To Stave Off Zombie Apocalypse, Organize a New Society Within the Shell of the Old

Brad Pitt wonders why he didn't join the IWW while there was still time.
Brad Pitt wonders why he didn’t join the IWW while there was still time.

by x365097

Let’s think back to late summer, 2008 — half a decade ago, right about now. It had been more than five years since the invasion of Iraq by the US, and nearly six years since the invasion of Afghanistan. The PATRIOT Act was still in the news, there was massive anti-Bush agitation from liberals and the left, and many people were looking forward to a change of regime — any change — in 2009.

The financial catastrophe that would soon arrive, however, punctuating the presidency of George W. Bush like a second 9/11, would make matters unfathomably worse, complicating the US economy for years to come and paving the way for the austerity agenda to trample workers’ hard-won economic rights like Orwell’s proverbial jackboot to the face. Of course, there had been preliminary signs of trouble; those had been plain to see. But when the blows finally started hammering down, they caught almost everyone unprepared.

Individualist survivalists, already bolstered by the much-hyped threat of terrorism, came out of the woodwork to sell emergency water filters and K-rations to the gullible and (somewhat justifiably) afraid. The average American worker hunkered down, usually alone or with a few family members, and prayed that the worst — a foreclosure, an eviction — might pass them by. And the media told us endless stories about the struggle to survive amid the mindless hordes who would ravage the remains when it all finally broke down outside the “Green Zone” of Wall Street.

It didn’t — and still doesn’t — have to be this way.

The concept of a labor union like our organization, the Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW, is simple: when workers, those whose only real commodity to sell to provide for themselves is their labor, gain class consciousness and act together to protect what we recognize as our class interests, we benefit far beyond what we would be able to accomplish as individuals. But for the IWW, the imperative goes much further than protecting the job standings of some skilled breadwinners who want to preserve their traditional social roles. We want an end to all — 100% — of the exploitation and unease throughout society, and it can be done.

As the preamble to our union’s constitution states:

It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

In other words, if workers wish to prevent the chaos that would stem from a sudden breakdown of the current order, unjust and destructive though it may be in the long run, we must begin — today — to organize an alternative and more socially just replacement which can carry on production in the event of TEOTWAWKI. By doing this, we can stave off a needless plummeting back into the pre-industrial era or a me-first “bunker mentality.” The 1% files such preparations under the name of “continuity of government.” The class-conscious among the 99% call our equivalent “liberation.”

For now, the crisis that is capitalism is in remission. Today, it lies dormant, waiting for another clear opportunity to pounce on the working class as it did in 2008. But when that day returns, and return it shall, there is no need for a Mad Max scenario, no need for the brutality of the Thunderdome, but we must begin to organize against it right away, building on the successes of social movements such as Occupy and of movements found more distantly in the past. A better world is possible, but it takes workers putting our petty differences aside, differences like race and gender that the capitalists want to use to divide us. We must instead focus our efforts on coming together and learning to manage and control our labor, the basis of all wealth, democratically. If we succeed in doing this, we will never be so vulnerable again. This is the IWW’s mission. Are you with us?

Southern Maine IWW Condemns US Preparations to Attack Syria


Since the 9/11 attacks of 2001, the US government has destabilized and invaded country after country in the name of the Global War on Terror. In so doing, they have diverted untold fortunes which could have been used to meet human need toward the disruption of millions of workers’ lives worldwide.

Rather than changing course as they had promised, the Obama administration has elected to continue the Bush administration’s legacy of death and destruction in the Middle East and central Asia and austerity for workers in the US. Time and again, they have demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice the lives and wealth of the working class for the profit of their capitalist patrons.

This week, US Secretary of State John Kerry has announced that the US military is prepared to launch yet another strike, this time on Syria. The Southern Maine IWW condemns any such action in the strongest possible terms and urges workers around the world to organize for an end to war and a transition to a democratically managed economy. Without such control of the productive industrial infrastructure, present and future generations of workers remain vulnerable to the infinitely callous whims of the insatiably avarous 1%.

The Illusion of Self-Employment in a Capitalist Economy

by x365097

It’s considered a high honor in the American value system to open a business and “be your own boss.” From a Wobbly point of view, a problem with this idea, even for those who operate without employees, or for worker-owners of cooperative enterprises (both of which categories qualify for IWW membership), is that the broader marketplace in which the business must operate is still almost entirely under the control of the capitalist 1%.

What that means, first of all, is that the supposedly independent businessperson or persons must, in most cases, purchase tools, fuel, and other business supplies primarily from exploitative, monopolistic, for-profit entities. Also, for owner-operators whose industry is so consolidated that there are only a handful of customers to whom they can sell their goods and services, the lack of independence is even more pronounced.

All a situation like that amounts to is that the worker or group of workers must provide her, his, or their own equipment, and yet there is still a powerful economic dependency. In effect, the controllers of the market remain a boss even for the supposedly self-employed, or for workers who, within their workplace, have substituted the rule of an owner or manager with a cooperative system. The market-controlling 1%, by virtue of their sheer economic influence and power, are able to determine prices and set a number of other conditions that the workers, despite the certain degree of control they have asserted over the way that they work, must obey.

Given this, it is clear that for such workers to remain disorganized and estranged from other each is for them to willingly accept the very sort of submission that the praise they receive from their communities for their “self-employed” status presumes that they have rejected. The IWW has a solution, which is for workers of all backgrounds to organize by industry into One Big Union governed by direct democracy and aimed at breaking the 1%’s control over our economic lives.

Workers today can either embrace the illusion of independence and continue to be manipulated by the capitalist owning class, or we can unite to break — in reality — their control over our labor and redirect production according to human need as determined through democratic processes. This is the purpose of the IWW: to agitate, educate, and organize all workers in the understanding that until all of us are free, none of us are free.

Industrial Worker – Issue #1756, June 2013

* Wobblies Defend Fired Bus Driver In London
* IWWs Organize & Win In North Carolina
* The Struggle Continues At Chi-Lake Liquors

* May Day Celebrated Around the World
* Historical Perspective On Lithuanian Unions
* Industrial Tragedy In Bangladesh

Read on-line at:

Your Power as a Worker

by x365097

When you’re at work, you’re likely to receive dozens, if not hundreds, of do-it-or-else orders from the boss or manager on a day-to-day basis. What happens when you disobey? Maybe nothing will happen the first time — maybe it’ll just be a write-up or a lecture — but if you keep working the way you want to work on “their time,” even if your way is simply more comfortable than the way they’ve approved, you’ll eventually be out the door.

What happens then? Once you’ve been cut off from the income you depend upon to pay your rent or mortgage, grocery bill, and other expenses, meeting your needs can be enormously difficult, if not impossible. If hiring is slow across the industries in which you have experience and training, a firing can be a social death sentence for a worker, resulting in anything from a depleted savings account and damaged credit rating to hunger and homelessness.

That’s a lot of control for an employer to have — too much control. Take a step back and look at how many hundreds of millions of people and their dependents around the world are caught in a similar situation, and you could even call it global tyranny.

The ability to hire and fire is the key to the employing class’ power, and it stems from our outdated and dysfunctional system of property rights. These rights state that productive industrial equipment, even that which has been paid for many times over by the goods and services it has been used by hundreds or even thousands of workers to produce, may be owned and operated by individuals or small groups of individuals and run for their own personal profit rather than to meet human need. This is what has resulted in the enormous imbalances of wealth which now threaten workers’ rights all over the world.

The good news is that workers hold a counter-power which, to our collective detriment, we have rarely exercised in recent decades. It requires organization, cooperation, and togetherness — solidarity — which are currently not in fashion. Still, if employers hold workers by the throats due to the fact that they control the workplaces, and the only commodity we workers have to sell is our labor, then the key to workers’ power is the withholding of our labor from them. Workers refusing work together can shut it all down and, if we organize correctly and often enough, bring democracy to the workplace.

Withholding labor can take many forms, from walkouts and strikes — total work refusals — to intentional, coordinated screw-ups and slowdowns. The term, “sabotage,” is commonly associated these days with property destruction, but the IWW has historically used it more broadly to mean any action on the job which interferes with production. There are thousands of examples of workers successfully uniting to withhold labor in various ways to enforce our demands, just as employers have always threatened to withhold access to “their” workplaces in order to enforce theirs.

For a number of complex reasons which are outside the scope of this article to examine in full, unionization among US workers has dropped way down in the last few decades to about 8% in the private sector. Some of these have to do with intrinsic factors such as the mainstream business unions’ willingness to make concessions to employers and be unresponsive to their membership, while others have to do with external factors such as employers’ support for union-busting legislation. However, if you are among the majority of US workers who would join a union if there were one organized in your workplace, contact the IWW today for info on how to get one established. In exchange for very low dues, we provide training and support to help you win your demands for better pay, better conditions, and more control over the way you work — and we are all-volunteer, with no paid officers at the branch level.

Industrial Worker – Issue #1752, January/February 2013

Get the January/February 2013 issue of the IWW’s official newspaper here:

-Victory! IWW Cleaners In London Win Pay Rise
-IWW Dishwasher Wins Against The Boss
-The Right-To-Work For Less In Michigan

-Staughton Lynd: A Few Words On IWW Organizing
-Railroad Workers Resist Cutbacks
-2013: A New Year For International Solidarity