translated from: Wildcat no. 98, summer 2015
The concept of class has become popular again. After the most recent global economic crisis, even bourgeois newspapers started posing the question: “Wasn’t Marx right after all?” For the last two years Thomas Piketty’s ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ has been on the bestseller list – a book which describes in a detailed way how historically, the capitalist process of accumulation resulted in a concentration of wealth into the hands of a tiny minority of capital owners. In western democracies too, significant inequalities have led to an increase in fear of social uprisings. This spectre has haunted the world in recent years [more...]
translated from: Wildcat no.96, spring 2014
Three years ago a small scandal took place when the Greek group TGTP published in an open letter that the co-founder of Aufheben, John Drury, lead workshops for the police and military and is known as a “provider of ideas” in these circles. These workshops took part within the framework of his academic career researching Crowd Control, mass panics and rescue operations. Together with his closest colleagues Stott and Reicher he has developed the Elaborated Social Identity Model (ESIM). The social psychologist Stott is renowned to be one of the globally leading experts for protests and violent uprisings. ESIM claims that a ‘mob’ acts according to certain patterns: people in a crowd have individual thoughts and emotions, so when the crowd is attacked indifferently by the police, people act in solidarity with each other and resist together. Therefore ESIM advices that the police should proceed in a multi-levelled approach and extract ‘individual perpetrators’ from the crowd. Using such kind of methods, Stott coordinated security preparations for the European football cup in Poland and Ukraine in 2012. (for more details see both open letters by TPTG) [more...]
Wildcat no. 95, Winter 2013/2014
Since the end of the military dictatorship the state has used fascist forces against demonstrations and protests. Since the crisis this collaboration has intensified, which resulted in Golden Dawn's ascent from a militant Nazi-squad to a parliamentary force. After the murder of the hip-hop artist and left-wing activist Pavlos Fyssas, the state curbed their influence again. [more...]
Wildcat no. 95, Winter 2013/2014
The packaging manufacturer Neupack has two plants, one in Hamburg-Stellingen and one in Rotenburg/Wuemme. The company employs 200 people, out of which two thirds work in production, e.g. of yoghurt pots. The strike in 2013 was conducted under the slogan of 'Justice. Against the arbitrary rule at Neupack'. The goal of the works council and the trade union was a company-based collective agreement (Haustarifvertrag). This contract was supposed to guarantee 83 per cent of the wage stipulated in the sector-wide collective agreement* (Flaechentarifvertrag) and fix wage scales, in order to obtain a more transparent wage categorisation of the workers. The strike attracted wide public attention and a degree of external support - also from the radical left - which hasn't been seen in the Hamburg area in a long time. Nevertheless, this did not turn the strike into a 'victory'. [more...]
Wildcat no. 95, Winter 2013/2014
Go to the Afterword from February 2014
For two years, Tahrir Square was the symbol of a radical departure from social ossification and crisis. The military coup in the summer of 2013 ended this phase. The various illusions and hopes were buried with the hundreds that died. Essential parts of the liberal milieus have accepted state-led massacres and mass arrests in the name of 'defending democracy'. The hope of a state solution to social misery is also lost; the last heirs of Nasserism and trade union movement-hopefuls now sit at the military (side) table. Their vague promises of reform are drowned out by their appeals to peace, order and willingness to work.
In the acute social situation there is currently no room for participation. The movement will have to provide new questions about social revolution and organisation and will have to find new answers. To this end, migrants play an important role. [more...]
Wildcat no. 95, Winter 2013/2014
In the last auto-article we expressed the vague hope that the defensive struggles in Western Europe and the US would come together with the offensive ones in the East (and South). Although actions and strikes in and around car and supplier factories have increased around the globe, they haven’t, up until now, converged. Struggles are happening against the background of a polarisation of car companies into 'winners’ and ‘losers’, as well as internal divisions within companies. Exceptions were strikes that emerged in the South African auto industry and at Dacia in Romania. Fiat workers in Serbia at a new factory in Kragujevac were also able to push through a considerable wage increase very soon after the plant became operational. [more...]
Wildcat no. 94, Spring 2013 – original version
The place where the woman and her male friend boarded the bus at around 9 p.m., a busy and crowded area, called Munirka, is (was till now) a site where a case like this was unheard of (unheard of is a case like this occurring in the public sphere of a market area during the busy hours of the city). Though women face lewd comments and men staring at them, these acts fall under the category of ‘normal’, a ‘normal’ understanding says that rapes in working class localities and slums are widespread, but not in a place like Munirka. [more...]
Translation of an article from Wildcat no. 94, Spring 2013
We have witnessed decades of growth in traffic and for at least two decades we have seen that this growth has deteriorated our working conditions - and rendered something like 'working class' more and more invisible. Now we hear of security guards on strike bringing airports to a standstill; in the US, Walmart workers are on strike and dockers are blockading ports on the West-Coast; even the accident of the Costa Concordia in 2012 exposed the 'mass work' in the bellies of the high-class liners - what's going on? A revival of the working class? Struggling proletarians everywhere? A historical turning point? [more...]
Translation of an article from Wildcat no. 94, Spring 2013
Since the beginning of the global crisis the social situation has gotten worse in Eastern Europe. In many countries people are protesting against austerity and against the elites. The working class is fed up with waiting for a promised paradise brought about by transition, which has served as a continuous reason for constant new waves of pauperisation for the last two decades. Recently the government was overthrown in Bulgaria. In 2011 a paper already asked the question: »Is the Balkans a new Maghreb?« Slovenia with its two million inhabitants seemed to be an exception to angry workers' protests and street action. But now, it too has come to the former EU-model state. Like in Egypt and Tunisia, a wave of workers struggles paved the way for the revolt on the streets. It marks the final failure of »transition«. [more...]
Translation of an article from Wildcat Zirkular no. 24, February 1996
It is a common view nowadays that acts of exchange and their logic are at the centre of capitalist society and that many social processes can be explained on the basis of exchange relations. From this viewpoint the current strategies of ‘privatisation’ and ‘neoliberalism’ become more plausible—both for followers and critics of these strategies. This notion has little to do with the reality of global accumulation of capital, but it is socially confirmed in our daily atomisation, which itself is only the flipside of a lack of open struggles and new collective relationships emerging from within them. To the isolated individual, social processes actually appear to be exchange transactions, or more precisely, it rationalises the experience of powerlessness, because the essence of exchange is just the assumption of the independence and autonomy of individualised subjects. By perceiving social relations as acts of exchange—social relations, which are essentially based on organised and institutionalised violence, exploitation and oppression—the idea of ‘freedom’ and ‘autonomy’ of the individual or certain social groups is rescued. For the individual the perception of social relations as being based on exchange is more than mere imagination. It is a very real experience, given that daily reproduction is mediated by markets and acts of exchange. This form of mediation seems to confirm our individual freedom—and in a certain way actually does confirm it (see below: ‘The Political Ambivalence of the Market’). [more...]
advance publication of Wildcat no. 93, Summer 2012
This book by an anarchist anthropologist was covered excitedly by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and plugged several times by Financial Times US editor (and ex-anthropologist) Gillian Tett, along with more conventional praise in the culture sections of what pass for serious bourgeois newspapers. Why this should be so is a question worth asking, because Graeber conscientiously avoids the usual shortcuts to liberal embrace of leftist polemics: the book is neither a catalogue of underanalysed moral outrages nor a scholarly survey keeping tactful silence on present-day social antagonism. Not only is Graeber's formidable scholarship free of the positivistic manner that cripples peer-reviewed Human Sciences, his writing bristles with hostility to capitalism, or at least to the social order around him as he sees it, which may not be quite the same thing. [more...]
Wildcat 90, Summer 2011, [e_w90_german_model.htm]
Between the first 'oil crisis' and the second a combination of neo-mercantilism, strong currency and further segmentation of the working class developed in Germany, promoted by chancellor Schmidt's SPD (Social-Democratic) government as 'the German Model'. The Bundesbank reacted to the strong wage increases of the early 1970s with measures intended to slow economic growth. These measures focused one-sidedly on price stability and slowing down internal demand. The trade unions supported this export-oriented policy of increased productivity and 'modest wage rises'. Thus unit labour costs remained stable.
In social terms this 'German Model' worked by giving security to the core workforce while lowering the standards of the rest. From the Kohl government of the 1980s to the Green Party-SPD coalition of the 1990s this tendency became ever more pronounced: legal changes allowed the expansion of temporary work, companies were taxed less heavily, state spending and welfare services were reduced. During the current crisis the Merkel government and employers have driven this policy further. [more...]
Wildcat no.91, Autumn 2011, [e_w91_nardo.html]
Devi Sacchetto, Mimmo Perrotta
When, in the early dawn of the 30th of July 2011, a group of about 40 African migrants refused to continue harvesting tomatoes on the fields of Nardo (Lecce), nobody would have thought that this would be the beginning of the first self-organised strike of migrant day labourers for better working conditions in Italian agriculture. The group of day labourers refused the demand of the 'caporale' 1 to perform an additional task: to separate the green tomatoes from the valuable red gold, for an average wage of 3.50 Euro per container of 300 kg. The caporale, who had hired the workers, hoped that the workers' concern for their income would make them more cautious, if not submissive – given that the economic crisis has also entered the sphere of agriculture. But he was wrong. The day labourers returned to Masseria Boncuri and erected a street blockade together with some friends, totalling around 60 people. For two years the association Finis Terrae and the Active Solidarity Brigades have organised a tent city on this former farm which accommodates the seasonal agricultural labourers. The day labourers initially arrived hereto harvest watermelons, but they were disappointed that due to low market prices the companies refused to harvest the fruit. They hoped that with the onset of the tomato harvest they would find some days of paid work but they did not accept piece-wages that had dropped to below that of the previous year. This is how the strike started, which was to last for about two weeks and in which, at least during the first days, all migrants from Masseria took part, which was around 350 people. A strike, the impact of which, was to be felt several weeks after it had finished. [more...]
Wildcat no. 90, Summer 2011
In December 2008 about 500 cops and hired thugs attacked the Suluk Bongkal, a hamlet in the province of Riau, and drove away its inhabitants. Two military helicopters bombed the hamlet with napalm to burn down the 700 huts. Two children were killed, 200 people were arrested, the other people were able to escape. The Sinar Mas Cooperation had ordered this attack.
In Indonesia only a small share of the land has an ownership title attached to it – on the main island Java it is about a third of the total land, on the smaller islands it is even less. There are hundreds, if not thousands of disputes, but not many of them become public.. People get killed (in the first half of 2011 there were at least seven victims) or injured. There are numerous arrests. But all of these struggles remain confined to a local level and there are hardly any direct links between them. [more...]
Since June 30, when a one-day strike caused mild additional disruption to parts of Britain’s Public-Private administrative mash-up, trade unions have anxiously debated whether to risk another partial shutdown of disciplinary machinery in schools and dole offices. But on Monday August 8 their agonizing was made redundant (so to speak): a notice on the wall of Brixton JobCentrePlus announced that the interrogation rooms were ‘closed due to unforeseen circumstances’ and all benefits would be paid in full.
On Tuesday August 9, hundreds of grinning young professionals (henceforth HNWI: High Net Worthlessness Individuals) appeared on the streets of Clapham Junction with brooms and rubber gloves to photograph themselves mimicking the clean-up of cleaned-out chain stores accomplished earlier that morning by outsourced municipal workers. One HNWI got herself into the national press by wearing a t-shirt bearing the hand-scrawled legend: LOOTERS ARE SCUM. Some of her fellow class clowns differed slightly on terminology, opting instead for the word TERRORISTS.
While anyone who lives in a riot zone and takes class contradictions seriously might hesitate to say what‘s happening, HNWIs of all kinds (thank you, ’user-generated media‘) are shrieking uninhibitedly for class war.
Wildcat 90, Summer 2011
In all the crises of capitalism the balance of power initially shifted against the working class. During this crisis, too worse conditions have been enforced: work has been intensified, real wages have declined, and social welfare has been cut. We are witnessing the biggest redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top in human history. This redistribution does not only result in a harsh polarisation between the 'super rich' and the 'poor', the policy of crisis also deepens the differences within the class and intensifies individualisation. [more...]
Wildcat 90, Summer 2011
The riots in the French banlieues and the heavy clashes in Athens at the end of 2008 were said to be related to high levels of youth unemployment. In Spain this rate of youth unemployment has approached the 50 per cent mark – so when would the youth in Spain finally breach the social peace? Though the youth in Spain took part in the protests against the Iraq war in spring 2003 – and for the first time they put up tents in public squares, which was taken up again and expanded by the student movement against the Bologna reforms in 2008/2009 – it was puzzling that in general the younger generations in Spain have remained rather passive for a long time, despite the fact that since the crisis has taken off, their future prospects have deteriorated daily. Now they have finally entered the political stage in the form of a broad protest movement. [more...]
Wildcat 89, Spring 2011
During break-time conversations at lefty conferences everyone talks enthusiastically about their allotments and their self-grown veggies. More people of the left scene attend workshops on tomato cultivation than day schools on the global crisis. On the German magazine market 'LandLust' is the current shooting star, their print run registers double-digit annual growth figures. The magazine expresses the desire of the urban population for the conventional, the simple and healthy life.
All this has little to do with 'agriculture'. Agriculture still means hard physical labour and a modest income, last but not least in the organic farming sector. Globally people try to escape from this type of labour in order to make a living in an easier way. These people are in high demand at the global assembly lines because they are used to heavy work, which has to be done because otherwise the livestock would starve or the crop would wither away. [more...]
by Steven Colatrella
Austerity has taken on the characteristics of a global political regime. Worldwide, governments have imposed austerity in the form of cuts in programs benefiting working people, lower wages and large scale public layoffs of workers and legislation limiting or weakening organized labor. These austerity programs have had strikingly common characteristics in a wide variety of countries, and governments have typically imposed them at the initiative of global governance organizations, such as the IMF, EU, G20 and WTO. As a common agreement among government leaders, as a program openly in the interests of a narrow sector of society, namely of capitalists in general and more precisely of global finance capital, austerity may in that sense be understood as a regime, as an international order enforced by the collective action of states. Yet this degree of commonality of program and of class interests across governments ranging from Europe to the Middle East, from Asia to America and Africa, bespeaks the importance of Global Governance as a project of unification of the ruling class globally. [more...]
Like many other countries in Europe and elsewhere (consider the recent confrontations in North Africa), Italy has for several months been the scene of social struggles qualitatively and quantitatively unlike any seen for some time.
Already two years ago the 'Onda Anomala' ('anomalous wave') student movement involved thousands of university students against the latest case of disinvestment in the public university (the notorious funding cuts in the summer budget plan). This was combined with wider mobilization in the world of education, in which middle-school students and primary and secondary school teachers opposed the school reform of education minister Mariastella Gelmini.
Yet this failed to intersect with wider social discontent (even the 'legalist' left opposition to the government, embodied in the daily La Repubblica, only followed the first stages of the movement), remaining substantially isolated until it waned inexorably with the regular post-autumn decline, winning little or nothing.
With the worsening of the economic crisis, however, 2010 has seen a succession of more or less silent struggles within or for jobs and for environmental protection (l'Aquila, Terzigno1), along with various outbreaks of anti-government discontent. An important moment was the brave attempt by workers at the Pomigliano (Naples) Fiat plant to resist the blackmail of CEO Sergio Marchionne, who used the threat of moving production to Poland to restrict union rights tightly and impose even harsher working conditions. Left isolated by the other confederated unions (FIM-CISL, UILM-UIL), the FIOM (mechanical engineering section of the CGIL) and the grassroots unions won wide support and agreement in the region. [more...]
The debate on the commons was a frequent topic on the conferences and in the magazines of the radical left during the last year; the title of Negri/Hardt‘s most recent book is Commonwealth; the Oekonux scene increasingly refers to the commons; and Eleonore Ostrom received the Nobel prize for her research on common property. Last but not least, given the (financial) crisis of municipal government, a lot of other bourgeois groupings hope for (less expensive) solutions from common spheres beyond the welfare state.
But we also witness attempts ’from below‘ to relate the following aspects to a global context of the commons: on the one hand the lack of natural resources, the food crisis, ’climate catastrophe‘ and social polarisation; and on the other hand struggles against privatisation, referenda concerning common goods like water and local transport, urban gardening, free shops and communal living projects. [...]
A REPORT ON RECENT STRUGGLES IN GREECE
In periods of crisis, such as the current period of overaccumulation crisis, capitalists use the politics of »public debt« in order to devise new ways to intensify exploitation. In contrast with capitalist upturns when the private debt is increased, downturns are characterized by the increase of the ’public debt«. Private investment in state bonds ensures profits which are extracted from the direct and indirect taxation of the workers, aiming towards interest repayments, and leading, ultimately, to the reinforcement of the banking sector capital. Therefore, the ’public debt«, contrary to what is usually said, provides help to private capital and, in this respect, should be counted in its profits. [more...]
In April 2009 the UK Ministry of Justice announced plans to build a new 1,500-capacity prison on the site of the former Dagenham Ford factory. Proletarian prospects as officially scheduled in a 'managed' crisis could hardly be summed up better. But what happened next is also indicative of the way social tension has been simultaneously contained and deepened over the last year. In Dagenham the state eventually gave way on the local issue after a respectable campaign backed by the Labour MP and council: no jail will sully that particular Business Park, but identical projects remain on track elsewhere, and the government will keep its 'promise' to lock up 96,000 people. Meanwhile the Wildcat thesis that state-led 'crisis provisions do not aim at economic recovery, but at surviving politically' has been played out in practice. Life has not stopped getting materially worse for workers and claimants: hundreds of thousands have lost jobs, wages, housing, benefits, state services, and above all the certainty of future access to these things. But the effects have been dispersed across time, place and self-identifying social groups, and attempts at struggle have been correspondingly uneven. Socially concentrated–and therefore collectively experienced–'shocks' have been forestalled and rescheduled for a near but unspecified future. The experience of personally plunging from 'aspirational' to proletarianized to 'socially excluded' (and therefore prison-ready) status has apparently not yet become common enough to extirpate the widely held belief that when this happens it's at least partially the fallen individual's fault. [more...]
will be published in: Wildcat #87 (german), Summer 2010
Globally the left is engaged in a controversial debate about the mobilisations in Iran which took place before and after the elections. Only rarely are these mobilisations related to the global crisis and the severe economic and governmental crisis in Iran itself–although their inter-relatedness is blatant. [more...]
The Ssangyong Motor Company strike and plant occupation in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, ended after 77 days on Aug. 5. For the 976 workers who seized the small auto plant on May 22 and held it against repeated quasi-military assault, the settlement signed by Ssangyong court receivership manager Park Young-tae and local union president Han Sang-kyun represented a near-total defeat. Worse still, the surrender was followed by detention and interrogation of dozens of strikers by police [more...]
Control has always been part of the function of the welfare state. After the second world war in particular, it was not only a matter of keeping dissatisfied and rebellious workers quiet through concessions, but also of integrating them into the state and better controlling them through a centralised organisation of their reproduction; thus the state gained a clearer view of the living conditions of workers and was able to regulate certain aspects more pointedly. [more...]
A detailed account and analysis of the struggle of Ford-Visteon car manufacturing workers who occupied and picketed their plants after being sacked when their employers declared themselves bankrupt.
In June 2000 Ford Motor Company outsourced the production of certain component parts to a new company called Visteon–in reality a spin off company of Ford and in which Ford retained a 60% holding. Visteon runs factories all over the globe: in America, Europe and Asia, for example. In England a deal between the Ford company and the union promised all former Ford workers–now employees of Visteon–that they would keep the same wage and pension conditions they'd had with Ford (ie, mirrored conditions). But all newly hired Visteon workers were employed under inferior contracts.
On 31st of March 2009 Ford/Visteon announced the closure of three factories in the UK and the sacking of 610 workers [more...]
Will the current crisis and subsequent social turnover lead to the formation of a global working class that can finish off the capitalist mode of production world-wide? For any answer to that question class struggles in China play an important role. China is still the biggest country in the world, with 1.3 billion people, and by now the third biggest economy. Through the opening and industrialization of the 1980s and 90s China became the »assembly line of the world«, is part of global chains of production and circulation, and acts as a »global player« in investment and credit. The immense process of industrialization has pulled millions of migrant workers from the countryside into the cities and special economic zones where they work in factories, on construction sites, as domestic helpers etc. The current global crisis is overturning the social relations in China again. [more...]
On 5 February, 4,000 metal workers from Stalowa Wola were protesting in front of the offices of the state-owned PGE power company in the regional capital Rzeszow. There wasis really something going on at the demo: The workers weare allowed to let off steam, they threow firecrackers and set auto tyres on fire. The Solidarnosc union has organised the demo because the ZZM engineering factory, a subsidiary of the local steel mill hads declared bankruptcy. Everyone knows that ZZM is does not getting any more orders from its main customer in Austria and that in exchange for job guarantees, Solidarity had alreadys agreed to a shorter working week with wage cuts already inlast December. The bankruptcy now renders these guarantees obsolte, but the union is not blaming the crisis, but rather The union however does not blame the bankruptcy which now renders these guarantees obsolete on the crisis but on the fact that electricity prices have almost doubled over the last year. [more...]
In the current crisis we see the implosion of a development model fuelled by subsidies and credit. The crisis marks the end of an epoch which began in the post-Franco transition period and which led to Spanish integration first into the European then into the global market. But the crisis is also marketed by the media as a major event, re-staged daily like some collective experiment in which everyone tries to find their respective new roles. The politicians seem unsettled in a situation which ever more obviously relegates them to the role of extras in a play where manipulation of the electorate becomes harder and they run the risk of being marked out as scapegoats at the first opportunity. The media constantly advise us to look out for special offers when shopping, the minister of trade and industry recommends buying national products, while there is perpetual lamentation over the collapse of the credit-financed demand which had been of major importance for the Spanish economic miracle. [more...]
India is the sub-continental test case for global capitalism, the country underwent all its development models: colonial rule followed by democratic catch-up nationalism and mixed socialist/market planning economy, which was able to transform into a centralised draconic state of emergency and to become a neo-liberal regime subsequent to a severe crisis in 1991. Each phase was a test case in the sense that 'development' had to secure both the reproduction of the class relations; and a promise for the masses of the impoverished rural population and the growing urban proletariat, a way out for the India of malnourished peasants and labouring children of the city slums. [more...]
The 'service society' and the end of industrial work has been propagated for decades now. Today the press is stuffed with reports on the importance of the automobile industry for the national economy and with pictures of industrial workers. The articles and pictures scream out: 'This is supposed to be the end?! – Unbelievable!!'. But we all know that we not have reached 'the bottom of a crisis cycle' and that the car industry will not soon be back on boom track again – because all types of crisis congeal in the car itself: the economic downturn, the structural crisis, the product crisis, the over-capacity, the shortage of resources, the emission problem (carbon dioxide, particulate matter, benzene), the noise exposure, the lack of space (streets, parking space...), the looming collapse of the traffic flow and not at least the 'aging' of the core staff (for example the vast pension obligations of the US car companies). The product cycle of the car is overwound. The use value of the car itself is at stake. [more...]
We asked people in several countries to write down observations about social effects of the crisis.
The following is a report from England, written in January 2009, updated in February 2009
We asked people in several countries to write down observations about social effects of the crisis.
The following is a report fromthe USA, written end of last year.
We asked people in several countries to write down observations about social effects of the crisis.
The following is a report from Romania, written in February 2009.
Reports about social effects of the crisis.
The following is a report from London, written in November 2008 with an update at the end.
We are entering a world historical situation where all track switches of social-economic and political life are newly aligned. It will be the second epochal change for my generation after the period of 1967-1973. All the main facts and indicators of the last weeks point to the start of a world economic crisis which already now exceeds the extent of the 1973 crisis and of the intervening crises of 1982 and 1987. The current crisis is approaching the dimensions of the worldwide crisis and subsequent depression of 1929-1938. [more...].
in: Wildcat #82 (german), Summer 2008
As ongoing struggles confront new conditions in the escalating crisis, fighting will be concentrated along two main frontlines. Once the struggles along these two lines merge and communicate things will heat up: it could be the precondition for finally putting an end to this system and starting something new and better! At one frontline the urban working class of the highly productive web of factories, offices and informal economy will have to smash the increased polarisation between over-exploitation and unemployment. At the second frontline all those will fight who were subjected to and subjects in the silent and invisible revolution of the last decades: the rural proletariat of the global south. [more...]
in: Wildcat #80 (german), Winter 2007/2008
»I assume that once the next strike is on our workmates will form
discussion groups in order to debate about the 'here and now'. This is
how it was during the last strike, colleagues debated a lot and could
not stop talking. There wasn't a moment when you were alone with your
thoughts for more than five minutes.«
A striking commuter train driver
There have been several short strikes on the German railways in autumn and winter 2007. For the first time in a long while the »public« had to debate about a nation-wide strike, the aims, the impact on »the national economy«, the significance for other workers. First the strike only hit the commuter trains, because under the pressure from the industry the labour court had declared strikes in the freight department as illegal. [more...]
translated by prol-position
in: Wildcat #79 (german), Autumn 2007
In 2006 there were more strikes in Germany than during the previous twelve years. In 2007 their number will be even higher. "Going on strike is becoming fashionable amongst the Germans", announces a headline in the national daily newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau. When we added a strike poster to wildcat #69 in spring 2004 it was rather a general statement. Today we have to – or rather, we are able to – discuss strikes in a much more precise manner, because there are actually strikes going on! There are strikes against company closures, against redundancies and extension of working hours – but not for improvements. These strikes do not put into practice the workers' power which we refer to on the poster, the power to question capitalist valorisation by simply refusing to do something. Often the reality on the shop-floor looks rather shitty (see examples in this issue: the ample documentation on working in the adult education sector, on temp work and on the Auto5000 scheme at VW), but officially this reality is hardly ever made a topic of discussion during the strikes. This is one reason why many strikes remain isolated from each other, and why in the end everyone fights for themselves. A strike wave is something different. [more...]
translated by prol-position
During the crisis at the beginning of the 1990s the employers painted the picture of the end of the 'production location Germany'. The core of the German industry – the car factories – was allegedly about to be relocated to eastern Europe, like other industries before. This threatening picture formed the background for several 'innovative projects' of the employers – with the agreement of IG Metall (metal union) – which were meant to prove that labour in Germany can still be profitable for the employers. [more...]
translated by prol-position
»BSH will continue to manufacture home devices in Berlin – Planned closure for the end of the year is off the agenda«. This was the heading of the Berliner Zeitung on the 29th of June 2006. The article continued: "The BSH-management, the works council and the IG Metall union representatives agreed to negotiate about a new concept for the production location in Berlin. 'The plan is that we keep parts of the production', said the head of the BSH plant Gunther Meier " in exchange 'considerable cost-effective concessions' would be expected from the employees" Arno Hager (a union chairman – see appendix) said: 'I believe that we will find a solution in order to keep the production running in Berlin long-term'. Hager did not want to comment on the concessions of the employees for the time being. Meier said that he expects 'a cost reduction clearly in the millions'".[more...]
translated by prol-position
Friday, 9th of November, London
7.30pm, Pullens Estate community centre,
184 Crampton st., SE17 (buses 35, 45, 40, 68, 468, 171, 176, 12, 343 etc; Elephant & Castle tube/train.
Saturday, 10th of November, London
School of Oriental and African Studies
A film about petrochemical workers who took matters into their own hands in the giant industrial zone engulfing Venice. The mass refusal of literally toxic work forced hours on the job down at the same time as driving wages up. The labour hierarchy that sets white collar against blue, permanent against casual, was attacked by workers insisting on the maximum for everyone. The battle in the factory was linked to working-class life outside through direct appropriation of basic social needs (electricity, housing, food).
More clearly than any before them, the Porto Marghera workers identified the factory as the trigger of fatal diseases and destroyer of life. They remained on the offensive against the concerted hostility of unions, multinational employers and state from the late 1960s until well into the '70s. As part of an international wave of struggle, their actions contributed to a global accumulation crisis, provoking the capitalist counter-attack which has never ceased since then.
Unlike most more or less academic accounts of Italian Operaismo, which tend to focus on high-profile groups and individual leaders, Porto Marghera – gli ultimi fuochi (Manuela Pellarin, Italy, 2004) documents autonomous worker organization from the point of view of the worker-activists themselves, who talk about their experiences in the film. Many aspects and problems of this phase of class struggle are of immediate relevance today. For example:
The film, which includes archive footage and interviews with known troublemakers, was first distributed on DVD with the winter 2006/2007 issue of Wildcat (Germany). It will be presented at the screening by members of the Wildcat group. The DVD is also now available with English and other subtitles, together with the same director's short film Portrait of Augusto Finzi and a profusely detailed 70-page English-language booklet containing analysis and more interviews. You can order it here.
In November 1999, Volkswagen labor director Hartz presented the new project called »5000 x 5000«to the public. 5000 working spaces would be established to produce the new Volkswagen »Touran« model in Wolfsburg (Germany) and Hannover (Germany). The goal would be to bring »work places from abroad« back to Germany. The project wanted to show that even under German (high-wage) conditions it would be possible to create profitable production.
The basic idea of the project was to produce a number of pieces for a fixed wage of 5000 DM (2556 Euro). Furthermore, there were no surcharge payments allotted for overtime, nightshifts or weekend-work, and no Christmas or summer bonuses and no overtime compensation through time off. Working hours were rolling time from 28.8 to 48 hours per week with Saturday as a normal workday. It was a list of wishes. [...read the whole article translated by prol-position]
(Banner on a Monday demonstration in Leipzig – »We are the people« was the main slogan during the demonstrations in 1989)
While the initiatives of the unemployed, the social forums and other alliances were preparing for a hot autumn for months, the Monday demonstrations against the welfare reform disrupted the silence of the midsummer break in east-German cities. Several thousand people took the streets week after week. What had begun as a small protest in Magdeburg grew as rapidly as it shrank again, after it became clear that the government would only carry out cosmetic adjustments to the so-called Hartz IV reform. Up to now, it is not yet clear if the Monday demonstrations were the prelude of a general movement against the attack on the level of reproduction of the proletariat, or if they will end up in an impasse of a new East German self-identification.
in: Wildcat #70 (german), Summer 2004
What did you do before the book came out, what are you living on?
I became interested in anarchism and then council communism as a teenager, then discovered operaismo in the late seventies as a university student in Melbourne, Australia (where I live). I later became active in the anti-nuclear movement, and then in the federal public service as a union delegate. In the late nineties I joined a local IWW branch; after that collapsed a couple of years ago, I went back to being 'a dog without a home'. After holding a number of short term contract or casual university jobs during the nineties and early noughts, from this year I have a continuing position as a lecturer in information management (eg classification theory, information seeking) at Monash University.
What is your main political intention with your book »Storming Heaven«?
The primary political intention is twofold: a) to provide some sort of historical context for comrades who wanted to find out more concerning the Italian operaista tradition, which today is known (if at all) as the background from which the authors of Empire emerged; b) to document the development of the category of class composition as operaismo's distinctive contribution to our understanding of class dynamics.
The book is an updated version of my PhD thesis, which I completed in the late 1980s. At that time there didn't seem to be much interest in English-speaking circles to find out more about operaismo, despite the efforts of a number of circles like Red Notes, or the comrades who'd been involved in Zerowork2. It's only been in the last decade that a growing curiosity about the Italian movement has emerged, parallel with more attention to Negri (thanks in part to his association with particular strands of French thought?). [more...]
in: Wildcat #64/65 (german), March 1995
In 1989 Sergio Bologna started a lecture about Gramsci's ›Americanismo e Fordismo‹ with a description of the situation of the Italian Left: He began by recalling the years 1969-73, where in Italy, as in no other country in the world, the »factory as the place of the self-organisation of the working class and the development of new modes of behaviour; as a laboratory of the new subjectivity« exercised a »hegemony« over the whole society and the party system.
In contrast to this, work today has been politically excluded in a grotesque way, the working class characterised as environmentally unfriendly and uncooperative, as a hindrance to social and technical innovation. »No-one speaks of ›workers‹ as a collective any more, one always speaks of individual groups«. Bologna evaluates this as a »cultural crisis«.
On one hand racism is noticeable in large sections of the population, on the other hand a new anti-racism is emerging: »While the left is suppressing its traditional base, it is at the same time utterly possessed by philanthropic activism concerning the new immigrants. The indigenous sections of the proletariat feel even more excluded by this and can develop anti-foreigner reactions […] The new ›friends of the environment‹ and a section of the Greens have succeeded in making a big contribution to the cultural-political exclusion of the working class with their idea of the working class as a hindrance to environmentally friendly innovations«. They wilfully ignore the fact that in the 1970s the workers themselves formed a movement against the ill-making effects of the factories. [more...]
in: Wildcat #72 (german), January 2005
Fear over losing ones job, threats of relocation and outsourcing, the closure of workplaces, wage freezes and increased pressure at work (and to accept any kind of work) leads to «disempowerment» of workers, so they say in «Die Zeit». It that true? Does this strike not show just the opposite? A few hundred workers organized themselves independently from the union in the clear knowledge that they could force Opel, Europe-wide, to its knees–and how! It impressed hundreds of thousands of workers, provided the VW workers with a substantially better final agreement than their personelle manager Hartz had intended and given a new dynamic to the rather timid discussion about the Monday Demos. The strike in Bochum was the first item on the news every day and parliament held a special session to discuss it… [more...]
We all live with increasing levels of stress. Fear determines what we do: the fear of being without a job, and therefore without money. Fear of being left behind; of not being able to keep up with things. Fear of being alone.
The stress we can sense is the sound of a system breaking down – a system that has made human work ever more productive. But if we are constantly producing more and more with less and less work, then how come we don't have more time? Why does the stress continue? [more...]
in: Wildcat #71 (german), Autumn 2004
After the successful strikes in 2001/2002 the Paris solidarity collectives had already dissolved themselves when new conflicts erupted in 2003. During these struggles, which were not always successful, unexpected contradictions and difficulties emerged, which only contributed to them becoming valuable experiences. [more]
in: Wildcat #71 (german), Autumn 2004
»Up to now there have not been any common struggles that have developed against the ever widening gap of wages and conditions between the 'permanents' and the precarious outer edge. Have the 'Daimler workers' understood that the attacks related to everyone?« we wrote in Wildcat 68 in the introduction to »Precarisation«.
They have! The DaimlerChrysler factory workforce in Germany have reacted to the company directors' extortion with coordinated protests and strikes. The workers from the Mettingen factory near Stuttgart spectacularly occupied the important traffic artery, the B10, which connects the all industrial estates. [more]
in: Wildcat #66 (german), July 2003
In the last Wildcat, No. 64/65 (March 1995) we published part one of an article on workerism that we expected to have a follow-up. It examined in detail (and it is still worth reading!) the origin of the concept of "worker inquiries" and the first experiences with them at the beginning of the 60s in Italy. In the mid 1990s, books had been published on workerism in West Germany and in Italy in the 60s and 70s. At the same time, the discussion turned on Karl Heinz Roth's book, Die Wiederkehr der Proletarität (The Return of the Proletarian Condition). We wanted to use his theses on the convergence of worldwide class relations and the arisal of a world working class as the starting point for a militant investigation. But Roth's idea of the "proletarian circle," composed of academics, left unionists and base initiatives, failed. After that, there was no need for workerism for a long time on the left.
This changed when Michael Hardt and Toni Negri's book Empire appeared. Since then, "workerism" has again been in the debate. Paradoxically, this revival involves people who don't refer to "class" or revolution any more--thus both of the threads that always made workerism interesting for us are missing: the concept of class composition and the efforts toward worker investigation. [more]
(Wildcat Special Issue on the War against Iraq, March 2003)
The impending bombardment of a small country of 23 million inhabitants has become a stress test of the international state system, in which framework the world has developed for the past sixty years. In the debates over the pros and cons, and the reasons for the bombs on Baghdad, it's no longer just about the Middle East. It's about the question of how the world should be ruled and controlled in the future. Whose power is up to the game? And why must Iraq, flat on the ground after 23 years of war, be the excuse for the goal of a political and military demonstration of power? more
(Wildcat, November 2002)
... In order to be against war, we don't need to know anything about their respective backgrounds. Wars are always massacres in the interests of the rulers. Whether Bush or Saddam Hussein, whether Schröder or Bin Laden, whether Sharon or Arafat – war and terrorist attacks serve them in the securing of their power and maintenance of the conditions on which their power rests. War is the sharpest form and demonstration of the force on which the capitalist order, the daily prison of labor and the power of money are based.
But in order to be able to proceed effectively against the war, we must be able to understand its (back)grounds and political meaning, and publicly explain them. ... more
Behind the attacks of September 11 weren't the pauperized and exploited of this world, and the bombing of Afghanistan isn't aimed at the alleged masterminds of the attacks. Both incidents belong to the strategy of worldwide control of labor power and protection of the global valorization of capital. So it does not have to do simply with profit making in the economic sense, but rather with the protection and penetration of capitalistic relations, i.e., of a specific class relationship. This class relationship, as the core of a historic form of society, finds itself in crisis, and must today be defended with war. ...
In several aspects Genoa, July 2001, in the development of storming summits since Seattle in November 1999, stands for a turning point: in its making migration and exploitation an issue on a broad level; in the broad social mobilisation that, in Italy, went far beyond the circles of "event hoppers"; and at last in the state's reaction to these mobilisations which was already signalled in Göteborg and behind which lies more than just a Berlusconi government. [more...]
Materials concerning the "anti-globalisation movement":
Behind the twenty-first century Intifada (Aufheben #10, September 2001. German translation in Wildcat-Zirkular Nr. 62, February 2002)
A Factory in Patagonia–Zanon belongs to the Workers (Translation of the supplement to Wildcat, No. 68, January 2004)
From Cellatex to Moulinex: Burst Up of an Open Social Violence (Henri Simon, November 2001)
Refusing Collection. The Brighton Bin Men Strike in June 2001 (German translation in Wildcat-Zirkular Nr. 59, July 2001)
Immigrant Workers' Struggle. The Struggle of the Vemiko Workers at Satzvey near Euskirchen, Germany, in January/February 2001
Open Letter to John Holloway (Wildcat-Zirkular Nr. 39, September 1997) Contains a short introduction in the history of theory and practice of the Wildcat-Group in Germany (which is not linked to the group in Britain of the same name).
Open Reply to an Open Letter (Wildcat-Zirkular Nr. 45, June 1998) John Holloways Response to our Open Letter
A Critique of the Fordism of the Regulation School, by Ferruccio Gambino (German in: Wildcat-Zirkular Nr. 28/29 October 1996; English translation by Ed Emery, in: Common Sense No. 19, June 1996)
"We've never got as wet before as with that strike." Working Time Reduction in Germany. Demystifying the glorious 35-hour-week, which started with a strike in 1984 (Wildcat No. 33, September 1984) The article dates back 17 years, but facing the new leftist illusions about working time reduction it might be interesting to look back how it all began.
35 Hour Week: Lower Incomes and More Work. Working Time Reduction in Germany. (Wildcat-Zirkular No. 48, March 1999) This is a more up to date analysis about the capitalist reasons for introducing a shorter work week. It was published in the Aufheben-Pamphlet Stop the Clock! critique of the new social workhouse (summer 2000).
The "Guaranteed Income" and new reformist illusions: Reforming the Welfare State for Saving Capitalism. (Wildcat-Zirkular No. 48, March 1999) Also published in Stop the Clock.
"Looks as though we've got ourselves a Convoy". Letter concerning the struggles over the oil price in Britain, by Dave W. (Wildcat-Zirkular No. 58, December 2000)
Fuel Blockades. A Letter in defense of the petrol prices movement in the UK by a female truck driver. (Wildcat-Zirkular No. 58, December 2000)
English language versions of articles in our magazine "Wildcat" concerning the changes in class relations in the first half of the 1990s.
Background to a simulated strike. (Wildcat No. 59, June 1992)
or: How the New Germany is being governed. (Wildcat No. 60, October 1992)
From Capitalist Crisis to Proletarian Slavery:
An Introduction to Class Struggle in the US, 1973-1998
by George Caffentzis
No Politics Without Inquiry! A Proposal for a Class Composition Inquiry Project 1996-7. By Ed Emery (in: Common Sense No. 18, December 1995)
Money and Crisis: Marx as Correspondent of the New York Daily Tribune, 1856-57. By Sergio Bologna (English translation by Ed Emery, in: Common Sense No. 13 and 14)
The Politics of Debt: Social Discipline and Control. By Werner Bonefeld (in: Common Sense No. 17, June 1995)
In "Wildcat-Zirkular" we published a lot of translations of texts that are available in English on other websites; here are some of these external links to them:
TPTG's Conversation with George Caffentzis, Athens, November 2001
Negri's Class Analysis: Italian Autonomist Theory in the Seventies, by Steve Wright, in: Reconstruction 8, Winter/Spring 1996 (German translation in Wildcat-Zirkular No. 40/41)
The End of Work or the Renaissance of Slavery? A Critique of Rifkin and Negri, by George Caffentzis (German translation in Wildcat-Zirkular No. 45). Another link to this article.
The Limits Of Matticks Economics–Economic Law and Class Struggle, by Ron Rothbart (German translation in Wildcat-Zirkular No. 56/57)
The United States Economy at the Turn of the Century: Entering a new Era of Prosperity? by Fred Moseley (German translation in Wildcat-Zirkular No. 55)
In the US, Dreaming of Iraq, by George Caffentzis, Midnight Notes (German translation in Wildcat-Zirkular No. 44)
Dole Autonomy versus the Re-Imposition of Work: Analysis of the Current Tendency to Workfare in the UK, by the group "Aufheben" [October 1998] (German translation in Wildcat-Zirkular No. 48/49) More articles by Aufheben can be found here.
Eclipse & Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, by Jean Barrot and Francois Martin (German translation in Wildcat-Zirkular No. 52/53)
Mexico is not only Chiapas nor is the Rebellion in Chiapas merely a Mexican Affair (German translation in Wildcat-Zirkular No. 22)
Unmasking the Zapatistas (German translation in Wildcat-Zirkular No. 22)
Communism is the material human Community: Amadeo Bordiga today, by Loren Goldner (German translation in Wildcat-Zirkular No. 46/47)