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(en) WORKERS SOLIDARITY Volume 1 Issue 1 - Book Reviews, Boycott Taco Bell!, and more

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 31 Mar 2004 09:56:38 +0200 (CEST)


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Richard A. Brisbin, Jr. A Strike Like No Other Strike: Law & Resistance
During the Pittston Coal Strike of 1989-1990. Maryland: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2002. 368 pages. Hardcover, $44.95.
By Gordon Simmons
Readers of Professor Brisbinā€™s account and analysis of the contentious
Pittston strike will be rewarded whatever their level of involvement or awareness
of that nearly eleven-month struggle might have been. This protracted strike by
the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), began in 1989, lasted nearly a
year and engendered sympathy strikes which spread across the coalfields of
Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky.

In terms of the account itself - what happened in what sequence - Brisbin
does an admirable job not only of conveying the historical events and their
context, but also of making explicit the evolution and development that occurred
on both sides of the struggle. Two conflicting narratives, one from the
perspective of the miners and the other from that of the company, emerged,
and the interpretations advanced by the courts and government matched the latter.
David Corbin (Life, Work, & Rebellion in the Coal Fields 1981; The West
Virginia Mine Wars 1990) and Lon Savage (Thunder in the Mountains 1984) have
demonstrated the distinction in values and attitudes on the part of coal miners and
their communities on one hand and those in authority on the other, whether
that be corporate, political, or even an entrenched union bureaucracy. If that
class autonomy was present in the early twentieth century period analyzed by
Corbin and Savage, its existence at the end of the twentieth century is
demonstrated by Brisbin. He is consequently critical of any ā€˜false consciousnessā€™
thesis, arguing that the miners clearly "are conscious of their subjection."

But it is a focus on laws and courts and the "legal complex" that further
distinguished Brisbinā€™s book. One could even read it as a sequel of sorts to
Richard Luntā€™s study of the earlier period in Law & Order vs The Miners (1979). In
Brisbinā€™s account, "as the judiciary gradually but inexorably limited the
strikersā€™ protests by injunction and millions of dollars in fines for contempt of
court, some individuals, to resist Pittston and the judiciary, turned to what
they regarded as the only satisfactory alternatives." A conflict that began
with the legal mechanisms of bargaining and the National Labor Relations
Board transformed into a strike characterized by acts of civil disobedience-
sit-ins, road blocking, wildcat sympathy strikes, and jackrocks to halt the
movement of coal trucks. In one dramatic episode, strikers occupied the Moss No. 3
plant. The operators proved adept at the use of courts to retaliate against
the union miners, even obtaining legal sanction for the use of replacement
workers.

Brisbinā€™s conclusion asserts that miners are in need of leaders who can
"breach the dual boundaries that legalism and the institutions of the legal
complex impose on workers." Yet two of the most notable instances of Appalachian
mine workers acting autonomously demonstrate that dependence on leadership is
precisely the opposite lesson. The solidarity and victory of miners in the Paint
Creek/Cabin Creek strike of 1912-13 was achieved over the opposition of the
union hierarchy (Corbin, 1981). And it was the absence of leaders that most
markedly characterized the Armed March on Logan in the Twenties, described
as an instance of "working anarchy" (Savage, 1984).
An objection to the lessons Brisbin draws in no way diminishes an
appreciation of the significant contribution he has made to the history of
Appalachian
coal miners and to labor history overall. This book will remain a valuable
reference to many.


Boycott Taco Bell!
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a mutli-ethnic, community-based
workers organization in southwest Florida. Immokalee is the largest
farmworker community in Florida and most of CIW's members are farmworkers.

CIW began the boycott against Taco Bell in 2001 as part of its fight for
justice for Florida's farm workers.
Florida farm workers pick tomatoes for growers who sell to Taco Bell.
Workers are denied the right to organize, receive no overtime pay, no health
insurance, no sick leave, no holiday or vacation pay, and no pension.

Taco Bell has so far refused to accept any responsibility for the conditions
of the workers who pick their tomatoes.

Taco Bell is owned by Yum, Inc. which also owns Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza
Hut, A & W, and Long John Silver's. With 30,000 restaurants world-wide, Yum,
Inc. claims to be "the world's largest restaurant chain" (in numbers of
restaurants). In 2001 Taco Bell had $5 billion in sales, and Yum, Inc. raked
in over $22 billion.
The sheer market clout of Taco Bell gives them the potential to bring
improved conditions to the tomato fields.

For more information about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and news about
the Taco Bell boycott, go to: www.cjw-online.org or write the CIW at P.O.B.
603, Immokalee, FL 34143


Big Brother: Back with a Bang
by Max Lavine

I knew it! The Man is after me! Yes, thatĀ¹s right, this is not a joke, at
least not according to the New York Times. This publication reported that
the FBI has been spying on antiwar rallies, reportedly attempting to rout out
"anarchists and extremist elements."

The article goes on to show how much chutzpah and how little common sense
our government has. In a leaked memorandum sent by FBI counterterrorism (yes,
opposing the state is now terrorism) offices to local law enforcement, the
feds warn that "protesters have sometimes used training camps to rehearse for
demonstrations, the Internet to raise money, and gas masks to protect
against tear gas." No way! Using the Internet to raise money? What kind of evil
mastermind was behind that zany scheme?

"The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred,"
commented Anthony Romero of the ACLU. HeĀ¹s exactly right. Ever since 9-11,
the government has tried and often succeeded at making the definition of
"terrorism" so broad that it could extend to someone who engages in CD or
even something as small as streetchalking.

"WeĀ¹re not concerned with individuals exercising their constitutional rights,
but itĀ¹s obvious that there are individuals capable of violence at these
events. We know that there are anarchists" is a quote that can be ascribed to an
FBI official. The word anarchist conjures, for most, images of rioting, bomb
throwing, assassinations. Well, these have been ascribed wrongly to
anarchism.
In fact, terrorist actions are quite contradictory to anarchist philosophy,
which believes in a radical restructuring of society to be based on cooperation,
communalism, solidarity, and mutual aid, the opposite of what terrorism (and
capitalism) engenders.

Another effect of this new policy of surveillance is scaring people away from
dissent. If someone who goes to a protest is going to get watched and have
files built on them by the clandestine forces of (in)justice, its much less
likely that they will go to a protest, let alone adopt more radical beliefs
such as anarchism. "Targeted" operations like the ones carried out by the
Flag-waving Bureau of Instigators (FBI, get it?) have the general effect of scaring
people away from public dissent. This is especially true as "law enforcement"
takes more repressive measures against protesters like we saw here in Chicago on
March 20, 2003, as hundreds of demonstrators were beaten, verbally assaulted,
and illegitimately arrested in a desperate attempt by the CPD to deter
democracy and silence domestic dissent.

" The oppressed should rebel, and they will continue to rebel and raise
disturbance until their civil rights are fully restored to them and all partial
distinctions, exclusions and incapacitationĀ¹s are removed." This was so
eloquently stated by Thomas Jefferson and, by the definition of the government, a
terrorist threat and "extremist element." But it is not just the revolutionaries,
the radicals, the "anarchists" who are in danger. Repression makes no
exceptions. What is at stake is the right of every citizen to publicly dissent without
fear of state reprisal, to engage in civil disobedience and direct action
without fear of brutalization or being staked out by the secret police.
America was founded by revolution of yesterday, and now seeks to repress the
revolutionaries of today. If you believe in the values this country was
founded on, take a stand against this tyrannical action.

ABOUT THE W.S.A.

Who We Are

The WSA is an anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian organization of activists
who believe working people can build a new society and a better world based
on the principles of solidarity and worker and community self-management.

Our view is that such a society will be brought about only by working people
building their own self-managed organizations from the ground up. Not from
the top down.

In building workplace and community organizations that are run directly by
their members, we not only create more effective fighting organizations in
the day-to-day struggles, we will also be laying the foundation for a new
society
self-managed by working people.

If you are interested in joining the W.S.A., please contact our National
Office, 339 Lafayette Street-Room 202
New York, NY 10012
Tel: 212-9798353 or email: wsany@hotmail.com


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