You sure fill a slot for me. I'm 52 now, been working since I was 10, about 90% of the time in offices and this is the first time I've seen somebody tackle head-on the real nitty-gritty of life in these paper factories from viewpoints I can empathize with, though I should qualify that a bit since for the past few years I've been working freelance, a peculiar shadow-land betwixt and between the normal categories. It has its own, often horrendous disadvantages and problems but I've decided I much prefer it to the 9-to-5 office wage slavery.
I gathered that I missed a lot of discussion on one of my favorite uh — topics, Sabotage but wot the hell. At the risk of possible repetition: Generally speaking, everybody who works for wages is being fucked over. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, leaving out all questions of "ethics" (we know who promulgated them, don't we? ), it makes simple common-sense to get back from the employer whatever you can. He's still going to come up winner, but you can even things at least partially if you have a creative mind. The main advice I can offer is the old saw: "Don't get mad , get even." The key here is keep your cool; allowing your natural rage to take control means mistakes and mistakes mean you get caught. Once you get on the inside of any office work situation, you will begin to see the holes in the system and how you can profit by them. And when you've exhausted all those possibilities, it's time to turn to creative monkey-wrenching. I will leave it for the theoreticians to argue about the dialectical nuances of sabotage. Basically, there is one overwhelming reason to do it: it makes you FEEL GOOD. "Igor like Sabotage — make Igor sweat." And I'd love to see a good detailed hardline how-to booklet on the subject. Matter of sharing information no?
On the question of unions, I've found that often you can counter the (very natural) distrust most people have — particularly those in offices — of unions by simply going back to basics. Instead of insisting on affiliation with some Big Union, start your own. Admittedly you won't have the power of big organization behind you but you won't have to put up with all the shit either. If there's crap, you will have created it yourselves. This is particularly true in small shops where you can sometimes operate in total solidarity without ever forming any kind of formal organization. This also frustrates the boss when he tries to ring in NLRB and other bureaucratic, delaying, organization-busting appendages on you. Again, small shops have advantages. One boss confronted with six people in an office who have secretly agreed to back each other up and down the line is in a rough position since he has nothing concrete to counterattack. It's also a hell of a lot easier to engage in some of the more necessary forms of warfare with The Man such as blackmail, working purposely in a stupid manner (the original meaning of Sabotage, incidentally, though the meaning has been changed by common usage), etc. Not that you can't get chawed up even so. That, to me, was the real "message" of the very interesting film Blue Collar.
Let's face it, that's where it all starts — with YOU trusting one other person where you work, then the two of you agreeing, after careful consideration, to trust a third... and so on until, with any luck and a little patience, the yous are at least a majority, by which time solidarity should have extended to helping each other in ripoffs, covering for each other whenever necessary and cooperating to nullify the activities of company finks and supervisors. Mainly, you have to start somewhere.
Got to go (freelancing means, among other things, that you always have either not enough work or too much work — I've yet to figure out which is worse).
D.E. — Oakland
The article by Cabins, et al, failed to emphasize a couple of important points. The first is based on a presumption that all growth is beneficial. What else did the baby boom generation have going for it except its numbers and its correspondingly inflated expectations? Even the self-definition "boom" reveals a fallacious belief in the ideology of unlimited growth. The boom generation contributed bodies, 58,000 of which were killed in Vietnam, millions of which are now just another market.
The second is that the frustrations of the many have not been shared by all. How about Wozniak and his expectations? I am a white secretary who has worked longer than most of the boomers have lived. I have suffered as much at the hands of those half my age who are still working on their expectations. At the end of three decades of going downtown I have — guess what? three decades of going downtown. We all live with our disappointments. Besides these disappointments we have something in common. We are all consumers in the process of being consumed. And hard cash moves everything.
About the editorial comment that offering services and information may encourage dependency: do you really believe this is true? History offers so many examples to the contrary, underdeveloped countries and welfare recipients being but two. And just how is this supposed to happen? What legitimacy does PW claim? Are hordes of braindamaged ("I guess I'll have a lobotomy and be a secretary," said the frustrated boomer mentioned above) office workers going to become "dependent" on PW? How? The only way I could become dependent on PW is if you send me a check twice a month, enough for rent, food and the occasional movie. I think you're failing for the myth of individualism, which doesn't work. Individual gains are too much like the promise of the charismatic leader. When one goes, the other goes. In fact, trying to do it alone is fighting impossible odds. And that's what the odds mean — you can't win. In the old, tired days we called it solidarity. Nowadays it's community, or maybe not.
When I finish reading PW I pass it along to someone else. Does this encourage dependency? The thought never crossed my mind. But other thoughts do, and at this point I am conscious of the differences between PW and me. Most of you are at the beginning of your working lives. I'm nearly at the end. It's been a long prison sentence, years of solitary confinement, decades of longing for the city across the bay and the friends thousands of miles away and the stranger at the next desk.
I'm unemployed now and should be typing my resume. Typing a resume becomes more and more like typing a suicide note, and yet choosing not to work is a kamikaze mission. When I wake up knowing I won't have to work for one more day I am filled with joy. Habits of three decades die hard. Without food I will be brain-damaged. And joy's easy to get rid of. It goes all by itself while I wait for the 14 Mission. From the freeway I can see the hideous megaliths of the financial district. And no Rasta feels more hatred at the sight of the towers of Mammon. We both must call down destruction, flames, purification by fire. He in his tin shack, I on the stinking bus, we share this vision. But quietly, quietly I go to my desk.
B.C. — SF
Dear Ms. Highwater,
Well, dear, you have really hit low-tide now! You have revealed yourself to be the lazy good-for-nothing I always knew you were when you worked with that fine firm, Sodom Associates.
I am none other than she you so maligned in your rag, Processed Worms. However, when the fine firm referred to above folded, I was forced to leave my home, S.F., and come east.
My name, as you dubbed me, so ineloquently, is Chatty Kathy.
Too bad, our fine president was unable to impress upon the Amerikan people the need to tax unemployment benefits. Lazy people like you would be forced back to work, off the role, and off the backs of hard-working Amerikans like me!
Someone has to do the dirty deeds! Why do you resent whistleblowers?
Your time will come! Keep looking over your shoulder at the next place of work, there are many more like me (tee-hee... she who laughs last, laughs best!).
Chatty Kathy — NYC
Dear Processed World,
Re the generally excellent response by Louis Michaelson to a moronic letter by a Mr. Wallis in #5. Louis erred somewhat when he stated that Western European youth prefer "to fight directly for money, free time, and the space to enjoy both." They are fighting for free time and free space, but are frequently fighting against money.
Their actions include tactics such as squatting, self-reduction (which means organizing in large groups for the purpose of obtaining goods and services at prices lower than demanded by stores, buses, utility companies), rate strikes, and occasionally, expropriation and redistribution of goods (what the media calls looting). These are all attempts at freeing human needs from the grip of the money system.
The system's abolition will be necessary for workers to completely challenge "the state and the wages system" and begin "taking over social power and running production and distribution for their own purposes — without a bureaucracy." Office work is dominated by the task of keeping track of money. I would like to see more on the role office workers could play in a social re-ordering whose aim is a new, freely cooperative and communal society.
J.S. — Berkeley
To Processed World,
Within the context of leftist analysis modern society is riddled with annoying paradoxes. At times it seems that the PW editorial group is aware of this as when you take a stand against unionism for, among other reasons, reducing rebellion to structural goals. But yet you wish, somehow, to organize workers.
Or to take another example, you state your desire to create a society beyond the logic of Capital but yet you appear to hanker for the good old days of social activism that a depressed economy will supposedly usher in ("Roots of Disillusionment", PW#6), as if succumbing to the illusion of immiseration misery as the motor of revolt.
When you had an opportunity to take on these paradoxes by at least outlining a clear criticism of leftist practice, and defining your relationship to this "tradition" as Louis Michaelson refers to it in his reply to Gidget's imputation of bad faith (in PW #5), you let it pass. And when W.R. of LA writes of the "revolt against work" Maxine's reply concentrates on a few obvious confusions instead of dealing with, head-on, W.R.'s substantive paradox: That as the fragmentation and regimentation of society increases people lose interest in improving their dead-end jobs.
I would say that the vision of a truly free society cannot be maintained by PW's graphics and fiction alone. Is it not time to give your vision some more substance?
C.S. — SF
If I may stand in the line of fire between Gidget Digit and Louis Michaelson for just a minute, I would like to offer my criticisms of Processed World.
GD's remarks about PW's "honesty," despite their guilt-ridden, abstract, and undialectical nature, obviously touched a sensitive nerve, hence LM's disingenuous, ad hominem response. LM's protestations of "honesty" won't arrest PW's decomposition — the editorial "we" is in an advanced state of schizophrenia ("some of this think this while others think that").
I would venture to say that the problem of defining who you are and what you want is not resolved by the submission of resumes of past political affiliations — it's not so much a matter of origins as of present relations and projects. Your present is more obscure than your pasts, and its clarification (along with an analysis of your resistance to this clarification) would be more interesting.
Differences within PW can only sharpen as PWers are compelled not by me but by real developments — to confront their own activity. If PWers seem confused about their project and their expectations for it, this confusion seems less and less "innocent" and more like a flight from consciousness. Otherwise, how to explain the stagnation of PW's critique and PW's complete lack of criticality about itself?
In fact, PW's critique of work and authority doesn't go beyond the ambitious worker who's against "bosses" and "shit work" (and for self-management or self-employment in an "interesting" occupation). I think this may be the key to PW's relative popularity — it's a "satisfying" representation of its readers' interests rather than a dialectical critique of them workerism with a human face. (And this is in line with PWers' self-conception as being just a bunch of regular folks who happened to start a magazine that happened to have an anti-authoritarian attitude.)
Implicit in much of what is and isn't said in PW is the notion that theory can somehow be left for later or that its readers aren't sophisticated enough to appreciate it — that is, they can't think for themselves. Well, practice minus theory equals pragmatism: the magazine gets published. The question remains: why publish Processed World?
J.B. — Berkeley
Dear J. B.,
To respond to your concluding question first, we publish Processed World because it is an intrinsically satisfying creative experience. Beyond that, the magazine attempts to address and illuminate the situation of the majority of the work force, i.e. information handlers. This focus is not derived from the view that information handlers, office workers, are more likely than other types of workers (or non-workers for that matter) to move toward revolutionary activity. Rather, we wanted to end the silence surrounding an aspect of daily life on which we, among millions of others, spend all too much time. And it is true that office workers as a sub-group of the working class do have enormous potential power to disrupt the flow of information which is vital to the maintenance of the present order.
I agree with you that an assessment of our current relations and projects is crucial to our project. I think we have tried to do this in the "Talking Heads" introduction columns in PW's #5 and #6, where subjects like "organization, " "sabotage," "direct action," etc. were described as a source of contention in the group, and different viewpoints were outlined. You seem to think our inability to agree upon a single point of view is a sign of "decomposition" or "schizophrenia ". I think it is wrong to imagine that we as a group should necessarily reconcile our differences in order to continue. If a basically cooperative spirit is preserved the magazine can become (and hopefully has been) a sounding board, where different ideas can be expressed and responded to.
You criticize the magazine and its creators for "fleeing from consciousness" because we are confused about our project and where it's going. Is there something wrong with admitting to not having answers, or even comprehensive explanations? As has often been said, different people in the group have different reasons for participating in PW at different times. We have neither "Principles of Unity" nor a basic operating credo. We are all anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian, but what that translates into in terms of practical activity is quite divergent, and so it should be. I think diversity and disagreement is a great thing, provided that it takes place in a respectful atmosphere (which unfortunately isn't always the case).
Let's face it, no one knows what it's going to take to overturn the current mode of living. We can and should have extensive inquiry into how such change could happen and what we can do as small groups (if anything) to help bring it about. We know that earlier theories of revolution have proven bankrupt or inadequate, even if we can learn from them, and that everyone everywhere (or even in most places) is not going to change all of a sudden, as if by religious transformation. We need to learn how radical transformations do happen. We can try to facilitate discussion and activity among ourselves and others, with an eye toward developing a practical sense of what it takes to bring about the kind of changes we desire.
For you, our "critique" has stagnated at a point where it doesn't go beyond "the ambitious worker who's against "bosses" and "shit-work" (and for self-management or selfemployment in an "interesting" occupation)". Considering that a pretty straight-forward critique of wage-labor, the money system, the state, and unions has appeared in at least one article in every issue, I really think you are not reading what's there. We have repeatedly called for a complete transformation of the whole of daily life, most especially the reality of "work. " Although as yet no article in PW has been devoted to a critique of self-management, we have never advocated self-management, especially for office workers.
If we have stagnated, it is as much at the level of action as it might be at the level of theory. In fact, an adequate synthesis of radical critique and practical activity is a highly elusive goal, as you yourself well know. I hope more deliberate consideration and action is dedicated to achieving such a synthesis, not just within the group, but among radicals and "regular folks" everywhere. Clearly, we all have a lot to learn.
Thanks for your comments,
I thought that #6 was the best issue since #1 or 2. 1 particularly liked "Roots of Disillusionment." It was clear, well developed, comprehensive and still had an element of optimism about what happened in the sixties in spite of all of the recuperation and sellout that happened.
I like PW because it does attempt to deal with work from an "existential" perspective, that is, PWers realize that above all work must be lived in all its frustrations, boredom, anxieties and contradictions. There are very few jobs that can actually be "liked," yet if one hates their job then they can only end up hating themselves.
Yet if one likes their job on some level or other one still sees all that one is giving up so just below that level of liking there is an element of self-hatred. Yet as you so clearly expressed, what can we post marginals do? The socio-political, but above all economic basis for marginal survival is gone. In Canada, in terms of constant dollars, there is 40% less money being put into unemployment expressed as the amount spent on the average claim. We as conscious marginals survived on that 40%.
But we can't go back and we don't want to go ahead. With no ambition to even strive to rise in the ranks, not to mention that there is not much room at the top any more, what does one do when one finds oneself marking time on the job? One develops a lot of cynicism, apathy, and anger to which there is no outlet. The dreams of escape, standard proletariat thought that I won't be here in thirty years like these others around me, are often the only escape. How long can one use "political activism" as a psychological escape, as a means of validating our existence, of differentiating ourselves from the "mass worker" to whom we have so many contradictory feelings?
Keep up the good work. There is so little material that speaks to our concerns as workers as opposed to simply trying to develop a theory about the working class.
J C. — Toronto
I liked Marcy's article about the "Them" festival a whole lot. It's nice to read about the spectacle without that word being used. In general, it gets better and better and worse and better. It's great that y'all have decided to give letters all the space they need and you have been getting some good ones. And the increasing PERSONALNESS is not just great, in the sense of "politically/ ultraleftycorrect" but INTERESTING, and consistently so. In other (less) words, I loved Talking Heads and Louis' letter.
Now, most of what I want to respond to is the child care piece by Penney O'Reilly. Although it SEEMS LIKE I'd like to find myself working in a center with her, especially compared to my generally horrible experience of your run of the mill 11 child care woiker", I have serious problems with both her analysis and "Alternatives".
The Ideal: Happy children and sympathetic teachers
Shit, Penney, are you able to "express your thoughts and feelings simply and clearly"? I think maybe I've met one or two people in my life who I felt could claim that. I can't. Now of course, there are differences in how unclear most adults are. The clearer the better. You say "Once a relationship of trust is established between child and teacher, the child can develop the self-confidence to enjoy his/her surroundings." My experience of most kids, inside and outside of institutional settings, is that they have self-confidence and that it is adults, almost all of whom hate themselves to some degree, that quickly (in infancy) destroy the little person's ability to enjoy his/her surroundings.
I guess that's my major point. That you refuse, or fail, to talk about what I call "adultism" (shitty word, but ... ) You don't talk about how, even in the most utopian centers, there are huge amounts of coercion. Part of it is relatively unavoidable in the real and nightmarish world: i.e. you gotta keep them from getting run over crossing the street. But there's lots that obtains from the fact that they are forced to go to the center, live in usually nuclear families, etc. I think in a human world there wouldn't be such a thing as a day care center. If big people didn't have to do huge amounts of alienated worthless work helping crapital reproduce itself, they could choose to spend lots of time with their kids, IF THEIR KIDS WANTED THEM TO? -or they could choose not to have kids at all. I think children, from a very early age, can take care of themselves to an incredibly greater degree than is "allowed" in our society or your article. There's lots of "anthropological evidence" for this. What necessitates the crazy domination of children is among other things the fact that there is no community, people live in tiny isolated units and it's not like the kid (at the age of two or so) can wander out of the house, apartment, yurt, teepee and be safe, make friends, be in a human world where they are respected and protected and appreciated.
Of course, adults who want to be with children could and would choose to do so and that is not only desirable but necessary. BUT IT WOULDN'T AND SHOULDN'T BE A FUCKING JOB, and a poorly paid, basically oppressive one that fosters the repression of the kids so you can save your own sanity. I've clobbered a kid who hurt me physically because I didn't have the time to work it out with him (like why he had fastened his teeth on my leg when I asked him his name) because there was another kid freaking out and a few more trying to run away. (I always am vaguely gratified when children try to escape.)
I agree that parent co-ops are a bit better, more than a bit if they make "workers'" lives better (so was Carter, sort of, maybe not who cares that much).
Actually I've worked a whole lot of what little I've worked in co-ops and yes they were much smaller (very important and good) and better staffed numerically (ditto) and often semimore creative in terms of equipment, more and better field trips (what a joyous concept, that you have to make an event out of leaving your institution, neighborhood, area) BUT BUT BUT I hate the nuclear family I think we're doomed as long as that remains the basic unit of our society along with its glorious variation, the even more lonely and impoverished single parent family. I hate the way most parents treat their kids and most of them shouldn't have had any or at least not as many given how much time and energy they are able to put out given other responsibilities. I think most "adults" haven't the vaguest idea of what they want to do with children (especially groups thereof) or what children like to do. They're uptight. They don't play in their own lives and don't really want to play with the kids. They want to usually talk to the other adults and/or "instruct" children.
Of course I'm one of these adults. I hope I'm dealing with sex roles better than 99% of all parents I've met including co-ops and small groups. Of course I'm righteous. Of course I want it all. The article brought up a lot of pain for me. I "love kids" and have been fired several times from day care jobs, for my politics, atheism, long hair, militance, etc. etc. I want to be with them and the only friend I have who parents — well, I don't get along with his kid. took me years to realize that I don't like all children or they me etc. etc. I want to be around children but don't "want a job" tho' I need one and am looking. I'd like to hear from anyone who wants to talk about this if anyone of you has kids, I babysit for free.
J. — SF
Your letter made me think about the conflicts and doubts I had and still have when I began taking early childhood education classes and working with kids. Rarely before in my life had I been in a position of authority. I had always been either a student or an employee, and my response to teachers, bosses, lawyers, landlords, doctors... was to convulse in rebellion. Suddenly I found myself responsible for "enforcing limits," "supervising activities" and (the most horrible of all) socializing children.
I most emphatically did not want to police kids, but was ambivalent about how to express the authority implicit in my role. What about my anti-authoritarian beliefs? Should I let the kids do whatever they want? I quickly began to suspect that children are not miniature adults. They are unsocialized; born without the realization that they can't always have their own way (a realization which many adults never assimilate). I decided that what I most wanted to do as a teacher was to help kids find ways to co-operate with one another. It was obvious to me that they were eager to learn this skill because the more practiced they became at it, the better time they had playing with other kids. Of course, I could encourage children to be responsible and co-operative only in so far as I was responsible and co-operative with them. Once I thought that we had established a respectful relationship, I did not feel so bad about thwarting some of their activity.
My own teachers in the early childhood education program helped me to clarify my attitudes toward authority. These teachers were, as we say in the trade, very good "models." Although possessing much more experience and knowledge than I, they did not make me feel inferior in intelligence or ability. I could learn easily from them because they were able to learn from my opinions and observations.
I think socialization a sad but inevitable process. When I was working with toddlers, I often pondered the tragedy of toilet training in which one must give up the freedom to shit and piss where and whenever one wants and accept the restrictions surrounding elimination in our society. But not even parents will want to change their children's diapers forever. And most children want to learn to take care of themselves. Children are not born nor can they live in a vacuum. For better or worse, children learn from adults how to survive in the world they inhabit. Hopefully the dynamic between child and adult is characterized by mutual respect. All too often it is not. I agree with you. Many of the parents and childcare workers with whom I have worked have treated children with little appreciation for their individuality and dignity. Probably these adults were treated in such a way when they were young.
Now that I have worked with babies, I am convinced that human beings have powerful social drives. It seems the paradox of our existence that society, which in many ways has ensured our survival as a species, is proving to be our prison and, perhaps, our gallows. I, too, dream of an institutionless community where both children and adults can freely live with, play with, love and learn from whomever they wish. But everyday I confront the monolithic reality of the society in which the children I know must grow. Those moments of honest, supportive and co-operative exchange between the people with whom I'm directly involved are the most authentic manifestations of my dream. It is on those moments I depend for my sanity.
Thanks for your letter,
(Also see "Processed Kids" issue, #14)
I've just finished reading PW #6, the first one I've ever seen, and I just wanted to send you my congratulations and support. I had hoped some intelligent workers' journal existed, especially for those of us in the outlands of radical America (although you'd be surprised how many socialists scoot around Louisiana).
I also wanted to lend my two cents to K.L.'s call for an end to managerial free rides. Over the past few years I've corrected hundreds of supposedly copy-ready articles for both newspapers and journals, but I've yet to get any real recognition, either vocally or monetarily, from my bosses. So lately I've been letting these boobs stew in their own juices. God only knows how many times I've seen "thank you for your patients" on a "corrected" manuscript. If people want me to type up their papers and articles in as perfect a form as possible, they damn well better pay me for my editorial skills also. Sadly, more managers are illiterate these days, and mistakes go unnoticed. Perhaps we can create enough havoc in the meantime, though, to force some positive change. Right on, K.L.! no more free rides!
T.A. — Baton Rouge, LA
Dear Processed World,
In PW #6, there are calls for a new social movement" and also general questions regarding PW's potential role in organizing activities ties, while hints Of such activity are suggested throughout #6.
The "Roots of Disillusionment" provides a vivid history which explains the decline in youthful idealism. The article suggests by its references to military build-up and the proposed new child labor laws that the ascendancy of the New Right is a direct impetus to the current disillusionment.
It seems to me that neo-conservative policies have severely exacerbated a troubled capitalist economy, while these same policies intensify hardship on low-income people and the unemployed, thereby compelling them to tolerate deteriorating wages and working conditions. The current crisis is not merely the result of the inexorable advancement of capitalism, but rather is additionally the direct effect of neo-conservative federal government policies.
As the Cabins article aptly points out, it is time for "idealistic" radicals and disgruntled workers to join forces in an all-out offensive against neo-conservative politics and ideology. A "new social movement" could be forged which would simultaneously exert electoral pressures to revolutionize American politics.
This movement would penetrate unemployment lines, welfare offices, and workers' hangouts through immersion in voter registration drives. Citizens would be urged to register or risk losing unemployment benefits, jobs, or risk continually lowered real wages. The movement would be legal yet semi-disruptive.
If successful the movement would register low-income people, office workers, and the unemployed who generally disfavor conservative policies, but ordinarily fail to vote. As voter registrations rise, politicians will be alerted and take more popular stands or new politicians will rise up. Either way, the conservative position would be severely threatened. Newer, more populist policies would eventually be generated. Once the "fire" of the new movement is fanned, there is no telling how fast it will spread or what other progressive flames it might spark.
Yet the immediate task is to publicize the viability and powerful potential of this movement and to get to work organizing and registering. The beauty of this movement to me is its offer of tangible action that addresses the immediate wants and needs of workers.
TOGETHER WE CAN DO IT!
Hopeful and eager,
T. M. — Santa Cruz
Dear T. M.,
We sympathize with your desire to get into action, but can't agree that the way to go is registering the poor and unemployed to vote (a strategy, by the way, recently adopted by a group around left-wing sociologists Frances Piven and Richard Cloward, so we'll see what happens).
You write: "The current crisis is not merely the result of the inexorable advancement of capitalism, but rather is additionally the direct result of neo-conservative policies." True enough. But the current crisis is worldwide in scope, and includes not only "socialist" mixed economies like West Germany and France, but the "Communist" nations as well. Reaganomics (which is also Thatchernomics) only aggravates the crisis locally by damaging exports, starving potentially-competitive businesses of capital and increasing the tendency to speculate rather than invest productively.
A "rational" capitalist response would be: re-channel major investments on a nationwide scale via a government-run holding company; clamp down on speculation; upgrade technical and scientific education and retraining; establish a basic minimum survival income for those that can't be employed in the new high-tech industries. The workers and poor would still have to be squeezed for fresh investment capital, though, and the "re-industrialization" would only generate large numbers of new jobs if wages sank significantly below the cost of laborsaving machinery. In other words, if you want "full employment," prepare for low pay. The ideological banner under which all this is done — liberal, socialist, fascist matters little. So long as the present world economic order persists, whoever drives the sleigh will have to throw many of us to the wolves.
This doesn't mean we shouldn't fight. A movement capable of dealing with the problem at its root can only emerge from mass social self-defense against the demands of capital. But voting is generally of little use. The real masters of the economy and of society are not elected — they merely allow us to help them choose a governing team from among their internal factions. If we ever came close to electing a team that refused to play it their way, they would change the rules, as in Chile in 1973.
The problem runs deeper still. The market and the wage system exist because people don't attend directly and collectively to satisfying their needs. The state and every other separate power over social life exists because people don't take direct and collective control of social life themselves. A movement, initially "defensive," which practices direct action and direct democracy (all essential decisions made by popular assembly, co-ordination carried out by mandated, recallable delegates and not by "representatives") in itself begins to challenge this state of affairs. When the movement additionally starts seizing and redistributing goods, housing, etc., it goes a long step further. It remains for the movements' assemblies to impose their own "plan" of collective tasks in the areas of their control, shutting down operations that are now useless, establishing completely different relationships between the remaining useful ones, sharing and rotating any necessary drudgery among everyone capable of doing it.
During this process the forces of the old order have to be subverted, disorganized, paralyzed. Iran in 1978 provides a fairly good example. The best-equipped army in the Middle East collapsed in a few weeks when faced with a worker-jammed industry, snipers and bombings, and wave after wave of unarmed demonstrators filling the streets daily, refusing to go about their normal routines. For a time, the workers and poor of Iran had social power at their fingertips. That they did not grasp it testifies to how deeply imprinted are the circuits of authoritarian control. Only a movement that creates a "culture" of autonomy, self-responsibility, solidarity and free imagination can circumvent this trap.
Placing any serious reliance on electoral activity — let alone making it the axis of our strategy ultimately reinforces reliance on leaders. The radical, communal, empowering push of direct action is diffused in the solitary passivity of pulling levers in a curtained booth. Our real tasks are elsewhere.
Dear Processed World:
Work has been work lately and I've resorted to the use of expensive drugs to liberate my mind and soul. Thus, no money to subscribe to the World.
I would also like to share a word processing observation. "Technology" is cursed by "enlightened" protestors; computers are denigrated by oppressed workers. In all honesty, I generally prefer my NBI machine to the political, self-righteous, egotistical peeple around this busyness world. It's the one thing in this joint that I control and that behaves in an understandable way.
Pre-word processor, supervisors hunted through my garbage can at the end of the day to find out how many errors I had made. My annoyance with the little blinking cursor doesn't compare to my fear of carbons!
I work for money whether I push, produce, process or collect garbage/paper. The insanity I deal with isn't caused by technology but by the black-hearted little peeple trying to disguise, manipulate and maneuver neuroses.
T.C — SF
Yes, as you keep saying, the way people deal with each other on a daily basis is important; and so is "enunciating new visions." If, however, a prankster wants to destroy some of my work in the office, I hope he or she will be polite and ask me first. About half of it I wouldn't mind a bit.
I take it from your last issue, that PW has become a fully fledged anarchist publication, and is put out by the most highly inspired of hydrogen and nitrogen inflated idealists. Half the world's best people sleep under the stars, and the other half are anarchists. If only the Communist fantasies of the last 100 years or the American fantasies had satisfied expectations, the last ten decades wouldn't have been so depressing. The anarchists tried to get people to forget about government as salvation altogether, and it's sad they never succeeded.
Don't soldiers ever get bored or tired of their jobs like the rest of us? A third world publication said recently that during the last thirty years, there have been more than 75 military coups — not one of which has ever "returned power to the people's representatives." I find this increasingly depressing. I hope PW will continue to provide sustained laughter and a bit more sophistication so that wage slaves can believe somebody knows better. If we deserve an improved world, it will be because we are less sure of ourselves, have deeper respect for each other, and are more thankful than the slide-rule military jerkoffs who are running things now.
C.R. — Silicon Valley
P.S. For the whole week after I read one of your issues, I find I have to puke a lot less...