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sabotage

Dear Molly MaGuire and Nedd Ludd - Mail Handler Judi

Dear Molly MaGuire and Nedd Ludd - Industrial Worker, August 1992

Web Editor's Note: - Although her last name was never attached to this article, it is most certainly Judi Bari, because the events described here match those of Judi Bari's own description given elsewhere, including the interview by Beth Bosk, "In The middle of Run Away History: Judi Bari, Earth First! Organizer – Mississippi Summer in the California Redwoods", New Settler Interview, Issue #49, May 1990. The name of the column is borrowed from "Dear Nedd Ludd", a regular feature in the Earth First! Journal at the time which focused on ecotage. The IWW modified to concept somewhat to focus on workers engaging in "ca'canny", or direct action at the point of production--what we commonly refer to as "sabotage"

The Washington Bulk Mail Center is one of twenty-one centers in the United States. I worked there from 1976 to 1980. They spent lots of money and put together factories that just plain didn’t work. These computer nerds design factories and they’ve never seen one in their whole lives. They didn’t want to admit that it didn’t work. They set an efficiency rate for the factory but since the machinery didn’t work, they couldn’t achieve that rate. Instead of hiring more employees and admitting it was a failure, they forced us to work overtime. We worked at least sixty hours a week, and in December they would work us eighty-four. A major problem was that we worked all the time and started to go crazy.

Overtime was the main issue, but accidents and industrial injuries were two other ones. General harassment was a problem too—they gave a ten point preference to veterans, so everyone thinks they’re still in the army. The real army ass-kissers rise to supervisor. Since you don’t have to make a profit in the post office, it lacks the semblance of reason you get in capitalism. In the post office it didn’t matter how much money was wasted.

I unloaded and sometimes loaded trucks. It was supposedly all mechanized. We had these great big things called extended conveyor belts that went into the trucks. We froze our butts off in the winter and roasted in the summer.

Parcels and sacks were unloaded and sorted separately, but the machine was always jamming up. The best way to break up the jam was to throw some sacks on the parcel system because they were heavier and would push the jam through. This of course meant that they’d be landing on the parcels and squashing them to bits. That was a kind of sabotage that was actually endorsed by management because they wanted us to work faster.

There’s no back-up in the plant. If there’s a tangle somewhere, the whole line shuts down. When the non-zip chute backed up, everything we wanted to know the zip code of would shoot back up, and everything going to that place stopped. For every piece, you had to have a non-zip option, so if the non-zip chute closed down, the whole line closed down. We’d key everything in as non-zip, and the system would overload. All the red lights came on and everything went down. When New York was in a wildcat strike, we keyed everything to New York.

As we began to feel our collective power, people got more obvious and flippant. We started doing little things like sending things to the wrong places and deliberately shutting things down. But as we got to be more organized, one of the games we played when we were bored was to deliberately break the machinery and make a bet on how long it would take the mechanic to figure out what was working. We’d try to break it in the most bizarre manner. One of our favorite things to do was to turn off emergency stops to see how long the mechanic would take to figure out which one it was. We would take turns banging on the sides of the trucks while we were unloading them. The supervisors would get very upset and run back and forth trying to figure out who was doing it.

Sabotage in the American workplace: anecdotes of dissatisfaction, mischief and revenge

Originally posted at LibCom.Org, July 21, 2017

A truly fantastic study of everyday employee resistance at work. First person accounts of sabotage, beautifully illustrated and intermingled with related news clippings, facts and quotes. Note that "Mail Handler Judi" is, in fact, Judi Bari 9as confirmed elsewhere).

Published in 1992.

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Northern California Earth First! Renounces Tree Spiking

Text of a Press Conference held April 11, 1990 at the Louisiana Pacific Mill, Samoa, California - Reprinted the Country Activist, June 1990, Earth First! Journal, Beltane (May 1), 1990, and abridged in the Mendocino Commentary, April 12, 1990

Web Editor's Note: The following introduction appeared in the Earth First! Journal alone:

In a move that has left some EF!ers confused or dismayed, several West Coast Earth First! groups have renounced tree-spiking. At press conferences held in mid April, the groups called upon activists to refrain from spiking trees in northern California and Oregon forests. This whole issue is very controversial…and we do not intend to cover the inevitable debate in EF! Journal. Below we simply reprint Northern California EF!’s press release—so that EF!ers will know what the groups actually said, not just what the rumors are saying—and, we urge interested EF!ers to contact the groups and individuals involved for more information. For a compelling letter in opposition to the tree­spiking renunciation, write Colorado EF! contact Michael Robinson. For arguments in support of the renunciation, contact North Coast EF! groups or Southern Willamette EF!

Text of the Tree Spiking Renunciation

In response to the concerns of loggers and mill-workers, Northern California Earth First! organizers are renouncing the tactic of tree spiking in our area. Through the coalitions we have been building with lumber workers, we have learned that the timber corporations care no more for the lives of their employees than they do for the life of the forest. Their routine maiming and killing of mill workers is coldly calculated into the cost of doing business, just as the destruction of whole ecosystems is considered a reasonable by-product of lumber production.

These companies would think nothing of sending a spiked tree through a mill, and relish the anti-Earth First! publicity that an injury would cause.

Since Earth First! is not a membership organization, it is impossible to speak for all Earth First!ers. But this decision has been widely discussed among Earth First!ers in our area, and the local sentiment is overwhelmingly in favor of renouncing tree-spiking. We hope that our influence as organizers will cause any potential tree-spikers to consider using a different method. We must also point out that we are not speaking for all Earth First! groups in this pronouncement. Earth First! is decentralized, and each group can set its own policies. A similar statement to this one renouncing tree spiking is now being made in Southern Oregon, but not all groups have reached the broad consensus we have on this issue.
But in our area, the loggers and mill workers are our neighbors, and they should be our allies, not our adversaries. Their livelihood is being destroyed along with the forest. The real conflict is not between us and the timber workers, it is between the timber corporation and our entire community.

We want to give credit for this change in local policy to the rank and file timber workers who have risked their jobs and social relations by coming forward and talking to us. This includes Gene Lawhorn of Roseburg Lumber in Oregon, who defied threats to appear publicly with Earth First! organizer Judi Bari. It also includes the Georgia Pacific, Louisiana Pacific, and Pacific Lumber employees who are members of IWW Local #1 in northern California.

Equipment sabotage is a time-honored tradition among industrial workers. It was not invented by Earth First!, and it is certainly not limited to Earth First! even in our area. But the target of monkey wrenching was always intended to be the machinery of destruction, not the workers who operate that machinery for $7/hour. This renunciation of tree spiking is not a retreat, but rather an advance that will allow us to stop fighting the victims and concentrate on the corporations themselves.”

Sabotage (Elizabeth Gurley-Flynn)

Originally published as SABOTAGE, THE CONSCIOUS WITHDRAWAL OF THE WORKERS' INDUSTRIAL EFFICIENCY, in October, 1916, by the IWW publishing bureau, in Cleveland, Ohio. It was later withdrawn from the IWW's official litearture. The pampahlet originally sold for 10 cents.

Elizabeth Gurley-Flynn's Introduction:

The interest in sabotage in the United States has developed lately on account of the case of Frederick Sumner Boyd in the state of New Jersey as an aftermath of the Paterson strike. Before his arrest and conviction for advocating sabotage, little or nothing was known of this particular form of labor tactic in the United States. Now there has developed a two-fold necessity to advocate it: not only to explain what it means to the worker in his fight for better conditions, but also to justify our fellow-worker Boyd in everything that he said. So I am desirous primarily to explain sabotage, to explain it in this two-fold significance, first as to its utility and second as to its legality.

Sabotage: Its History, Philosophy & Function (Walker C Smith)

By Walker C Smith - IWW, 1913

This little work is the essence of all available material collected on the subject of Sabotage for a period of more than two years. Thanks are due to the many rebels who gave assistance, and especially to Albin Braida, who made for me what I think to be the first English translation of Pouget's work on Sabotage. From this last pamphlet extracts have been taken and adaptations made to suit American conditions.

The object of this work is to awaken the producers to a consciousness of their industrial power. It is dedicated, not to those who advocate but to those who use sabotage.

No theory, no philosophy, no line of action is so good as claimed by its advocates nor so bad as painted by its critics. Sabotage is no exception to this rule. Sabotage, according to the capitalists and the political socialists, is synonymous with murder, rapine, arson, theft; is illogical, vile, unethical, reactionary, destructive of society itself. To many anarchist theorists it is the main weapon of industrial warfare, overshadowing mass solidarity, industrial formation and disciplined action. Some even go so far as to claim that sabotage can usher in the new social order. Somewhere between these two extreme views can he found the truth about sabotage.

Three versions are given of the source of the word. The one best known is that a striking French weaver cast his wooden shoe—called a sabot—into the delicate mechanism of the loom upon leaving the mill. The confusion that resulted, acting to the workers' benefit, brought to the front a line of tactics that took the name of SABOTAGE. Slow work is also said to be at the basis of the word, the idea being that wooden shoes are clumsy and so prevent quick action on the part of the workers. The third idea is that Sabotage is coined from the slang term that means "putting the boots" to the employers by striking directly at their profits without leaving the job. The derivation, however, is unimportant. It is the thing itself that causes commotion among employers and politicians alike. What then is Sabotage?

Sabotage is the destruction of profits to gain a definite, revolutionary, economic end. It has many forms. It may mean the damaging of raw materials destined for a scab factory or shop. It may mean the spoiling of a finished product. It may mean the displacement of parts of machinery or the disarrangement of a whole machine where that machine is the one upon which the other machines are dependent for material. It may mean working slow. It may mean poor work. It may mean missending packages, giving overweight to customers, pointing out defects in goods, using the best of materials where the employer desires adulteration, and also the telling of trade secrets. In fact, it has as many variations as there are different lines of work.

Note this important point, however. Sabotage does not seek nor desire to take human life. Neither is it directed against the consumer except where wide publicity has been given to the fact that the sabotaged product is under the ban. A boycotted product is at all times a fit subject for sabotage. The aim is to hit the employer in his vital spot, his heart and soul, in other words, his pocketbook. The consumer is struck only when he interposes himself between the two combatants.

On the other hand, sabotage is simply one of the many weapons in labor's arsenal. It is by no means the greatest one. Solidaric action is mightier than the courageous acts of a few. Industrial class formation gives a strength not to be obtained by mere tactics. Self discipline and cooperative action are necessary if we are to build a new social order as well as destroy the old. Sabotage is merely a means to an end; a means that under certain conditions might be dispensed with and the end still be gained.

Sabotage will sometimes be misused, flagrantly so; the same is true of every one of the weapons of labor. The main concern to revolutionists is whether the use of sabotage destroy the power of the masters in such a manner as to give the workers a greater measure of industrial control. On that point depends its usefulness to the working class.

Lord Byrons Speech in Defense of the Luddites

Orginially published at The Luddites at 200

This speech was given by Lord Byron in the debate in the House of Lords on the 1812 Frame Breaking Act. A week later, in a letter to a friend Byron wrote, “I spoke very violent sentences with a sort of modest impudence, abused everything and everybody, put the Lord Chancellor very much out of humour, and if I may believe what I hear, have not lost any character in the experiment”.

My Lords, The subject now submitted to your Lordships, for the first time, though new to the House, is, by no means, new to the country. I believe it had occupied the serious thoughts of all descriptions of persons long before its introduction to the notice of that Legislature whose interference alone could be of real service. As a person in some degree connected with the suffering county, though a stranger, not only to this House in general, but to almost every individual whose attention I presume to solicit, I must claim some portion of your Lordships' indulgence, whilst I offer a few observations on a question in which I confess myself deeply interested.

To enter into any detail of these riots would be superfluous; the House is already aware that every outrage short of actual bloodshed has been perpetrated, and that the proprietors of the frames obnoxious to the rioters, and all persons supposed to be connected with them, have been liable to insult and violence. During the short time I recently passed in Notts, not twelve hours elapsed without some fresh act of violence; and, on the day I left the county, I was informed that forty frames had been broken the preceding evening as usual, without resistance and without detection.

Such was then the state of that county, and such I have reason to believe it to be at this moment. But whilst these outrages must be admitted to exist to an alarming extent, it cannot be denied that they have arisen from circumstances of the most unparalelled distress. The perseverance of these miserable men in their proceedings, tends to prove that nothing but absolute want could have driven a large and once honest and industrious body of the people into the commission of excesses so hazardous to themselves, their families, and the community. At the time to which I allude, the town and county were burdened with large detachments of the military; the police was in motion, the magistrates assembled, yet all these movements, civil and military had led to—nothing. Not a single instance had occurred of the apprehension of any real delinquent actually taken in the fact, against whom there existed legal evidence sufficient for conviction. But the police, however useless, were by no means idle: several notorious delinquents had been detected; men liable to conviction, on the clearest evidence, of the capital crime of poverty; men, who had been nefariously guilty of lawfully begetting several children, whom, thanks to the times!—they were unable to maintain.

Considerable injury has been done to the proprietors of the improved frames. These machines were to them an advantage, inasmuch as they superseded the necessity of employing a number of workmen, who were left in consequence to starve. By the adoption of one species of frame in particular, one man performed the work of many, and the superfluous labourers were thrown out of employment.

Yet it is to be observed, that the work thus executed was inferior in quality, not marketable at home, and merely hurried over with a view to exportation. It was called, in the cant of the trade, by the name of Spider-work. The rejected workmen, in the blindness of their ignorance, instead of rejoicing at these improvements in arts so beneficial to mankind, conceived themselves to be sacrificed to improvements in mechanism. In the foolishness of their hearts, they imagined that the maintenance and well doing of the industrious poor, were objects of greater consequence than the enrichment of a few individuals by any improvement in the implements of trade which threw the workmen out of employment, and rendered the labourer unworthy of his hire. And, it must be confessed, that although the adoption of the enlarged machinery, in that state of our commerce which the country once boasted, might have been beneficial to the master without being detrimental to the servant; yet, in the present situation of our manufactures, rotting in warehouses without a prospect of exportation, with the demand for work and workmen equally diminished, frames of this construction tend materially to aggravate the distresses and discontents of the disappointed sufferers. But the real cause of these distresses, and consequent disturbances, lies deeper.

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