Uggh More Economic Woes

And the economy continues tanking. Northwest announced layoffs for 2500 workers, in all sectors of the company, ranging from pilots, mechanics, and flight attendants. Of course no union is putting up a fight because as I said before, airline unions don’t care or can’t put up a fight. Steve and Barry’s, a cheap clothing store with high end brands, is going into bankruptcy, perhaps full liquidation. Apparently its business strategy of loans, loans, and irrational growth was a smart idea. Despite racking in 1.1 Billion in annual sales, the company can’t pay its creditors. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are precipitously loosing value.

Once again the economy doesn’t seem to like normal people. At the first sign of trouble its layoffs, liquidations and attacks on one of the few low cost mortgage avenues. Though of course, no one is saying anything about it. The economy is hurting but, its “hurting” everyone. This is why when you read the newspaper they typically spend most of their time interviewing small businesspeople, not workers. Small businessmen typify that “middle class,” “middle America” resilient American citizen. It is funny how we all splurge for these people when by and large; hurting small businesspeople take it out on their employees. Gas goes up? Another get the axe.

In any movement of working people, we need to be wary of small businesspeople. They will always try to moderate the movement and turn it into some bland populism.   As capitalists, they want to join the big time owners.  They look at Warren Buffet types and orgasm all over themselves.  However the big capitalists are often throwing them out of their club, harming their business with big competition or even putting them out of business sending them back into the working class.  Thus its best to imagine small businesspeople as the big bully’s errand boy.  He thinks he’s big shit cause he’s in with big Murphy.  He idolizes big Murphy like a father.  But Murphy is always abusing him and making fun of him, sometimes ignoring him for weeks at a time.  Its an abusive relationship to say the least.

So what does this mean?  Well errand boy Jimmy really to kick down and to kiss up.  He domineers the little children, but damn, he knows when to tow Murphy’s line.  But when Murphy is being especially testy, Jimmy bands together with the other little kids to make demands on Murphy and Murphy usually accedes to those demands.  Of course those demands usually don’t help anyone but Jimmy.  And then after a few weeks, when Murphy has stroked Jimmy’s ego a bit, Jimmy goes back to being a little shit, kicking down and kissing up.

Teachers of the World Unite!

I’m still in Uni, but I’ve been contemplating becoming a high school (A levels and GCSE for you brits) teacher. I was curious what folk’s thoughts were on anti-authoritarians, anarchists, radicals etc. in the education field? The knee jerk reaction of most “anarychists” is to attack anyone that’s a teacher, because well, they’re”brainwashing” the kids and “telling them what to do.” Though I disagree. In many ways I think organizing in the teaching sector is as paramount as organizing in the military, in that it can serve to subvert fundamental functions of social control in a number of ways. Here’s a semi detailed list that I’ve come up with so far.

1. Secondary Education is the prime tool in the indoctrination of future workers and young workers into a system of hierarchy and exploitation. This is where we take young idealistic children and turn them into little automatons. Thus it’s important to have educators that utilize a radical pedagogy. By this I mean a classroom that encourages critical thinking and dispels various social myths. They can stop most of the “official story” from ever getting into these kids.

2. Anarchist educators can provide organizing resources to their students. They can hand down hard learnt lessons of organizing and struggle to help kids set up mass organizations and campaigns centered around student and youth concerns. Draconian security? Exhaustive standardized testing? Well, then its time to get those kids a “Troublemaker’s Handbook” and help them fight the power!

Any kind of collective action at that age can build up a sense of confidence in both the student and in young folk’s ability to make collective change. I know that when I was in high school, not long ago, our main problem was that we had no conception of direct action struggle. We funneled our frustrations into advocacy, or small subversive propaganda groups. I tried both, neither worked.

3. Education is a huge industry, growing by the minute. Capital is demanding higher and higher levels of qualifications for ever more menial jobs. Education is an industry we are sure will exist for the indefinite future. It’s not getting outsourced and it’s not getting any smaller. A strong network of anarchist and radical teachers can affiliate with other militant workers in the education sector, building real industrial strength. This not only builds class consciousness and militancy, but creates a mutually beneficial relationship between students and workers. Workers strike to help students walk out, and student riot to help workers picket. Most importantly, it sends a clear message to young folk that class struggle is universal and will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

4. Teachers get a long summer vacations every year. While a radical teacher could use this time for leisure, tutoring for extra money, travel etc. He or she could also use it as a resource for the class structure. Teachers are specially positioned to provide the volunteer hours necessary to build up new projects, and to support ongoing struggles.

I’ve often thought of creating a network of alternate summer programs for working class children. Something like a radical day camp/youth center. It would be structured on the Modern school movement of Francisco Ferrer. Children would self manage the curriculum, devoting learning and play according to their own wants and needs. With our summers free, militant teachers could provide the critical mass to get this project off the ground. Of course just providing extra bodies on picket lines, meetings, and other day to day needs of any people’s struggle, is a great advantage in and of itself.

American Airlines and Labor Union Bureaucrats: Both Dens of Evil

Surprise surprise everyone! As the economy takes a dive into the shiter for the umpteenth time, American Airlines announced that they will be cutting 900 jobs. This is pretty expected. American Airlines is getting slammed hard with the price of gas these days and with their general managerial incompetence. Remember, these are the same idiots whole stole their employee’s pensions because of “bankruptcy.” Pensions are considered part of a worker’s differed salary, so they were technically stealing, but who cares? Anyway, American is feeling the heat, and of course, the workers are taking the brunt of it. But guess who’s helping Corporate along? Why it’s the Flight Attendants Association and Transport Workers Union! Aren’t they just delightful?

Airlines and union officials said they would try to reduce layoffs through attrition or by employees voluntarily taking leaves of absence or sharing jobs…

American said it reached agreement with the union to offer voluntary measures such as leaves of absence to U.S.-based flight attendants 50 and older with at least 15 years of service. The airline said it struck a similar deal with the Transport Workers Union, which represents mechanics and bag handlers.

Because as you know, unions shouldn’t fight for their worker’s jobs, they should facilitate “profitability” i.e. getting fucked over by the boss. Of course it’s all because “times are different.” We live in an era of “increasing global competition” and we better realize that. If we don’t become better workers, then we should expect layoffs! Why can’t a flight attendant spontaneously produce gourmet meals on demand, out of thin air? Come on people, this is the technological revolution here; we need to compete with China somehow! Or at least this is what the union bureaucrats seem to think:

“We’ve all been sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for a number,” said Frank Bastien, a spokesman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. “Most of us were pretty pleased it wasn’t higher.”

God, what a bunch of pathetic little cowards, spokesman my ass, Frank Bastien is a shill for the ownership class. When workers organize unions that are democratic and bureaucrat free, then it’s a real representation of working people’s power. But most unions these days are woefully inadequate. They hire defeatist little tramps like Mr. Bastien and prattle on about “acceptable losses.” Especially American unions, which have layer upon layer of paid staff, many of them hired outside of the industry that their union represents! American union executives also make exorbitant salaries. Change to Win labor federation leader Andy Stern, annually earns around a quarter of a million dollars!

This is a real problem. When workers form a union, they expect that union to help them fight management. But labor has become fat with paid positions and cushy job security. These people don’t know what it’s like to work at these jobs everyday. They don’t feel the urgency of the long hours and painful work hazards. No, they are no longer workers, they have evolved into labor negotiation and organization “specialists” and they feel it’s their “job” or “skill” to deal with this stuff. When workers start taking action that’s too militant, labor “specialists” feel their positions threatened. Their job is to mediate disputes between workers and management; it’s the only justification for their cushy jobs and influence. When workers actually fight for what’s theirs, union’s bureaucrats are put in danger. Mediation is thrown out the window, and the real dynamics of class war come into relief. They start thinking: Why the workers might stop listening to us! The company might sue us! Or worse! The company will lose faith in our ability to speak for the workers! There go our jobs! By god! We need to rein these ungrateful factory grunts in!

That’s why any movement of working people needs to be a movement of working people organizations, run on bottom up democracy, not top down, undemocratic, professional driven fiefdoms. Otherwise we will see people co opted into bureaucratic positions. Suddenly fighting the boss won’t be a priority for them and the new boss will look just like the old boss.

There’s an old lefty phrase, “the people united can never be defeated.” We should make an addition to it, “the bureaucrats united will always be defeated.” So, if there any American Airlines reading remember that taking action on the job can stop these firings. Even if your union doesn’t like it, even if your union hates it, direct action will save your jobs. Stand up and fight back fellow workers, we will stand with you.

Our Friends at Starbucks

Here comes the crunch! Starbucks has finally ended its pattern of cancerous growth. Today, they announced the closing of 500 stores and a possible 100 more, along with the termination of 7% of its workforce. As I once stated, this will probably shoot up its stock and the Wall Street Journal agrees.

The store closures are likely to please Wall Street, which has called for more store shutdowns and swifter spending cuts.

So what does this represent? Well it is the culmination of Starbuck’s general strategy. They have expanded and expanded throughout the US as if they were some kind of monstrous blob. But now that they’ve devoured the whole country and eviscerated their competitors, Starbucks is loosing profitability in some of its stores. This is not a surprise since they deliberately over saturate an area in order to drive out competitors. Starbucks directly owns its stores so branches don’t have to make money to stay in business. Now that most of its competitors have either died or adapted, Starbucks no longer needs its excess stores or its excess employees. The article concurs.

But last year, as Starbucks sales began to soften, it became clear that the company’s growth was cannibalizing its sales in a way that was threatening the chain’s success, as well as causing the quality at existing locations to slip. Analysts have said that Starbucks lowered the bar on selecting new locations in recent years.

This is oh so hilarious, as Starbucks has long clung to its reputation as one of the “best” places to work. Of course the kind folks at the IWW beg to differ. They’ve been organizing Starbucks locations for years now, with varying degrees of success. But one thing is always the same; Starbucks comes in to brutally bust that union as fast as a cheetah shot out of a cannon.

Starbucks never did and never will care about its baristas. People have deluded themselves into viewing this as some sort of benign company. No company is benign. Capitalism, no matter the form, is always exploitative. Often the friendliest of corporate images cover up the most sinister of corporate practices.

Middle Class?

I am sick and tired of people on the American left yapping about the middle class. They either don’t know what the middle class is or they see the middle class as some social democratic aspiration. Union MadeAmerican Unions consistently talk about the need to “rebuild the middle class,” and that the demise of organized industry is the demise of the American middle class. There’s something wrong when the unions, representatives of the workers, think themselves representatives of the middle class. Clearly they don’t want their members to become small shop owners, or middle management? Well perhaps the UAW, but they’re fools.

So then what does all this jargon about the middle class mean? Well I think it has a lot to do with the weakness of class analysis these days. The trade unions in America have bought into the same fable that all Americans have bought into, that there’s this mystical middle class that we all can attain. The vast majority of Americans, rich, poor, or in between, all state their impassioned belief that they are middle class. Why? Because middle class isn’t a real class, but a cultural archetype. It contains everything that it means to be American ie everything that it means to be a good capitalist. The Middle Class Man aka Homo Mediatus is everything that capitalism values. He is independent, he is a property owner, he is educated and most importantly, he is entrepreneurial. Homo Mediatus is an enterprising and dynamic individual; he is Horatio Alger and Andrew Carnegie. He is not rich and aristocratic, living off his wealth, contributing nothing, fighting innovations that harm his bottom line. Nor is a whining worker, too stupid to rise above his means, trying to suck money from the government and his employer.

Yet the middle class as a social class does not exist. It never has. People merely think they have middle class status because they own some kind of middling property (aka a house) or they hold some sort of autonomy on the job. Or they own a lot of property, but don’t consider themselves “rich” because they still “work for a living.” None of this has anything to do with proper revolutionary class analysis. Your class is based on your relationship to capital. Do you own it or control it? If you own some, do you own enough to live off of it? If you primarily work for capital, what sort of work do you do? Do you have power over others; can you hire and fire them? The list goes on.

The middle class is a combination of several classes all mixed into one. A small portion is petit bourgeoisie, small business owners that can’t seem to win out against the big capitalists. These people are scum, as they’re nothing but weak capitalists. Most or a large minority of the middle class is actually working class. They may have a higher degree of work autonomy and they may garner higher wages, but they work for a living, and they aren’t the boss of anyone. Folks like medical technicians, middling to low level engineers, school teachers, skilled tradesmen (carpenters, plumbers etc.), technical writers, freelance writers, many newspaper and script writers etc are working class. All of these people get lumped in with the “middle class” and as a result are inculcated into the cult of conservatism and moderation.

The other part of the middle class is the real middle class. These folks are the coordinator class. They hold a weird contradictory position in society. On the one hand they don’t own enough capital to just sit around, nor are they workers in the traditional sense. They occupy a middle ground peculiar to modern capitalism. Coordinators are the folks who you see everyday and HATE. They’re the management, the politicians, the middle to upper bureaucrats, lawyers, doctors and occasionally professors, though they occupy a weird position. And of course those dirty cops.

The coordinator class serves two functions, 1 they supervise everyone else. They manage capital and labor while the capitalists learn modern art. They beat in skulls while the capitalists gather at Davos. 2 the coordinators take on the “really tough” stuff. They’re the specialists of the specialists; their multiple title degrees give them prerogative to make decisions and take initiative. Tom Wetzel sums it up well when he says “The power of the coordinator class is not based on ownership but on a relative monopolization of levers of decision-making and other empowering forms of work. ”

The coordinators are the guardians, and administrators of power. They typically ally with the capitalists, acting as a bulwark of strength. However in times where their work is routinized and pay degraded, they side with workers. They also have their own class interests, as was enshrined in various state socialist regimes. State socialist governments didn’t represent working class people, they represented coordinators. The industrial managers, military personnel, and commissars of Soviet Russia, red China, and Batshit Crazy Albania, were coordinators. They didn’t own the means of production individually, but instead controlled them through access to exclusive education, and exclusive social networks. This is especially pertinent with Maoism, where the revolutionary core literally resides within a group of dissatisfied coordinators.

I’m so pissed off about the misapprehension of the American middle class because it forces an ever larger number of people into a false coordinator class, and petit bourgeoisie consciousnesses. With capitalism becoming ever more skilled, folks will soon need a college degree to apply for a job at Wendys. More and more Americans are getting a college education, at ever higher prices. A whole generation of white collar, debt riddled workers are popping out of the universities, ready for a life of doomed struggle, as they run like hamsters on a wheel toward their rightful dream of middle class respectability. If we’re to rebuild our class, we need to first dispel this illusion. We shouldn’t enshrine our victory as the rebuilding of a conservative and exclusive middle class, especially when that class “proves” the utility and fairness of modern capitalism. There is no middle class, and the sooner we realize it the better off labor will be.