photo by SG

Monday, September 10, 2007

On the line

Okay, so here I am again. I long ago decided that blogs were too indulgent and were part of our culture of individualist consumerism (as opposed to individualist creativity). But I've reconciled my concerns with my need to a. write and develop my rhetorical skills and b. not use Facebook for this. So I hope to make sure I only tell stories and write analysis. I refuse to give up my personality to a machine. With that in mind, on to my experiences:

I was raised in a family that was sympathetic to labor. My folks are middle class workers. I should qualify that statement by suggesting that we're "middle class but if my dad got sick we'd be out on the street" as opposed to "middle class being a polite way of saying rich". There is a tremendous difference between those two positions, one which is not expressed in the term "middle class".

But they'd never felt that they wanted to improve their working conditions. Today I participated in my first picket and it was quite an experience. Standing on the line at the University of Minnesota, blocking trucks from delivering while AFSCME workers are out was pretty enlightening and empowering. I was at the lines with few deliveries so I didn't get into the real confrontational stuff that happened at other docks. But no deliveries passed our blockade. What's more is that the drivers who I talked to understood what we were doing and voluntarily turned around. The paper delivery guy who could have just walked by us decided he would rather turn around.

There's something powerful about meeting other people in a setting where you are not supposed to be doing something. Whether it is a protest against the war or a picket fighting the monster of global capitalism, there's a devious feeling that you're doing something sneaky and "bad" as the bourgeois call it, and the folks you are with are in it with you. A little conspiracy of regular folks.

So today on the line, I chatted with the most interesting people. When your average person thinks of "union workers" I suspect they think of an overweight white guy with a cap sitting on his ass. Which is unfortunate. On the line today we had quite a variety of characters. An old Teamster who told us horror stories of union bureaucracy and vote rigging and wished he wasn't retired or he'd join the IWW, a Ph.D. in geography who worked as a library tech because the accreditation system said he needed to have a Library Science degree to be a "real" librarian, a single mom, on strike, who rides Critical Mass and wore a shirt declaring "Cars R Coffins".

There's a lot of anti-worker rhetoric that flies around the anarchist movement these days. A lot of it comes from people who don't work because they don't want to, or don't work because they don't have to. And that ticks me off.

My buddy has a phrase: ABC. Anything But Class. Which seems to be a problem in our movement. We can recognize oppressions based on race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, ability, environmental destruction, etc. We even start talking about the inherent oppressiveness of language or speciesism and weirdo stuff like that. I feel like in overreaction to the terror of the Soviet Union, anarchists have forgotten the problem of class. Sure, some anarchists from working class backgrounds will recognize the fact that class is a problem, both in society and in our community, but they refuse to organize to DO anything about it. They just organize around empowering workers in the community. Well, sure, that's part of it. But we need a movement of workers at large to change society.

People like to shit on Marx these days, and sometimes with good reason. Nonetheless, his thinking on the nature of humanity as productive and creative continues to strike me as dangerously anarchistic (Bakunin: the urge to destroy is also a creative urge). And I've never been more pleased to call myself a human being than when I've been in places like today, doing what little I can to help improve the lives of my fellow humans. 5 am is pretty early to get up in the morning, but if the class war rages then, I guess I'll be there.

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