Friday, March 28, 2008

Recession, Suppression and the Class Question

Bread Lines copy

Like many Americans I'm experiencing Bush fatigue. I'm just sick of bitching about the guy. We all know he's a useless, malevolent douche-slinger, and nobody's positive why he, Cheney, Condi and the gang haven't been Saddam-ed themselves as their death toll places them amongst the elite mass killers of the modern era. There's already been a substantial amount of commentary written about him and his calamitous presidency, and one of the popular themes of this new genre is a range of comparisons to Presidents past. Nixon and Reagan seem to be the two major touchstones, however, I'd like to submit Hoover to the list.

Both executives appeared callous to the needs of the public. Both presided over economic hardship from an icy distance. Both administrations resulted in make-shift shanty towns and tent cities. Hoover used the military to attack homeless Veterans in Washington. Bush leaves veterans on the street to die or in hospital rooms to disintegrate. And I don't want to say Bush might be a transvestite but he was a cheerleader in high school. When failure becomes this ponderous the only response must be defiance.

On April 1, a small grassroots organization of around 1,000 truckers will be striking against the rising cost of diesel. As one driver stated: "Our federal government is subsidizing railroads, airlines, banks and farmers. Meanwhile, we’re being taxed to death." (source)

The strike is largely symbolic and is not expected to result in any significant dip in prices. Yet, it does display two exciting features: 1) it circumvents the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the truckers' trade union, who actually denounces the pending strike for legal reasons, and 2) the event was organized over the internet -- the future of resistance.

Now, I can't let it go unmentioned that this is an election year a time when the fetishized act of voting gets moved to the front of the national conversation. A lot of time and money goes into convincing us that all of our energy needs to be drained into voting, not conservation or community activism, demonstrating or tax resistance. We're supposed to elect someone to solve our problems with their charming, mega-watt smile. The dirtiest little secret of our age is synergic movements against both business and government, such as striking, trump the suggestion of action, like voting, every time.

With everyone treading water it's no wonder at least one other group, the West Coast Dockworkers, is planning to strike this summer. As more and more of us are pulled under we'll see a ground swell of activism. The spirit of resistance might be atrophied from lying coiled beneath the surface, but it won't take long for more workers to slowdown or stop all together. Like in the 1930s, people recognized their reliance on each other and fought against the police (in some cases, like the Flint, Michigan Sit-Down Strike of 1936, they actually won), launched general strikes which shut down large metropolises like Seattle and San Francisco, and came close to wresting power away from the ownership class until FDR introduced a series of reforms that placated many laborers. And we'll probably see the same type of actions under an Obama or Clinton presidency. Not that I'm a reformophobe. I want people to live better. But let's not lose our radical edge. Let's keep thrusting forward inch by inch, and not settle for what they give us.

No comments: