Look to Wisconsin
“Look to Wisconsin; this is the beginning of the American insurrection.”
Glenn Beck, 2/17/11
As the crisis unfolds across the globe, it is more apparent than ever that the situation in Wisconsin is not unique. Scott Walker means nothing: he is simply the local face of what has become a situation of globally imposed austerity. All over the world, we can hear Scott Walkers of all shapes and sizes telling us that this is necessary, and that we all need to make sacrifices. In each instance, what’s clear is the willingness of those in power to continually sacrifice our lives and well-being in the name of the survival of the capitalist mode of production.
The redemptive quality of the current situation can be found in that everywhere austerity has been imposed, the dispossessed have revolted against the economic system and state apparatuses that degrade their lives. in Greece, France, Italy, England, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Iran, Bahrain, Libya, South Africa, Iraq. Street-fighting, occupations, festivals, barricades, fires, strikes. In each situation, the persistent triumph of misery over life is contested by life itself. As with the movements of capital, so too must resistance be diffuse, autonomous and international.
While the occupations and strikes in Wisconsin have not reached the intensity of the situation outside the United States, the intelligence of Glenn Beck’s ravings is that this unfolding struggle in the dairy state bears the same character as corresponding anti-austerity struggles elsewhere. As more and more people’s lives are rendered superfluous by the mandates of the economy, people respond in intensifying and dynamic ways to confront the flows of the economy and to stake out terrains for their own intentions. As state governments coast-to-coast lay out their hated restructuring, we can expect the exponential development and proliferation of resistance to those governments. One can almost feel the fear oozing from the figureheads and mouthpieces of capital; the fear of the coming insurrection.
Wisconsin in exile, February 17
Sick Days Forever
Perhaps the most exciting elements of the events of today have been the wildcat strike of teachers and the massive walk-outs of students and workers. Hundreds of schools remain closed across the state as thousands of teachers and students call in sick and refuse to go to work and school. Teachers get together for drinks and to talk about the revolution, high school students spend the day in the park or march to the university to join occupations, janitors spend the day at home in bed, college kids get together to dance and gossip. Where usually our days would be spent on the ceaseless future of capital, today was ours. It almost feels like spring, and we can do with it as we please.
Put another way, we are trapped in a zero-sum game with the economy. Wherever the economy functions, it is impossible for us to determine our lives for ourselves. Any situation wherein our lives are our own would necessitate the immediate cessation or obstruction of the economy. The value of the sick day strike isn’t found in the message it sends, but rather in the direct ways it blocks the machinations of capital and makes space for our own activity. We must now concern ourselves with the expansion and continuation of the joy of the sick day. Only on days like today can we even begin to imagine what a world outside capital could feel like. Let’s call in sick forever!
Wisconsin in exile, February 17
Warts and All: On the Occupation of University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, March 10 (excerpt)
Because it doesn’t coincide with a stoppage of work or school, because there is yet no strike, the UMW occupation forms an isolated protest. Classes, homework, and part-time jobs leave many participants exhausted. Without the appropriated time to be more invested, the situation is not qualitatively developing. We accepted the slogan of “Strike, Occupy, Takeover!” yet we’ve failed to collectively enact the first step in that equation. Similarly, the assembly approved a statement calling for a general strike, but without discussing how a general strike could come about. For many in the meetings, a general strike is something that will just happen not the festival of disruption produced by our collective labor. This attitude reduces the likelihood of a meaningful and widespread stoppage. Due to the nature of US laws regulating labor disputes, a general strike cannot be declared from on- high by large labor federations. A general strike must be self-organized; whether through discussion and activity at the local union level, the forging of complicit relationships at non-unionized workplaces (which are by far the majority), sabotage at non-participating workplaces, or some other form perhaps completely outside and unrepresentable by the familiar apparatuses. Other forums must be created in which this question of how can be asked, and asked again.
The occupation is rife with limitations but it is a beginning, not an end. It expands the struggle against austerity beyond the boundaries of time (one day walkouts, weekly demonstrations), geography (the centrality of Madison), and social position (workers vs. students). It’s a step, but no tiger’s leap. In order to derail the legislation which sparked this uproar, the struggle must spread across even more boundaries (precarious and poor vs. securely employed, etc.) and develop both in form and content. This fight to reverse a specific attack on the working class opens general avenues for struggle. This and, the possibility of a world without legislators or classes of any sort.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Locks Glued, March 13
From TMJ4 (local news)
“MILWAUKEE, The fight over Governor Scott Walker’s budget is getting sticky.
TODAY’S TMJ4’s Diane Pathieu confirmed that doors at Chapman, Curtin, Mellencamp, Mitchell and Sabin Halls all had doors with superglue in the locks on Monday.
She said those doors were opened before 7:30 a.m. Monday morning. No classes were affected.
Newsradio 620 WTMJ’s Jodi Becker confirmed that the doors to the Sendik’s on Downer Avenue were also glued shut.
UWM campus police believed it was a sign of protest, but organizers of a campus rally later Monday afternoon say they didn’t have anything to do with it.
College students are angry over what the bill may mean for them, and they are making their thoughts known in protests.
They were to hold a rally on Monday afternoon in reaction to Walker’s budget, which would split UWM and UW-Madison from the UW system.”
Demonstration at Milwaukee County Jail, March 15
“The night of March 15th, a group of roughly forty students, workers, the unemployed and other uncontrollables marched to the Milwaukee County Jail, carrying banners and black flags. The banners at the front of the march read “Burn All Prisons” and “No Control”. Upon arriving at the front doors of the jail, demonstrators chanted “Free them all” and launched dozens of fireworks through the air in an effort to communicate with those locked inside.
The demonstration was called for by participants in the occupation of the Theatre building at UW-Milwaukee as a part of the ongoing struggle against the “Budget Repair Bill”. The bill, proposed by the hated governor of Wisconsin, contains a provision that will institute a Truth-in-Sentencing policy. This measure removes the possibility for those locked away in Wisconsin’s jails and prisons to qualify for early release for good behavior or ‘good time’. For inmates this means a dramatic increase in the time spent in jail – more time in captivity, kept away from their families and loved ones, kept in abject misery and isolation. The Truth-in-Sentencing provisions of the bill highlight specifically how the economic attacks on working and unemployed people throughout the state goes hand in hand with the criminalization and imprisonment of the working class). The economic system that exploits our labor, deprives our benefits, and throws us on the street is the very same system that keeps us in cages and behind barbed wire.
In the past weeks of resistance to Walker’s austerity measures, the politicians and police unions have been remarkably silent about this provision. They’ve built a mythology that “we’re all in this together” or that “they’re on our side”. It is more convenient for them to simply ignore the ways that the bill they purportedly oppose dramatically expands the prison system they faithfully defend. It’s no coincidence that the bill both extends prison sentences while also protecting the Police Union from the elimination of collective bargaining rights. The role of politicians and the police is to maintain the dreadful economy and the prison system necessary to it. It should come as no surprise to us that those who fail to criticize this system are the same who encourage us to continue working and scold those who step outside the lines they’ve defined.
It is time for new lines to be drawn. On the one side: the governor, politicians, police, bureaucrats, professional activists. On the other: prisoners, workers, students, the unemployed, the enraged. If the spontaneous struggle against this bill were to generalize and become a movement against this economic system and its prisons, it would mean that those affected by the bill would need to extend their actions and gestures of solidarity through all the walls that separate them. December’s historic strike by prisoners in Georgia shows us what such action could look like. For us, this means that the strikes, occupations and sabotage – the generalized disruption of the economy – needs to spread through the walls of the prison, to generalize, and to intensify. In this, we need to build complicit relationships and revolt inside and outside those walls.
Towards an unlimited strike, for a world without prison.”