[Marxism] Occupy Your Workplaces

Bonnie Weinstein giobon at comcast.net
Mon Mar 26 09:41:00 MDT 2012

Occupy Your Workplaces
By Gregg Shotwell
Soldiers of Solidarity
March 24, 2012

We the People are at war.

We need to develop soldiers, not career opportunists.

It will take time and patience.

There will be set backs and victories.

Given time and effort,

the law of multiplication will prevail.

If one goes out and trains two soldiers,

and they go out and do the same,

and this continues, we will have our army.

We the People are the Union. -Miguel X. Chavarria

The Occupy Movement has a genuine desire to connect to the Labor  
Movement. The trouble is the Labor Movement is lying on a gurney in  
an alley waiting for Democrats to wheel it into ER.

The Occupy Movement can't afford to wait for moribund union officials  
to wake up, or Democrats to come to the rescue and apologize for  
NAFTA; apologize for deserting Single Payer Healthcare; apologize for  
abandoning the Employee Free Choice Act; apologize for the absence of  
trade laws that protect jobs rather than the slobs who live off  
unearned income; apologize for the deliberate avoidance of an anti- 
striker replacement law and the long overdue repeal of Taft-Hartley.

Likewise, the Occupy Movement can't wait for Obama to order the  
National Guard to protect citizens exercising their Constitutional  
rights of assembly and free speech.

The counsel of a lesser evil is to vote for despair. We need  
activists, not lobbyists. We need soldiers of solidarity, not  
celebrity liberals and union officials.

Unions have shown support for the Occupy Movement, but unions are not  
anti-capitalist. They don't want to change the system so much as  
modify it. The dearth of social movement unionism today is largely  
the result of narrow interest bargaining: what's in it for my little  
corner of the labor market, rather than the movement.

Unions spend more time and money campaigning for Democrats than  
organizing workers. It's no surprise that union bureaucrats are on a  
mission to hitch the Occupy Movement to the Democrat's wagon and  
Obama's re-election.

I believe the goal of the Occupy Movement is to empower rank-and-file  
citizens rather than one of the plutocratic parties. I believe there  
are no short-term solutions. I believe when workers take power into  
their own hands, we have the possibility of a solution that works for  
everyone rather than the One Percent who live off unearned income.

Workers' rights are defined and enforced by struggle. We can't vote  
our way to power, and if the Occupy Movement isn't committed to the  
redistribution of power, we may as well fold up the tents (of verbal  
protest) and go live beneath the overpass (of plutocratic government).

If we want to win like sitdowners won in the thirties, we will have  
to occupy the seat of Capital's power, which isn't Wall Street, but  
rather the workplace.

Wall Street is the bleachers. Wall Street is a front for bookies. The  
real game is on the gridiron of work where wealth is created. The  
real players aren't brokers, politicians, and bankers. The real  
players are workers. When workers stop, the game is over.

Workers' power is the strike, not the vote. A strike leverages  
workers' power because it curtails profit and profit is all the One  
Percent care about.

I believe Occupy is right to recognize the power of labor. A General  
Strike is not only what's needed, it is something many workers  
believe in. But it is not going to happen. It is not going to happen  
because it would require the cooperation of union officials, and  
union officials, ideologically bankrupt and strategically bereft, are  
busy collaborating with the bossing class.

Union bureaucrats don't want to change the system, they want to plea  
bargain. We have documented evidence, called union contracts, which  
prove that union officials are willing to cut wages and benefits and  
eliminate pensions. What they object to is laws that limit their  
power to make concessions for workers on behalf of their business  

The partnership between business and union officials has led to the  
social decadence of two-tier wages, whereby new hires are paid as  
much as 50 percent less, and then told to save for their own damn  

Why would a young Occupier want to join the UAW? A new hire at  
General Motors today makes less than I make in retirement and doesn't  
have a pension to look forward to. The union management partnership  
is an LLC, a Limited Liability Collaboration. We can't trust it.

Union officials do not have an alternative to capitalism and  
corporate dominance. They suffer from a sort of Stockholm Syndrome.  
They identify with their captors. They want to be partners in the  
business of exploiting workers for profit.

Union officials were eager to redirect the Wisconsin Uprising away  
from direct action and core-to-core class conflict and toward  
electoral procedures because they were frightened by workers growing  
consciousness of their own power.

Union officials are reluctant to support even a one day symbolic  
General Strike, not because they fear legal repercussions, but  
because they fear what would happen if workers sensed their authentic  
power and the sleeping giant awakened.

The Occupy Movement does not need to rely on bureaucrats or celebrity  
liberals to thrive and grow. Occupy is a rank and file movement, and  
its leaders are the genuine citizens united against the One Percent  
who control the economy, the government, the unions, the television,  
the consumer culture, and both plutocratic parties.

I believe the Occupy Movement should appeal directly to workers in  
the trenches rather than union officials safely ensconced in offices  
with their six figure salaries, their Hummer style health plans,  
their guaranteed pensions, and their addictions to corporate  

If we want to appeal to union and non-union workers, we must first  
recognize their needs. Workers are not idealists. They may have  
ideals, they may pursue ideals, but the job is a means to an end: bills.

Workers are, for good reasons, practical strategists. When workers  
take risks, their families are in jeopardy. That's why U.S.  
corporations prefer health insurance controlled by employers. It  
gives them excessive power especially in the event of a strike.  
That's why soldiers of solidarity, like the Wobblies of old, say,  
"Strike on the inside."

Work to Rule, or what Elizabeth Gurley Flynn called Sabotage, may be  
a viable option for the Occupy Movement to engage and advocate. In  
1916 Flynn wrote, "Sabotage is not physical violence; sabotage is an  
internal industrial process."

One hundred years ago in the IWW newspaper, Solidarity, Frank Bohn  
wrote, "Sabotage means strike and stay in the shop. Striking workers  
thus are enabled to draw pay and keep out scabs while fighting  

The bossing class has perverted the traditional meaning of sabotage  
into malicious destruction of property. They must have looked into  
their own souls for the new definition.

When Ford designs vehicles that roll over or blow up on impact, it's  
sabotage. When GM sells out, shuts down, spins off, and thereby guts  
the city of Flint, it's sabotage. When Delphi builds all its new  
plants outside the U.S. while closing American factories, it's  
sabotage. When CEOs lay off thousands of workers and reward  
themselves with multi million dollar perks, it's sabotage. When the  
President of the United States commits soldiers to war under false  
pretenses, bankrupts the treasury with lavish rewards to his cronies,  
and encourages a trade policy that exports American jobs, it's not  
patriotism, it's sabotage.

Workers are not saboteurs. Labor creates wealth, bosses exploit it.  
Labor builds community. Bosses prey upon it. (Excerpts from  
Autoworkers Under the Gun)

Work to Rule or Strike on the Inside is viable for three reasons:

1. Because profit is all the bosses care about. Until you shut off  
the profit faucet, the bossing class won't listen. They'll throw job  
applications to McDonalds at you.

2. Because production of goods and services is the true source of  
workers' power.

3. Because Work to Rule puts power in the hands of rank-and-file  
workers rather than bureaucrats.

The prevalence of lockouts, scabs, and outsourcing coupled with the  
scantiness of legal protection makes strikes a high-risk occupation.  
Work to Rule is a lower risk because it stifles efficiency and cuts  
profit by following the boss's orders.

How can following the boss's orders obstruct work? When the boss  
makes all the decisions, the result is more lethal than sabotage.

In strict adherence to Murphy's Law the boss is the dullest blade in  
the toolbox promoted to the highest level of his or her incompetence.  
The higher you go up the ladder, the less anyone knows about how  
goods and services are actually produced and delivered.

So, the stated objective of Work to Rule is to kick every decision up  
to the highest level of incompetence.

The unstated objective is to sabotage the production of goods and the  
delivery of services by withholding workers' knowledge and skill from  
the boss.

Here's a simple and common example of industrial sabotage. The  
machine stops. The boss says, "What's wrong?" I shrug and say, "I  
don't know." He asks the job setter, who shrugs, "I don't know." He  
asks an electrician, who shrugs, "I don't know." Then we all look at  
the boss, and he starts sweating because he knows that we know that  
he is the only one who really doesn't know.

Now who's boss?

When the production or delivery of goods and services drops, cost  
punches profit out. Which explains why Work to Rule can be an  
effective way to leverage rank-and-file power while protecting  
workers from retaliation.

If you follow the bosses' orders, you can't be disciplined. If you  
strike on the inside, you can't be replaced by scabs. If you don't  
give your knowledge to the boss for free, then he or she will have to  
make all the decisions, and we all know where that leads.

Ayn Rand had it all wrong. When the boss shrugs, no one gives a shit.  
When workers shrug, production stops and profit grinds to a halt.

Transit workers in New York City could shrug their shoulders and shut  
down the city for an afternoon. If trucks at west coast ports  
stalled, drivers could shrug and clog the docks till the sun went  
down. Teamsters like longshore workers don't have to cross picket  
lines. If Occupy throws up a picket, Teamsters or longshore workers  
can just shrug. A single supplier can shut down multiple factories.  
If production workers and trades shrug together, output would tumble  
like dominoes.

Work to Rule at isolated work sites will not shut down Wall Street,  
but if Strike on the Inside goes viral, the impact could be more  
effective than an officially sanctioned strike.

More effective because courts couldn't impose injunctions; because  
union officials couldn't aid and abet their business partners by  
calling it off prematurely; because Work to Rule is more than an  
internal industrial process, it's an invocation for workers to govern  

The Association of Flight Attendants used a strategy they coined  
CHAOS: Create Havoc Around Our System. CHAOS maximized the impact of  
the job action while minimizing the risk to workers. Surprise strikes  
and random actions rendered the airline unmanageable.

The UAW used to employ a tactic called Rolling Strikes. One plant  
would go on strike for a day and then go back to work. Then another  
plant would go on strike for a day and then call it off. Then another  
plant would disrupt production. As soon as one plant went back to  
work another plant would shut down. The corporation became  
ungovernable and eventually willing to negotiate.

If CHAOS, goes viral, it could impede production and the delivery of  
services on a large scale in much the same fashion as Rolling  
Strikes. And it could protect workers from retaliation because it's a  
guerrilla tactic. And the liberals in the union or the government  
couldn't rein it in because CHAOS is a dog without a leash.

Protests can express objection, but "There's a time when the  
operation of the machine becomes so odious . . . you've got to put  
your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon  
all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop . . . And you've  
got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it  
that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working  
at all." (Mario Savio)

Yes, it will take time and patience, but appealing directly to rank  
and file workers is a short cut compared to working with union  
bureaucrats who are determined to detour the energy and enthusiasm of  
Occupy into the drainage ditch of the Democratic Party where all good  
movements go to die.

Work to Rule relies on the wit and wisdom of workers. Asking workers  
to use their own creativity to fight the bossing class, and to  
determine their own level of involvement and risk, shows respect for  
workers' personal lives, respect for workers' intelligence, respect  
for the power inherent in the working class.

There are no short-term solutions.

"It will take time and patience.

There will be set backs and victories.

Given time and effort,

the law of multiplication will prevail.

If one goes out and trains two soldiers,

and they go out and do the same,

and this continues, we will have our army.

We the People are the Union."

Occupy your workplaces. Occupy your hospitals.

Occupy your unions, your agencies, your schools.

We the People are the solution.

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