A Message to Wisconsin’s Insatiable Workers and Students

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what ever
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Feb 22 2011 17:19
A Message to Wisconsin’s Insatiable Workers and Students

We’re watching the RSS feeds and news sites like we watched Al Jazeera during the Egyptian Uprising. We’re looking for a sign. Hoping that the rage we share cuts through our daily routine. We’re hoping that what’s transpiring in Wisconsin is an internal error in their system, and that it’s irreparable. We’re praying at our grandparents graves that they, who fought for dignity or who bowed shamefully, will give us all the strength and resolve to push ourselves beyond our limits of politeness. Wisconsin, we’re looking to you like we looked to Egypt, like we looked to all the places that have recently flared up. We want you to say it’s on. To say we don’t have to be afraid anymore, and we don’t have to take shit. We want to be forced to stop watching, take sides, and join up.

What we need from you:

Never go back to work. Never go back to school. Spread the occupation beyond the symbols of power. Occupy and block what counts. Attack symbols, occupy infrastructure. Extend the scale and scope of the struggle by attacking what links the governor’s position with the misery of daily life. Fight, with all means, and through fighting make connections with others you never knew.

Teachers, elaborate your teach-ins. Tell your story, encourage everyone you touch to say why collective struggle (not just bargaining) is a necessary part of our position in this world. Talk about your dying grandmother. Talk about your difficult addictions. Talk about history. This law is an attempt to conceal the realities of our daily lives and to liquidate those stories from the future. Reveal this, and make possible the education that was never allowed in school.

Care-workers, your strike is extremely significant when most waged-labor now includes elements of care administration. For this reason, your participation in the most undocile parts of the struggle is needed, not simply to share the skills of your vocation, but to interrupt the ways in which care is structured as a passive and neutral force.

Students and young workers, you set the tone for what it means for our generation to struggle. Don’t limit your abilities; don’t restrain your rage. Expose the policing and pacifying elements in the demonstrations by refusing to limit yourself. When the National Guard comes or if the counter-demonstrators attack, you will need improvised barricades. If those forces need to be pushed back, you will need to be the ones to throw the first rocks. If you occupy a position you will need the means to feed yourself. The large Grocery Store owners have already sided with the Governor, take what you need from them. Refuse all concessions, refuse dialogue with union managers, and bosses. Expose and undermine those elements publicly. Humiliate them when they try to speak, make them run when they try to pacify and limit the struggle. Make the prison guards and law-enforcement workers choose between siding with struggle or siding with government. There is no middle ground.

Anon and techies, solidarity is a weapon. As we’ve seen in recent revolts in North Africa and throughout the Nile, the use of information-technologies, social-networking and DDoS against the ruling party, against government infrastructure is a pivotal dynamic of contemporary struggles. Tweet hard, flashmob. Get behind a proxy, and let the us all know you got our backs.

The struggle must become dangerous to those in power. If the demonstrations are docile, they will never connect with those who have already been excluded from the world of unions and job security. The demonstrations must change their tone in order to resonate with those who live on shit-wages and tips, with those who are murdered by police, whose entire neighborhoods are already excluded from the bargaining table. The police, either in blue or in National Guard attire will be standing between you and all the possibilities that can emerge from a fierce and diverse struggle. One way or the other, they must be confronted, and defeated.

Struggles have a short period of time when they appear to be the door through which possibility enters. As soon as these possibilities are perceived, the police will attempt to neutralize them. We must act quickly and with precision in order to defeat the police and open up the struggle, to keep it going. This sense of urgency is the single order when we are racing with the police to occupy these zones of possibility. But if we can take positions and keep them open, a new time and a new rhythm takes hold and spreads almost as hastily as the operations of the police to conceal it. If you can achieve this, Wisconsin, you will set the precedent for the rest of us. The new rhythm will put to rest everything normal about our misery and exploitation. And it will be heard, reverberated, and mashed up by all the worlds that open to it.

We’re anticipating your song Wisconsin,

Some insatiable service-industry workers in the South

http://burntbookmobile.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/a-message-to-wisconsins-insatiable-workers-and-students/

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Feb 22 2011 17:51

Seems a bit disconnected with reality and the situation. Of course, that's kind of a defining feature with most anarchism. For example, thousands of working class people in the capitol building angry and excited and the biggest overt anarchist presence was a lending library with such relevant titles as "Insurrectionary Mutual Aid" and other inward looking scene bullshit only a person unfortunately familiar (a.k.a. almost no one) with the bombastic jargon would give a damn about.

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Feb 22 2011 18:16

I have no idea what this message means. Now that may be because I am not a state employee in Wisconsin, but I suspect it's because it both means very little and is written in a language you have to be a disciple of an occult anarchist tendency to understand. I also think it advises people to do things that are unrealistic both in terms of what they might be willing to do and in terms of what would be possible, let alone helpful. Students setting up barricades and stealing huge amounts from grocery stores? Really?

Sorry to be harsh, but this message seems frankly fantasist and will only serve to put people off anarchism, including anarchists like me.

blarg
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Feb 22 2011 19:46

Insurrecto writer types like this should be seen as artists, nothing more or less. It's pure self-expression rather than analysis. The art should be appreciated (or not) as such. If it doesn't do it for you aesthetically (it doesn't for me), ignore it, like you would a bad poem. It's pretty harmless. Sure it advises people to do unrealistic things, like "Never go back to work. Never go back to school." But its influence is negligible within the working class. If people out there see this as representing anarchism, it's because those anarchists who believe in reality-based organizing haven't yet managed to do so on a big enough scale.

slothjabber
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Feb 22 2011 21:00

Meanwhile, in the real world:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/egypt-supports-wisconsin-workers

Damn, can't work out how to add images to posts.

what ever
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Feb 22 2011 21:14

Whoever declares that revolution / insurrection is not the most unrealistic of events is a moron. Nothing will be possible until it is.

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Feb 22 2011 21:18

That's wonderful. Unfortunately that statement doesn't mean anything. Care to elaborate in less exaggerated language?

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Feb 22 2011 21:39
blarg wrote:
ignore it, like you would a bad poem.

if i wanted bad poetry i'd click here, followed by pressing F5 until i was sated wink

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Feb 22 2011 22:49
Quote:
Never go back to work. Never go back to school. Spread the occupation beyond the symbols of power. Occupy and block what counts. Attack symbols, occupy infrastructure.

Now there's a fucking contradiction. So leave work and school to go and occupy other shit. Why shouldn't "infrastructure" workers occupy the infrastructure? Or should they go to schools and other's workplaces?

As others have said: insurrectionist drivel.

what ever
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Feb 23 2011 01:22

There's nothing exaggerated about my language. Obviously what we demand, as those who want to completely transform the world through the annihilation of capital, will appear unrealistic until it is a possibility that can be grasped materially. But in these moments we must widen the discourse and set the stage primarily through our activity, which means far more than getting people to assume the anarchist identity.

Those who also don't understand the necessary indistinction between revolutionary events and poetry can go write instruction manuals for things that will never happen.

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Feb 23 2011 01:41
what ever wrote:
There's nothing exaggerated about my language. Obviously what we demand, as those who want to completely transform the world through the annihilation of capital, will appear unrealistic until it is a possibility that can be grasped materially. But in these moments we must widen the discourse and set the stage primarily through our activity, which means far more than getting people to assume the anarchist identity.

Those who also don't understand the necessary indistinction between revolutionary events and poetry can go write instruction manuals for things that will never happen.

Well, I wish you luck in your 'insurrectionary' project. It's not worth saying much more than that, I'm afraid.

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Feb 23 2011 05:55
Joseph Kay wrote:
blarg wrote:
ignore it, like you would a bad poem.

if i wanted bad poetry i'd click here, followed by pressing F5 until i was sated ;)

genius.

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Feb 23 2011 06:33
what ever wrote:
go write instruction manuals

The original post was in the imperative mood, which is the use of verbs to issue commands (which is a paradox: authoritarian anarchists!). Which, to me at least, makes it a boilerplate formula that intersects so little with the events in Madison that in form it's no different than what every sectarian leftist party does, especially with their newspapers. Except in this case the content of the marching orders are an orthodox insurrectionary anarchist instruction manual.

Which is as useful for the class war as the ISO's Socialist Worker or the Sparticist's Workers Vanguard. Like the ahistorical Trotskyites, it's a classic case of volunteeristically keeping the faith that it's possible to use the force of will to leap over objective conditions. In this regard, it has more in common with religion or magical thinking.

EDIT: Whoops, my bad. I checked "The Burnt Bookmobile" website and realized that they're po-mos (i.e. purposely ahistorical and anti-dialectical). Apologies all around.

what ever
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Feb 23 2011 06:45

What do you describe as orthodox insurrectionary anarchist?

Quote:
"Whoops, my bad. I checked "The Burnt Bookmobile" website and realized that they're po-mos (i.e. purposely ahistorical and anti-dialectical). Apologies all around. "

This only illuminates your lack of any knowledge of the "insurrectionary" tradition.

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Feb 23 2011 06:55
what ever wrote:
This only illuminates your lack of any knowledge of the "insurrectionary" tradition.

You seem very comfortable issuing orders, oh great one. Please enlighten us and tell us how Foucault and Deleuze are part of the "insurrectionary" tradition.

And since your website has several reference to Foucault's theories, do you share his enthusiasm for the 1979 Iranian Revolution?

what ever
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Feb 23 2011 07:23

I see no need to explain why it would be useful to excavate theory and appropriate it for our own uses.

Like most leftists you seem to think that one must agree with everything a person says and does in order to be able identify value in their ideas.

Foucault and Deleuze have obviously said and done stupid things. And?

Ariege
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Feb 23 2011 07:32

I can't see why this is under "news"........ shouldn't it be under "Theory" or maybe "Cobblers"?

Yorkie Bar
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Feb 23 2011 07:45

This site is badly in need of a 'Cobblers' forum.

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Feb 23 2011 09:33

And I don't mean to sound patronizing, What Ever, but you have yet to ground your blueprint for insurrection in what is actually happening in Madison. There are some critiques that actually look at the class composition of the protest. They point out that there are very few private sector workers there in solidarity, mostly because Wisconsin has been deindustrializing for decades. Nearly all of the protesting workers are in public sector unions -- which is obvious, since they are the ones under attack. But this requires further exploration. Taking a glance at the Bureau of Labor Statistic website, one can see that the rate of unionization for the public sector is 36.2%, but "Black workers were more likely to be union members" than those of other races, hence the racist undertones of the Tea Party types that fuel many of the attacks. The private sector just dipped down to 6.9%, and overall unionization dropped to 11.9%. But the private sector is 5 times as big as the public. So we're talking about a very small stratum. And I totally reject the Leninist formulation of "labor aristocracy," mostly because it's been disproven by history, but in attitude many of the public sector workers only care about other public sector unionists, their own union, or their own personal plight; they almost never put this struggle in class terms. Hence union piecards bleating on and on about how "it's not about the money or the benefits, it's about collective bargaining rights" at the same as more and more workers get laid off, are underemployed, or are getting foreclosed. As of January 2011, at least 11% of houses in the U.S. sit empty due to the bursting of the housing bubble.

And some of the signs I've seen on the internet say things about saving "middle class" jobs. Hence this struggle is aiming at very unradical, reformist goals. But like Egypt at the end of January, who knows where it will go? If it spreads to Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere, perhaps in the process of generalizing it will take on more of a class dynamic and be radicalized -- as Egypt appears now, with the wave of strikes.

Who knows? The answer: none of us. But I'm hoping our approach is more about asking questions than providing answers. In that way, I hope that the 150 people at a spontaneous demo in Oakland tonight, in solidarity with Wisconsin, will soon be 10,000 working class people seizing some government building in the process of organizing for millions to link up in an international general strike. I put my faith not in the instant gratification of an insurrection immediately but, like Rosa Luxemburg demonstrated in The Mass Strike, in a process of political struggles overlapping with economic struggles and in the ensuing rupture, creating revolutionary openings (but knowing full well that it might never happen -- at least in my lifetime).

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Feb 23 2011 10:31
Quote:
Never go back to work. Never go back to school. Spread the occupation beyond the symbols of power. Occupy and block what counts. Attack symbols, occupy infrastructure.

I sat on a calculator, I feel I have contributed more to the revolution than you ever have.

petey
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Feb 23 2011 14:19
Spartacus wrote:
Joseph Kay wrote:
blarg wrote:
ignore it, like you would a bad poem.

if i wanted bad poetry i'd click here, followed by pressing F5 until i was sated ;)

genius.

i love recursive programs, get your pomo here:
http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/

what ever
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Feb 23 2011 17:15

I didn't write this. Obviously it's a demand that is currently unrealistic. But some need to be reminded over and over that anything is possible.

Hieronymous, I appreciate your analysis and insight about class composition.

sort it out frosty
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Feb 25 2011 23:54

I'd be fascinated to hear any "reasonable" idea as to how your Workers Revolution is going to come about. Any "realistic" long marches to the socialised economy of tomorrow... Fascinating. Let me guess. Does this one go like "assert our interests [?] as workers [?] autonomously [?] and with the growth of working class counterpower eventually there will be duel power with the current management of class society, followed by the general social strike, occupations [?], then The Workers Paradise of self-management [?] and federalism [?]" Yeh I know that one. Tell us the one about how we self-manage the industrial system thats destroying the biosphere again....

I like "Be realistic, demand the impossible!" or at least the pretty fucking improbable.

sort it out frosty
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Feb 26 2011 00:04
Quote:
(but knowing full well that it might never happen -- at least in my lifetime).

making this banter similar to train spotting or theorizing about angels on the heads of pins, and wot have you....

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Feb 26 2011 02:48
sort it out frosty wrote:
self-management [?] and federalism [?]"

Then you'd be the only one 'round here making such social democratic "demands."

The rest of us would probably settle for the negation of the negation or the abolition of work. Compared to your laundry list of ways of smoothing the rough edges off capital, Bordiga's prescriptions look pretty appealing.

action_now
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Feb 26 2011 15:46

Urging for the escalation of struggle is unrealistic to you guys? I reckon your problem with this text is more so the language used, opposed to its actual message. But that said, if people believe that compiling works on class analysis and its composition is more relevant to class conflict than promoting further break with normalacy, then, fortunatly, it looks like the working class will be spared the dullness of (some) social anarchists.

Samotnaf
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Feb 26 2011 20:04

This text is a lot better than many of those here who've blindly pounced on it. There's a lot wrong with it (the voluntarism) but the contemptuously straightlaced anarchist reaction is standard boringly serious knee-jerk. I'd guess you've got an imagination, but are you afraid or embarrassed to use it, much less act on it...? Far easier to sornfully dismiss something a bit naive, but desperately hopeful, like a Victorian adult waving off a kid with a snotty "silly little child".

A friend from the States wrote to me in reaction to these forum comments, "The culture of many unionized workers (aside from teachers and nurses - from what i've experienced) is really dry and rhetorical. They caress the notion of "solidarity," but it's an incredibly narrow notion that's near mafia-like at times. If that becomes the dominant culture/conversation in Wisconsin, then the movement is doomed. It has to be broken. Solidarity must take on new meanings, the situation has to be pushed. It's nice to be along for the ride - a ride that doesn't come much - but fucking hell, you exist inside of that so why turn off the creative side of your brain? when is the time right to challenge social roles if not then? sorry, it just angered me how dogmatic their accusations of dogma were."

Hieronymous is the only one here who's got down to clearly analysing the weaknesses of the text in relation to what's happening. But there needs to be a progress from this reality to the, what appears now to be up-in-the-air, slightly crazed optimism of the original text.

scottydont
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Feb 26 2011 21:52

Samotnaf- You hit the nail on the head.
Also have you seen the language in some of the other anarchist statements about Wisconsin. The First of May one felt like a bad parody of 1960's leftist sects.

Quote:
On Wisconsin! For Mass Actions, Occupations & a General Strike!Spread the Struggle! Power to the People!

really? This gets no aesthetic criticism, but the insurrectionists get raked over the coals for their writing style? I'll take bad poetry any day over a historical reenactment society.

Maybe if people actually have real criticism of the content this could be more productive. Notice how when Hieronymous gave actual criticism regarding class composition it was politely received. Funny that.

I know y'all have to keep the insurrectionist bogeyman at bay but come on...

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Feb 27 2011 11:27

I just happened upon a union piecard rally in "solidarity" with the actions in Wisconsin on the City Hall side of San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza. There were about 350 people there. It made me want to barf. It was banally predictable and soulless. I only saw one police car a block away, with no police presence otherwise. I guess when you go through all the legal hoops -- as someone told me by text message -- and get a legal demo permit, as the SF Labor Council had, the system considers you toothless.

I just passed by, but saw the usual faces of union bureaucrats and shopfloor union activists and the alphabet soup of Trotskyites. If that's where resistance is to come, we're doomed. But I thought that it's probably not dissimilar to the hardcore occupying the capitol in Madison. Correct this impression if I'm wrong.

I see all these pathetic creatures at most quasi-labor demos, most of whom are tethered to the state by an invisible umbilical cord. Most of whom squander dues-payers' money on the Democratic Party, when they aren't lining their own pockets with 6-figure salaries to "represent" workers -- who often make barely above minimum wage (think here of the SEIU and healthcare workers). But the piecards and their rank-and-file minions are the ones who make posters about "saving middle class jobs." They're the ones who actually believe in the system and frame all arguments in defending "rights" and "legal protections" and never so much as utter the word class.

Many of the people in this milieu are the soccer moms and dads, the suburbanites who most of us consider squares (I know I sound dated, but couldn't think of another word). They're not the militants of Egypt or the residents of America's burgeoning tent cities who have nothing to lose. They have kids to raise, payments on their SUV or van, mortgages, credit card debt, and houses full of flatscreen TVs and consumer junk; frankly, they have lots to lose. I highly doubt they'll be the

what ever wrote:
ones to throw the first rocks

or to help build the barricades. At least not now.

I think the stratum who will very likely be the the first to do those things aren't going to be white (which the upper echelons of most unions are), but the ghetto youth who have never had middle class illusions -- but are part of multiple generations of hopelessness based on poverty, unemployment, and being on the receiving end of ceaseless police violence. But who have never been tethered to the system with possessions or debt, mostly because their main options of getting out of their current misery are prison or joining the military.

I work in the public sector, mostly with African Americans, many of whom got into brand new houses during the boom, but a few then ended up getting foreclosed after the ARMs on their subprime mortgages kicked in. Some of my middle-aged co-workers have had to double and triple up with relatives and their brief flirtation with the American Dream and homeownership ended just as quickly as it began. In 2008, they were elated about Obama, today the sense of hopefullness has been replaced with a straightforward anxiety about survival. Nearly every African American I know has at least one relative in prison; with their recent dispossessions, more and more seem to have lost their faith that things can get better; they find society -- and those who wield power within it -- as an alien and hostile force. Not unlike people under Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya, and any other police state

If anyone will throw the first rock, I doubt it will be anyone posting on libcom. I bet it will be some unemployed Black or Latino kid from the inner city who just couldn't tolerate his homies getting shot in the back by the pigs one-too-many times.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Changing the sector:

Most of the civil servants I see where I live are people of color and as I mentioned above, the negative solidarity about their "Cadillac benefits" seems to have racist undertones when coming from Tea Party-types. But these public sectors have been fighting back against austerity, often in clunky and imperfect ways.

In California, Schwarzenegger started implementing "Furlough Fridays" and some Department of Motor Vehicle workers extended it into sick-outs in response to what amounts to a 14% reduction in wages. Since 2008, furloughs at DMV offices are often followed by informally self-organized work stoppages (often defiantly against the SEIU) -- "Missing Mondays" -- and they've occurred in the following cites:

Hawthorne
Bellflower
Compton
Montebello
Rancho Cucamonga
West Covina
Whittier
Los Angeles (Hope St.)
Bell Gardens
Costa Mesa
Irvine
Chula Vista
San Francisco (Fell St.)

We should keep our ears to the ground because I think these forms of covert working class self-activity will break to the surface soon. We can only hope.

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Feb 27 2011 00:44

H- I can't speak for Madison, but in Indianapolis nearly all of the hardcore in the statehouse this week have been people who will be effected if the legislation is passed. In fact, it was pretty remarkable that there were very, very few activist-ist types until the rally today. Of course, Indy is not Madison and the protests are not nearly as widespread nor as radical. And to be fair, as I've said elsewhere the Afl-Cio is completely in charge.

Samotnaf
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Feb 27 2011 01:12

Hieronymous - your post, combined with some of what you said in post 18, would form the basis of a far better leaflet/text than all those anarcho communist XYZist leaflets saying the usual what is be done. Why do people feel the need to always come out with sad dusty slogans (like the ones scottydont quoted) or produce a set-piece leaflet? - just for the sake of saying "Here we are! and we're going to say what we said last year but update it a bit and that proves we're doing our bit for the movement"? Far more useful, for oneself first of all (with the desire to help the progress of social contestation in mind), to produce something as basic as these insights without rhetoric and pat lines and distribute it in appropriate situations.

That's the essential thing that's irritating about the over-prescriptive text here:

Quote:
"What we need from you"

should be, as always, "What we need from ourselves". And when placed in the light of that fundamental question, it would have been far better to have continued "we want to create a situation, admittedly far off, where we never have to go back to work or go back to school" and then maybe develop what steps and leaps might be made to getting there.