3.1 Concrete aims of the inquiry
In 1999 when we were sitting together in Oberhausen, Germany and planning the first steps for an 'inquiry and intervention' we had hopes such as:
* Understanding what is going on in one particular sector of exploitation
* Encouraging other leftists to understand class-reality in this region and their own situation as proletarians
* Helping ourselves go further, to get organised in a theoretical and practical way.
But one step at a time...
The class reality
Our situation was that we got reports on strikes from France or scientific studies about the restructuring of the auto-industry from time to time, but we didn't know much about how the workers in our own region were reacting to changes in exploitation. The decision to concentrate on one sector - Call Centres - gave us the opportunity to understand the situation more precisely, especially given our limited capacity. We wanted to continue our previous discussions with other workers about the organisation of exploitation, and thereby keep learning and progressing. And last but not least, we hoped that through contacts at work and the leaflets, we would get in contact with some interesting people as the first step to new proletarian meetings.
We wanted to go beyond our critique of 'leftists', i.e. that they 'navel gaze' rather than being interested in the class reality. We had the impression that our previous attempts (for example: kolinko: The Subversion of Everyday Life, 1999) were good on paper, but weak in practical results because we had a critique but we did not have a concrete suggestion. We knew that a lot of lefties were working in call centres and so we were hoping that it would be possible to bring the 'political movement' and the struggle against exploitation closer together. We wanted to concentrate on a common project with our sometimes personal and co-incidental contacts with people and groups of the 'revolutionary class left'. The suggestion for the common inquiry was aimed at pushing the international discussion about the tasks of revolutionaries today and so bring us together with new soul comrades.
had the idea that 'inquiry' would be a 'liberation' for us. After months of making sluggish progress on the 'Subversion of Everyday Life'-text we wanted to have more reality again. Not only reading and writing, but watching, listening, feeling and being creative, making trouble and at the same time getting rid of the existing differences of experience between us. Most of us knew something about 'workers inquiry' through the history of the older comrades and the Italian mythology but we wanted to try it out ourselves. Some of us had experience of distributing leaflets on construction sites, in restaurants and factories but often this was a single action and not the result of a common discussion. We were hoping that the 'inquiry as a collective' would also help us go further: with theoretical debate, with the confrontations with the henchmen of exploitation, with the organisation and arrangement of information, with the ups and downs of everyday working life and with the joint planning of a proletarian intervention.
Why Call Centres?
In summer 1999 we had various concrete reasons to start an inquiry into call centres:
* There was a strike at Citibank at the end of 1998. We asked ourselves whether this was a sign of a rise in new militancy of the workers in this sector.
* In our region, the Ruhrgebiet, call centres were mushrooming and the number of workers was growing into thousands. More and more young people were working there, including some of our friends.
* Most of the jobs in call centres were available for 'unskilled' workers. This gave us a chance to get jobs there. And we hoped to find struggles and conflicts that had the chance to go beyond the limits posed by pride in ones profession or the myth of the higher status of office workers.
* We were excited about the new concentration of workers: companies with a hundred, two hundred and sometimes more than five hundred workers, mostly with the same working-conditions. We wanted to know if this facilitates struggle.
* Businessmen, politicians, union officials and many more were in agreement that here a 'beautiful, new world of work' was growing. We had heard about the 'clean jobs' and we wanted to try them out.
* Call centres were not only mushrooming in Ruhrgebiet. We heard about it in Dublin, Amsterdam, Paris, Dallas... As workers in different regions had similar conditions it would be easier to make connections and exchange experiences. If 'callcentreization' is a worldwide tendency we could suggest a common inquiry project.
3.2 What did we do?
There were different levels of the inquiry. The first level could be called 'Pre-inquiry'. This was:
* Collecting material about call centres: studies from universities about the growth of call centres in certain regions; newspaper articles; materials from management and unions...
* Theoretical discussions, for example about work organisation, machinery, the movement of capital (circulation). We took this as a self-teaching process, so that together we could understand more about the context.
* Comparing (and further developing) 'theoretical knowledge' with our everyday life experiences at the call centre. We decided to work in different call centre (in different sectors, at inbound and outbound), to gain experience of many different conditions, but also in the hope of discovering hidden conflicts. The decision to go alone into a company was a controversial issue during the inquiry.
* Interviews with ourselves and other call centre workers: On one hand the interviews were to give us a more detailed picture of call centres. On the other hand we were hoping that they could be the start of a common discussion about the everyday life of exploitation and the possibilities of struggle.
* Distributing a suggestion to other revolutionaries, that they take part in an inquiry in their own region. Because of electronic communications it got around the whole world of the revolutionary/ class struggle groups. With groups from Italy and England we started an intensive exchange.
The pre-inquiry lasted roughly a year. In Autumn 2000 we entered the second level and everything heated up. We published the leaflets and set up a website, where we could put out the leaflets and other information about conflicts in call centres and anywhere else.
It must be said that we decided early on to bring out a series of four leaflets (flexible work extension, intensification of work, nonsense of work and struggles at call centres). We are now more critical about this decision. We also published extra leaflets about concrete conflicts in single call centres: planned elections of works councils, standard phrasing, forty hours of unpaid work. The leaflets have been distributed in and around the call centres of our region. In other cities they were handed out by comrades.
With the leaflets and the website we wanted to create a place of exchange for 'worker-militants' in different companies. Moreover, we wanted to add our position to the daily break-time discussions to see how the workers and the management would react.
At the moment, we are mainly floating at the third level of the 'political evaluation'. We want to share our experiences with other comrades and learn...
3.3 How do we see it today?
In the following we go through and review the individual 'parts' of the inquiry.
We have been asked if we benefited from the questionnaire and the interviews. In the beginning we had the idea that a political discussion could come about through the reciprocal interviews with other workers in which the daily organisation of work is criticised. But we only did a few interviews with a dozen other workers so it is hard to answer the question.
We mostly got to know these 'other workers' through political contacts rather than at work. During the interviews we had some discussions but there were just too many questions.
All in all, the questionnaire did not produce a 'representative' result. We don't even know if the questionnaire opened up the consciousness or the eyes of comrades in other call centres. We received only a few questionnaires back from those we distributed; one from a call centre in Scotland; one from Holland.
For us, the questionnaire helped to structure our very different work experiences. We did summaries of the interviews - for example about machinery, co-operation and the relationship to work - that fed into our theoretical discussion. Later on in our inquiry, we stopped using the questionnaire, but then we had the problem that the 'company reports' became just like a collection of stories. We came to the conclusion, that we needed three different questionnaires for different situations:
* One long and precise questionnaire, like the original, to get more information about facts and connections (work organisation, machinery, hierarchy, workers' behaviour...). It is enough to have three or four interviews at the beginning of an inquiry. Focus: facts, overview.
* One shorter questionnaire for interviews and conversations at work, for other workers and ourselves to be able to see, for example, the co-operation with workers in different departments. This is also largely about 'self-reflection' and 'self-inquiry': how do we behave in everyday situations at work? What kinds of conflicts exist and what is our position in relation to them? This questionnaire has to be useful for workers themselves, to answer it by themselves and use it for discussions at work. Focus: discussion, agitation.
* Another short questionnaire for interviews with activists and other acquaintances to ask about what's going on in 'their' workplaces. This is good for the exchange of struggle experiences, which we can discuss and distribute. Focus: reflection, exchange. This questionnaire is also good for reports.
On the website we published texts and reports which would normally have ended up collecting dust in files and hard drives. We also got something out of writing the reports:
Finding out what is important and how to write it down clearly. It is unfortunately harder with the reports than with the leaflets, to estimate whether reports about strikes in Italy or about the suffering of young data typists are read and discussed.
Our experience with the website is that it has not become a forum in which others participate and put their own experience on the web, as it was planned. Reports were sent in sporadically. The question is whether an electronic medium helps at all.
The website worked as a reference point; comrades and workers were able to read and download all the leaflets, reports and translations. We have not been dependent on sending texts, so this made the communication easier. Additionally, we could document the hotlines-leaflet from Brighton, England and material from Italy.
Certainly we came into contact with people through the website, which probably would not have been possible with other media. One important critique was that the reports on the website were too short and did not say anything special. They aren't helpful for comparing to each other or as a learning process. It makes sense to have list of questions there, to be able to write reports along the same lines. In the future we have to solve the problem of how we can get to a more 'global' website. One that collects more situations from sectors of exploitation and gives more information about struggles. Information, not from the bourgeois media but from revolutionary initiatives on the ground. But this again, is a completely different question...
At the beginning we had some discussions about whether we should write general leaflets at all, meaning leaflets which did not relate to a concrete discussion or conflict in a certain company, but which say something about exploitation in general. With the concrete leaflets (which we finally produced) we hoped that we could provoke intensive discussions, and maybe even reactions, in which we could get involved directly. With the general leaflets we hoped to have more space in which to present the whole spectrum of exploitation: from the attempts to make us work longer and more intensively, through the contradiction between quality and quantity, right up to the question of union representation. We also wanted to distribute the leaflets not just in front of 'our' call centres but in the whole region and beyond.
The final decision to do a series of leaflets about different issues was influenced by the assessment that, at the moment, conflicts in call centres are rare, and not really open. Looking back, the series had some problems: we tried to build a bridge between 'political analysis in general' and 'concrete situations' by adding concrete reports on several 'theoretical issues'. We got stuck between the levels. On one hand it would have been better to write more 'political' leaflets related to the political situation in general (war, crisis, reconstruction of the exploitation, role of the unions). On the other hand it would have been possible to concentrate on one company in order to have a more precise analysis and criticism of the development of exploitation and the whole organisation of this company. However, it would have been a balancing act: on one hand not losing the concrete situation of the workers through the 'world-view', and on the other hand not getting bogged down with the nitty-gritty of one company...
It is hard to work out whether we actually gave useful 'struggle information' in the leaflets, which was our real aim. In the first three leaflets we wrote about different work conditions, plus information in general; for example, in which other cities there are call centres belonging to the same company. While in the final leaflet we gave some conclusions about struggles that had already taken place in call centres, (about the role of the representatives, problems with petitions and the problem of the work being transferred to call centres that were not on strike), there were hardly any conflicts where the conclusions were put to the test.
We found out that the leaflets about conflicts in a particular call centre provoked more reactions from the workers, and from the management. Here is an example, about distributing a leaflet on forced 'standard formulation' at Quelle:
It was in the evening and I was alone at Quelle. At first the two workers were not interested, but when they heard that it was about the standard formulation they were surprised and took a leaflet.
A little later a tall team leader and a little fat works council woman came along. The team leader had some of the leaflets in her hand already; she explained that we would call for a wildcat strike, which is illegal and that the management would take steps. She also wanted my name. Two other workers came out and an older gentleman asked me if he could have one of the leaflets and asked the team leader if he would be allowed to read it. She was laughing a little hysterically and said: 'If you want to have a laugh, Mr. ... Someone is complaining about the alarm clock that wakes him up'. The works council representative could see that the team leader was not sticking to the point, so she came over all 'confidential' to me:
'This thing is going to fail! Even if we could get 300 people together and walk out for 15 minutes, in a legal sense we would get fired. Get involved in the union!' I talked a bit about the loss of real wages and the loss of jobs which my union was fighting for the last few years. Which she acknowledged with a smile. The team leader found it all a little bit too cosy: 'The election for the works council is soon, you could participate. Apart from that I take it that you are going to carry on leafleting?!' Yo.
After using the toilets at 'Beim Pueppchen' I met a young guy, who clapped me on the shoulder with the words: 'Keep on going on!' This left me with a pleasant warmth, considering the low temperature outside. Together with my late leafleting comrade some other workers came. Everybody wanted a leaflet.
Somebody started shrieking and we were expecting something awful: 'Can you take the responsibility of endangering other people's jobs?' We knew that we had to battle with this person in front of the other workers, and it was not easy because some of the workers agreed with her: 'I like working here,' etc. We said stuff like 'you don't have to grovel', 'there is more to your life than work' and 'don't let them play us off against each other'...
This 'madam' then tried to intimidate us with a rhetoric like gastric acid: and repeated again and again: 'Listen, sweetheart, the company can close down this place at any time; we can be proud of our jobs, we accomplish good quality; only ten percent of the phone call is standard formulation; I am a supporter of socialist-communist ideas; if your colleagues don't like the job they can get a job somewhere else or go self-employed...'
The other workers soon left and the madam was so convinced about herself and the company that after a while it just wasn't fun any more, and we wished her a good day. Later it turned out that she was the boss of the workplace. The next day she wrote a pretty dull memo to all workers, warning them about the leaflet.
Another prominent example is the reaction to a leaflet about working conditions at the ISI Company. First they sent the cops after the people distributing leaflets - without results - and then they took legal measures against the provider of the website. There were people who were given the leaflet before they were sent to ISI by the Jobcentre. They sent us a thank-you note that the leaflet had warned them and helped them not take the job.
Things like that are nice...
There was a range of reactions to the leaflets by the workers, from thumbs-ups to contemptuous expressions, from copying the leaflets on the work photocopier, to open disinterest. At the company the leaflets caused some excitement... for one or two days. Most of the workers liked the parts with the report on other call centres.
The reactions to the general political parts were often: 'OK, so what? We know that already. What can we do?' On one hand this alleviates the anxiety some comrades have that it would be 'patronizing' or would 'scare off' the workers if you open up your analysis about the circumstances. On the other hand, it also disputes the view that one has to explain everything to the workers so they 'become revolutionary'. The conclusion is: the leaflets gave some discontented people words of encouragement and for a short while it was a reference point at the discussions in the break rooms. For example, in a concrete discussion about the usefulness of a works council...
At the beginning of handing out the leaflets we decided not to call for a call centre workers' meeting outside of work. This was due to the experience that in times of low movement, workers meeting with 'other workers' outside the workplace does not yield great results.
In addition we think it is important to have the discussions directly at the place of confrontation. In the case of call centres, this was because of the risk of pulling the active workers out of the concrete conflicts. Certainly we hoped that it would be possible to get in touch with other people to discuss their situation and some actions against it. But we were expecting that those people would be more interested 'politically' in what we are doing. The electronic answers to the leaflets confirmed this expectation: we hardly received any answers from 'workers' from our region who gave reports about their situation. We got most reactions by team leaders and other arse lickers. They were complaining about our calls for sabotage. And secondly by people from the union, who were complaining about our interpretations, for example about the Citibank strike; and thirdly by other lefties who were working in call centres.
But the latter were mostly not from our region. We got more answers from Italy, USA or Australia than from Duesseldorf or Dortmund. We had expected something different: given the situation for instance in Berlin we thought there would be more 'lefties' in call centres in Ruhrgebiet who would be interested in raising hell.
Concerning the purpose of the leaflet-interventions there still are some open questions:
* In what situation do leaflets have the effect of a catalyst and in what situation do they serve as a conflict-barometer for management and thus allow them to react and take the pressure off.
* Should we write about conditions in other places at all? Does it compensate for our own situation ('It is even worse at other places!')? When does it become clear that we can only improve the situation by taking action together ('It is the same everywhere else!')?
* When does a leaflet make sense, and when is it better and possible to communicate in more direct ways?
* Our friends from Call Center Offensive in Berlin criticised that we would hold ourselves back: we are not causing trouble, we don't ask for public meetings. Maybe a more offensive action would have polarized the situation; maybe it would have only been one spontaneous action (followed by sackings).
The relation to other exploited workers is neither 'tactical' - as between functionaries and a revolutionary subject - nor 'enlightening'. The relation between revolutionaries and workers is that of a collective process: where is the possibility of workers' power and self- liberation in the daily experience of exploitation? [kolinko, The Subversion of Everyday Life, October 1999]
All in all half of us worked during the inquiry in roughly ten different call centres, taking catalogue orders, selling subscriptions, doing computer support-line and in bank call centres in Germany and in two other European countries. We started working before the questionnaire was developed and the 'theoretical' discussion was finished. The decision not to work together in one call centre helped us to collect different experiences, but on the other hand confined us to 'being alone in a company' and so mostly just watching and discussing.
Certainly we met angry people, but there were rarely situations where common actions against stress at work were possible. There were only a few occasions where we were able to extend our discussion into a bigger circle. Once we invited a few friends from 'our' call centre to dinner to discuss a leaflet and talk to them about a strike that had taken place. Other discussions took place directly at work. Actually we were hoping that those meeting could help us to move over from the intervention with the leaflets to other kinds of intervention... more on that later. Overall, we cannot make a general point that our time in one company was too long or too short (it ranged from two months to two years), that we had been too reserved or too loud. We were clear that it is not possible to 'start' conflicts.
Despite this, there were some frustrations, for example that the leaflets led to so few results. We had not discussed the concrete behaviour of 'revolutionaries' at the company enough and so we were behaving different from each other:
At the bank I firstly just looked at what was going on. After two weeks there was a discussion about what we could do to get higher wages, considering that the bosses were giving us more tasks to do. During the discussion I tried not to relate the question of wages to the tasks, but to wanting to have a better life and this is possible with more money.
This was mostly a discussion between two of us and a little bit of group conversation. During later discussions with the Citibank strikers I tried to bring out things about their experiences (what was important at the strike, what changed, what problems do we have now?). I told some of them why I was there. They agreed that it is important to do something, but sometimes they didn't understand the reasons for doing things in this way... [Duisburg, 2000]
Or like this:
I was having a discussion with some workers who had been there for longer than me: what do they think about the wage reductions, how they deal with them, and about their opinion of the company... The reaction was: this is a heap of shit, the wages don't make ends meet, I'm looking for something different... With the new guys I tried to find out why they are here (they ask me, too); for most it is an interim solution, until they find something better. The first impression of the company is negative for everybody: chaotic, treating people badly. Against this is their positive impressions of the other workers. It's easy to discuss stuff with them. Some have already worked in other call centres... Right from the start there was a story where I work: in my team there is an arsehole; everybody knows that he is stealing from people. No one can prove it but he moves around and then the stuff is gone. First I thought, that's bullying, but then those who were saying it were not idiots. And then there is another arsehole in my team, who tells new people a load of crap, allegedly because he doesn't want others to be 'better' than him. He is really just a prat who is sent packing by everybody. Some of us new workers agreed that a) we will give him a hard time about this and b) that we come and act together if something really happens. [Koeln (Cologne), 2001]
Some of us were more open. They discussed their activity with other workers and passed the leaflets around... others were more hesitant, they didn't want an extreme confrontation and the risk of getting fired. These different ways of behaving were also related to whether we happened to meet right-on workers who we could be open with. On the other hand, it is also a question of mentality; whether we like making trouble with the team leader or if we prefer to get in contact with other workers a bit more quietly...
We did not find so many 'rebels' - or they didn't find us. Otherwise we could have taken more offensive action. For example, we planned an occupation action, so that we were not just standing around leafleting, but really shaking up the normal working day. However, there was not really enough of us to do this. But here there is also the danger of trying to make up for the workers' passivity through our own activism.
In conclusion, the absence of open workers' struggles limited our own room for 'movement'. So we got stuck between distributing leaflets in front of the gates and having discussions at work. If no new questions turn up during struggles then our position is only one amongst all the others - even if it is more 'radical'. We asked ourselves, what is the point in leaflets and other kind of interventions at all if there is no workers' self-activity to refer to? We don't think that interventions in a period of relatively few struggles inevitably descend into vanguardism or unionism, but they do remain on the outside. This could be the reason why the inquiry stayed in our hands and did not become a 'workers self-inquiry', where we could discuss the political content of everyday working life with other workers, and arrive at a common strategy for developing the class struggle.
3.4 How did the left receive the proposal?
Judging by the reaction we got - reactions of lefties and others who work in call centres - we can say that at the moment it is difficult to get across the connection between a) intervention into exploitation and b) a perspective of social change.
We were not able to explain that we understand inquiry neither as a 'unionised' addition to the 'political' activities in general, nor as 'workplace based activity', but as an independent method of getting organised against class-society at the assembly line, under the head-set or in the dole office-queue. A method where the separations between 'political and economical struggle' and 'activist and proletarian' are overcome.
The reasons for this lie on various levels. First of all, because of the real separation of 'workers' struggles' and 'political movements'. Not having a lot of struggles in our region makes it possible for large parts of the left to hide in self-modesty or keep on 'playing movement' and digging around in their own political sandbox. There is not much one can change about that. More important is to find out where we reproduced labels such as 'political' and 'unionist'. For instance in the division between the 'political proposals for inquiry' and the leaflets 'for the workers'.
As a result of and during the inquiry we had discussions with various lefty groups. They could be categorised as follows:
* Discussions with groups who refer to class reality in a similar way to us. The inquiry led to regular exchanges with groups from various regions. People sent us materials from France, Spain, the USA etc. The proposal for the inquiry was translated and distributed. One result of the inquiry was a more intensive co-operation with groups from England and Italy, with whom we discussed the approach of the inquiry, everyday life in call centres and the actual leaflets.
* Discussions with left activist groups (student groups, discussion circles, left unionists) who were interested in the 'issue of wage-labour'. We were invited to some public meetings as 'experts' on the modern form of exploitation. The most interesting part of the meetings was that different people were coming together: call centre workers, lefties who were working in call centres and were interested in what is politically important about it, and some people who were interested in our 'political initiative'.
But even here we had some difficulties explaining the political approach of the inquiry: 'Inquiry and intervention' are not a separate thing alongside other 'left issues', but a comprehensive approach to organising within class reality.
The decision to focus on one sector didn't make it easier. It was often thought that we were interested in call centres because of their special exploitation, or because it is somehow modern. This relationship of lefties to exploitation became very clear during the attempt to censor the 'ISI-campaign'. A number of left groups and media took this case up. But they gave the main focus to the 'particularly bad' conditions and the censorship of ISI against the Internet provider, instead of focusing on how one is able to stand up against the capitalist oppression in such a firm. All in all, we think that the inquiry and the leaflets inspired a number of people. Many people and groups told us that they found our approach 'correct', because we not only write about 'work' as a subject but do something concrete, and because we neither back the existing representatives nor want to establish new ones.
But the lack of workers' struggles leads to the same problems in relation to the left as we had at work: if there is no self-activity of the exploited the traditional left or unionised forms of organisation seem to be the only practical possibility of getting something better. For example, people go 'summit-hopping' as long as there is nothing more exciting in their own region, or run to representatives until they find enough confidence in their own strength to act for themselves.
So, what could we have done better? Firstly, we could have said some things more clearly:
* our critique of the left - the anti-globalisation movement, single issue groups, the parties - how they refer or don't refer to class reality;
* that we don't want another 'political organisation';
* that we should not just criticise, but that we should have suggested an exchange between initiatives which are dealing with class reality and which also focus on their own situation as proletarians.
More like 'direct action in your call centre, too.' We said that from time to time, but didn't make it a central point. Secondly, we should have got more involved in the debate of the 'New Economy', in order to debunk the leftist hype about Linux and other open source software, as well as the nonsense about 'immaterial labour'.
3.5 What gave us impetus, what would we do differently today?
First about what drove us. The project opened up new perspectives for us, we had the experience that we can do something practical after theoretical discussion, and that theory, experiences at work and political action can come together. We enjoyed leafleting and seeing that it caused trouble, watching the little bosses go crazy. The inquiry gave us more points of connection with other comrades; the discussion and exchange with people from certain regions was more intensive, the feeling of isolation weaker.
But there were things which were tiring and got on our nerves: we almost ran out of breath during the long pre-inquiry - breath that we needed for later. We asked ourselves whether it would have been possible to have written the leaflets after two months of working experience. The decision to do a series of leaflets put us under pressure and suppressed our spontaneity. The discussions about the leaflets sometimes became hair-splitting, and while we turned words and phrases around three times the leaflets were losing spirit. And we were not able to question the 'the role of the written word' as we had hoped: we guessed that we would also find other forms of creative expressions - posters, happenings, etc. - which in addition would help to break the hierarchy inside the group between people who write a lot and those who don't. But there was the problem that we had set ourselves a time limit.
These are more or less mistakes of strategy. At some point we got the impression that there were bad vibes, which are found in any 'political' group and which belong to the nature of groups. The only thing we can do is describe it: some of us had a feeling of a 'pressure from outside'.
Every published word was supposed to be 'correct and unambiguous'... This led to the point that our articles more or less fitted the conventional forms and that the 'political' articles seemed to be the most important. So the product changed the process: the discussion became pedantic and so too the writers who were able to use these 'political forms'. We don't know where this 'pressure from outside' comes from, but we think that during this weak situation of class-struggle, 'revolutionaries' inevitably come together in these small groups and have the tendency to spend a lot of time exclusively with each other. The 'political' statement, in the left microcosm becomes more important than the analysis of concrete experiences. But we also don't want to wait until we are able to merge into the class movement. Are there any forms that go beyond the 'groups'? Our desire for bigger and more open meetings is growing. We should try not to make a home out of our circles...
With our next attempts we are going to do some things differently. There are some questions which we are discussing in relation to this:
* How can we undermine the separation between doing the pre-inquiry first and then the intervention, so that we avoid the long hard haul of collecting material and doing analysis but rather get into interesting confrontations straight away?
* How can we write a proposal for an inquiry, a shorter and more provocative version that has a wider appeal than just to confirmed Marxists?
* Should we only focus on one sector, or does it obscure our view of other interesting situations of exploitation in our region?
* Should we concentrate on one or two places, companies, or call centres and write concrete leaflets?
* How can we get rid of the obsession with 'article-production' and develop other forms of communication and use them?
* Should we go into a company with a number of people in order to discuss everyday life more precisely and have more support?
* How can we make more trouble at the company, instead of just watching?
* We are asking ourselves whether it is a good strategy, faced with our limited powers, to concentrate on one sector for two or three years, in which nothing is going on from the point of view of class-struggle (and so letting the other conflicts slip out of view).
You will discover our conclusions on all this in the last part... (to keep up the tension).
5 The article is here: [http://libcom.org/library/subversion-everyday-life]
6 We mean the texts from Italy about inquiry, for example Quaderni Rossi of the beginning 60s. See also 8. appendix: literature and links.
7 See 'working'.
8 The suggestion had been published by Collective Action Notes/USA and others. You will find it on the Internet: [www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/kolinko/engl/e_ccvor.htm]
10 See below 'leaflets'.
11 We didn't do so many interviews, because a) we had a questionnaire that was too long (more than 150 questions) and so we needed a lot of time for every interview and even more time for typing them up; b) a few interviewees first promised to do it, but then pulled out, because they didn't want to anymore or were afraid...; c) we were too lazy to do more; d) some of us preferred to have conversations at work instead of interviews...
12 See more in 7. Proposal, at the end of this paper. In 8. Appendix you will find all the questionnaires. Updated versions for downloading are on: [www.prol-position.net]
13 See more about this in 7. Proposal.
14 You can find all leaflets in 8. Appendix.
15 The attack on the hotlines-website at [www.free.de] meant them getting threatened with a considerable fine. ISI used the laws regulating competition for their case and claimed the description on the leaflet insulted and offended. What was great was that a lot people from the left and the anti-censorship-scene took it up and documented and distributed the leaflet. So people from Brisbane to Frankfurt to San Francisco knew about the conditions at ISI. Sometimes doing an Internet search on 'ISI' brought up 40 results all pointing to the leaflet...
16 More on their situation can be found in chapter 6. Confrontations under 'Call Center Offensive'.
17 Separations like, for example, mechanical engineers who in the day-time chase after jobs, but at night play Antifa (Anti-Fascist-Action); or the office workers and unemployed, who are engaged in anti-racism but don't make the connection with their own situation of exploitation...
18 Including some frustrated team-leaders, who couldn't manage the contradictions of their job of controlling their 'old' colleagues.
19 See footnote 15.
20 Some people assume with the Linux/open source discussion that the fact that the programs are written and distributed without any wage and everybody (with that qualification) can be a part of it, and because of the transparency of the programming, it has a communist tendency per se. The ease with which IBM integrates these programs into their selling-concept and the attempt of the German authorities to use Linux in their administration shows that those programs are used as commodities, within which a lot of non-paid working hours are included. The productivity of collective activity is thereby transmitted into capitalist productivity. The discussion about 'immaterial labour' -as represented by Negri/ Hardt in their book 'Empire' among others - is based on the stupid theses that labour today has become 'communication-work', in which the creativity of the 'immaterial worker' is asked for, their communication abilities and so on. They see a communist tendency in that too. Based on this some 'immaterial' intellectuals claim that they are the centres of the new social process. Through looking at the factories, call centres, hospitals etc. of this world it is easy to knock this theory down: most workers see themselves exploited through the capitalist relationship and have not been able to create their own creativity...
21 Although this pressure comes from 'inside': We wanted to write the leaflets in such a way that they have a 'correct' analysis and are at the same time understandable to everybody. In addition there would be some critique by a comrade, which should be part of the discussion...
22 See more in chapter 7. Proposal.