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(en) US, Modesto: Anarchists Help to Turn tide Against Wal-Mart - Rolling Back on Wal-Mart: Ripon Responds to Super Stores

Date Tue, 21 Mar 2006 15:00:35 +0200

Two DAAA, (Direct Action Anti-Authoritarians), Collective
members went to a local Ripon park several weeks ago to enjoy
some time with their children to discover that a local group, Ripon
Cares, was organizing a protest march against a proposed Wal-Mart
Superstore. The central valley has been a hot bed of local opposition
to Wal-Mart in the last couple of years. Many central valley cars can
been seen with anti-Wal-Mart stickers, and film showings of the
recent documentary, “The High Cost of Low Prices”, has
been shown several times in the past year. Currently, Wal-Mart is in
court, trying to get a store into Turlock, (a town close to Modesto),
but the city still holds a ban on it building in the community(1).
Also, people in Merced, (located 40 minutes south of
Modesto/Ripon), have formed a group to oppose Wal-Mark stores in
their areas, and are calling themselves, MARG, or Merced Alliance
for Responsible Growth (2). While at least from my perspective, the
Wal-Mart opposition in Turlock has been largely through the city
council and city government, and the organizing being done by
MARG largely that of established liberal and leftist groups, the
organizing being done by Ripon Cares has largely been that of people
from Ripon that have organically come to oppose the stores. While I
will be critical of some of positions of Ripon Cares (3) in this short
piece, we here at the DAAA Collective always stand in solidarity
with working class and oppressed people self-organizing in
autonomous avenues of social struggle.

Wal-Mart makes close to 35 million dollars per hour (4), and even
makes up 10% of China’s GDP, (Gross Domestic Product) (5).
With all of this money coming in, it’s also hard to believe that
Wal-Mart on average pays their workers only $18,000 a year, (6),
and also gets over 4 billion dollars in U.S. government subsidies.
Wal-Mart pays so little, that often states, (through tax payers), end
up paying in food stamps, health care, and other services, just to
help Wal-Mart workers survive. Wal-Mart employs over 1.2 million
people in the US alone, and still fail to provide heath-insurance for
more than half of them (7). Wal-Mart stores also of course drive up
the costs of roads and other city utilities, increase urban sprawl and
smog, and also drive out locally owned businesses. Wal-Mart
counters all of this by stating that they are simply existing within the
market, and being competitive, and that they also pay and give out
health-care to their workers at the same rates or better as other large
retail corporations.

In this sense, Wal-Mart is right that they are competitive, and it
would be foolish to push for better working conditions at Wal-Mart
just so other stores would follow suit. However, it should be noted
that other large corporations have used Wal-Mart as an excuse to
drive wages down, cut benefits, and push for the elimination of
things that workers have worked to hold on to. The influence that
Wal-Mart has over the current market is a perfect reason to resist it,
and to point to it’s systemic exploitation of workers, the
environment, and communities, to further an anti-capitalist project.
Largely, these challenges to working people have gone on without
much of a fight, case in point being the Southern California Grocery
strikes, which ended with labor leaders excepting a two tear system,
in which new hires got less benefits than older workers. Hierarchal
unions by and large have been more interested in pushing policy and
integrating into the machinery of capitalism, than fighting it’s
realities. While youth and workers in France militantly resist the
market of capital, here in America we still remain passive.

Opposition to the box stores, (Wal-Mart stores with grocery
sections), in Ripon largely has come from a desire to keep Ripon the
small town that it always has been, and to keep businesses locally
owned. While this of course it an admirable goal, and better than the
more corporate alternative, it of course rests in the logic that some
forms of capitalism are good, while others are bad. Also, ultimately
the existence of agricultural based communities like Ripon rest on
the usage of immigrant and exploited labor, and it is from this
exploited labor that these communities thrive. While many people
attack the abuses of Wal-Mart and other conglomerates of capital,
they often fail to see the racist foundations, (as well as sexist, etc),
that our ‘home-grown’ capitalism is fostered upon. Also, it
is through city councils, deals with developers from outside the
community, and economic forces and institutions in the various
cities, that allow various elites to get these things into our cities.
Until workers and communities control the means of production for
their own benefit as a community, and reject these various
institutions of class society, these problems will continue to happen.

Having said that, when the DAAA Collective marched in solidarity
with about 40-50 other people in Ripon, (which was a pretty large
size for that small town of 13,000), it was great to see a wide range of
people, young and old, unionized and not, brown and white,
anarchists and un-affiliated protestors, hitting the streets to get the
word out. Many local stores had anti-Wal-Mart signs, and many
drivers by honked their horns. The next week, a picture of the
protest, (DAAA Collective banner reading, “Wal-Mart:
Anti-Union, Anti-Worker, Anti-Community”), appeared on the
front page of the Ripon Record (8). According to the newspaper,
Wal-Mart has announced that after the protest, they will not be
opening the store on the same area where they had originally hoped,
(in the heart of Ripon’s main street). While the protest probably
had an affect, they were also probably swayed by calls, ongoing
organizing, and various meetings that groups have been conducting,
(although largely this has been aimed at pressuring the city council).
This does not mean that a Wal-Mart will not be built in Ripon,
although the spokesperson said that Wal-Mart is planning on
building the store slightly outside of Ripon, in a section of corporate
sprawl that includes a Starbucks, and other corporate tripe.

As anarchists who seek to not only maximize the class struggle
against hierarchal and capitalist relationships, but to also increase
decentralized and self-organization of resistance, we seek to include
ourselves in this struggle against Wal-Mart. In doing so however, we
come at it from a perspective of anti-capitalism, and also
internationalism and solidarity with all workers who are exploited,
alienated, and in struggle against capital. We are excited by this new
turn of events, and hope to continue to add our voice not only in
solidarity against Wal-Mart with other local residents, but also for a
radical critique of capitalism in general. Their peace is a lie,
underneath this sprawling concrete lies the class war of modern
capital. For autonomous organization and maximum class struggle.

DAAA Collective
Call Us!: 1 866 457 4230

1.) http://reclaimdemocracy.org/walmart/turlock_ban_upheld.html
3.) http://www.riponcares.com/4471.html 4.) Ripon Cares Fact Sheet
5.) Ripon Cares Fact Sheet 6.) Ripon Cares Fact Sheet 7.)
http://walmartwatch.com/img/downloads/healthcare.pdf 8.)
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