a lot of sorrow lately. not particularly mine, but here in me, with me, shadowing.
all around, death and pre-death. loss, grieving.
friends losing parents.
friends breaking up.
friends leaving their job.
friends who come from méxico, watching from here as the country burns. (for a long time the fire has been in the walls; now it’s billowing out in the open.)
i’m seeing video of entire towns in guerrero arming themselves. every single person, cradling a crappy-looking but well-intentioned weapon. this isn’t just david v. goliath, the working class against the state, but david v. goliath and a rattlesnake at david’s ankles.
and pneumonia in david’s lungs.
and even if he beats this giant, david’s got ptsd for the rest of his life.
what i’m saying is david’s got it rough.
and see? like i said, this isn’t even my sorrow. i’m not directly connected. i just see around me and the sorrow comes.
it’s bittersweet, with the unity here, yeah? they want peace, he says. they want peace. i wish it for them. the peace that will come from a way out of capitalism, on a world scale. the peace that will come from transforming our way out of oppression, healing the karma of thousands of years of keeping each other down.
thankful to the people of guerrero and all of méxico who keep trying to fight and heal.
I do believe them that there’s plenty of sex happening now, that isn’t experienced as rape by either partner, that doesn’t meet the affirmative consent standards proposed. That could include sex where both partners kind of just leapt into the act, not checking in with each other, but not hitting any snags. Sex where one or both partners was somewhere past tipsy and within sight of “too impaired to consent” but no one pulled out a breathalyzer and both parties felt ok in the morning (aside from the headache). Sex with coercion/pressure, where one partner didn’t back down after an initial “No” or “I’d rather not” but the reluctant party felt more like someone who’s been guilted into going to a boring party they would have preferred to skip, rather than someone who was violated.
All of these could hit the proposed new definition of rape, without being experienced as rape every time they occurred. And all of these might be pretty common at present.
The goal of the Yes-Means-Yes law in California is to kibosh a lot of this gray area, rape-adjacent sex.
In one of the 3 or 4 intimate-abuse interventions I’m passively or actively involved in at the moment, a group of us is supporting a friend who is going through an accountability process — for something very much resembling this “rape-adjacent sex” definition.
It’s the first time I’ve been on the accountability-support side, meaning working with the person who committed harm. That comes with its own set of discombobulations, but one of the main lessons I’m drawing so far is that even those of us who identify as feminist, who have done a LOT of work around consent, can still engage in risky behavior and massively fuck up. A positive way of putting that, though, is that we can all be striving, throughout our lives, to improve our consent game.
The piece quoted above (really good; you should read the whole thing) offers a concrete, socialized-labor strategy for helping to reduce the amount of “rape-adjacent sex” in our communities.
In college, a number of student groups had a designated door watcher for parties. This person (or these people, if they were doing it in shifts) were supposed to hang around near the exit of a party and check to see if anyone leaving seemed to be heavily intoxicated. They were basically doing what Allison of Strong Female Protagonist is doing in the comic featured above (minus the superpowers, and plus some attention to people leaving the party alone who might need to be screened for alcohol poisoning). Not a perfect system, but just posting a watcher (and discussing that you will at party planning meetings) changes people’s expectations a little about what kind of behavior is appropriate.
An idea has been germinating for a minute about running sex workshops using Buddhism or “mindfulness” to improve our strategies and skills around consent… we’ll see if anything comes of that. Meantime, I’m grateful for this article, and more than a little annoyed at the guy who complained to The Atlantic that California’s new proposed college consent standards are cock-blocking him. Whatever, dude — take a cue from Louis C.K. and be relieved that you’re not raping anybody.
Saturday’s rally at Corcoran State Prison in California, in solidarity with 30,000 prisoners participating in a hunger strike and work stoppage against solitary confinement. 100°F brought back hometown summertime for me, but also made everything a bit groggy and surreal.
More about the historic hunger strike in the video below.
Even as we strive for liberation,
any truly emancipatory struggle must also be its own reward.
“To answer oppression with appropriate resistance requires knowledge of two kinds: in the first place, self-knowledge by the victim, which means awareness that oppression exists, an awareness that the victim has fallen from a great height of glory or promise into the present depths; secondly, the victim must know who the enemy is. [They] must know [their] oppressor’s real name, not an alias, a pseudonym, or a nom de plume!” —Chinua Achebe (Nov. 16, 1930 – Mar. 22, 2013)
‘Working class self-activity is working-class autonomy — autonomy from capitalism,’ argues [Lee] Holstein. Her problem with advocates of trade-union reform efforts, such as Moody, is that they ‘mush together the reform and revolutionary aspects of resistance and insurgency, treating forms of resistance and insurgency which are confined within the framework of capitalism in the same way as those which break out of that framework.’ For Holstein, by contrast, ‘self-activity is not just resisting and attacking, but resisting and attacking in a way that undermines capitalist power, destabilizes its institutional framework, and foreshadows and demonstrates, in the form and content of the current struggles, the potential of the workers to be rulers.’ (284–85)
Two questions for today, and then I promise I’ll get back to grad school work. ;)
Valentine’s Day sometimes brings chocolates and sometimes flowers. But Valentine’s Day in Oakland, California, brought angry women out to the Mi Pueblo supermarket in the heart of the barrio. There they tried to speak to the chain’s owner, Juvenal Chavez, not about love, but about the sexual harassment of women who work there.
Mi Pueblo worker Laura Robledo’s story, in her own words:
Hello, my name is Laura Robledo. I am a single mother of three children. Last October I started working for Mi Pueblo Foods at the McLaughlin Avenue Store, in San Jose. Recently I was suspended and later-on fired for alleged misbehavior.
During the first few weeks of employment, a co-worker began to sexually harass me on a constant basis.
The company allegedly conducted an investigation on this matter finding no apparent cause for disciplinary action against the alleged harasser. It seems that the individual that harassed me still works at Mi Pueblo. This makes me feel humiliated.
I believe management fired me because I decided not to remain silent. There could be more women that have been sexually harassed but are too afraid to speak up.
Last December I attempted to hand deliver a letter to Juvenal Chavez, the owner of Mi Pueblo Foods. But I was stopped by several male security guards at the entrance of Mi Pueblo headquarters in San Jose. In this letter I challenge Mr. Chavez to talk to me in person so I can tell him what it really means for female employees to work at Mi Pueblo Foods.
On Valentine’s Day, 2013, supported by members of local group Dignity & Resistance; workers organizing in Walmart retail stores; and union members and staff of UFCW, Laura again tried to deliver her letter, and again security guards blocked the way. Undeterred, workers and community members will continue finding ways to fight not only sexual harassment in Mi Pueblo Foods, but also discrimination against African-Americans, e-verify attacks on undocumented workers, and attacks on workers who wish to form a union at Mi Pueblo.
If I could instantly acquire two new digital skills, they would be:
Knowing How To Code
Knowing How To Make Good Videos.
As it stands, I know zero about the former, and above is my latest attempt at generating media from an action around the Mi Pueblo Grocery fight, an ongoing campaign that I’ve been working on for some months here in Oakland.
Learning, slowly learning.
The action was nice, if a little gender-simplistic. (Queers and gender-nonconforming folks, if they can get work at all, also face hella sexual harassment on the job; it’s not just women.)
Still, the fierce women trabajadoras in the video inspire me.
Moving, patiently and persistently. Patiently and persistently.
Slowly, painfully, I’m studying Russian revolutionary history. I know it’s important, and I wish I could tell you I was enthralled, but the truth is I’m mostly confused by all the terminology (“defencists?”), slightly jumbled chronologically, and easily distracted by Facebook and the neighborhood kitten outside my apartment. Plus I’m sick, as evidenced by the Everest of crumpled tissues on my coffee table. (Don’t worry; I’ll clean it before you come over.)
Anyway. One of the things I’m learning in my intermittent reading bursts is the difference between economic and political strikes. Far as I can tell, economic strikes are the more common ones, where workers stop production in order to force owners to give them higher wages, or health care, safer conditions on the job, the firing of a racist or sexist manager, etc. Economic strikes generally happen within a specific company, since you’re trying to lessen the acuteness with which that company exploits you.
Political strikes, on the other hand, have to be bigger, because the target isn’t just one company, but broader policy or the government itself. Strikes for the 8-hour work day, ending child labor, or trying to force a government to end a war, change regimes, or block austerity measures must necessarily grow huge and widespread to have a chance of succeeding. Only then can “organized labor become a political actor.”
This is basically what I gather, and in Russian history they have these pretty cool charts showing the breakdown of economic and political strikes around the time of revolutions in 1905 and 1917. Moreover, the two types are related: at least according to Lenin, political strikes need a strong foundation of tangible economic gains in order to win popular backing from the working class.
In a political strike, the working class comes forward as the advanced class of the whole people. In such cases, the proletariat plays not merely the role of one of the classes of bourgeois society, but the role of guide, vanguard, leader. The political ideas manifested in the movement involve the whole people, i.e., they concern the basic, most profound conditions of the political life of the whole country. This character of the political strike, as has been noted by all scientific investigators of the period 1905–07, brought into the movement all the classes, and particularly, of course, the widest, most numerous and most democratic sections of the population, the peasantry, and so forth.
On the other hand, the mass of the working people will never agree to conceive of a general “progress” of the country without economic demands, without an immediate and direct improvement in their condition. The masses are drawn into the movement, participate vigorously in it, value it highly and display heroism, self-sacrifice, perseverance and devotion to the great cause only if it makes for improving the economic condition of those who work. Nor can it be otherwise, for the living conditions of the workers in “ordinary” times are incredibly hard. As it strives to improve its living conditions, the working class also progresses morally, intellectually and politically, becomes more capable of achieving its great emancipatory aims.
One of the perverse truths of capitalist industrialization, though, is that in striving to survive, or even improve its living conditions, the working class also becomes the mechanism (though not the cause — that’s still capitalism) of environmental destruction.
Oh crap. They have started fracking like crazy in NE Ohio, all around the area where my parents and family live, and everyone is going crazy with visions for new prosperity. It’s the new gold rush there, with lots of new jobs having been created. But I have been having this scary feeling about it, and here it is. Sharing.
Talk about a rock and a hard place.
The way our capitalist class society jams, capital needs to extract surplus value (profit) from workers in order to expand itself and keep growing. That’s what “drives” the economy. To ensure a steady supply of people from whom to extract surplus value, the owning class needs plenty of workers: the proletariat. These workers (or non-workers, the unemployed proletariat) don’t have private homesteads to grow our kale, build our huts, weave our blankets and sustain ourselves, so we need jobs and money in order to eke out an existence.
Pretty much since this coercive system took over the world’s economies (replacing other, differently coercive systems), people who need to sell their labor-power to live have been taking on dangerous and unhealthy jobs — from crab fishing to combat, mining to manicures, un-self-determined sex work, etc. You do what you gotta do to get by under capitalism.
But some of these environmental dangers smell to me like a whole new type of terrifying. Like, Unit 4 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility has already sunk 31.5 inches since the earthquake and tsunami, and if it collapses, could cause a fire in the atmosphere. Bad news for Japan; bad news, evidently, for everywhere the sky reaches.
Could Japanese labor have organized itself as a biocentric actor and refused to construct nuclear power plants in the first place? Obviously we’ve seen locals intervening against nuclear energy, and indigenous people resisting the accumulation of their land for ecocidal and literally shitty exploitation. Realistically, though, when it comes to organized labor, it seems next to impossible (please tell me I’m wrong!) to collectively reject employment in entire industries on the basis of their longer-term environmental consequences — no matter how mind-numbingly horrible those consequences may be. As Stephanie McMillian writes on Kasama, no one wants to champion short-term sacrifices. Socialist / communist struggle is supposed to be Helpful now and lead to Splendor later, right?
Yeah, so…about that post-revolutionary socialist productivity…
On the left, the theory of productive forces has led to a widespread productivist/mechanical view of reaching socialism: by developing and fully mechanizing production, we will reach abundance and the end of labor itself. It is increasingly obvious that this scenario is at odds with the reality around us, yet there is a general reluctance to tell the truth: that a lot of production, everything not necessary for survival, simply has to end. No one likes being the person who brings the bad news that we have to make do with less. It’s harder to organize around.
And so the idea of socialism, the common ownership of the means of production and equitable distribution of goods, also doesn’t go far enough. We need to change our relationship with the natural world. It is not there for us to use, but instead we are part of it and depend on its overall health. We need to define a different relationship with it than as a set of resources. A sustainable economy can only involve production that is subordinate to nature and that fits within its physical limits to reproduce itself — that is determined not by human desires and whims, but by our actual needs, which are dependent on a healthy planet above all.
Okay, so maybe it depends how we define post-revolutionary Splendor. Current U.S. middle-class standards: clearly unsustainable if generalized. But still, hopefully there will be enough for everyone, and everyone will be able to access what feels like enough. (Questions of contentment and scarcity in Marxism is a whole nother subject I’m working on for later.)
That hope for abundance, though, seems to wane more and more each day, while a sense of urgency escalates. It seems that the historical task of the working class may not only be organizing to overthrow capitalism, but also (and there is definitely overlap here) organizing to help stop the irrevocable fucking up of the planet, ASAP. Coral reefs and their food supply supporting millions of poor people? Doomed. Lungs of the earth? Wheezing. Edible biodiversity? Less than robust. Drinkable water? …okay now I’m depressing myself.
So fill me in. Do you know of any examples of what I’m provisionally calling environmental strikes? Meaning: not labor struggles over immediate safety conditions in the workplace, but more on the level of political strikes in that they attempt to impact entire environmentally destructive industries or operations, perhaps with a broad or long-term perspective in mind?