The #Walmartstrike on Black Friday was an historic moment for the global labour movement. It represents the public coming out of the synthesis of occupy direct action tactics and sustainable union structures to produce a direct unionism that has the capacity to overturn corporate hegemony.
Corporate USA, especially in the retail sector, had an extremely effective strategy for ensuring their underpaid staff don’t come together in a representative union structure. This anti-union induction video for Walmart competitor, Target, is a striking example of the strategy:
I had great fun yesterday during the @OccupyMelbourne protest running around in a chicken suit. Being a B-grade serial pest, I’ve been to a few protests and what not over the years but this one felt different. It wasn’t just that we were only one of 951 other occupations around the world. It wasn’t just the family friendly atmosphere with kids running around making signs (incidentally a good friend of mine’s daughter painted 99% Angry on a pink sign). It wasn’t just the food or diversity of different groups and people who showed up. It was that it felt like a beginning. It’s like we met, nervously at first, and decided we’d take a journey together.
Anyone who tells you they know what will happen as a result of these occupations is either a fool or deluded. One thing is certain though, things will be different if and when the Occupations end. And here’s why. Within this broad feeling of a new beginning lies the organising principles and methodology that is driving the Occupy Movement to build a better world.
Do you remember the Iraq War protests? I do. Millions of us around the world turned out on message for peace. We made our point loud and clear. Then we went home and the war started. With the occupation though we decided against going home. And if you’re going to hang around anywhere you need to find a way to make it work. And as media theorist Douglas Rushkoff points out, the occupation itself models an alternative economic system. It might well be the first large scale example of a real world wiki community. The occupation demonstrates “a post-market, collaborative approach to creating and exchanging value”. Appeals for assistance are sent out via Twitter. Participants donate their own time, resources and skills to building the occupation. Professors teach classes, tradespeople ply their craft and artists entertain. All for the good of the organic whole of the occupation that in turn supports the participants.
The building of a distinct alternative to the prevailing system of extreme corporate power based on solidarity is the operating meta-principle but there’s a number of ways in which this plays out across worldwide occupations. Continue reading
Change might be constant but there will always be haters. And with the growing #occupywallstreet movement, it’s no different. There are those who criticise the Wall St Occupation because there is no clear demand, or that the occupiers are somehow hypocrites for using the goods and services of corporations. Both criticisms miss the point. Attacking an occupier because they are taking photos with a digitial camera or talking on a smartphone would be like attacking a Parisian revolutionary in 1789 for eating produce that was grown on the land of an aristocrat. Like fish we can only swim in the system we live in, but unlike fish we can change it. Continue reading
The NYPD cracked down on Wall Street Occupiers on Saturday 24th September – there were around 100 arrests and some of the vision of police brutality is quite shocking.
Despite this the occupation continues. What is interesting is just how much the protesters are influenced by the Arab Spring, and the Spanish May 15 movement. See the video below:
I received a beautiful gift from my partner this week, a book called Posters for the People. It contains hundreds of prints of posters created by artists working in the Works Progress Administration, a cornerstone of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. The program provided up to 30 hours of employment per week at market wage rates for up to 3 million people at a time during the Great Depression.
Generally, there is a tendency for us to romanticise the past. However, when it comes to the state of reformist progressive/liberal/social democratic politics there is no doubt that things really were once better. Roosevelt’s New Deal was an historic bargain between Labor and Capital that allowed Labor to increase its income as productivity rose. It brought unheralded prosperity to millions of Americans. By contrast employment languishes under Obama. Where there was once a New Deal, now there is No Deal. In Australia we had perhaps the greatest ever Labor Prime Minister, Ben Chiefley, take the creation of a national social welfare system to a referendum in the 1940s. Prime Minister Gillard, on the other hand, tightened restrictions on the unemployed. For that matter, it takes a special kind of shit for Labor to be outflanked on the left on Immigration by a conservative leader who’s election pitch was a simple and brutal “Stop the Boats”. Continue reading