we wanted to pass the organisational work onto some of the other groups (in fact we had been trying to get workers to contact their nearest local group, rather than us, for years) but a lot of them had fallen away in 2003 as well. And also, you know what these things are like; if you and all the other admins dropped out of Libcom, how long would it last for? You’d have Revol and Gangster2 running it, it would be like Lord of the Flies.

Yes fair enough.
So, I was very upset about the way it ended and I felt like we’d just wasted our time. But now with a few years space I suppose I can see that… In the absence of a wider struggle an initiative like that will only ever be an experiment, I think.

While you were going, you got a lot of positive media coverage – any media experience you’d like to recount?
Initially we did get some good coverage, but then something changed and we were never reported. In 2002 we did so many interviews and they were never used. Maybe because the material was really dull or maybe because McDonald’s were exerting pressure, I don’t know. We did get some radio stuff aired in other countries, but not in the UK. Regarding printed media, being in The Face was pretty cool. And in Loaded we were sandwiched between Kate Moss and Carmen Electra, which I’m unlikely to be able to say again.

Your website was also very important to you, any thoughts on it and the net generally?
It enables a level of organisation and contact that would have been prohibitively expensive to previous generations. This can be a great help and I think the potential for labour organisation on the internet is enormous - the structures are being created by people who are not necessarily political. Sites along the lines of pissedoffwaitress.com could yet become structures for collective struggle.

Of course there’s also a danger. It’s possible to mistake ‘the network’ for organisation. This is another problem I haven’t mentioned about MWR. If you have a thousand contacts but none of them is able to create a structure in their workplace, then you’ve got a thousand times zero. You’ve got nothing. Now I’m not suggesting that was necessarily the case with MWR, I think there were some inspiring and brave attempts to create structures of resistance amongst workers. But it is a problem adherent to contemporary fashions for organising. People want to feel they’re getting somewhere and in the absence of practically grounded structures they create networks. And with the internet you can have a network of anything. You can have a network of… laundrette assistants. You can find a few dozen Launderette assistants with anarchist sympathies, one in Helsinki and one in New York and there’s bound to be at least one in Hackney… And you get a feeling of progress. But it’s illusionary because five million times nothing is still nothing.

I’m not dismissing these networks, they can be very useful (I think MWR was) but they are only useful in so far as they are focused on creating autonomous structures amongst people who have everyday interactions. Autonomous structures amongst people who have everyday interactions, that’s it.

What about McSues your mag?
It was a lot of fun and especially important in the early days where web access was still a bit class restricted. We were lucky to have supporters who took the time to distribute the first issue over the counter. That maybe wasn’t the best use of that publication. I think it came into its own when we had a network of contacts and could send bundles to be distributed around their store, hidden in lockers, slipped into coat pockets.

And the humour you used generally?
Aye, what happened to that? This interview’s as dry as yer ma’s… No, oh dear, some of it wasn’t of the highest level. I would be horrified to think that a preoccupation with paedophile jokes persisted in libertarian circles…

MWR wouldn't really try to insinuate that Ronald McDonald was a paedophile, would you?
From McSues issue 2:

The secret diary of Ronald McDonald, A very dirty clown!

Got pissed and spewed down my dungarees.

Got asked to pratt about in front of the cameras today. I couldn't be arsed because I didn't want to make a tit out of myself and waste precious drinking time, but McDonalds explained that they wanted two year olds to love me so that they would buy McDonalds shitty food. Fair enough, anything that makes kids fancy me. I was knackered after that and it was bed time. It's always bed time when the big hand touches the little hand.

I know I plaster my face in make up, but why the fuck have I got a yellow cock?

Spent the day watching snuff films and eating quavers

Visited McDonalds and scared kids with a balloon puppet the shape of a giant yellow cock. Sometimes I scare myself.

Fucked a chicken.

Strangely, such articles caused offence. We had to think of a retrospective justification, something about subverting corporate imagery or something. Paedophile jokes have probably been our only legacy to the revolutionary movement…

But seriously, people need to read the stuff and see it’s not so… Not as fucking po-faced as some things that get produced. And the sort of humour was just the sort of jokes we made at work. I mean, it was stuff that would only work in that environment. If you wanted to organise academics at the English literature department then you’d do it very differently, wouldn’t you? You’d probably have quotes from… Terry Eagleton or someone. You’d try to operate in the discourse of the workplace. That’s why I don’t understand the habit of producing leaflets for ‘the public’, you know? Make it specific. A leaflet for ‘food workers’ isn’t much use I’d suggest. A leaflet for bakers is better. A leaflet for your bakery is better still. And a leaflet for your bakery about the new procedure that started that week? Well then you might be getting somewhere. I don’t know if you would agree with that?

I'd agree the more specific the better, but I think there is a space for more general materials for a wider reach. What do you think of the new pamphlet, Abolish Restaurants, for example?
Well exactly, I think that leaflet’s very good. I think it’s excellent. The analysis is good, of course, but it’s the specificity that makes it significant. It’s at the ‘leaflet for bakers’ level and I don’t think it could be done much better. Of course, it’s not intended to create structures of struggle (or ‘work groups’ as they would term them); that’s the challenge it sets to the people who produced the leaflet and to the people it might inspire. Those structures, those work groups, can only be created by workers who are respected. And whether they communicate in writing or speech, they will have to deal with specifics.

During your organising, what international links did you make?
Well we always maintained that our organisation needed to be as multinational as the company, but maybe you mean links with political groups and labour organisations? We had friendly exchanges with trade unions in Italy, Canada, the Netherlands and France. We also built good relations with syndicalists, especially the FAU in Germany and the IWW in Australia. There was the CNT-Vignole who were organising at McDonald’s in Paris and the French CNT-AIT who had been doing work in McDonald’s for a number of years, the SAC and others. We had a great relationship with Chainworkers in Italy who were linked to the CUB. Comrades produced versions of our magazine in Greek and Czech. We were lucky to get so much support.

What relationship did you have with the anarchist movement?
Again, we were lucky to get a lot of support and I’m grateful to everyone who helped. In particular, I’d like to mention the solidarity that we received from certain comrades in Scotland.

Of course there was also hostility to what we were doing. I think at our first Anarchist Bookfair we were quite taken aback by the level of opposition. At that time eco-anarchist protest politics had a strong influence and there was that awful trend of defining ‘workers struggles’ as a category like ‘anti-prison struggles’ and it was difficult to have a serious discussion about class struggle. I mean it was easier to get a feature in The Face than it was on indymedia.

And animal rights people, what reaction did you get from them?
Many ‘animal rights people’ are also involved in class struggle, so they supported us. Others weren’t really interested in workers’ organisation but saw what we were doing as another front in their battle against the company. These two groups were the majority I’m sure. But yeah, we sometimes got quite a lot of grief at events like the Anarchist Bookfair. And of course there are the out and out nutters. We used to get death threats and all sorts. I suppose they were probably part of the necrophiliac wing of animal liberation. I don’t think we should spend too much time worrying about them.

You mentioned to me once that when you started to get involved with the anarchist movement your politics actually worsened – changed to going on summit protests, etc.
Yes, but I was wrong to say that. Our politics got better – some of us developed a theoretical understanding and we changed our attitudes with regard to racism, sexism, etc. – it was our practice that got worse. Bouncer and myself in particular, got involved with political activism and that meant believing in a struggle that wasn’t grounded where it could make a difference. I had a lot of fun with that sort of activism and sometimes I wish I could still have the same enthusiasm for it, but towards the end our agit-prop became too activist orientated. I mean, once you start saying things like ‘agit-prop’ what fucking hope have you got?

I remember wanting us to be taken seriously in the anarchist movement, to be respected, and that should never have been a concern. In our last year I think we wanted to become like a syndicalist group. We tried to set up a painfully slow and hopelessly unsuccessful democratic decision making structure. We launched an uninspiring and unrealistic (we were carried away after our growth in 2002) wage struggle demanding a starting rate of £6.00 an hour. Because that’s what labour organisations do, isn’t it? We lost our innovation and sense of adventure.

It’s a point that’s often dismissed because of its associations with liberal ‘anti-capitalism’, but the assumption that workers are necessarily most interested in material demands needs to be examined. We didn’t want to work for McDonald’s whether they paid us £6.00 or £20.00 an hour, so why did we think other workers would be inspired by such a campaign?

So in hindsight, do you think there is anything you could've done to prevent atrophy, instead of launching the wage campaign?
We should have kept things informal and tried to be an inspiration rather than trying to build a unified structure. We were wrong to try and mediate between the present and the future we desired. We should have stuck to making jokes about Ronald McDonald shagging kids. It’s hard to say. The problem was that we got politicised very quickly and our influence grew and we wanted to push things that weren’t appropriate to the situation. Basically we were the most revolutionary section of the working class and we were left treading water while hoping the rest of you fuckers would catch up!

Do you not think revolutionary workplace groupings should make practical demands on wages?
Not necessarily. I mean, don’t you think it’s strange that we can even ask that question without context? You wouldn’t ask, ‘Do you think revolutionary workplace groupings should make practical demands on longer breaks?’ Because it obviously depends on the context, on what is practical and what is a source of discontent. Demands over wages can be very important, but equally they can be unrealistic and uninspiring. At other times they can be reformist and counter-revolutionary. And in saying that I’m not arguing from some post-materialist Captain Planet position, I’m just suggesting that we shouldn’t assume that wage demands must always be a primary objective. Obviously I’d never argue against higher wages, anymore than I’d oppose longer breaks!

Did you want MWR to become a mass organisation of McDonald’s workers?
Yes, I did, and I think that was the general idea. But if by ‘organisation’ you mean an administrational and functional structure, then I think we were mistaken. I think we should have continued attempting to be an inspiration to a mass of McDonald’s workers. We had unusual success with that approach and trying to build ‘an organisation’ out of the interest we generated was unsuccessful and ultimately disheartening. Especially with the staff turnover being so high, it meant that no sooner had we established formalised contact with a group than the workers involved would start to move onto other things. It might have survived better as a tendency within the workforce, as ideas passed between workers informally.

Given MWR was an explicitly revolutionary grouping, I’m interested to know where you stand on the tension between small groups with strict politics and large groups (or groups that would like to be large) such as are advocated by anarcho-syndicalists and revolutionary syndicalists?
Well the explicitly revolutionary statements were issued by the Glasgow branch specifically, and they were issued at a stage when our numbers had declined and we had gone from being a practical grouping with a significant influence at one restaurant, to being a propaganda group more focused on communicating with the wider workforce. It’s important not to get the two things confused.

Those were our ideas and we didn’t want to hide them. I think it would have been dishonest and patronising not to have declared publicly what we thought the future should look like. But we never asked anyone else to agree with these statements. We asked for a basic level of agreement on practical tactics of immediate concern to the form of struggle adopted and how workers related to their colleagues.

I think it’s important that workers publish and argue their ideas on the strictest political analysis they can. But they shouldn’t want the rest of the workforce to become like them. Perhaps you remember the article ‘Give up activism,’ which was popular (though maybe not applied), during the ‘anti-capitalist movement’? One of the points it made was that activists think the world would be sorted if only everyone would become like them. Well, I think class struggle anarchists do something similar. I think the revolution will be made by workers collectively challenging economic relationships that impoverish our lives. That won’t come about by magic, it will need the conscious effort of radicalised sections of the class, but it will also involve workers who go to the Mosque, wear mascara, prefer Middlemarch to Marx, believe in new age mysticism, say Grace before meals or… collect antiques. So I don’t see any inconsistency between arguing a coherent revolutionary politics and organising with whomever you have every day interactions with, whether their sandwiches are kosher, vegan, or even toasted in a ciabatta.

So, on organisation, do you think people like us who are libertarian revolutionaries or anarchists should try to organise as such – as anarchists - or just with our fellow workers where we are?
I think that in these depressing times people who share a political analysis should get together and support each other. They should have group hugs and cry into their pints. And sometimes it's worthwhile for them to cooperate on publishing projects or organise themselves in ways that can potentially assist the other sort of group, the groups that are grounded in everyday life. Because those are the only structures that can transform society. And most of the time organising as anarchists means going to some crap meeting before you can go to the pub. I think the world would be a better place if there were no such meetings, and comrades who wanted to hang out together found a more honest excuse. Bingo nights or cinema trips or something.

With these groups grounded in everyday life, there is the issue of whether they become reformist, sectarian, or Nimbyist say. With a group like MWR, if for example a big restaurant or two "joined" en masse how would you stop its radicalism being diluted?
When workers at other restaurants joined MWR, it didn't stop the original group publishing their ideas. The problem only developed because towards the end we tried to make it a centralised structure. If you do that then things obviously get more complicated. If you want to focus on anything outside the aims and principles you need a consensus and that's a pain in the arse. And we did have problems. For example, when the [URL=/tags/iraq war] Iraq war [/URL] started we argued that the organisation should call for direct action on the day hostilities commenced. There was a guy who was involved who was also an army cadet (a fucking good reason to be against the thing, I would have thought) and he, and others, argued against that idea (I think we voted on it in the end, or something crap). But really, we could just have put our argument out there and let other groups and individuals respond with their arguments and make up their minds. I'm never going to make an anarcho-syndicalist am I?

What was the most important thing you think MWR showed?
Well it showed important things to McDonald’s workers and those in similar industries. But since this interview is with Libcom, I suppose the main question is what it showed to revolutionaries.

Well we generally try to have an audience of radical workers, with some success. We've had mails from postal workers abroad who follow UK posties' struggles on our site, had picket line reports from strikers, like here, and had strikers distribute articles from our on picket lines, etc...
I’m sorry, I didn’t realise that worker and revolutionary were mutually exclusive categories! All power to your commune comrade wink What I mean is that the questions, and the way I’ve answered them, suppose a particular audience. If this is to be of interest to anyone, and it’s fairly doubtful, then it will be to people who are explicitly conscious of the need to transform the economy. To workers who are revolutionaries. I don’t doubt that many other articles on your site have an audience that includes workers who don’t share these ideas. But some kid working at McDonald’s almost certainly doesn’t give a fuck which anarcho-syndicalist groups we got on with or how some animal rights bampots reacted. Maybe one day Libcom will shake itself free of the anarchist movement and no longer need to define itself in that context. That seems a more interesting topic than MWR! Can I interview you sometime?

They are good points I suppose. For the audience I meant workers who are generally pissed off about the state of things, and not necessarily convinced anarchists. But as to who this would interest then yes I suppose you're right. You'd be very welcome to interview us, but I feel that would be of interest to even fewer people…3
Revolution seems to me a very complicated business. There are, however, a few things that are pretty clear. The power relations we want to transform don’t reside in governments or ‘in the streets’ but are spread through society in economic and social relationships. Transforming economic relationships will require effective self-organised working class structures within the economy, that prove themselves defending the interests of working people, increase confidence, and eventually enable the working class to produce and distribute collectively. The idea that these structures will ‘arise spontaneously’ is meaningless.

Now, I accept these structures will only be able to prosper at certain times and will be on the defensive at others. And I don’t know what form those structures will or should take. Perhaps they should be formally constituted unions (I think this unlikely) or maybe as informal as a group of workmates (a ‘work group’ if you like) who have developed solidarity through previous struggles. But they need to exist, right? So to me the massive, unavoidable, urgent task of anybody who would talk about revolution, must be to investigate how we can build those structures. And it seems to me that this question, the question that should be keeping us awake at night, receives less attention than debates about breaking through police lines, or what was the USSR, or who snubbed who at an anarcho-syndicalist conference in 1952. It seems that we’ll talk about anything to avoid this massive monument to the irrelevance of our politics.

And I have no idea about how we build these structures, I feel hopeless about it. I’ve spent the last couple of years working in the transport sector and by the time I left, I hardly wanted to talk to my fellow workers let alone man the barricades with them. I really don’t know. But if there’s ever a real enthusiasm for finding out collectively, then I’d like to be part of that.

So MWR’s significance is just that of any experiment that briefly manages to facilitate class struggle in contemporary society. There have been many similar, and many more significant, outbreaks of struggle in recent years. Some of the more significant that spring to mind are, JJ foods workers, postal workers wild cat strikes, the couriers union, the sex workers’ union, the workmates collective on the underground, etc. All of these (even MWR) deserve consideration as we try to make collective struggle the norm within the workforce. I suppose that’s why you took the time to ask these questions, right?

Do you have a favourite MWR-related anecdote or memory?
Many very funny things happened, I feel quite nostalgic about it all now. But I suppose I remember that meeting in London, which I alluded to before. It was in 2002 and I was invited to meet a group of workers and all the theory of social change seemed to become a bit more real then. That we were able, as workers of different races and nationalities, to meet like that and debate, very critically, but starting from the premise that as workers we had to change things, that was pretty special. And you kind of thought, yeah, maybe we can do this. That sounds really wanky doesn’t it?

Yeah, I meant something funny.
Ah, you had to be there. Happy Meal Toys were quite funny; there was some resistance going on in China, I’m sure of it. There was one which had to be withdrawn following complaints. No one can remember what it was supposed to be. I mean, it was just a big fucking erection. It was even pink and kind of veined. It had a helmet and everything. And customers were bringing this thing back and saying ‘I'm no givin that tae ma wean, you sick bastards.’ Then there was ‘Bongo the Monkey’ and ‘Spunky the Cocker Spaniel’… Then there was the time they gave away the Furbies. A wee lassie in Glasgow, from an originally Chinese family, got one of these Furbies. Furbies are supposed to talk ‘Furbish’ which is meant to be a gibberish language. But this one turned out to be speaking Mandarin and saying, ‘bastard, drop dead in the street. Bastard, drop dead in the street.’

Meh. I suppose that will have to do. Where are the ex-MWR people now?
Unfortunately time passes and people move and you start to lose touch, but as far as I know, nobody’s living in Milan and shagging a supermodel or anything like that. One guy who was a bit involved at the start has gone on to have a very successful career in the company’s management structure and I’m pleased to say we’re still friends.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody who was ever involved with MWR, in our group or any other, is today involved with radical politics.

Finally, do you ever eat at McDonald’s?
No! Fuck no! But that’s personal rather than political. After seven years of McDonald’s just the smell of the place makes me retch. We never advocated a boycott, except of the Coca-Cola products. And I don’t have a particular grudge against the company or anything like that. But the food’s fucking minging, isn’t it?

I feel I should close on a stronger point than that…

Take the fight to The Man. Yeah, fight Baba!

Inspiring words. Thank you, Funnywump.

Interview conducted by Steven Johns, libcom group, November 2006

More information
MWR archive on libcom.org
This interview in German, translated by the FAU

  • 1. This has gone offline, if anyone has copies of the contents please say here so we can put them in the library
  • 2. revol68 and gangster are two… idiosyncratic posters to our forums, the latter having been banned.
  • 3. He did interview us, and you can see the results here: http://libcom.org/library/interview-member-libcom-org-2007


Feb 4 2011 04:54

When I was working at McDonalds aged 16 I had such bad analysis that I joined (translation, payed some membership dues to) the IWW (and yes, I do regard this as far more stupid than joining the GMB or something). Despite your fuck ups, I wish I had had the opportunity to get involved with you lot.

Chilli Sauce
Feb 4 2011 07:57

I'm gonna let that go because you're in the UK wink, but clearly with Sbux and Jimmy John's i don't think it can be argued the joining the IWW as a restaurant worker is worthless?

Feb 5 2011 03:55

It is if there are no other IWW members in your industry in a hundred mile radius, and the organisation provides you with no materials for helping with work place struggles that you can use where you are. I'm a big fan of the IWW usually, but taking dues off random idealistic kids who it has no intention of organising seems to me to be a bit of an organisational failure. As far as I know, the IWW has never organised in McDonald's in the UK, and certainly wasn't when I was a member, so it was stupid of me to have joined up. But obviously the IWW has done some great organising elsewhere, including in the food industry.

Chilli Sauce
Feb 5 2011 10:42

FWIW, in the US where they have a functioning national (continental, really) foodworkers organizing committee anyone who joins up as a restaurant worker, isolated or not, should be contacted by an organizer who can walk them through the early steps of organizing with a goal of getting said individual to an organizer training.

Obviously, it hasn't always been like this in the US and I don't think it's anything like this in the UK, but the fact you're "a big fan of the IWW usually" doesn't come across when you say things like "I had such bad analysis that I joined (translation, payed some membership dues to) the IWW (and yes, I do regard this as far more stupid than joining the GMB or something)." Know what I mean?

Baderneiro Miseravel
Nov 10 2012 13:07

Hey guys. This interview is excellent. Many useful and thoughtful remarks.

I took it upon myself to translate it to portuguese and the result is being published in the libertarian portuguese-brasilian site Passa Palavra.

Just thought I should let you guys know.

It's being published here, in two pieces:

The first: http://passapalavra.info/?p=66716

Nov 10 2012 18:57

Excellent, cheers! When the second part is done it would be great if you could post them both in the library in our Portuguese language section!