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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Toward a Leftist Program for Working Class Consciousness by MrJayTee

3:05 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The original title of this diary was to be “Toward a Leftist Program by the Working Class, for the Working Class”, an neat, academic-sounding title reflecting an admirable goal: how can we, whatever our class background or position on the left, understand the needs and goals of working people in the United States and help to catalyze the development of a political program that reflects those needs and goals, one ideally led by the working class itself?

Looking at the critical ingredients of such a program, the lack of one especially stands out to me: the paralyzing absence of any significant consciousness among American workers of themselves as a class apart, one locked in a harrowing and historic struggle with the ruling class for the control of their lives and futures. The purpose of this diary, then, is to consider this problem in general programmatic terms using the thoughts proffered below as a point of departure.

Before going further, I hasten to note that I am not an academic, theorist, or long-time activist, just a working class guy and ecumenical socialist who was lucky enough to get a broad education. I am intent on understanding how my own class, so numerous and possessing a proud history of action and achievement, can embrace and use its own enormous power and what, if anything, the serious left can do to catalyze revolutionary working class consciousness.

First, some basic definitions. By “working class”, I mean agricultural workers and people working for wages in industrial, manual, and service occupations. By “left” and “serious left”, I mean the anti-capitalist left, including, for example, left anarchists, democratic socialists, orthodox socialists, and communists. “Revolutionary” means tending to the significant disruption and subversion of capitalism and its structures with the aim of its replacement by a leftist order. Finally, I am explicitly proceeding on the assumption that working people’s collective self perception as an oppressed but potentially powerful class is an indispensable component of the machinery of radical change.

To be effective, it’s important to be realistic about the scale of the change we’re working for and the speed at which we can accomplish it. If our goal is to nurture working class power to the point of profound social change, we must understand that we are not starting a project, but continuing one. We represent the current generation of a struggle that has been going on at least since the beginning of Industrialization. Thus, our task is to gather the threads of the struggle so far and pull them forward. But while we’re taking care to be realistic about the long time line of our struggle, it’s also important to understand that we have advantages, too.

As labor history shows us, we need not win over the entire working class, or even a majority, to further working class power. Periods of revolutionary change, whether for better or worse, are often sparked by an activist minority surrounded by a discouraged or indolent majority. Victories by key worker organizations in key industries drove the Gilded Age into the Progressive Era and then, after WWI and the Depression, into the period of worker militancy that brought about the New Deal. To use this advantage, what we might call activist leverage, we must identify where worker consciousness is at its greatest today and encourage it, while identifying where it is weak and strengthening it.

Here we come to a profound divide, but also to another advantage. My statement above about the paralyzing lack of class consciousness is really only true of the white majority. Among People of Color, an ever increasing proportion of the population, there is both current militancy and a history of militancy. Today, Latinos and African Americans lead the most visible and successful elements of working class opposition to capital and its systems of oppression, from Moral Mondays in the South to the movement to raise the wages of Fast Food and service workers nationally. In terms of boots on the ground, these movements are overwhelmingly Latino and African American and are significantly so in their leadership.

The Working Class of Color is building on a preexisting, ethnicity-based consciousness of itself to achieve economic and political goals. This demographic is growing, unstoppably it seems, as the white population ages and dwindles. It is significant for the stability and strength of this movement that both African Americans and Latinos already understand, given their histories, that radical change is not achieved without overcoming state repression, including state violence. One of the great disappointments of the Occupy Movement was how little resistance from the state was needed to force it’s dormancy. Black and Latino Americans, on the other hand, long ago understood the nature of their adversary, and have been able despite state oppression to credit themselves with the victories of the Civil Rights and Farm Workers’ Rights movements.

What does the left do here? Where there are active worker-oriented movements, get in behind the workers of color leading the charge and beside the rank and file in the street. Speak, write, and donate, of course, but get out into the street and make it clear we offer not just our mouths and checkbooks, but our dedicated physical presence. Embrace a leftist perspective dedicated to listening and learning from workers of color and pursuing their goals with the secondary purpose of modestly offering a systematic leftist perspective when appropriate and possible.

And what of the contemporary white working class? Particularly since the neo-liberal backlash, this decreasingly organized bloc has functioned more as a self-policing organ of capital than as a class with its own critical interests, something the ruling class has exploited to the hilt. Still, the recent downturn has increased white consciousness of class inequality, even if it hasn’t sparked a movement. Nevertheless, I believe white workers are more open to our message now than they have been in decades, both for direct economic reasons but also because younger working class whites are more accustomed to diversity and less indoctrinated to form a identity based on being “white”, i.e., a certified part of the ruling class.

Here, the task of promoting class consciousness is harder because we must penetrate the ideology that positions the left as alien, or at best irrelevant, to the working class. As with workers of color, the core principles take precedence: listening, learning, and working beside in order to promote working class accomplishment and to build trust and understanding.

We must also reconnect present workers to the achievements of past workers who can serve as models for activism in the present day. Of course the history I speak of is ethnically diverse, but workers of color already have recent and compelling examples of how working people like themselves changed history. We need to reconnect the white working class to their history, to the mine workers of Appalachia and the West, and to the steel and auto workers of the Midwest, people whose sacrifice and bravery changed America radically.

This is not to say we should–or need to–shy away from theory or intersectionality, but that to be effective among working people in general, especially among those so strongly indoctrinated against us, we must break decisively the persistent perception of the left as cold, distant, impractical, and exclusive. We must connect the left and its ideas to issues of direct, here-and-now economic importance to working people. We cannot influence people who simply do not see us.

Many thanks to you all for your attention. I’m not much of an essayist, but I hope this modest piece will bring our some useful conversation.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Don’t Mourn, Organise! by NY Brit Expat

2:48 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The slogan “Don’t Mourn, Organise!” was written in a telegram from Joe Hill to Bill Haywood before Hill’s execution on trumped up charges in Utah. Joe Hill wrote “Goodbye, Bill, I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!”

This slogan is not a call for us to be beyond human and not grieve or mourn. What it is instead is a call not to get so caught up in grief and mourning that we give up the struggle out of despair; it is a call to remind us what we are fighting for and that the struggle continues irrespective of our losses. It takes the loss and puts it in the past (and of course part of our present) and brings to the forefront what those who have passed on have spent their lives fighting for! Presente Bob Crow and Tony Benn!

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This week Britain’s left has seen the loss of two stalwarts, two great fighters for economic, political and social justice. Two men from different class backgrounds who spent their lives fighting in different arenas; one as a member of Parliament in the Labour Party and the other as a giant of the trade union movement, a militant trade union organiser. Both men were thorns in the sides of the ruling class and mainstream politicians … both men not only fought in their chosen arenas but were part and parcel of the general movement for socialism, for democracy, and worked alongside, not as an elevated leadership, those struggling against the not only the excesses of capitalism, but in favour of the creation of a better future for all.

Rather than speak for these men, I will let you have the pleasure of listening to them speak for themselves and am including speeches made by them. Both great orators in their own way, the comparison between Bob Crow’s east London working class accent and Tony Benn’s crisp Oxbridge accent in itself is a pleasure; what they are saying exemplifies their different approaches to the struggle for socialism.

Bob Crow (13/06/1961-11/03-2014)

Bob Crow was a working class hero in many senses. The son of a boxer, he was born in East London. He quit school at age 16 to go to work for London Transport and soon became involved in union politics. In 1983, he was elected a local representative to the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) and in 1985, was elected to the national of the Union representing track workers.
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The merger of the NUR with the National Union of Seamen led to the formation of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) in 1990. Crow was elected in 1991 to the national executive representing the London Underground and in 1992, became assistant general secretary of the union. In 2002, he was elected general secretary of the RMT and held this position until his death.

During his time as general secretary of RMT, membership increased by 20,000 to 80,000 members; wages and conditions of work were not only protected, but improved. As the head of a union in a strategic sector, he was able to use a shrewd combination of strikes and collective bargaining to fight for his members. Unlike most of the union movement following the failure of the Miner’s strike of 1984-5, Crow never fell into the argument that the trade union movement needed to give up hard won gains. He won wage increases and protected jobs in a period of intense attack and capitulation of much of the rest of the union movement.

Bob Crow faced down not only the Tories, but Labour as well. He took the RMT out of the Labour Party when they shifted to the right with his union stopping funding of the party. Crow and his union members heckled Tony Blair in 2006 at the Trade Union Conference (TUC) national meeting, and in 2010, they staged a walk out when the governor of the Bank of England, Mervin King, spoke at the national TUC meeting.

Here is Bob Crow speaking on question time on 7th of March 2013 explaining exactly what the purpose of austerity is (the man that the camera keeps panning towards is Ken Clark of the Tory Party):

Scathing in his defence of his members and of the working class as a whole, he was a life-long Marxist, first a member of the Communist Party Great Britain (then when it split, a member of the Communist Party Britain), he later joined Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP). He left the SLP, but supported the Socialist Alliance (an attempted federation or united front of left parties). The RMT was one of the founding organisations of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). In many senses, TUSC shares the same failings as earlier attempts to unite the left along a federation of hard-left political parties where they only come together for an electoral campaign and where membership in their party and hence having their party up front to run is a priority. TUSC has not done wonderfully well in elections, even in areas where there is a strong trade union and left presence.

Most recently, he was one of the founders of the No2EU campaign in preparation to run in the upcoming EU elections in May. The majority of the left is sceptical about running a left-based anti-EU campaign attempting to draw the same conclusions as the right but for different reasons concerned about the impact of labour immigration and anti-union laws and regulations coming from the EU along with austerity imposition in the rest of Europe; invariably it was felt that the xenophobia and racism of the right could not be overcome by a left wing argument that seemed to be a nationalist agenda and up-holding the idea of “socialism in one country.” This is the case although much of the hard left is divided between advocating leaving the EU (while supporting the creation of a socialist Europe) versus attempting its reformation.

Here is Bob Crow speaking to his union members at the RMT save our railways rally, October 25th 2011:

The RMT, joined by the TSSA (Transport Salaried Staff Association) went on strike this February. The London Underground management tried to sack 900 worker’s jobs by shutting down ticket booths in some stations. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, had refused to speak to Bob Crow for about years. They shut down the London Underground for 48 hours. Boris actually argued that he would take a case to the EU about preventing strikes due to the loss of revenue. The strike was successful and beyond that, watching the BBC trying to get commuters to criticise the unions and complain about the inconvenience was extremely pleasurable. Invariably, people not only supported the right to strike, but argued in support of the right of unionisation. The BBC actually reduced the coverage of the story from the top-story lines, attempting to minimise reporting on a strike that shut down the largest transport system in Britain; once again they exposed the BBC’s pro-government and pro-business bias in reporting.
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Here is Bob Crow’s speech on May 10th 2012 at a rally in Central Hall Westminster, London, on the day of a strike called by public sector workers unions. “Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union, RMT, addressing the rally of the striking public sector workers, welcomed suggestions that the TUC would call another demonstration in the autumn, and called on the TUC to organise a one day general strike.”

Tony Benn: Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn (3 April 1925 – 14 March 2014)

Unlike Bob Crow, Tony Benn was born to wealth and privilege. Both of his grandfathers were Liberal members of Parliament and having crossed from the Liberals to Labour, his father William Wedgewood Benn was later elevated to a heredity Labour peerage (Viscount Stansgate). His mother was a feminist, theologian, and a founder and President of the Congregational Federation. He went to public (aka private) school (Westminster School). After enlisting in the royal air force in 1943 (he served in South Africa and the then Rhodesia), he went to Oxford studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics and was elected president of the Oxford Union in 1947.

Elected to Parliament as a Labour MP in 1950, he was actually on the centre of the Labour Party. He actually became radicalised through his experiences as a Member of Parliament and serving in government; in that sense, he took the opposite route that so many others have taken. He remained in Parliament until 1960 when his father died and he inherited the title of Viscount Stansgate which prevented him from sitting in the House of Commons. He tried to renounce his title, a by-election was called and he ran even though he could not take his seat if he won; he won and the seat was given to the Tory runner up . He continued to campaign to be allowed to renounce his title and in 1963, the Peerage act was passed and Tony Benn renounced his title. He ran for Parliament in a by-election and won the seat in August 1963 for Bristol SE until 1983. He remained in Parliament serving as a Member of Parliament from Chesterfield until 2001. During that time, he held several government posts under Labour governments: Postmaster General (1964-6), Minister of Technology (1966-70), Secretary of State for Industry (1974-5) and Secretary of State for Energy (1975-9). He served as Chairman of the Labour Party in 1971-2. By the end of the 1970s, Benn had shifted to the hard left of the Labour party.

Tony Benn speaking in Parliament following the removal of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by her own party discussing Thatcherism and the rotten ideology of the Tory government under Thatcher:

Whilst a very eloquent speech (he was an incredibly eloquent speaker), he was wrong in his conclusion about the abandonment of Thatcherism with her removal, not only did it survive in the Tory party, but it spread to his own Labour Party.
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Benn essentially lost the struggle for socialism in Labour Party. Benn was a founding member of the Socialist Campaign Group, Bennism was the far left of labour. Never a Marxist, he was a hard-left social democrat. Bennism, a movement of political and economic principles centred around a programme of nationalisation, strong support for militant trade unionism and a fervent belief in democracy and democratisation of the political system. Supporting radical democracy, supporting the rights of oppressed groups, they successfully created black and women’s section in the Labour Party. The loss of three struggles in the Labour Party destroyed Bennism: 1) his defeat in 1981 for Deputy Secretary of the Labour Party; 2) the 1983 election of Neil Kinnock as Labour Leader; and 3) the defeat of the Miner’s strike of 1984-5.

One question that many have asked over the years was why didn’t Bennism survive? Here is Dave Kellaway‘s response:

Why didn’t the Benn current evolve into something more permanent either inside or outside (or both) the Labour party? On the one hand you had the continued defeats of working people under Thatcher’s offensive coupled with her election victories – made easier by the Falklands War and the rightwing split from labour. On the other hand you had the rise of New Labour, started under Kinnock and consummated by Blair. New Labour meant rule changes and direct expulsion of the Militant, so it became very difficult for the left to organise inside the party. Conference used to be a real opportunity to put forward some sort of socialist opposition and actually win significant support for it.

The other weakness in the Bennite current was the way it replicated the traditional division in the British labour movement between the industrial and political wings. Benn and his allies never really organised a class struggle current inside the unions, relying on alliances with ‘left’ leaders. For these reasons despite having the potential for developing into a mass class struggle current, Bennism died with a whimper rather than a bang. In the end there was a need for the leadership of the current to break with Labourism and start to build a political alternative to Kinnock/Blair. Benn’s strong commitment to Labour never really wavered so this was not going to happen (”

The hard Labour left lost to Neil Kinnock and then the purge of the hard left that held an entryist position into the Labour Party began in 1983. The Labour Party moved from social democracy to liberalism to neoliberalism under Tony Blair. Benn never thought of leaving the Labour party, he was born into the Labour Party and died as a member of a party that abandoned the principles upon which it was founded.
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Upon retiring from Parliament, Tony Benn said that being a member of parliament interfered with his actually doing politics and devoted the rest of his life to chronicling his years in parliament and participating in movements, speaking at demonstrations and events. His work included Stop the War coalition (he was the President), the Coalition of Resistance and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. A welcome and regular figure at demos, rallies, at conferences, at events. In an interview, he said that he tried to do 4-5 meetings a week as his way of contributing.

Speaking at a demonstration in Manchester calling for Britain to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan as the President of the Stop the War Coalition:

In his final speech to the House of Commons as an MP, Tony Benn said the following:

In the course of my life I have developed five little democratic questions. If one meets a powerful person–Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin or Bill Gates–ask them five questions: “What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?” If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.”
Tony Benn speaks out against capitalism outside St. Paul’s cathedral as part of the Occupy London event. Saturday 9th November 2011.

Following Bob Crow’s death, a series of tributes were placed in the London Underground by RMT members, this is my favourite and it applies as much to the death of 52 year old Bob Crow as to that of 88 year old, Tony Benn:

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It says “Fear of death follows fear of life. A man who lives life fully, is prepared to die at anytime” (Mark Twain) Rest in Peace Robert Crow (13/06/61-11/3/2014)

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Fagor Goes Bankrupt – Trouble in Camelot by Geminijen

3:24 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

No one should be surprised these days when yet another company goes belly-up in these difficult financial times, especially in devastated economies such as Spain. Yet the bankruptcy of Fagor, the flagship cooperative in the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (MCC) has shaken many anti-capitalists around the world as akin to witnessing the ending of Camelot. The fact that at least two of the other largest cooperatives in the Mondragon network, Caja Laboral (the bank and financial center of the corporation) and Eroski (a chain of retail stores throughout Europe) are in dire financial straits has only added to the ominous threat.

Fagor, with its 5,600 workers, is a relatively small part of the whole. Even so, Trevino (Fagor’s CEO) warns that its fall “will have an uncontrollable domino effect on the rest of the group with major social implications.” He believes Fagor’s liquidation would create a €480m hole at Mondragon, including inter-group loans and payments the group’s insurance arm would have to make on Fagor workers’ unemployment policies.
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Mondragon has promised to find new jobs or offer early-retirement terms for as many as it can of Fagor’s Spanish workers, but this is a tall order in a country with 27% unemployment. Besides their jobs, workers stand to lose the money they had invested in the co-op if it is liquidated.

Demystifying the Mondragon Myth

For the last 50 some years, the growth of what is now the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation has given many anarchists, socialists and other progressives in the cooperative movement the hope that yes, Virginia, there really is a viable alternative to Capitalism or, at the very least, an economic system that could provide a transition to socialism. Moreover, although many socialists won’t easily admit it, there is often the underlying hope that somehow this transition could occur “peacefully”, without a real class struggle ending in state ownership; that somehow, within the belly of the beast of capitalism, the cooperative model could “out compete” the capitalist multinationals at their own game and become the dominant economic paradigm.

Yet, as one blogger commented in Alternatives to Capitalism,

“There is no escaping the need to challenge Wall Street and the other big financial centers across the world for political and economic power which requires a well-organized and intense class struggle [...] something the promoters of these cooperative schemes try to evade as they try to convince workers there are ways around bringing mines, mills and factories under public ownership which is going to require the nationalization of entire industries.”

Unfortunately, many of Mondragon’s supporters (of which I am one) tend to promote the Mondragon model in a very schizophrenic way. On one hand we talk about the ideology of cooperation over competition in an almost mythological way. We talk about how Mondragon was started in 1956 by Father José María Arizmendiarrieta, a priest who, in the shadow of the fascist dictator Franco, began a cooperative with five workers in the isolated, impoverished Basque region in northern Spain.

We talk about how it is the Father’s vision of worker-owned and worker managed cooperative enterprises, based on democratic control, equality and cooperation among the workers, that makes Mondragon different than other capitalist enterprises.

All the workers in a cooperative would be owners. All workers would have one share and one vote. All workers would have an equal voice in decision-making and setting the company’s policies. Workers would elect their own managers who could not make more than twice the highest paid worker. Cooperatives would remain small (no more than 500 people) and educate all incoming workers so that the cooperative way of life, focusing on the workers and the needs of the community they lived in, would not be replaced by the competitive greed of capitalism. The cooperatives would form a network of manufactured goods and service cooperatives that would support each other.

Yet, when we promote the Mondragon model to others, we tend to evaluate the success of the “Father’s vision” based on capitalist measurements of success–how much money do the coops pull in and how big are the enterprises(the capitalists’ bottom line). After all, if we are going to create a cooperative economy, we have to be able to compete with “the big boys” on their own terms. We seem to have forgotten measurements such as workers stability, democratic decision making, and making products which will enhance our communities, instead of for profit maximization.

So we point to the fact that Mondragon developed into a world-wide network of cooperatives that boasts $14 billion in total revenues, distributed among 110 cooperatives, 147 subsidiary companies, eight foundations and a benefit society with total assets of 35.8 billion euros. The MCC currently employs over 80,000 people, 32,000 of which are coop members, and include in their products manufactured goods as diverse as washing machines and high end bicycles as well as financial products such as hedge funds and a network of retail stores that span Europe. Fagor alone, has over 5,600 employees in 5 factories in Spain and eight other non-cooperative factories in China, France, Poland and Morocco, and the ratio of the CEO’s salary is limited to 10 times that of the highest paid worker.

A cursory reading of the above litany promoting Mondragon’s huge financial success when compared to the ideological model clearly indicates some serious contradictions between theory and practice. Fagor far exceeds the recommended size for a cooperative; the majority of workers in the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation are no longer cooperative members with voting rights but hired employees. Even among the coop members the conditions have changed – it is no longer one vote per share but one vote per coop member no matter how many shares they own. And while the CEO can only make 10 times what the highest worker makes (which is exponentially lower than traditional capitalist CEOs who make 200-300 times what a worker makes), it is still a much greater degree of inequality than in the original cooperatives.
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Can we develop large scale global economies that can compete with a capitalist system without losing our cooperative soul?

In Mondragon and Globalization, Basque Country and Ghosts, Mondragon managers discuss why Mondragon has succeeded as a cooperative business: “Sustainability, worker participation (sovereignty), education, integration, diversification, innovation and flexibility.

How are these terms used in investor-controlled companies? How do we talk about cooperative businesses outside of the dominant paradigm? As part of this we discussed the pillars or keys to success:

• Control and use of capital
• Redefinition of labor/management relations
• Management education
• cooperative development
• lack of “silo” mentality—horizontal and vertical integration
• Inter-cooperative fund mechanism.

All of these are the key to Mondragon’s success. It is hard to imagine that they would be the same cooperative without a commitment to these pillars. Of course, Mondragon, like the rest of the cooperative world, is an island in a capitalist ocean. The problems of capitalism can’t help but creep into our cooperatives because we are part of society and societal norms get determined through a capitalist lens (for now).

Did Fagor Need to Go Bankrupt?

As a practical and real world matter, three decisions exposed Fagor to trouble just before the recession hit Spain in 2008:

1) When the large multinational moved production to low-wage Asian countries, Fagor, also opened some private non-coop companies in low wage countries to take advantage of cheap parts for its products. However, it refused to close most of its assembly lines in high wage countries such as Spain and France to preserve worker-owners’ jobs in keeping with the cooperative principal prioritizing worker security and local job stability.

This policy decision led to two different interpretations:

According to the Wall Street Journal, by keeping the cooperative workers jobs in Spain and France, instead of moving the whole operation to low wage countries, MCC could no longer compete with those multinationals who use solely cheap outsourced labor. This led to loss of sales and profits in the parent country and raised Fagor’s debt burden which made it more financially vulnerable.

However, according to Gar Alperovitz, a supporter of Mondragon, much of the sales plummeted in Spain due a housing recession which was the product of the overall capitalist created banking crisis of 2008 not due to FAGOR’s policy decisions – if people don’t have houses, they will not buy domestic products such as washing machines, cooking ware, etc. no matter what the price.

2) Fagor acquired a French appliance company to try to achieve the scale to compete with Whirlpool Corp. and Electrolux in the free-market global economy. This however, again led to a massive increase in debt and more financial vulnerability.

3) Fagor sank €6 million into the Driron, a refrigerator-size invention that could dry and iron clothes at the same time. A €1,875 price tag and clunky look made it MCC’s Edsel. Again, given the over-heated speculation in the global market, was this a wise time, from the point of view of the workers’ job security to make an expensive speculative investment?

Alperovitz, in an analysis in Truth Out Now, places the blame for the bankruptcy on the cooperative community’s attempt to utilize an internal cooperative model in the MCC while trying to compete in a free market economy without taking into account the mechanisms of the dominant capitalist economic model. He suggests that, if we wish to encourage a cooperative economy we must also include systemic changes in both trade and the domestic market if cooperatives are to survive.

Alperovitz suggested a form of planned trade is necessary in the global market.

According to Alperovitz:

“A serious “next stage” systemic design almost certainly will have to adopt one or another form of “planned trade” rather than “free market trade” – else the fate of specific firms, and specific groups of workers, and also the communities in which both exist, become subject to the ever-intensifying challenges as corporations play one low-wage country off against another, with the destruction of wage standards and firms (cooperative or otherwise) the inevitable result (”

In fact, Mondragon did attempt a limited form of planned trade that incorporated both capitalist and planned trade strategies by trying to keep open plants in both the high wage and low wage countries in a policy known as co- or multi-location.

The second challenge according to Alperovitz, takes us beyond the question of planning in connection with trade to planning in connection with the domestic market:

“It was never the goal of the Mondragón Corporation to seek a planning solution to the problems of the Spanish economy. Nor was “changing the system” part and parcel of its primary mission. It always sought to compete successfully in the existing system, at the same time demonstrating a superior form of internal organization. Americans concerned about fundamental, longer-term change need to ponder this particular point carefully. The challenge any system-changing vision presents is at least twofold: First, how to include new models of cooperative organization in a larger strategy that includes managing (and restructuring) the wider economy in its goals; second, how to begin to think through much more carefully issues of sectoral planning within larger democratic or participatory planning goals (”

Alperovitz sites nationalization done briefly in the auto sector in the United States during the 2008 crisis as one example of systemic change in the broader economy. As an example of sectoral planning, Alperovitz sites the transportation sector suggesting each part of transportation cooperative network be designed to enhance and support the other parts. With vertical and horizontal planning, it would be difficult for outside marauding multinationals to penetrate the network, Both examples involve state planning, much as Venezuela has started doing in its communal community councils.

How far has Mondragon deviated from the original model?

It is important to recognize when quantitative change has become qualitative. Here are a few additional indicators of how the MCC has strayed from the cooperative principals:

1) While each year, Mondragon University and other education centers within its industrial cooperatives teaches workers cooperative principles, the economic educational component is based on traditional neoclassical capitalist economics.

2) Since its entry into the global market during the 1990s when it reoriented its development goals to compete in a global economy, it has abandoned the cooperative principal of keeping cooperative control in local communities. Instead of using networking of local cooperatives as support for each other and as a buffer against rapacious capitalist outsourcing, it has developed 25 partnerships between local parent cooperatives in high wage countries and private non-cooperative companies in low wage countries. In a 1999-2006 study MCC justifies this major deviation from cooperative principals by saying that they will be more competitive with the pricing of capitalist multinationals so that they will have to lay of fewer workers in the cooperatives and that they can eventually educate and introduce worker cooperatives in their non-cooperative companies in low wage countries.

3) Although Mondragon was able to save all its cooperative workers in the first economic meltdown in 2008 all the workers had to agree to take a 20% pay cut and give back some of the equity they had acquired over the years as owners so they could pay back some of the debt some of the larger, more globally oriented coops had acquired although the workers in the coops had little decision-making power in the acquisition of these debts.
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4) Although the MCC was able to save its cooperative workers in 2008, they laid off all their temporary workers in Spain (about 40% of the workforce and mostly women) who had never had any decision making power, job security or equity in the cooperatives. The same fate may await many of the non-cooperative employees in the Eroski coops in foreign countries.

5) Some of Caja Laboral’s newer coop projects are hedge funds which have a very bad record as far as encouraging risky capitalist speculation.

6) Trevino, the current manager of Fagor wanted to take Fagor in the restructuring and move it to Poland and restart it as a regular capitalist shareholding corporation.

7) The majority of Eroski’s workers, the large retail chain that spans Europe, are not coop members and have no voting, job security or equity rights;

8) For decades, the giant network of industrial and retail cooperatives of Mondragon was held up as an international model of solidarity — whenever one co-op got into trouble, the rest of the Mondragón Corporation would rescue it with cash or take on workers at risk of losing their jobs. In this year of 2013, the Mondragon Corp voted for the first time, to let one of the coops (Fagor) go bankrupt. Of the 109 remaining coops, all but three coops wanted to continue to bail Fagor out but the Board of Directors of Caja Laboral and Eroski, the other two largest coops (which also happen to be the two coops that have strayed furthest from the coop model in terms of a nondemocratic hierarchy and risky financial speculation) voted to let Fagor go bankrupt and, since the vote has to be unanimous, broke the solidarity pact that has been the backbone of the Mondragon model.

For those of us who have never seen the cooperative movement as an end in itself, but as a way of organizing workers as part of a transition to socialism, the rational has been that the coops are still a lot better than the purely capitalist enterprises (I agree). The question then becomes when do quantitative changes become qualitative? And do we just proceed as usual, rationalizing that most of the network is still functioning even though it took a hit, or do we step back and say we have to recognize the need for larger systemic changes. Do we put all our efforts into fighting for the nationalization of industries and, as some socialists believe, and refuse to be distracted by the cooperative model (even though socialist nationalization is a project that is nowhere on the immediate horizon?) Or are there other options in between?

One final question remains – Is the structural problem strictly due to the external dynamics of capitalism as Alperovitz maintains or, in addition to the systemic changes we must make, must we also re-examine how the culture of capitalism, like a Trojan horse, has corrupted the internal culture of the cooperatives themselves?


1) Trouble in workers’ paradise. The collapse of Spain’s Fagor tests the world’s largest group of co-operatives. Nov 9th 2013 | MADRID | From the print edition, The Economist

2) Mondragon: An alternative to capitalism or part of the capitalist scheme of things?

3) October 13, 2007 Mondragon and Globalization, Basque Country and GhostsFiled under: Management — Tags: innovation, mondragon — John McNamara @ 2:38 pm

4) Mondragón and the System Problem Friday, 01 November 2013 09:04 By Gar Alperovitz and Thomas M Hanna, Truthout | Op-Ed; republished:

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: Annie Clemenc and the Italian Hall Massacre by JayRaye

3:31 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Annie Takes Up Her Flag

Ana K Clemenc
Ana K Clemenc

On July 23, 1913, 9,000 copper miners of the Keweenaw laid down their tools and walked off the job. The were led by the great Western Federation of Miners, and they had voted by a good majority for a strike: 9,000 out of 13,000 The main issue were hours, the miners wanted an eight hour day, wages, and safety. The miners hated the new one-man drill which they called the “widow-maker.” They claimed this drill made an already dangerous job more dangerous.

The mining companies had steadfastly refused to recognize the Western Federation of Miners in anyway. They would continue to refuse all efforts at negotiation or arbitration, even those plans for arbitration which did not include the union, and this despite the best efforts of Governor Ferris, and the U. S. Department of Labor. James MacNaughton, general manger of Calumet and Hecla Mining Company, famously stated that grass would grow in the streets and that he would teach the miners to eat potato parings before he would negotiate in any way with the striking miners.

The Keweenaw Peninsula was a cold, windy place, jutting out into Lake Superior from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This area was known as the Copper Country of Michigan and included Calumet Township of Houghton County, with the twin towns of Hancock and Houghton ten miles to the south. Calumet Township included the villages of Red Jacket and Laurium.

It was here in Red Jacket, on the third day of the strike that Annie Clemenc, miner’s daughter and miner’s wife took up a massive America flag and led an early morning parade of 400 striking miners and their families. Annie Clemenc was six feet tall, and some claimed she was taller than that by two inches. The flag she carried was so massive that it required a staff two inches thick and ten feet tall. The miners and their supporters marched out of the Italian Hall and through the streets of the Red Jacket to the Blue Jacket and Yellow Jacket mines. They marched silently, without a band, lined up three and four abreast. These early morning marches, with Annie and her flag in the lead, were to become a feature of the strike.

Picket Duty Honored in Spite of Danger

Strikers' march, MI copper strike 1913

Early on in the strike, MacNaughton put extreme pressure on Sheriff Cruse to request that the Governor send in the National Guard. MacNaughton was a member of the Houghton County Board, a Board dominated by mine operators. Sheriff Cruse owed his job to this board, and Cruse obeyed MacNaughton’s order. The entire Michigan National Guard was sent into the strike zone, over 2,000 men. The County Board also contracted with the Waddell-Mahon strikebreaking agency from New York. Soon private gunthugs began pouring into the Keweenaw. These thugs worked hand-in-hand with Cruse, although, technically he was prevented from deputizing them according to Michigan state law. Scores of mine bosses and scabs were deputized and armed, however, 1700 in all, by some accounts

The early morning parades, which the strikers and their families regarded as picket duty, became much more dangerous. Nevertheless the parades continued. Every morning at 6 a. m. as the scabs were going to work in the mines, they were forced to face the fellow workers whom they were betraying. On Sundays, the parades were held later, after church, with everyone dressed in their Sunday best. Annie came dressed all in white. Streamers flowed down from the mast of her flag on each side and were held by little girls, also dressed in white.

Ana Clemenc, a Young Leader

Socialist Party Pin
Socialist Party Pin

Annie was born to George and Mary Klobuchar on March 2, 1888 in Red Jacket, the first of five children born to the couple. Her parents were Slovenian immigrants; her father worked in the copper mines. In May of 1906, at the age of 18, she married Joe Clemenc, a copper miner like her father. They made their home in Red Jacket not far from Annie’s parents and the two younger brothers still living at home. The entire extended family was active in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

In 1910, Annie was elected President of the People’s Slovenian Women’s Lodge #128 of the SNJP, Slovenska Narodna Podporna Jednota (Slovene National Benefit Society.) She was only 22 years old at the time. She would continue as President of Lodge #128 until 1914, listed in the records as Ana Clemenc, President. Annie was also a member of the JSZ, Jugoslojvanska Socialisticna Zveza (Yugoslav Socialist Federation) which was affiliated with the Socialist Party of America. There are photos of Annie during the strike, wearing her Socialist Party pin.

From Proletarec


The editor of Proletarec (Proletarian), Frank Savs, came from Chicago to the strike zone to cover the strike. Proletarec was the official voice of the JSZ. This story, by “Striker,” was published September 2nd:

The women who carried flags in front of us, they laughed out loud every time the soldiers got mixed up; their screams and claps echoed throughout the city.

We noticed one morning, when we were going to march, the Waddell bastards driving around fast in cars-the deputy superintendent riding with them-going from mine to mine and gathering together scabs, who were dressed in overalls and carrying their lamps. They collected around 40 scabs and showed them to us by the road, thinking it would take away our courage. But they got it badly wrong. When we marched past them and their bosses, we began to laugh heartily and make fun of them. We asked one another, so that the bosses could hear: “Where’s the one thousand and two thousand scabs, the mine owners always talk about? Are these all you can show?”

After completing the march we went to the Italian Hall. Organizer Strizic suggested that women now speak in various languages, which we approved with applause. Ana Klemenc and Katarina Junko spoke in Slovenian.

Mrs. Klemenc recommended that the women should make the effort with all our strength to help our husbands in the battle to victory, because victory will also benefit women and children. Degenerate men, scabs, will fail the women and children…

a translation


Women on the picket line, MI copper strike 1913
Women With Their Fighting Clothes On

Annie was arrested Wednesday, September 10th, in Calumet along with five other women. As they attempted to convince a miner not to go back to work, the women were accosted by Cruse’s deputies. The women fought back against the deputies but were, eventually, arrested. Three hundred supporters followed behind the women as they were taken to the Calumet jail. The crowd remained outside the jail for two hours, cheering loudly for their release.

The crowd followed the six women as they were taken to the court of Judge William Fisher, and the cheering began again as Annie, Maggie Aggarto, and the four other women were released on their own recognizance. The women came out of the court undaunted, shouting and clapping their hands. They marched down the street with their supporters following behind cheering and shouting.

The six women were ordered to appear again in court the next week.

“If this flag will not protect me, then I will die with it.”

Big Annie leads parade of striking copper miners.

Just days a few days later, Annie was found, back in the thick of the fight. On the following Monday morning, September 13th, she led a march of 1,000 strikers and many women supporters through the streets of Calumet as was her usual routine. At the corner of Eighth and Elm, they were confronted by the militia and armed deputies. A soldier on horseback used his saber to knock her flag from her grasp. A striker came to her aid and was pushed to the ground by another soldier who ripped the silk fabric of the flag as he slashed about with his sword.

Annie was also knocked to the ground. The flag was stomped into the mud by the horses of the guardsmen. Big Annie hung on to the flag as soldiers tried to take it from her, shouting:

Kill me! Run your bayonets and sabers through this flag and kill me, but I won’t move. If this flag will not protect me, then I will die with it.

Annie was rescued by other marchers and escaped with only a bayonet blow to the right wrist. The strikers’ march was driven back by soldiers on horseback and by the rifle butts of infantrymen. Deputies joined in on the attack swinging their clubs. The strikers and their supporters retreated to the Italian Hall with Big Annie and her flag, now muddied and slashed.


1913 MI National Guard on Horseback

On Wednesday October 1st, Annie was arrested yet again, this time by a Major Harry Britton. Annie was marching at the head of 400 strikers, carrying her huge American flag as usual. They were on their way to perform picket duty at the mines when they were stopped by deputies and cavalrymen with Major Britton in command.

Major Britton attempted to arrest Annie, claiming she spit at a scab. When the Major used his sword to beat back a striker who came to Annie’s aid, other strikers joined in the fray. Cavalrymen then charged into the midst of the strikers. Major Britton bragged:

Excited horses prancing about are the best weapons.

He describe the results with satisfaction:

..a striker with his head bleeding, blood flowing down over his shirt, [was] half-staggering along the road.

Annie was arrested along with nine others. Annie was released the next day, and went immediately to union headquarters to lead another strikers’ march with her immense American flag.

“Woman’s Story”

Miners Bulletin

This account of picked duty was written by Annie Clemenc and published October 2nd on the front pate of the Miners’ Bulletin, the official voice of the W. F. of M. within the strike zone:

At Seventh Street Tuesday morning a party of strikers met a man with a dinner bucket. I asked him: “Where are you going, partner?” He replied: “To work.” “Not in the mine are you?” “You bet I am.” after talking with him a while his wife came and took him down the street. She seemed very much afraid.

He had just gone when a couple of Austrians came along with their buckets. I stepped up to one I knew: “O! George, you are not going to work, are You? Come, stay with us. Don’t allow that bad woman to drive you to work. Stick to us and we will stick to you.” He stepped back, willing to comply with my request.

Then the deputies came, caught him by the shoulder and pushed him along, saying: “You coward, are you going back because a woman told you not to go to work?” The deputies, some eight or ten of them, pulled him along with them.

A militia officer, I think it was General Abbey, said: “Annie, you have to get away from here.” “No, I am not going. I have a right to stand here and quietly ask the scabs not to go to work.”

I was standing to one side of the crowd and he said: “You will have to get in the auto.” “I won’t go until you tell me the reason.” Then he made me get in the auto. I kept pounding the automobile with my feet and asking what I was being taken to jail for. The officer said: “Why don’t you stay at home?” “I won’t stay at home, my work is here, nobody can stop me. I am going to keep at it until this strike is won.” I was kept in jail from six-thirty until twelve, then released under bond.



On October 6th, Annie led a parade of 500 children through the streets of Calumet. These were the the children of copper miners who had been on strike for eleven long weeks. One little fellow carried a sign which sums up the entire struggle:


Many of the children were willing to face truancy charges in order to make this show of support for their fathers. The kept press was quick to seize on the story, declaring in lurid headlines:


The fact that these young children were suffering hunger and deprivation had not bothered these same newspapers. Neither had they bothered themselves with worry over the fact that these same children often lost their fathers in mining accidents which were, tragically, all too frequent in Michigan’s Copper Country.

“Annie Clemenc, an American Joan of Arc”

In the October 8th edition of Day Book, N. D. Cochran profiled Annie. The article was written at the time that Annie was in jail:

I have met Annie Clemenc. I have talked with her. I have seen her marching along the middle of the street, carrying that great American flag. She is a striking figure, strong, with firm but supple muscles, fearless, ready to die for a cause.

A militia officer said to me, “If McNaughton could only buy Big Annie, he could break the strike.” I don’t believe all the millions of dividends taken out of the Calumet and Hecla mine could buy her.

I walked fully two miles with her…and I thought what glorious men and women America would produce if there were millions of mothers like Annie Clemenc. I thought that one Annie Clemenc, miner’s wife, was worth thousands of James McNaughtons.

Annie Clemenc is more of an American in my esteem than the spineless but well-meaning governor of Michigan. And as manhood goes, she’s more of a man in fighting quality, in sand, in courage, in heroism than Governor Ferris.

If Annie Clemenc is in that dirty little jail now, the American flag would be better off on top of that jail than over some courthouse. Where she is there is love of liberty and courage to fight for it. Annie Clemenc isn’t afraid to die.

This article was later reprinted in the Miners’ Bulletin, and in labor newspapers across the country. Big Annie Clemenc of Calumet was becoming a heroine to workers across the nation.

From the El Paso Herald:

Calumet, Mich., Nov. 8.-During a fierce blizzard which brought between eight and ten inches of snow in the Calumet copper mining region today, the striking miners and their wives and daughters paraded in half a dozen towns. A party of 100 strikers, led by Mrs. Annie Clemenc, established pickets around mining properties here. Eighty were arrested on a charge of violating the federal court’s injunction against picketing. They were released on their own recognizance to appear in court next week.

From the Miners’ Bulletin

The story of Annie’s conviction was printed in the November 15th edition:

The case of Mrs. Annie Clemenc of Calumet charged with assault and battery (pushing an insulting scab off the sidewalk), tried in the circuit court at Houghton last week, resulted in her being found guilty as charged. The incident occurred at Calumet during the early days of the strike, and had it occurred at any other time would not have received passing notice, but during these turbulent times, a scab, being a very precious article must not be disturbed. Mrs. Clemenc has been under bonds since her preliminary hearing which will be maintained until she receives her sentence in January.

The names and addresses of the twelve men finding her guilty were also published.

Planning a Christmas Party for the Children

The Calumet Women’s Auxiliary had been organized in September. It was granted a charter as #15, and each woman who joined, became a card-carrying member of the Western Federation of Miners.The women soon began planning a Christmas party for the children of the strikers to be held on Christmas Eve at the Italian Hall in Red Jacket. The afternoon party for the children was to be followed by a party for the adults in the evening. As president of #15, Annie, took the lead in planning for the event, and she raised donations to buy gifts for the children. Candy, hats, mittens, and toys were purchased. For many of the striker’s children, these would be their only Christmas presents.

The Man Who Cried Fire

Citizens Alliance Button, Michigan Copper Strike 1913

The party began at 2 p. m. as planned. Elin Lesh was at the front door checking for union cards. At 3 p. m. went inside the hall to assist Annie at the stage. There was a Christmas program and, after that, the children where able to come onto the stage to get their presents. Annie and her helpers had some difficulty in getting the children to come onto the stage in an orderly way, and Annie warned the children to wait their turn. There was a lot of noise and confusion in the hall which was crowed with about 700 people, perhaps 500 of them children.

At about 4:40 pm, a man came up the stairs. On his left, at the top of stairs, were double doors leading into the main hall. He went through those doors, and just inside the main hall, he cried, “Fire, Fire.” The man then ran down the stairs, out of the building, and disappeared down the street. The man was wearing a hat pulled down low with the brim over his eyes; he had on a long coat with the collar pulled up, and on his coat was pinned a Citizens Alliance button. The Citizens Alliance was anti-union vigilante organization sponsored by the mine operators.

The cry of fire was picked up, and a panic started with a rush for the stairs which lead to the exit at the front of the building. Within just a few minutes that stairway was packed with party goers, many of them suffocating in the crush. The stairway was packed 6 feet deep at the bottom of the stairs, and for the entire length of the stairs-30 feet. The stairway was 5 feet 9 inches wide.

Silent Night

Italian Hall Massacre

Charles Meyers, who ran a shop downstairs was the first to arrive. He came through the front doors to the second doors at the bottom of the stairs. These doors were open and did not open inward, as so many now believe. Meyers could clearly see that people were trapped and suffocating. He attempted to pull some children free but that proved impossible. He made his way upstairs through a window and continued to assist with the rescue. Dominic Vairo came from his saloon downstairs and had very much the same experience.

The Red Jacket fire station received the first alarm at 4:45 pm, and the fire fighters were on the scene within a few minutes. The fire whistle was also used to call forth the mobs of the Citizens Alliance, the Waddell men, and the deputies. And soon the street outside of the Italian Hall was filled with gunthugs. Frantic relatives and friends of those inside also began to gather. There is no evidence that any of the gunthugs held the doors shut, but the deputies and Waddell men were none to gentle in the way in which they pushed back on the crowd. A Finnish man was severely beaten. Some inside the hall later stated that they thought the deputies had come to kill them all.

As Annie and the women at the stage realized the calamity that was upon them, they first attempted to quiet the panic, and then began to help with the rescue effort. The untangling of the bodies could only be done from the top of the stairs. It was long slow work, lasting for more than an hour. And when it was finished, the bodies of 62 children and 11 adults were laid out on the floor of the hall with some outside in the snow. Annie later remembered:

…a deputy gave me a child. I poured some water on it, but it was dead already.

Out on the street was big Joe Mihelchich kneeling in the snow and sobbing before the bodies of his three children, Paul-5, Agnes-7, and Elizabeth-9. Joe was well remembered as the giant who had tossed deputies around like toys as they tried to arrest him, threatening them and everyone in the vicinity with two lighted sticks of dynamite. He now shook with sobs as he stroked the faces of his dead children, a broken man.

The bodies were taken to the Red Jacket Village Hall, used as a temporary morgue, for identification. There were losses from the SNJP woman’s lodge, all friends of Annie: Mary Smuk lost her 5-year-old daughter, Mary Stauduhar lost her 7-year-old daughter, and Mary Cvetkovich lost her husband. Also, many of dead were members, or related to members, of Annie’s own local of the Women’s Auxiliary.

Dust to Dust, Ashes to Ashes

The mass funeral was held on December 28th. There was a shortage of coffins, especially for the children, and neighboring communities were contacted. Funerals were held at three Finnish churches, as well as an Italian church, a Croatian church, and a Slovenian church, most likely Annie’s. And then began the march to Lakeview Cemetery.

Estimates are that 50,000 took part in the march to the cemetery. Annie led the way carrying her flag, now draped with black crepe. Snow began to fall as they marched. Church bells could be heard from near and far, tolling for the dead. The little white caskets were covered in flowers. It is said that the weeping from the cemetery could be heard in the town, two miles away.

Fifty men came marching behind the caskets, chanting “Nearer My God to Thee” in the old style of the Cornwall mining districts. There was a band at end of the march. The entire length of the road to the cemetery was lined with mourners, many brought from other towns by special coach.

The dead were laid to rest with eulogies in Finnish, Austrian, English, and Croatian. E. A. McNally, attorney for the strikers, gave a long address. He spoke for all, the living and the dead, when he said:

It is not charity we want; it is justice.

A newspaper later describe Annie at the graveside:

Up above the strikers stood Annie Clemenc, girl leader of the miners. She was not the usual militant Annie Clemenc. She was saying a prayer for the children.


Tall Annie
-by Virginia Law Burns
MI, 1987

Big Annie of Calumet
-by Jerry Stanley
NY, 1996

Death’s Door
The Truth Behind Michigan’s Larges Mass Murder

-by Steve Lehto
MI, 2006

Annie Clemenc
& the Great Keweenaw Copper Strike

-by Lyndon Comstock
SC, 2013

Miners’ Bulletin
“Published by authority of
Western Federation of Miners
to tell the truth regarding
the strike of the copper miners.”
-of Oct 2, 1913
-of Nov 15, 1913

El Paso Herald
(El Paso, TX)
-of Nov 9, 1913


Annie with Her Flag

Marchers in Sunday Best

Socialist Party Pin


The Fighting Woman of Copper Country 1913

Annie with Her Flag Leading Parade

1913 MI National Guard on Horseback

Miners’ Bulletin


Children's Parade, Calumet Copper Miners Strike -- RPPC by Calumet New Studio, Calumet, Michigan.

I believe that this photo was from The Calumet and Red Jacket News,

Strikers Marching in Snow
Note: photo dated Feb 1914, used here to represent
strikers marching in spite of cold and snow.

The Tyomies Publishing Company places the photo in Hancock.

Citizens Alliance Button

The Children’s Bodies at the Red Jacket Village Hall

Small White Coffins

[Lully, Lullay]

Joy in the Struggle, Fast Food Workers Are Standing Up

3:41 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Remembering a Wonderful Day on Picket Lines Across the Nation!]

This is exactly the way it should be done, drumming, chanting, singing, marching, and statements of Solidarity. This diary is a celebration of the joy of the struggle with photos of unity and songs to fight by.

Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might;
Take the wealth that you are making,
It belongs to you by right.
[-Joe Hill]


Fight like hell until you go to heaven!
Mother Jones

Get Up, Stand Up. Life is your right
So we can’t give up the fight
Stand up for your right, Lord, Lord
Get Up, Stand Up. Keep on struggling on
Don’t give up the fight
[-Bob Marley]


Stunningly beautiful display of Solidarity that tells the Fast Food Workers:
“You are not alone. We stand beside you!”

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn that
The union makes us strong
[-Ralph Chaplin]

sung by wobs as it should be sung

Read the rest of this entry →

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: Hellraisers Journal, The Labor Martyrs Project, and WE NEVER FORGET by JayRaye

2:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Back of Envelope Containing
Joe Hill’s Ashes


At Joe Hill’s funeral, sashes were worn by many in attendance with “WE NEVER FORGET” written on them in big bold capital letters. This slogan was also written on the program for the day’s events. A year later, the ashes were handed out to IWW delegates from every state of the USA (except Utah) and from countries all around the world. The envelopes also carried this slogan. The Labor Martyrs Project uses this slogan to honor all of our Labor Martyrs, quite certain that Fellow Worker Joe Hill would not mind.

The Labor Martyrs Project

By way of explaination, I’ll give the simple “what-when-where-&-who” first. “Why” is a bit harder to explain, and a lot more personal.

What: the The Labor Martyrs Project honors those who have died in the class struggle on the side of the working class, by remembering, at minimum, their names and ages.

When: 1877 through 1937.

Where: the United States. I wanted to include Canada and Mexico, but the more I learned, the more I realized that just the task of covering the labor martyrs of the USA was an immense project, probably beyond what any one person can accomplish. For example, some sources claim that there were more than 200 workers who died in labor conflicts just in year 1934 alone. Each and every one of them deserves to have their name recorded for history.

Who: that would be us, the working class. These are our martyrs who died in the struggle to give us and our children a better life.

At The Ludlow Monument

It all started when I picked up a book called Labor’s Untold Story. That was the first I ever heard of the Ludlow Massacre. I think this might have been about 1986. I didn’t have a car at that time, so I took a Greyhound bus out to Colorado. The bus driver didn’t want to drop me off at Ludlow because it wasn’t a scheduled stop, but I talked him into it. Took me 3 hours to walk back to Walsenburg, but that’s alright, I had a lot to think about. It is difficult to describe the feeling that I had standing at the foot of the Ludlow Monument. Just a few days ago, I came by this poem written by our very own Richard Myers (RIP), I could not describe the experience any better:

Helen and Gust of Ludlow

The Ludlow Monument
The Ludlow Monument

“He’s haunted by the memory
Of heroes that he could not save,
And it was Gust that drove the dray
Collecting children for the grave.”

I left. I went alone that night
Where miners and their families died.
I searched for answers in the pits
Where helpless children tried to hide.

I raged at phantoms on the hill
Whence gunfire ‘cross the plain had swept,
And then before the monument
I knelt down on the ground and wept.

I went back again for the 75th commemoration. That was on June 10, 1989, and of that date I am certain since Zeese Papanikolas was there and kindly signed my copy of Buried Unsung with the date and location (Ludlow.) I made that trip by Greyhound also, but that time I packed up my mountain bike, so I was able to get around a bit better. A very kind family put me up for the night, fed me, and we had a great visit. I loved all the folks I met in Walsenburg and Trinidad. The woman who ran the little history museum in Walsenburg was an incredible help. She directed me to the exact location where Mother Jones was held in the underground cell. I was able to go there and stand there for a little while. It had been turned into someone’s office, but no one seemed to mind me stopping by. A very kind shopkeeper boxed up my bike and even delivered it to the bus stop for my return trip home. I was only asking for a box, but he offered to take care of everything, and wouldn’t take any payment.

Well, this is turning into a ramble, but it is all part of how I became obsessed with Labor Martyrs. While in Trinidad on that visit, I rode my bike up to the cemetery. Again standing there where the martyrs are buried changed me. That I could be a working class union woman, and a Socialist to boot, and yet reach my 30s without ever hearing of them and what they went through upset me in a way that I can not describe. They deserve better from us than to be forgotten.

And from there I ate, slept, and dreamed labor history. Reading, taking notes. I never knew for sure what I would do with all those notes, boxes full of notes arranged mostly in chronological order, but they sure do come in handy now.

So the “Why” boils down to this: our labor martyrs deserve to be remembered by us. Each and every one. And remembered, at minimum, by their names and ages.

Memory and Class Consciousness

The Monument reads:

In Memory of
The men, women and children
Who lost their lives
In Freedoms’s Cause
At Ludlow, Colorado
April 20, 1914
Erected by the
United Mine Workers of America

Wesley Everest
“Tell the boys I died for my class.”

I won’t go into a long analysis here. Suffice to say that as we lose the memory of our history as a class, so goes our class consciousness. The heroes of the day understood that they were fighting for their class. From Joe Hill who writes in the Rebel Girl, “she is true to her class and her kind,” to Wesley Everest who went to his death saying “tell the boys I died for my class,” these workers understood that they were undertaking a struggle which was The Class Struggle. That they were up against a powerful and ruthless foe. They fought, not only for themselves, but for the Working Class as a whole and for the future generations of working people. They voiced this class conscious view over and over again in speeches, verse, and song. We owe them a debt that we can never repay. The very least we can do is to honor their memory.

The Unknown Worker Tag

Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I kept researching and avoided actually publishing anything, hoping to find missing names. However, if I were to stick with that plan, the Project would never be published. Some names will probably never be found. And so I’ve created the [Unknown Worker] Tag. These Labor Martyrs will be honored by whatever information I can find about them . For example, in [this diary], I could say that one was Puerto Rican and the other was an English “lad.” Here’s hoping that others will take this information and search further. Perhaps, their names can yet be discovered! When there names are found, the tag can be removed from that diary.

What Makes a Labor Martyr?

Julius Wayland
d. Nov 10, 1912

Most of the time this question is easy to answer. Workers go out on strike, and they are shot down in the streets, their union halls are raided and they are shot down in their own hall, or dragged out of the hall tortured and hung; they are put into filthy cold crowed jails, beaten and battered, and then refused medical care. Machine guns were very efficient means of murdering working people without much exertion on the part of the military, the police, the gunthugs, the deputies, etc. These are the easy cases to decide.

But what of workers driven to suicide through persecution? Or the lawyer who worked himself into an early grave with a bleeding ulcer on behalf of his unjustly convicted union clients? The old man kept in the same cold cellar cell as Mother Jones who got sick there and died soon after release? The young man, a neighbor to the Ludlow Tent Colony, who caught a stray bullet and was killed? Reasonable people can disagree on these questions. The answer as to who should be considered a Labor Martyr is not always completely clear.

Hellraisers Journal

Mother Jones,
“You ought to be out raising hell.”

[Hellraisers Journal] is designed to keep me on track with the WE NEVER FORGET diaries. It’s less than perfect system. I’m still behind from when I went on vacation in August, and events are producing more and more Martyrs. Hellraisers is good at forcing me to work hard at catching up. Also, because of the Hellraisers diaries, I can simply write about the martyrs without going into the entire history of the strike. I’m not saying that I won’t write anymore diaries like [this one] or [this one], but the Martyrs didn’t always die in big events, they were often shot down casually here and there, and their names were lost to history. Those Martyrs deserve to be remembered also. And now, with Hellraisers giving the back-ground story, I can write these diaries with much less difficulty.

Hellraisers Journal will cover the period 1897 to (but not including) 1922, covering the life and times of Mother Jones. This will take 10 years (God willing and creek don’t rise.) These were the most active years of Mother Jones. This will cover 25 years of the 51 years that I want to eventually cover for the Labor Martyrs Project. And these are the years that I know the best, so, for me, that’s a good place to start.

[Today's Hellraisers Journal:] “Mother Jones Remembers Virden Martyrs at Union Miners’ Cemetery in Mt Olive.”

Something’s gotta give!

And so, some of the readers of Hellraisers may have noticed that I’ve stopped covering modern day events. This is regrettable, but unavoidable if I’m going to keep up with the Labor Martyrs Project. A lot goes into research, reviewing, comparing sources, compiling and integrating my notes, etc. There are books on the shelf that need to be read, and many more books on my list to buy. As well as books I’ve already read that need to be reviewed as I write. Therefore, I’ve made the decision to focus exclusively on the Labor Martyrs Project which includes both Hellraisers Journal and WE NEVER FORGET.

Future Plans

I own the domain name WE NEVER FORGET as dot com and as dot org & a few others also. Eventually, I hope to republish everything to one of them (probably dot org.) This is way off in the future as I have zero expertise in web site building.

I want to thank everyone who has read my diaries, tipped & rec’d them, repub’d them, and invited me to join groups so that I can repub them myself. Special thanks to gooderservice, Brae, and ruleoflaw, Big Al, and others who visit every day or almost every day.


I Am a Union Woman-Leenya Rideout

[The bosses ride fine horses
While we walk in the mud.
Their banner is a dollar sign
While ours is striped with blood.

-Aunt Molly Jackson]


Joe Hill’s Ashes:

Names of Ludlow Martyrs by Kossack [MKSinSA],
for which I am eternally grateful!

The Ludlow Monument (with larger view):

Wesley Everest:

Julius A Wayland:

Entire Poem by Richard Myers here:

Books Mentioned:

Labor’s Untold Story
-by Richard O. Boyer & Herbert M. Morais
United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, 1979)

Buried Unsung
Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre

-by Zeese Papanikolas
U of Utah Press, 1982

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Workers, not Servants by Irene Ortiz Rosen

2:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Today we are fortunate to have a diary describing the current condition of domestic workers in Mexico. This is an issue which has received increasing attention in the last three years. A long-time activist in the Domestic Worker Movement, Irene Ortiz Rosen, is the Co-Founder and Director of Collectivo Atabal, an organization of activists and feminists formed to defend the rights, dignity and demands of domestic workers in Mexico City. She is also the Co-Author of “Así es, Pues” a socio-economic study of domestic workers in Cuernavaca. A recent emigrant from Mexico, she approaches the subject from a global perspective which emphasizes the class and anti-imperialist aspects of the struggle as well as its patriarchal nature.

In the world of labor, a large group of women whose work is the maintenance of the homes of others is largely ignored—domestic workers. According to the ILO, there are more than 52 million domestic workers in the world.

In almost all countries, domestic workers share the following characteristics: 1) invisibility; 2) migration; 3) low levels of education; 4) gender, ethnic and racial discrimination; and 5) the informality of their labor. These are all products of poverty.
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Domestic workers make up an invisible workforce because their work is carried out in the private sphere, that is, the homes of their employers. Their contract is verbal, their work is isolated, and their mobility is common.

Generally they are migrants, usually, within their own countries. This is the case for indigenous women and women who come from rural areas in Latin America. And as the gap in inequality grows throughout the world, in the poorest countries the phenomenon of migration (usually without papers) is growing beyond borders. That is how they arrive to United States and Canada, by informally working as House Cleaning Personnel, Nannies and Home Attendants. In New York alone, we are talking about more than 200 thousand people who are working under disadvantaged conditions due to their Undocumented status.

Their discrimination is shared with nearly all women, and its logic corresponds to the subordination of women in a patriarchal culture. Within the patriarchal view of the traditional role of women, their work is an extension of the reproductive role, which is considered natural for their gender.

We should not forget that women in general, as housewives and mothers, perform domestic work without any pay whatever. Consequently, their work is not considered part of the national economy despite the fact that it makes up about 20% of the GDP. If a woman looks for waged work, she enters the labor market in a disadvantaged way; forty-five percent of women domestic workers receive salaries that are 10% lower than salaries received by men for the same work.
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Global economic policies that have impoverished the majority of the world´s population have brought women in all countries into the public sphere. The women working in the public sphere then need to hire a domestic worker to care for their children and home. However, because they, themselves, are not paid well, they are unable to pay a fair wage, even if they value the services being performed by domestic help.

Out of an employed population of 42.6 million in Mexico, there are 1.58 million domestic workers. They make up the fifth-largest group of informal workers.
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The Mexican Federal Labor Law (LFT), in a brief chapter, only refers to domestic workers who live in the homes of their employers, “live-in workers,” and specifies two rights: the wage and the working day. In Article 334, it says, “the pay should be 50% in kind (food and a room).” And in Article 333 it says, “they have the right to have necessary time to eat and to rest at night.” In practice this means that the wage is minimal and that the working day is 12 to 15 hours.
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In the case of “external” workers,” their employers are typically members of the middle class and look upon this work as a “service of help,” sporadic and temporary. The law does not specify their labor rights. Their only power is to negotiate their wages according to the current state of supply and demand in the labor market. Occasionally, those who are valued on their jobs because they have been doing it for so long and those who are part of a union (some are unionized) do achieve better work conditions.

From my experience of 20 years as an organizer of this workforce in my country, I see similarities not only in the conditions of the work, but in the efforts and organizing strategies as well, in Latin America, in California, New York, Chicago and Canada.

Labor union organization, as it is well known, is almost impossible because domestic workers don´t work for a single employer. The attempts to organize the unions in Latin America, are almost symbolic, without recognition or force when facing the employers. They are more like social organizations.

Nonetheless, over the past 40 years, there have been organizations, each with its own character in each country. The principal demand is to stop “live in” which is the most exploited type of work. There have also been addition demands, like regularizing the working day, receiving full pay for holidays and other benefits like the year-end bonus, vacation time and health insurance.
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The strategies implemented and agreed upon are based on the sociopolitical and historical context of each country. In my work, emphasis is on the following strategies: 1) the search for alliance; 2) integrating oneself in social movements; 3) searching for solidarity and actively seeking the company of activists and advisers. This includes, accepting and looking for donations, creating campaigns, editing publications, reaching the media, lobbying political actors, and most importantly, educating workers about their rights.

In Mexico, the initiative began when activists pushed workers to unionize. There are also the personal goals of the workers affiliated with unions such as educating them about their rights, the acknowledgment of dignity in their industry, the improvement of their working conditions and their legal defense in abuse cases.
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Of collective achievements, I would like to point out the best known ones: The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights recently won after ten years of struggle in New York State; a federal deputy of indigenous origin in Bolivia who had been the leader of a domestic workers organization; in Brazil, a representative of a domestic workers organization to parliament, along with labor law reform and the recognition of a domestic workers union; In Uruguay, the syndicate achieved health coverage legislation, along with severance pay and a bonus on retirement. In Mexico, 20 years after activists began promoting the organization, an indigenous leader, is continuing the process of organizing in Mexico City.

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The most significant achievement is the adoption of Convention 189 by the ILO on June 16, 2011, which advocates for the dignity of work for domestic workers, along with the adoption of Recommendation 201, which sets the goal of guaranteeing dignified pay and working conditions for domestic workers around the world. At this point, however, only six countries have ratified the convention: The Philippines, Mauritius, Italy, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Uruguay.

I want to conclude by emphasizing that with every achievement, the workers face new challenges that motivates them to keep on fighting. The Bill of Rights, in New York, now has the task of informing each worker of it’s content and it’s right to be followed. No more, no less. It’s a process that some must begin and others must continue in hopes that tomorrow things will be better for everyone.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: An Immodest Proposal by NY Brit Expat

2:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

For Preventing the Poor People in Britain from being a burden to Their Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public

Un hommage á Jonathan Swift

Whenever I travel the country and listen to the newscasts and read the papers, it has become evident that the poor are a significant burden upon the country. Instead of working, women go begging at food banks to provide for their children. Others sit on the streets with their offspring begging money from their betters. Clearly these lazy creatures assume that we as a society have some responsibility to ensure the existence of their offspring. Moreover, since they have to care for their children, they obviously have no time to actually work to provide for their existence. Their lack of property and their inability to ensure their and their offspring’s survival is threatening the very nature of our society.

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Listening to the enlightened member of the government, Michael Gove, discussing their despair at the difficulty of providing for the poor in a period of falling profit and watching their sincere worry at the sheer indolence and decrepitude of so many that simply cannot take care of themselves due to their inability to divide their princely sums bestowed upon them by the government for their provenance one wonders at what can be done to eradicate the problems of her majesty’s subjects that are forced to deal with such laziness and drunkenness and lack of respect for the publick good? Their overabundance of children and dependent elderly and the poor choices of the poor have forced rising usage of food banks which simply cannot be tasked with providing for all this dependency. Imagine that 1 in 4 people cannot balance their munificent benefits to cover the costs of school uniforms; clearly they have too many children or are obviously spending their money on alcohol.
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A solution is demanded to get all these lazy people into work. But that is clearly not sufficient as provision for the children, elderly and infirm is needed so as not to undermine the working ability of those that are able-bodied but unwilling to be responsible to survive on wages below the social subsistence level. Imagine that some are working but not earning enough? Clearly that is their fault and they must be forced to work harder. It is insufficient that we cut their benefits further as demanded by our illustrious secretary of works and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith; surely they know that the going rate of wages is determined by supply and demand and that any interference by creating a living minimum wage will simply impoverish everyone?

Moreover, they insist on breeding more wretched versions that eat into the carefully determined minimum wage so carefully designed to ensure their bare subsistence and force their parents to eat insufficient amounts of food to be available at a phone call’s notice for availability of employment. Raised by the indolent with no knowledge of work ethic and wasting scarce resources of education, they drain the public purse. Needing a next generation of workers, we cannot simply cut them off but we should of course not sustain those unneeded in the future. Obviously, more than two children must be penalised. Some of her majesty’s ministers have suggested punishment by which benefits for children are lowered after more than two progeny. Far too soft-hearted as it gives the parents the opportunity of breeding more than two and then sacrificing their own food which then perhaps would impact on their ability to labour.

A greater bane is the elderly who simply did not have the wisdom to save sufficiently to live a dignified retirement and now are dependent upon the grand state pensions provided by the state. They dare to live past the age of usefulness to the society and are a drain on the public purse and on scarce resources such as food, the health system, housing, water, electricity and fuel for heating. They may require additional care which will eat into the subsidies for important sectors like the fracking industry working diligently to ensure our access to natural gas. This can simply not be allowed.

While some misguided members of the public may argue that in fact the problem is one of insufficient need on the part of our leaders of the business community for workers and that work could be created at union wages by her majesty’s government in the sectors of transport, housing, education and social care of children, the elderly and infirm these people are simply soft-hearted; simply not understanding that these people are lazy and must be punished in the harshest way possible so as to teach them that laziness has a price.

The creation of a national service suggested by Tory, Labour and Lib Dem members of Parliament has some merits. However, it only demands 1 year at minimum wages either in the (i) charitable work, (ii) social action, (iii) care for the elderly or disabled, (iv) overseas development activity, or (v) work connected with the National Health Service, the emergency services or the Armed Forces; imagine that it only provides one year of cheap labour! Clearly, the children of the wealthy can service overseas development activity and they would not be dependent upon the minimum wage; however, that is insufficient to teach the work ethic to the scions of our indolent so-called working class. While it will save money on wages for our illustrious business community, one year’s labour does not even begin to cover the expenses laid out for their education. Incredibly, it also points to the issue being one of labour demand and why should the government pay for these people’s poor education and choices, when there are more obvious answers?

My immodest proposal

As everyone in the know knows, poverty is a life choice; people choose simply to be poor and lazy. Their inability to manage the beneficence endowed on them by the state and not contribute by providing labour to the public is evidence of their immorality. Immorality should never be enabled. We must stamp it out.

Discussing the matter at length with historians, I have come to the conclusion that the past has much to offer. If the poor are lazy and unwilling to work as all unemployment is voluntary then we must force them to work.

We have many examples in recent history, but they may be too much for those silly believers in human rights, so we must go further back than the 1940s. Our past has excellent answers for dealing with an old problem: Mister Bentham and the creators of the 1834 Poor Law reform were on the right track.

Since work is punishment, we can open up poor houses. To not impact upon her majesty’s purse, these can be run by the private sector; they merely need to provide common housing, meals and clothes. Since they do not need to purchase things as everything is being provided, wages are redundant. That will save money for both state and business leaders as since they are poor there is no reason to pay them the munificent minimum wage, they can work for their benefits. Since they will be fed, housed, and clothed, and they as such do not need to purchase things as all their needs are provided for them, even wages are essentially redundant. While some may fear that this will impact upon their consumption and hence upon realisation of profitability of goods produced by the private sector, we are certain that the consumption of these poor souls does not drive the system; that power solely belongs to the savings and investment of the wealthy. These people can serve the publick good, they even can be used as test subjects for our pharmaceutical industry. If all else fails and they cannot learn the importance of serving their betters with their labour, the perennial shortage of organs for transplant and the use of their wombs to help the wealthy childless can easily be arranged and they will have provided a service to the public.
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While one may accept this for the abled-bodied, what of the disabled? Nothing to fear, as our inestimable Mr. Bentham states:

“A person deprived of all his limbs, or the use of all his limbs may still possess ability sufficient to the purpose of serving as an inspector to most kinds of work, so long as his mental faculties, and sight for observing, and voice for questioning are possessed by him in sufficient rigour (Bentham, 1796, p. 46-7).”

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Why waste money on education for the working classes? They only need to know how to be useful in their roles as workers. They are clearly not learning this from their lazy voluntarily unemployed parents. Happily, the inestimable Mr Bentham comes to the rescue again, alas it will cost the government some money, but it will be recouped with their labour and will teach them at a young age the importance of the work ethic:

“Position 47: From the labour of a Minor, brought up and educated at the public charge, the public may, without injustice, hardship or even deviation from established law, or usage, reap the utmost profit that such labour can be made to yield, consistently with regard due, [...], to the health and permanent welfare of the individual, and that, from the period, whatever it may be, of his being taken under public care, until the expiration of his minority (Bentham, 1796, p. 53).”

That brings us to those too young to provide labour, the disabled that are unable to work and are such a drain on society’s resources and those that are too old and are no longer of any use to society and were improvident enough not to ensure their independent survival. These answers are so obvious, it surprises one that they haven’t been implemented earlier.

Clearly, the size of the population and the difficulty of producing sufficient quantities of food are leading to the rising prices of food. After replacement of the next generation of the working class (which we scientifically estimate at two for each family), the rest are redundant.

Meat and feeding grain to the food supply is rising due to the need to sustain the profitability of agribusiness. We can help by increasing the supply of meat; the tender flesh of the very young will better the diets of the poor and can be supplied at a low price and this will improve the ability to labour of the poorest by varying their diets. The flesh of the poor that are severely disabled and elderly and since their organs may be of limited transplant value would certainly serve as fertiliser to ensure an increase in grain production which should cut costs of fertilisers for agribusiness and will also be organically produced.

Since we know that the capitalist system provides full employment, we have no need of supplementing their demand for labour through the creation of state jobs. Clearly those that are unemployed are lazy and do not want to work at the going wages. If workers wanted more bargaining power in contract negotiations they would stop breeding.

Instead of encouraging cooperatives and alternative forms of production and consumption, we know that competition and the steady invisible hand of capitalism will provide for all who are willing to contribute their labour.

Instead of creating jobs by the state in sectors in which there is dire need like green manufacturing, transport, education, health care, child care, care for the elderly and infirm and building desperately needed social housing and where people receive long term training to do these jobs, have job protection and are paid union wages, why pay wages at all?
Instead of taxing wealth (land and stock portfolios for example), taxing all financial transactions, capital gains and corporations as well as introducing a more progressive income tax, why should we worry about the needs of the vast majority?

Instead of guaranteeing access to drinking water, health care, energy, heating and transport for all, we only need to cover those whose wealth deems them deserving of these luxuries. The wealthy have earned these things due to their greater intelligence, foresight in saving instead of consuming, and their obvious greater abilities than those without property. Redistribution of wealth will only impoverish all of the country as the poor cannot make good choices about managing their largesse.

Instead of ensuring income and services from cradle to grave, we can provide physical subsistence as long as people are able to give their labour. The wage is what the wage is, demanding a relationship to the costs of living only undermines profitability and we cannot do that in a period where certain sectors are facing declining profitability.

Instead of dumping the whole capitalist system where people’s needs are subsumed to profitability, where the planet is being destroyed in the name of profit and where people themselves become economically redundant, we should extend the system to the point where profitability is the only concern of governments as well as business and where voting is solely done by the propertied classes.

I beg you give my immodest proposal the consideration it deserves. To quote the inestimable Jonathan Swift whose own writing has provided the inspiration for this essay:

“I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich.”

My deepest gratitude to

Bentham, Jeremy, (1796) “Essays on the Subject of the Poor Laws, Essay I and II,” in Writings on the Poor Laws, Volume I, pp. 3-65.

Swift, Jonathan (1729) “A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being A burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public.” (

and the ConDem government without whom this essay would be sincerely unnecessary …

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Solidarity Forever (A Sing Along) by EK Hornbeck

2:30 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

An Annual Tradition at The Stars Hollow Gazette ( and DocuDharma (

Solidarity Forever is perhaps the most famous Union anthem yet it’s composer, Ralph Chaplin, came to hate it, writing-

[T]here is no one (among the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies) who does not look with a rather jaundiced eye upon the ‘success’ of ‘Solidarity Forever.’

I didn’t write ‘Solidarity Forever’ for ambitious politicians or for job-hungry labor fakirs seeking a ride on the gravy train.

All of us deeply resent seeing a song that was uniquely our own used as a singing commercial for the soft-boiled type of post-Wagner Act industrial unionism that uses million-dollar slush funds to persuade their congressional office boys to do chores for them.

I contend also that when the labor movement ceases to be a Cause and becomes a business, the end product can hardly be called progress.

For you see, the essence of the song is class consciousness as laid out in the Preamble of The Little Red Book which says, “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.” Between Labor and Capital “a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production, and abolish the wage system.”

By this analysis any Union that did not at it’s core embrace syndicalism, the most famous examples of which in the United States are the craft unions of the American Federation of Labor and the industrial unions of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, was betraying the movement by giving workers the false impression that they have interests in common with and could control the employing class through contracts.

Instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,’ we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wage system.’

Likewise the IWW opposed participation in politics as mere compliance with an inherently corrupt system, “by organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.”

Now the lyrics I like best are the original 1915 version in which these revolutionary arguments find their clearest expression.


Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.


When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong.

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong.

It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities where they trade;
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid;
Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders we have made;
But the union makes us strong.

All the world that’s owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone.
We have laid the wide foundations; built it skyward stone by stone.
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own.
While the union makes us strong.

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn
That the union makes us strong.

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong.

Alas hardly anyone uses them anymore, instead substituting various bowdlerized and watered down versions of the more controversial parts. Even Pete Seeger (by far the best YouTube version) skips the master and own verse.

In my house when we raise the fist of solidarity in the international socialist workers salute we sing it a cappella using the Chapin lyrics and follow with Which Side Are You On? by Florence Reece.

Come on you poor workers
Good news to you I tell
How the good old union
Has come in here to dwell.

Which side are you on, which side are you on

We’re starting our good battle
We know we’re sure to win
Because we’ve got the gun thugs
Looking very thin

Which side are you on, which side are you on

You go to Harlan County
There is no neutral there
You’ll either be a union man
Or thug for J.H. Blair

Which side are you on, which side are you on

They say they have to guard us
To educate their child
Their children live in luxury
Our children almost wild

Which side are you on, which side are you on

Gentlemen can you stand it
Oh tell me how you can
Will you be a gun thug
Or will you be a man

Which side are you on, which side are you on

My daddy was a miner
He’s now in the air and sun
He’ll be with you fellow workers
‘Til every battle’s won

Which side are you on, which side are you on

As always when I write pieces like this, I intend them to be mostly descriptive. They are not necessarily reflections of my beliefs. Likewise I prefer to use Wikipedia as a source, not because it’s the most comprehensive or accurate, but because, as a crowd sourced document, it represents the lowest common denominator of general agreement about the subject. Read the rest of this entry →

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: We Need to Support Walmart Workers’ #Ride4Respect by JayRaye

2:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Organization United for Respect at Walmart


Right now as you read this, Walmart Workers are on buses and they are caravanning from various cities to Bentonville, Arkansas where Walmart will be holding its annual shareholders meeting on June 7th. They plan to make their presence known by urging Walmart to stop its retaliation against associates who dare to speak out about working conditions. The #Ride4Respect uses the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement for inspiration. Completely appropriate, in my book. The fight for our rights as workers is a struggle for civil and human rights. Workers are American Citizens, and we are human beings. We don’t stop being Human Beings and Citizens when we pass through the doors of our place of employment.

One of the rights guaranteed to working people by U.S. Labor Law, is the right to speak out about the conditions of labor, and to do so without retaliation from our employer. That retaliation is illegal! Walmart’s retaliation has not ceased, in spite of denial that it exists, and in spite of promises to stop this retaliation (which they deny exists!) This is where the Unfair Labor Practice Strike comes into the picture. Striking Walmart Workers are a big part of the #Ride4Respect. This strike is historic as it will be the first prolonged ULP strike made by Walmart Workers. They are taking OUR Walmart’s fight for respect to another level.

Lisa Lopez walks and gives notice of ULP strike.
A Woman of Courage has put on her fighting clothes!
Mother Jones would be proud!


Now here’s the thing. Walmart should not be able to break labor law with impunity. Neither should workers have to put their jobs on the line to enforce labor law. Like any other crime, we should be able to report the crime, and the cops should show up and put the handcuffs on the culprit, namely Walmart….Yeah…right! We were threatened with arrest at our Black Friday Demo in San Antonio for putting our feet on Walmart’s grass! Six squad cars were there in jiffy when Walmart made their complaint.

So, OK, I’m stating the obvious here: Justice is not blind in America. She sees clearly who butters her bread. Walmart breaks labor laws, retaliates against workers illegally, endangers workers, practices wage theft. And if not done directly by Walmart, then by their supply chain. For which they claim no responsibility, but are ready and willing to claim the profits. They break labor laws with the impunity, meaning they know that no one will come to arrest them.

Therefore, it is up to the workers to put their jobs on the line to enforce labor laws themselves. These are low-wage workers who face hardship from the loss of even one day’s wages. Many of them can expect to be out of work for awhile, until their case is settled. Unless, of course, the case goes against them, in which case, they are just plain out of luck.

A 27 page report documenting Walmart’s abusive and retaliatory labor practices can be downloaded here:

Organizing Community Support

There is a movement afoot to organize Changing Walmart Teams on a community by community basis. I have been on three conference calls in the past three weeks which have included representatives from Making Change at Walmart, Jobs with Justice, and OUR Walmart. All of this is still in the planning stages, so I won’t go too far into it here. But I can say (speaking only for myself) that building strong local, ongoing, support teams is the most important thing we can do to support Walmart Workers.

This is going to be a long fight! We need to organize community support with a view to the long haul. Small, solid support groups, ready to step outside of the comfort zone. Groups that can hang together and offer real long-term support, and not just organized for one event.

Low-wage workers are finding the courage to stand up, we need to find the courage to stand beside them.

Supporting Low-wage workers is in our interest!

Let me make it plain, that I support the Walmart Workers and other low-wage workers because it is the right and moral thing to do. They are our Fellow Workers, and we care what happens to them.
When will we ever learn?
An injury to one is an injury to all!

But I also want to point out that fighting for low-wage workers is in the interest of the entire working class, from the highest to the lowest paid workers. Trickle-down is a crock of crap. I think all of us would agree on that point. In fact, the welfare of the working class is built from the bottom up, not from the top down. The higher the standard of living that we ensure for lowest paid workers, the better for the rest of us. When the boot of the ruling class comes to grind us down, we need to make sure that there is a limit (as a class!) to how much of a grinding we will take. Sad to say, the American working class has never established that limit. We allow the least among us to be ground down into dust.

Nothing has hurt the American working class more over the years, then its willingness (as a class) to buy into the ruling class notion that middle class workers are being robbed by the poor. Nothing. And then add to that racism and sexism, and we are screwed. But we screw ourselves by eating the load of crap that the ruling class feeds us.

We now have a chance to make a real change for the better. Imagine the American working class with Walmart Workers, Fast Food Workers, and Warehouse Workers solidly organized! What a difference it would make for all of us.

I mean, really, sit down in quiet place and imagine that for a few minutes!
Then get up and start working to make it happen!

William Z Foster: The Importance of Organizing the Unorganized

The question of organizing the many millions of unorganized workers is the most vital matter now before the America labor movement. The future progress of the working class depends upon the solution of this great problem.

The organization of the unorganized is a life and death question for the labor movement. To bring the millions into the unions is necessary not only for the protection of the unorganized workers, and to further class ends in general, but also to safeguard the life of the existing organizations. Many of the trade unions are now under such heavy attacks from the employers that their very existence is threatened. These struggles can be resolved favorably to the workers only by drawing to their support the great mass of unorganized….

Failure of the unions to strengthen their ranks now by the inclusion of vast masses of the unorganized will expose them to the most deadly dangers in the slack industrial period that is not far ahead, when the employers will renew their “open shop” campaign of destruction against the unions with redoubled vigor.

True then, true now.


Making Change at Walmart

OUR Walmart
Organization United for Respect at Walmart

NLRB Employee Rights

Organize the Unorganized
-by William Z Foster
Chicago TUEL, 1926
Chapter I-”The Importance of Organizing the Unorganized”

For further study:
An interesting article on ULP strikes from

Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?

Follow the #Ride4Respect

Stand with Walmart Workers/Petition for June 7



Connect with OUR Walmart

In Solidarity,

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