Comrade Equus: Anti-authoritarianism and Unions

30 03 2011

Editors note: Trusted sources have reported sightings of the good Comrade Equus in around the American Midwest, fomenting dissent and acting as a general public-nuisance in his fight against the forces of evil. The good Comrade has taken notice of recent discussion in libertarian and Anarchist circles denouncing unions and collective action.  He is not pleased.  He has taken time off his subversice activities to contribute the following to the discussion as part of his role as special contributor on this blog. Comrade Equus reports

 

Here in the US there’s all kinds of talk right now about recent legislation in the Midwest that restricts or eliminates the power of unions.

Most Libertarian and Anarchist bloggers reported on Madison and offered some opinion on the matter. I was surprised to see how many were willing to throw public sector workers under the bus.

Basically the argument is that unions are hanging onto government ensured privilege, followed by a laughable assertion that your high school teacher makes six figures every year, while the regular private sector worker toils under the stress of the system.

There are a few things that need clarification.

There is a difference between asking and taking

The labor movement started in opposition to The State and the employing class.

They slowly but surely calmed down and more or less became puppets of the Democrats. However, they are markedly separate from The State in that they have demonstrated a willingness to act outside of legal channels when attacked. This is not a matter of holding onto government given privilege, but an example of unions fighting The State.

The State has tried to strip them of collective bargaining rights, and they are fighting back.

Perhaps they would bend to similar concessions under a Democratic governor, but perhaps next time they will not.  After seeing unions stand up like this, I am beginning to think that the labor movement is not as dead as we once thought.

Workers in the US died for the rights they have now.  Unions (at least the rank and file members, not so much the leadership) are starting to realize they cannot just ask The State to give them something. They are perhaps beginning to just take it.

These bills empower The State

The anti-union legislation in Wisconsin that took away collective bargaining gave more power to The State.

The laws passed in the Midwest did not stop the government from employing people, and at best simply set up a way of contracting private sector companies. The State is still in a position of employment. Instead of having to bargain with unions as a whole they can now deal with each worker individually, resulting in pay discrimination and benefits being taken away. This will only stratify society more, give some more political, economic, and social powers over others and basically expand authoritarianism in general.

Public Sector Unions have certainly been subservient to The State, and their leadership deserves a lot of criticism.

However, these bills have taken power from the unions (which would continue to exist independent of The State) and given it to The State. No doubt that unions have their own hierarchies and problems, but now all they have fought for (wages, 8-hour days, benefits) are directly in control of The State and the companies with which it contracts.

Where we are

As it stands, Democrats have been pretty good at saving face. I wouldn’t jump to any conclusion too quickly though.

Students have been some of the most ardent fighters lately, and they are the future union members and workers. It is, after all, their future that’s being fucked.

If young people can go beyond just protesting and begin to build sustainable, anti-authoritarian alternatives to The State, then we’re starting to get revolutionary.

I, for one, would expect much more fighting from the Midwest. I visited there once. If I learned anything important, it’s that Midwesterners can do two things better: brew their own beer and fight.





Egypt

29 01 2011

The Al Jazeera lead begins:

Thousands of protesters in the Egyptian cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez have defied a nighttime curfew and continued with demonstrations demanding an end to Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year presidency.

Fuck yes.

The Egyptians are on the rise and Mubarak has apparently sacked his cabinet.  Seems he hasn’t really got the message that the general unrest and discontent of the masses may have something to do with his 30 years in power and the way he’s been acting off “emergency powers” almost the entire time.

All reports have repeated the line that the US is “deeply concerned” and is calling for “restraint” on the part of the Egyptian authorities.  But, and please correct me if I’m wrong, the continued calls for Mubarak to introduce reform are not what the Egyptians want.  They want an end to Mubarak and the status quo which has been in operation for three decades, has repressed critics of the Egyptian government and has seen the police torture people as a matter of course.

Little wonder.  Looking at it from the position of the US, it’s easier to deal with a dictator and “prod him” in the direction of protecting and respecting human rights, than actually having to deal with a democratically elected government.  They are predictable, dependable and, that favourite word of Western commentators and faces of the US administration, stable.  Stable is good for business.  War business, commercial business, policy business.  Just ask the BBC:

If the Mubarak regime were to collapse – which is still a big “if” – the fall-out would affect virtually every key player in the region and every key issue.

• For Arab autocrats, it would signify the writing on the wall in a far more dramatic way than the fall of the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia.

• For Arab protesters, it would be a great boost, fuelling the idea that the region has entered a new era of “people power”.

• It would deal a blow to an already enfeebled Middle East peace process. Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, back in the 1970s. A change of regime would alarm Israeli leaders and deepen the siege mentality among many Israelis.

• It would affect business confidence, regionally and even globally, especially if oil prices shot up.

• Finally, it would pose painful dilemmas for Western policy-makers who have long favoured gradual political reform in the region, fearful that the alternative could be the breakdown of stability and the rise of extremism.

By George!  Now the Jordanians seem to be heading in the same direction.





“Yes, we can” turns deadly

7 10 2010

In the past, I wished upon a star that Obama’s election to the American presidency would pop the idealism cherry of a new generation.  I can’t help but noticed I missed something.  At least so far.

After Obama was elected, everyone was happy he wasn’t Bush.  And why not?  Bush was a tyrant.  Bad things deserved to happen to the nether regions of George Bush as some kind of karmic retribution for all the terrible things he did.  But what people fail to realise is that Obama has been no better.

And no, let me preface the following by saying that I really don’t care about Obama’s “socialism” or whatever else certain American demographics have falsely branded the guy with. (hint: the words “Muslim” and “terrorist” immediately spring to mind)

Seems like a good dose of “he isn’t Bush,” is more powerful than rohypnol.  After all, if Bush had carried out raids on anti-war activists, half the world would be up in arms.

As Cindy Sheehan wrote in a blog post for Al Jazeera,

“These raids have terrifying implications for dissent here in the US.

First of all, these US citizens have been long-time and devoted anti-war activists who organised an anti-war rally that was violently suppressed by the US police state in Minneapolis-St. Paul, during the 2008 Republican National Convention. Because the Minneapolis activists have integrity, they had already announced that they would do the same if the Democrats hold their convention there in 2012.

I have observed that it was one thing to be anti-Bush, but to be anti-war in the age of Obama is not to be tolerated by many people. If you will also notice, the only people who seem to know about the raids are those of us already in the movement. There has been no huge outcry over this fresh outrage, either by the so-called movement or the corporate media.

I submit that if George Bush were still president, or if this happened under a McCain/Palin regime, there would be tens of thousands of people in the streets to protest. This is one of the reasons an escalation in police state oppression is so much more dangerous under Obama – even now, he gets a free pass from the very same people who should be adamantly opposed to such policies.

Secondly, I believe because the raids happened to basically ‘unsung’ and unknown, but very active workers in the movement, that the coordinated, early morning home invasions were designed to intimidate and frighten those of us who are still doing the work. The Obama regime would like nothing better than for us to shut up or go underground and to quit embarrassing it by pointing out its abject failures and highlighting its obvious crimes.

Just look at how the Democrats are demonising activists who are trying to point out the inconvenient truth that the country (under a near Democratic tyranny) is sliding further into economic collapse, environmental decay and perpetual war for enormous profit.”

So, let’s just recap;

  • Bombing campaigns conducted inside allied country’s borders — yes, we can!
  • Continuation of Bush era legal doctrines to maintain government cover-ups — yes, we can!
  • Increased support for secret special forces groups to conduct extra-judicial killings in Afghanistan — yes, we can!
  • Extra-judicial executions of American citizens abroad– yes, we can!
  • Scaling up almost decade long war in developing country for access to resources (minerals) — yes, we can!
  • Declaration of “victory” in Iraq despite continued American presence — yes, we can!
  • Raids on anti-war activists for being anti-war — yes, we can!

Who knew the inspirational phrase, “yes, we can” would have such a downside?  Then I can’t imagine the world would be much safer with McCain leading America, either.  “No leaders” probably doesn’t seem like such an radical proposal for those across the pond.

————————————————————————

UPDATE:

Found this great article at The Superfluous Man discussing how Obama is no different from the average, big name political pundit, but also the inability for critiques from all corners of statist politics to grasp exactly this fact.

Why on earth wouldn’t he? He’s blowing hundreds of billions on the stimulus so that he and his political allies can fund pet projects, justify the exercise of greater influence and power over society and pass out government swag to friends, allies, and supporters. He’s doing the standard, normal thing for someone with political power to do – he’s just able to do more because of the circumstances he finds himself in.

He wants to raise taxes on higher income brackets? So does every other center-left politician cultivating his “friend of the people” persona. He wants to increase federal involvement in this or that sector of the economy? He’d be a bizarre anomaly if he was a major American politician who didn’t.

The same can be said of questions raised by faltering or disenchanted Obama supporters: Why hasn’t he shown interest in liberalizing drug laws? Why isn’t he renouncing the Bush era’s offenses against civil liberties and separation of powers? Why is he handing out wagonloads of boodle to big corporations?

Why would it be otherwise?

The problem D’Souza has- and that many conservative critics of Obama have, and that many liberal admirers of Obama have- is this: He thinks there must be some interesting, unusual, or complex explanation for what is actually entirely mundane, typical behavior with a mundane, typical explanation.

The conservative reaction to Obama’s programs are remarkably similar to the liberal reaction to George W. Bush, which also tended to ridiculously exaggerate the novelty of what Bush was doing by acting as if incremental changes building on established precedent were new and shocking.





The US Government goes for internet’s jugular

27 09 2010

This article was originally published by Techeye.net.  I’ve reposted it here as a matter that needs urgent attention inside and outside the US.

The US government has decided that it has the right to take down content on any website in the world if a movie or recording studio complains about it.

The worldwide censorship programme will let the Justice Department seek US court orders against piracy websites anywhere in the world and shut them down through domain registration.

According to Wired the law has the backing of both republicans and democrats and is quite possibly the first time that the US has attempted to impose its quaint medieval legal system on the rest of the world.  It is certainly the first time that the US has ordered other nation states to obey the will of its own private companies.

Basically the only reason that the world has to listen is that the US has control of the domain registration system.

The law is called “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act,” and as Wired points out it is the Holy Grail of intellectual-property enforcement.

If passed, the Justice Department could ask a federal court to for an injunction that would order a domain registrar or registry to stop resolving an infringing site’s domain name, so that visitors to ThePirateBay.org, for example, would get a 404 error.

It is being pushed by Orin Hatch who is a Republican from Utah who claims that this world wide wibble thing is a tool for online thieves to sell counterfeit and pirated goods, making hundreds of millions of dollars off of stolen American intellectual property.

But whether the proposal would ever become law is unclear. For a start there will be a large number of foreign countries who will be leaning on the US to drop it. Wars have been fought for less and the world wide wibble is an important economic resource.

Hollywood has shown that it is quite prepared to blanket ban all filesharing sites on the basis that pirated material could be shared. A law like this would enable it to shut down internet access to any company which makes technology it does not approve of.

The fact that taxpayer money is being used to defend Hollywood against people who may not have any cash at all is another point. But the law could also be used to shut down Wikileaks on the basis that the material is copyrighted. The fact the site is hosted in foreign countries would not protect it.

The US has always been reluctant to give up its control of the internet, usually making the claim that it invented it. The fact that what it came up with is nothing like you see today does not matter to it. It now seems that US politicians are using it to prop up their entertainment industry’s sick business model.

Our bet is that if the law is enacted then it will push other governments to set up a rival internet structure without the US.  After all you can’t have a system of taxation or legal repression without representation.  Where have we heard that before?

Read the original here








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