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The Ecoterrorist and Me

By David Rovics - Counter Punch, November 25, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

“Pinocchio asked Jiminy Cricket, ‘how do you become fully human?’ Jiminy Cricket said, ‘you develop a conscience, and then follow it.’”

That’s probably not exactly how the dialog went. That of course is from the story of Pinocchio, and I could look it up. The rest I can’t.

Sitting on plastic chairs, around a plastic table, inside a room with thick cement walls and massive, steel doors, was Marie Mason, Peter Werbe, and me. On top of the table was a little bag of peanuts and a bag of very mediocre trail mix. These are the only vegan options available from the vending machines in the room Peter and I were taken to before we were escorted into the visitation room in Marie’s cell block. Nearby sat a sleepy-looking prison guard.

Peter and I were spending the weekend in prison. Marie is in her fifth year of a 22-year sentence at the Carswell federal women’s prison in Fort Worth, Texas. She is being held in a highly repressive, so-called Administration Unit of the facility. She’s not allowed to give interviews, or write anything for publication anywhere. The few people approved to visit her, somewhat bizarrely, include me and Peter, one of the most notorious anarchists of Detroit, sitting at the table with us.

Peter is a journalist – host of a popular Detroit radio talk show, and a long time staff member of the almost half-century old Fifth Estate magazine. I have also dabbled in that profession to some small extent. But no one visiting this prison is allowed to bring a notepad, a writing utensil, a recording device, or anything else other than car keys and a few dollars, which you can spend on the vending machines in the general visitation area. So anything I write here that attempts to represent Marie’s words are my efforts to remember our conversations of several days ago.

Peter and I are both old friends of Marie’s. Our visit includes fond reminiscences shared by these two Michiganders of the Detroit newspaper strike way back when, and of the many concerts of mine that Marie, a talented musician herself, organized over the decades. Such as the one she organized at the Trumbullplex alt-space back in the 90′s, when I first met her, Peter, David Watson and other members of the Detroit anarchist community.

Peter is a member of Marie’s support committee, and he’s been working with other good people on a campaign to get her moved from this prison-within-a-prison back into a somewhat less draconian “general population,” preferably closer to where most of her friends and relatives reside.

Who Gets Paid When Machines Do the Work? A Look Back at the Luddites, and Why Capitalism and High Technology Are Incompatible

By members of the Southern Maine IWW - November 13, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

200 years ago in England, artisan cloth workers launched what became known as the Luddite uprising, smashing machines which were “destroying their trades, undercutting wages and forcing them into unemployment and destitution.” Although their legacy has been distorted over time, the original Luddites were primarily concerned about the introduction of technology into their field which was “hurtful to commonality,” or the common good. A thoughtful web site celebrating their intent is here: http://www.luddites200.org.uk/

Although labor-saving technologies definitely have their advantages for those who own them, as long as economies are governed by the principle that social members’ access to the commodified essentials of life — food, shelter, medical care, etc. — is regulated by one’s access to money (which typically comes in the form of wages), there is a limit to how helpful these technologies actually are to workers. For example, since the 1970s, the introduction of computers into the workplace has exponentially increased workers’ productivity per hour, increasing company profits likewise, yet the capitalists who own the workplaces (and the technologies) have refused to share the wealth. Rather, workers’ wages have stagnated over the last 40 years, and layoffs have abounded — because we do not control the technology, also known as the means of production.

For workers to be able to embrace labor-saving technology, which could afford us all a four-hour workday (or less) at the same rate of pay or better than we had forty years ago if it were distributed properly, we must unionize and put massive pressure on the capitalists who own our workplaces to do so. Ultimately, we must also change the social norms which state that it’s permissible for a handful of 1%er fat-cats to own and operate productive industrial infrastructure on which the common good depends according to their whims, for their own private profit, and often without regard to natural resource limitations and pollution. After all, what good is high technology when all it does is make your boss’s situation more stable and enriched, and yours more precarious and disposable?

Save the machines; ditch the 1%. Join the IWW and help to abolish wage slavery worldwide.

The Evolution of ELF After "Operation Backfire"

By an anonymous IWW Member - ca. 2010

Media reports claim that several alleged ELF eco-warriors turned snitches, including Briana Waters, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, William Cottrell, Darren Todd Thurston, Ian Jacob Wallace, Jacob (Jake the SNAKE) Ferguson, Jen Kolar, Kevin Tubbs, Lacey Phillabaum, Lauren Weiner, Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff, Ryan Lewis, Kendall Tankersley, Frank Ambrose, Zachary Jensen, Suzanne Savoie, Aaron Ellringer and Katherine Christianson.  They reportedly all caved in and "cooperated" with authorities.  But, more than twenty ELF activists did not have to lose their freedom in order to wage an effective battle defending the Earth.

They could have learned by another person's experience:  Thirty six years ago, in 1977 (around the time when Chelsea Gerlach was being born), an arrest occurred which showed that arson and the use of explosives is counterproductive to the environmental movement.  John Hanna of Santa Cruz, California, was the first ELF "ecommando" to be arrested for underground guerrilla actions done in defense of the environment.  He ended up facing a federal judge in 1978 where he was convicted of placing fire bombs on seven crop dusters, sent to prison and spent years rebuilding his life.

Corporate America Has a Lot to Answer For

A speech given by Jim Hard, director of SEIU Local 1000, AFL-CIO at the Headwaters Rally September 14, 1997

Sisters and Brothers; all my relations; hello! Thanks to the organizers for inviting me to this great event. But I hope that this is the last year that we have to come here to demonstrate, because by next year, we should be celebrating that the Headwaters has been protected, and we can return to admire that which we have preserved. I bring you greetings from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 (AFL-CIO), The California State Employees Association, representing over 86,000 state workers in California. And we've never seen the Headwaters Forest; were not allowed to visit this national treasure. Although I understand that some of you have.

I live in Sacramento, where our daily newspaper sometimes has articles about the confusing negotiations about the fate of Headwaters, but I've never seen anything about the necessity for its preservation. I haven't seen any TV programs about the Headwaters, because the idea of saving the Headwaters doesn't have a corporate sponsor.

And today, I hope our numbers will put the Headwaters issue in the newspapers and on the TV screens across this country. It's important that you and I are here today. As in so many working class issues and I consider protecting the environment a working class issue--our strength is in our numbers. Its our numbers versus corporate legal staff. It's us against corporate media. It's us against corporate greed. Our adversaries are powerful, but history shows they can be defeated.

In the early 70s, before coming up here and attending Humboldt State University (HSU), I was an organizer for the United Farm Workers (UFW). Then as now we had a just cause and powerful corporate adversaries. We fought on many fronts and we prevailed. And the farm workers won their right to organize. The fight to save the Headwaters is being fought on many fronts. Today in this field, but also with direct action up in the woods. In the courts and by all of us wherever we happen to be. My union recently took up the issue of Headwaters and MAXXAM Corporation at our executive board meeting. We passed a motion requesting the [California] Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest retirement system in the United States, to divest their 318,000 shares from MAXXAM contingent upon results of Headwaters negotiations. The State Teachers Retirement Fund has already done that.

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.

If you enjoy this text, please become a Friend of the publishers, AK Press, or give them a donation here on their website: https://www.akpress.org/friends.html

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Sabotage-3.pdf 12.16 MB

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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