"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Feb 24, 2011

The Future

One of the benefits of the American system, from the vantage of those who own it and those who run it for them, originates in the partial success of the once very red American labor movement - improved working conditions and increased personal accumulation offset and negated a larger awareness of class, class rule and class warfare; especially since conditions improved most for those who existed within the already capitalized urban enclaves, who belonged to the accepted cultural and racial majority, and who paid at least public fealty to unifying religious and national sentiment. That these benefits and improvements passed over rural, poor whites, immigrant and migrant laborers, poor women and black folk only served to reinforce the emerging national identity which followed upon the "successes" of the once radical and revolutionary labor movement. Having achieved membership in the so-called middle class, the (now friendly to) business unions abandoned not only their radicalism, but their amity towards the rest of the working class, accepting or negotiating for positions in society which excluded those elements of labor which did not belong to the national identity, and whose exclusion from it helped to define it.

The newly formed and largely illusory (that is, mostly a matter of symbols and identities) "middle class" no longer agitated for revolutionary goals because its members no longer lived with and within working class conditions. They, and their children, benefited from the gains of labor - but they no longer lived as labor, accepting instead a mostly fictional and officially taught national mythology of founding fatherhood, benevolent nation-making and universal brotherhood.

The laboring class which remained behind, defined by its exclusion from this new middle class, now consisted mostly of those also used as symbols of internal otherness: race, foreign birth, migrant and unskilled work, uncompensated female labor and poverty.

Since these people officially defined, and still mostly continue to define, the nation by virtue of not belonging to it, their continued exclusion from the organizations, state protections and associations of membership helped to shape and entrench the hostility of the new "middle class" to its social, economic, cultural and political inferiors, furthering removing its self-identifying members' capacity to understand living conditions as material, economic and socially formed.

Without a materialist and experienced understanding of labor conditions, the new middle class became, especially over the decades of rapid accumulation and expansion (1975 - 2000), a cultivated and sponsored ideological seed stock for reaction, embracing instead spiritualist, moralist, racial, identity and nationalist explanations for economic disparity and the shape of society.

Despite still possessing a class membership which labored to enrich the wealthy ruling class, as professionals, skilled workers and managers, the middle class lost all revolutionary potential, because its members no longer experienced life as oppression.

The partial gains of trade and business unionism created a new set of social conditions for the middle class - conditions which insulated them against the excesses of the system which they now helped to manage, conditions exported and directly absorbed by the socially excluded underclass of misbegotten and unapproved national and cultural identities, as well as by the foreign workers who labored for proxies of the American and European economic consensus which exists to extract and convert raw resources into material wealth.

Those foreign workers, and the still extant excluded underclass, have not lost their revolutionary potential. In fact, finding their conditions worse than ever, and with a growing awareness of their shared plight and numbers, they now provide the rest of the world, and all of international labor with not only the faces of revolution, but its new emotional and territorial home ground:

"I went to my workplace on Thursday of last week, and I found out that there were over 3,000 workers demanding their rights before they called a general strike in the construction site in Saudi Binladin Group. The workers were very angry. Their workplace is one of the largest construction projects in the country, which is worth SR.100 billion. 

However, they live in a terrible conditions. One of the workers told me, 'I live in a room four metres by three metres with eight people, and for every ten people there is only one toilet.' Another Egyptian worker told me about the working conditions and the restriction of religious freedom: 'They are Zionists, they don’t even allow me to pray on time!'

And another worker was speaking about the water at the site, which is infected and full of filth and insects: 'The managers wouldn’t even wash their hands with it, but for us we have to drink it because it is the only drinking water at the site.' The others talked about the delayed salaries and the unpaid overtime: 'Can you believe that some of the workers here are paid only 700 riyals a month, and I am paid 1,000 riyal. How would we survive?'

They couldn’t continue in the old way. They organised themselves and decided to do a demonstration at the site, to demand their rights immediately. It was the most interesting scene that I have witnessed in my life. When a group of coordinators and security guards tried to persuade them to go back to work the workers replied by smacking their hats on the walls and they shouted we demand 'food, money, accommodation – we need to be respected'. All the managers, for the first time since the start of the project four years ago, took the workers seriously. 

The police force couldn’t control the workers. When a police officer told the workers that they need to return to their accommodation and their issue will be solved later, the worker replied by throwing stones at him, and they managed to frighten all the police officers around him. The stones missed the police officer, but unfortunately it did not miss his car! It was the first time in my life I saw a police car smashed in Saudi Arabia.

When several coordinators, sent by the managers, tried to promise the workers change, I and several other socialists pushed for the occupation of the construction site, though that did not work. However, when one of coordinators said, 'We will give you a new accommodation with a football pitch,' one of the workers replied, 'How would we play football after 13 hours of work with an unpaid overtime?' Then the coordinators promised that every worker will be paid after five days. Someone replied, 'What would we do with today’s bread after five days, we need it now, we are sick of excuses, a billionaire cannot pay his workers today?'

In the end, the owner promised the workers that they will pay them on Saturday. The workers went back, and on Saturday they received an extra SR, 500 on top of their salary and the owners promised them that they will improve their accommodation and they will pay them 100 hours for their overtime each month. 

The workers started to organised with a sister company, which belong to the same owners to start a new wave of strikes in different parts of the construction site. Through this week, there were several strike actions in King Fahad Library and in a construction sites in King Saud University."

We have seen the future, friends, comrades and strangers. It doesn't look like us, anymore. But that doesn't mean we cannot or should not join it.

h/t pink scare


Anonymous said...

Like in a big press story, the nuggets sometimes are within paragraph middles, and not as opening salvos. Like this:

That these benefits and improvements passed over rural, poor whites, immigrant and migrant laborers, poor women and black folk only served to reinforce the emerging national identity which followed upon the "successes" of the once radical and revolutionary labor movement.

"Got my little scraps, can stop struggling now!"

Happy Jack said...

Sounds like someone has been watching Roger & Me.*

* To reinforce your point, I'm thinking of a particular scene** with that sneering prick Moore, the son of a UAW member.

** The scene is more obvious if you're from the working class.

Jack Crow said...

I've never seen the whole of "Roger and Me." Sadly, I don't know the reference.


Thanks, Charles.