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(en) FREEDOM VOICES

From "Action IWA" <action_iwa@hotmail.com>
Date Wed, 20 Jun 2001 15:44:43 -0400 (EDT)


 ________________________________________________
      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E
            http://www.ainfos.ca/
 ________________________________________________

FREEDOM VOICES - A compilation of statements prepared for the International 
Conference on "Workers and Immigration" at Milan, Italy on June 22, 23, and 
24, 2001.

     Because no one voice is sufficient to a description of the situation 
and problems of the new Immigration, we allow a number of different voices 
to be heard!

     This Conference is sponsored by the Unione Sindicale Italiana at Viale 
Bligny 22 in Milan.  This compilation was prepared by the U.S. Section of 
the International Workers Association,
               323 Fourth Street,
               Cloquet, Minnesota,
                 55720 - 2051

               Phone:  218.879.8628
               E-mail:  <aitminnesota@hotmail.com>

**********************************************************************

     Today, Liberal, Marxist and fake syndicalist strategies are dominant in 
the labor scene.  Each of these labor organizing strategies upholds a 
program that prescribes how their goals are to be achieved.  As this is the 
case, the operation and administration of each labor campaign and initiative 
creates an environment where goals and methods go unquestioned.  Any 
discourse which does occur arises only over the specifics of a given 
campaign.  Workers are not allowed to think and act for themselves.  They 
are regarded as muscle but not brain.

     The dominant labor organizing initiatives are processes that afford 
little movement to those each strategy seeks to engage and enlist in the 
struggle.  Liberalism, Marxism and fake syndicalism have developed into 
methodologies allowing working people only the most mechanical levels of 
participation.

     All of these strategies are based on appeals to politicians of one kind 
or another.  Oh, yes, politicians will jump on the bandwagon, but only if 
there is a bandwagon!  These people don't even want to take the time to 
build that bandwagon.

     The problem with most of this labor organizing is that the organizers 
want to have the results of a grassroots movement, but they don't want the 
grassroots movement itself!  However, you can't put the cart before the 
horse.

     The conventional organizing choices create a mirror image of commodity 
society, with no sense of people activity.  Your only option is to accept or 
reject prepackaged gimmicks.

     Nevertheless, the new immigrants are challenging "official" labor as 
never before.  Immigrant workers know their reality and they know the work.  
They know the situation they are in.  Without a stake in the action, there 
can be no passion, no excitement, no enthusiasm, no dedication, just the 
mechanicalisms of robots.  Increasingly, it is the immigrant workers who are 
opposing these false choices.

     On Saturday and Sunday, June 9 and 10, 2001, Sam Differding and I 
traveled to Des Moines, Iowa to visit the strike-line of the Titan Tire 
workers.  We were both jolted by the revelation that most of these workers 
are not white Iowa corn-boys but immigrants from Laos, Cambodia, etc.  After 
more than two years of a difficult strike-lockout, after frequent media 
reports of the struggle, after endless press releases from both the Company 
and the USWA, it was not until we were face-to-face with them that we 
realized just how invisible to the world they have been.  And yet, it is 
immigrant Asian workers in cornfield Iowa who have fought Titan Tire to a 
standstill.

     Jeffrey Hilgert,
     Minneapolis, Minnesota,
     <jhilgert@hotmail.com>

**********************************************************************

     At home was famine.  For the first time in our history, a starving 
people was able to escape death - by changing countries.  I had to adjust, 
not only to a new nation, but to a new kind of nation.
The adjustment wasn't always easy.  During this difficult time of change, I 
found it necessary on occasion to vent my pent-up emotions in a fight or 
two.

     In accepting the way of life America offered, I also had to accept the 
strange jobs that went with it.  I knew nothing of industrial work.  Yet, 
that was the kind of work America offered:  tending machines, lifting and 
carrying objects, cleaning
machines.

     I had stolen money to escape the fear of hunger.  I could not remember 
when I had not been afraid of hunger.  I had felt the hot breath of death.  
In this country, my people have changed.  They are not a type of American 
and they are no longer a type of Asian.

     The insects here are strange.  Most of my people stuck to the cities.  
They willingly go into any work open to them except one - farming.  All our 
memories of the agricultural life are bitter ones.

     I have worked for temp-agencies.  I saw the practice of letting out 
contracts for temp-companies as an abuse of labor.  The contractor, 
operating with little money, sometimes ran into financial
difficulties which he solved by making off with the payroll.  Such 
incidents, more often than not, touched off a blind fight among the workers.

     As a tire-maker, I needed all the strength I could find to get through 
a day.  The forced over-time was hard.  I did not like the bad fumes from 
the rubber.

     K. Chan
     Des Moines, Iowa

**********************************************************************

"The Other Strike" - April 9, 2001, Los Angeles, California

     It's not the strike everyone's talking about.  It won't shut down the 
industry.  It won't effect anyone's prime time viewing.  But it's awfully 
important to 450 Los Angeles garment workers and their families.  And it 
continues to shed light on an industry that reaps profits at the expense of 
their lowest paid employees.

     The production workers at Hollander Home Fashions in Vernon have been 
on strike since their contract ran out a month ago.  They're not asking for 
higher wages, although many, like Manuel, a soft-spoken man in his 
mid-fifties, have been working at the company for over 20 years and still 
earn no more than $6.80 an hour.  They're not asking for health insurance 
for their families, another benefit conspicuously
missing from their compensation.  They're asking for a pension plan; an 
acknowledgment that years spent fashioning sheets, comforters, pillows and 
curtains for the Hollander family to sell to, among the many listed on their 
website, companies like Bloomingdales, Strouds, Ikea and Eddie Bauer, will 
not be forgotten when they retire.

     According to Hollander's website, www.bedroom.com, demand for the 
companies' products "has never been greater."  They credit this to the 
"...one thing that remains unchanged.  After all these years, we're still a 
family business.  With family values very much at heart..."  One has to 
wonder whose family they're talking about and exactly what it is they value.

     It's certainly not the families of their production staff.  While all 
managers, supervisors, administrative workers and mechanics have a 401K 
plan, the Hollanders refuse to negotiate with the union representing the 
garment workers since their contract expired. Instead, every morning at 6:30 
am, they bus in scabs hired through a temporary agency, reportedly paying 
them $1.00 to $2.00 more an hour than they paid their long-time employees.  
They've also hired security personnel armed with video cameras who record 
the activity of the workers on the picket lines.

     But the strike continues and the workers show up every day to picket 
five at a time, a condition of the restraining order filed against the 
striking workers by the company, to make their demands heard.  They cheer 
daily victories, yesterday 8 of 11 outside vendor delivery trucks that 
arrived at the factory refused to cross the picket lines, and lament 
defeats, on the same day five workers were arrested for walking the line for 
a duration of seven minutes, another condition vaguely laid out in the 
restraining order, instead of five.

     And there they will stay, waiting for the time when they can go back to 
their jobs, secure in the knowledge that their efforts have not been in 
vain, until the Hollander family looks into its much touted heart and finds 
a speck of fairness.

     [After ten long weeks, the strike ended in a victory for the workers on 
May 17, 2001.]

     Cayce Callaway,
     Los Angeles, California,
     <cayce9@hotmail.com>

**********************************************************************

     I work in a factory in Los Angeles.  It's one of the progressive, 
technological factories.  The management of this factory thinks only in 
terms of efficiency, profits and speed, thoroughly quantitative things.  
They want to gear the worker to the pattern of the machine, instead of the 
machine to the pattern of the worker.

     The bureaucrats of our labor union constantly assure management that 
they will not oppose the conditions of the work process.  The union has 
become little more than an insurance policy plan for job preservation.  The 
union consistently refuses to fight the conditions of brutalization and 
speed-up.

     Whatever the process of industrial technology means to management, the 
engineers, and the labor bureaucrats - to the production worker it means the 
overwhelming projection of brutal heavy conditions, including psychological 
tensions and physical coercion.

     At the factory where I work, they have men called "management 
engineers."  These "engineers" are always walking around carrying 
stop-watches or writing long things on special form paper.  They watch us 
carefully.  They time every motion that we make.

     At one point, we would see the "management engineers" only once every 
month.  Now, however, we see them 60 times a day.  They are always sitting 
by us, watching us.  One afternoon, I actually caught one of these guys 
following behind a woman worker with his stop-watch in his hand to time her 
as she briefly stepped into the washroom.  This guy was really clocking the 
woman.  Later in the day, this woman said to me:  "They treat us like 
animals.  We aren't even living.  Because of the way they treat us, we're 
merely existing."

     Whenever I notice the "management engineers," I always walk over and 
warn the other workers that we are being watched.  At one of these 
occasions, one of the young guys said to me:  "I know it.  I see him 
standing there.  I'm at the breaking point.  I can't work any harder or 
faster.

     My department keeps posted the statistics of workload each month. 
During the first ten months I worked at this factory, I averaged twice as 
much of a workload each month as whoever had my job the year before.  During 
the second ten months I've been at this factory, I've averaged three and 
four - and on one occasion, five - times as much of a workload each month as 
compared to my first year.  This condition has been imposed upon us in spite 
of daily resistance on the part of that group of guys with whom I work.  The 
union refuses to protect us. We are not yet strong enough to protect 
ourselves.

     Juan Arroyo,
     Los Angeles, California,
     <ait-california@altavista. com>

**********************************************************************

Dear Friends,

     While not an essay, I think you may be interested in
the following work of Art, located at;

<http://www.art-for-a-change.com/Vallen/vdraw18.htm>

     I created the Drawing in 1988, and it has since been printed as a large 
Poster that has been distributed throughout the Southwestern United States. 
The poster has been so successful that it's title, "Ningun ser Humano es 
Ilegal - No Human Being Is Illegal"... has
become the semi-official slogan of the Immigrant's Rights Movement in the 
Southwestern portion of the U.S.

     Please feel free to direct people to the image posted on my Web site. 
You may also print the image if you like, provided of course that I'm given 
credit as it's creator.  (I can e-mail a higher resolution image to you if 
you like.)  The actual Posters are also
available ... though it may be too late to get them to you for the 
conference, still, people can still be directed to the Web site.

     You may also be interested to explore the rest of my site, ART FOR A 
CHANGE.  The entire site is dedicated to Protest Art ... from my own 
Paintings and Drawings to the works of other Artists and Artistic Movements.

     The homepage for the site is:

<http://www.art-for-a-change.com>

     Good luck with the conference!

     Yours in Struggle,
     Mark Vallen,
     <vallen@art-for-a-change.com>

**********************************************************************

     People don't emigrate out of choice.  They go to where they might be 
able to provide a better life for themselves and their families.  While they 
move to be with their friends and families, it is almost always in 
connection with moves that have been made in search of some peace and the 
opportunity to live better materially and aesthetically.

     Our demands around immigrants' issues have to include that people's 
'nations' provide the opportunities for them to live well where they are - 
well enough that their sons and cousins will come back to their native land, 
where their customs and their friends still are.

     Clearly this is not a demand that people do not emigrate.  It is a 
demand that we become enabled to travel like The Rich, where we like and 
when we like, to visit and enjoy ourselves and to share others' cultures and 
lands.  It is a demand that we not be forced to move in order to find work, 
in order to survive.

     I was reminded yesterday in discussion over this issue that immigrants 
are sometimes the most reactionary, after The Rich, group. They largely 
subscribe to the deception we know nations project, how wonderful they are, 
how interested they are in the well being of their 'subjects,' etc.

     Their children, however, can come to recognize how cheated they've been 
and learn to dissent ...

     Defense of immigrants, while humanitarian, is not in the interests of 
'left' causes.

     It's always good to remind ourselves of what we're trying to do. We're 
not trying to radicalize immigrants, street people, The Poor, blacks, 
homosexuals, youth, The Aged (you can tell I love putting 'The' in front of 
groups) - objectifying, further dehumanizing us, as though all of us are 
generically that category! NOTNOT!!!) [The Rich, though - that's generic! 
the thieves!!!]

     We're trying to serve The Folks who have issues with the socio-economic 
structure, today.  There are lots of us.  Many of us need us to talk 
reasonably together, to express 'regular' people's interests in ways that 
make sense with them.  So we wouldn't expect
people in general to adhere to struggle that raises The Most Marginalized as 
the issue.  Rather, we'd have to speak to the
humiliation, overwork, under-payment, un-aesthetic lives led by most people, 
today, and that they/we know we can work to change it so it's enjoyable for 
all of us, etc.

     Norma J.F. Harrison,
     Berkeley, California,
     <normaha@pacbell.net>

**********************************************************************

     I worked for a year in Korea.  I traveled extensively there and in 
other Asian countries.  Examples of a management-labor relationship that is 
reminiscent of 19th century industrialism can be found in Korean, Taiwanese, 
and Hong Kong invested firms, as well as the "homegrown" private enterprises 
which are found in the Special Economic Zones in China.  Great numbers of 
workers from all over China have migrated for work to the southern and 
coastal regions, as well as the SEZs of the inland rural townships.

     Though you might assume that the presence of a union would help remedy 
a situation where the workforce is often forced to labor anywhere from ten 
to twelve hours or even longer each day, with no days off for weeks on end, 
at low pay, poor and unsafe working conditions, high accident rates, with no 
privacy or free-time at factory provided living quarters, etc., the presence 
of a union at these enterprises often means that the union is dominated by 
management and/or the local government officials.  Not surprisingly, in most 
instances local government and local capitalists work in collusion to keep 
out the official trade union, or to keep it very tame and a tool of 
management.  Despite the fact that strikes and slow-downs are becoming a 
commonplace phenomenon in China and other
Asian countries, little has happened to remedy the plight of workers.

     Worker protests continue, although they remain sporadic and 
unorganized.  Thus local governments are still able to attract abusive 
foreign capital.

     The prospects for workers in the state-owned enterprises and 
collectives doesn't seem to be very good.  In essence, the role of the 
"reformed" unions in China is to provide the hard hit workers with a
minimum of legal protection in order to DEFUSE worker unrest so "reforms" 
can continue.  Despite the massive restructuring of Chinese society since 
1978, it appears that the basic role and status of trade
unions hasn't changed.  The same could be said about unions in other Asian 
countries.

     Official trade unions in various Asian countries are commonly thought 
of as merely a tool for the government or ruling party to provide political 
education for workers, to organize and implement
production according to the plan of those in authority and, in the process, 
enforce proletarian discipline in the workplace.  Though this top-down 
function of worker indoctrination and policy implementation has historically 
been the primary function of the trade unions, it is not the only official 
function that the unions are supposed to perform.  According to the 
transmission-belt theory of the role of the trade union, the union is 
supposed to function as a "two-way" transmission belt which, firstly, 
implements policy from the top-down, and secondly represents the interests 
of the workers and transmits their grievances back up to the top.

     Though the theory has a certain logic, history has shown that when this 
theory has been applied by authorities, it creates an impossible situation 
for the unions because in order to fulfill one role union-organizers have to 
neglect the other.  Despite ideology that states otherwise, the interests of 
those at the top and the interests of the workers are often not the same.  
In fact, they are often conflictual.  This practice does put the trade union 
organizer on the spot.  He is in the middle, bound by discipline and 
directives from the top which might be opposed to the desires of the 
workers, or might simply and even obviously to him be counter to the 
interests of the workers.

     Soon I will be moving with my wife, who is from Japan, to Los Angeles.  
There, I hope to inter-act with immigrant Asian workers.

     Dylan Ellefson,
     Richfield, Minnesota,
     <dylellefson@hotmail.com>

**********************************************************************

     Revolutionary greetings from Bolivia!  We are the JUVENTUDES 
LIBERTARIAS of Bolivia.  "Workers and Immigration" is a topic that is very 
important for us, because thousands of Bolivian workers migrate each year to 
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the U.S.A.  There they live as SLAVES!  They 
work 14 or 16 hours per day.  They don't see the daylight.  They eat only 
rice.  It is very horrid.

     Please keep us informed about the Conference.

     In struggle,

     JUVENTUDES LIBERTARIAS,
     <jjll_bolivia@hotmail.com>

**********************************************************************

WORKERS AND IMMIGRATION: A SYNDICALIST COMPLAINT

     Over the last twenty years triumphant capitalism seems to have 
overwhelmed any alternative vision of workers' ownership and control of 
their own means of production in large economic enterprises.  Communist 
experiments in Eastern Europe and Asia have acknowledged bankruptcy and 
collapsed into economic confusion.  Organized unions in the West have 
staggered into impotent retreat as multi-national
corporations merged into larger and more powerful juggernauts, moving 
production rapidly to regions and countries where organized labor was even 
weaker.  The centralized mass-media of capitalism have trumpeted
to workers the news of their defeat and the inevitable triumph of 
capitalism, as brazenly as the socialists of the 19th and early 20th 
centuries once proclaimed the inevitability of revolution and the
historical triumph of workers' control.  The words of
SOLIDARITY FOREVER seem unconvincing today.

     Those were times when the barons of industry had reason to tremble in 
fear.  Those times seem past.  What happened?

     One of the early visions of workers' control over their own production 
and livelihood was the vision of syndicalist socialism, a vision shared over 
a period of a hundred years by French socialists such as Proudhon, Russian 
Anarchists like Bakunin and Kropotkin, American radicals like Vincent St. 
John and Bill Haywood, and the syndicalist anarchists of republican Spain.

     Nationalization through political control of the state has been 
discredited by the actual history of nationalized control in the Soviet 
warfare states in Eastern Europe and Asia.  Unions using collective 
bargaining and strikes to win limited improvement in
wages and conditions of work, without seeking ownership or management 
control of industries, have been growing weaker in recent years.  The
corporate-political-media establishment complex has learned to limit and 
break the effectiveness of strikes and collective bargaining.

     The corporate arm of the oligarchy transfers production and jobs to 
regions and countries where unions are weaker and wages are low.  The 
political wing, embodied by Alan Greenspan and the other governors of the 
Federal Reserve Board, have learned to calibrate the level of unemployment 
very carefully, by interest rate manipulations, in order
to keep the economy growing at a profitable rate, while keeping job seekers 
hungry enough to limit inflationary wage pressures that would enable both 
organized and unorganized workers to effectively
demand a fairer share of their productivity.

     The media wing plays its part by constantly disparaging the integrity 
and effectiveness of unions, and even more by simply ignoring the news value 
of their actions.  The people do not seem aware that the "free press" in 
America is mostly owned by large media corporations that see their own 
vested interest in disparaging unions and collective bargaining.

     In this climate of propaganda for triumphant capitalism, what path lies 
open for organized workers to gain ownership and control of their own means 
of production?

     Karl Meyer,
     Nashville, Tennessee

     [Karl Meyer is currently imprisoned in the Muscogee County Jail, in 
Georgia, because of protest-actions against the so-called "School of the 
Americas."]

**********************************************************************

WORKERS AND IMMIGRATION:  A SYNDICALIST DIALECTIC

     If the state was a group of brigands it would not be a part of the 
community.  The community's voluntary institutions would be the government 
of the society.  But the state is the government of the
capitalist society.  If the group of brigands actually started running the 
society it would have to establish its own institutions of governance and 
become an internal part of the community.  The
brigands would no longer be an external force, no matter how exploitative 
and cruel their rule might be.

     The power of the dominant social groups gives rise to the institutional 
forms of government that benefit the power of those social groups in power.  
The social structures whose existence is antithetical to the power of the 
dominant social group will not
become the structure of a government that is based on the power of the 
dominant social group.  Thus, a monarchy or a bourgeois republic cannot be a 
proletarian form of government.  The institutional form of government does 
not determine whether a government is a state.  A government exists as a 
state when it exists as an instrument of coercion by which a class that owns 
the means of production maintains its power over society.  This power is 
based on exploitative relations of production.  If the relations of 
production beween social groups are not based on exploitation but on 
collective mechanisms of surplus labor appropriation the social groups in 
that society will not exist as classes.  The united power of those social 
groups in a society whose social relations are based on collective relations 
of production is institutionally expressed in the form of the social 
self-government.

     If antagonistic and non-antagonistic social relations are unified 
contradictory aspects of social relations, than all social groups in each 
society exist in relationships which express both these aspects of social 
relations.  I would say that direct democratic forms of government are based 
on the principle of voluntary organization in that all decisions are made 
with everybody participating in the decision-making process.  If, however, 
voluntary organization means a form of social organization of a society 
whose social relations are all non-antagonistic, than such voluntary 
organization is an impossibility.  Since all soial relations include 
antagonistic and non-antagonistic relations, social relations can never be 
purely non-antagonistic.

     The central flaw in unilineal forms of Marxist theory is the confusion 
of the abstract dialectic, in which history is the expression of a single 
dialectical process - with the concrete dialectical process, in which 
history is the interpenetrated unity of many dialectical processes that 
together exist as one concrete dialectical process.  Theorists who accept 
that history consists of a single series of social formations, some of which 
may be skipped in
certain instances, are examples of such unilineal thinking.

     In a concrete dialectic, the existence of a multiplicity of different 
dialectical processes causes social relations to be a unity of conflictive 
and cooperative relations.  Hence the theory of a
history based on a single unilineal dialectic - in other words, abstract 
dialectics - is false.  Antagonism and cooperation do not exist because 
society is divided into social groups which cooperate or are in antagonism 
with each other, but because these two qualities of social relations are 
based on the existence of the community as such.

     Human social activity is a dialectical unity of cooperative and 
conflictive behavior!

     Classical Marxism is in a dilemma.  If the public power is eliminated 
and we admit that antagonistic contradiction still exists in a fully 
communist society, it becomes logically impossible for such antagonistic 
contradictions to be expressed.  If, on the other hand, we hold that only 
non-antagonistic contradictions exist in a fully
communist society, we would be adopting a metaphysical utopian position.  
The law of the unity and division of opposites demands that we cannot have 
non-antagonistic contradictions in a society without
there also existing antagonistic contradictions.  Such antagonistic 
contradictions may be solved without war, but we cannot deny the existence 
of antagonism under communism.

     Finally, we must separate the kernel of truth in Kropotkin's theory of 
mutual aid - which is that humankind must, if it is to survive, engage in 
cooperation as a means to maintain the community
which enables women and men to re-engage in production - from Kropotkin's 
theory of human nature.

     Wade Rawluk,
     Bronx, New York,
     <wrawluk2@cs.com>

**********************************************************************

     We believe that the movement to create the new society must itself 
resemble the society that we would create.  We seek to create a grassroots 
movement, a participatory movement, a mass revolutionary movement.  Clearly 
the grassroots movement of the future will be unlike any of the grassroots 
movements of the past, and BECAUSE of the new immigrant workers!  We oppose 
all gimmicks and SUBSTITUTIONS for a truly participatory movement, 
everything that is mere symbol and mere theater, everything which distracts 
us from the grassroots and allows the emergence of new - or old - vanguards, 
elites, in-groups.  We should act creatively for revolution just as the poet 
would make a poem or the artist a sculpture or painting.  We believe that 
the revolutionary syndicalist movement must be creative or it will not BE at 
all!

     Yours for workers' freedom,

Séamas Cain, National Secretary of the IWA in the U.S.
   <seamascain@mymailstation.com>

Jeff Hilgert, International Secretary of the IWA in the U.S.
   <jhilgert@hotmail.com>

Tom Gilliam, National Treasurer of the IWA in the U.S.
   <tpgilliam@mymailstation.com>

Catherine McDonald, MidWest Regional delegate
   [Duluth, Minnesota]
   <aracrobert@aol.com>

Tom Carr, Western Regional delegate
   [Oakland, California]
   <ait-california@altavista.com>

Wade Rawluk, Northeast Regional delegate
   [Bronx, New York]
   <wrawluk2@cs.com>

The Working Group on Labor Organizing
   Rick Milanov, secretary
   <rick_milanov@hotmail.com>

The AIT-Maine Collective
   <ait_maine@yahoo.com>

The AIT-Minnesota Collective
   <aitminnesota@hotmail.com>

The IWA-Missouri Collective
   <iwa.missouri@visto.com>

The AIT-California Collective
   <ait-california@altavista.com>


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