The One Big Union
When you look at today's society, you will see one grave statistic. And that is the statistic of the amount of people in poverty compared to the amount of people in luxury. We see people working eight to twelve hours a day, getting paid very poorly, given a very small allowance of what society produces, and then on the other side, we see men and women buying expensive drinks, clothes, houses, and cars. They are wealthy capitalists, or they are corporate executives, or they are politicians. Their income allows them to practice excess and have little time laboring. Whatever labor they do, it is to aid companies and businesses in increasing the price of food, increasing the price of housing, increasing the price of goods, necessities, commodities, clothing, and services. It also aids these businesses in paying their workers less, in laying off the least productive workers, in making the work day of the average laborer more productive, but also more stressful, more disappointing, and more overwhelming. In one word or two, we can describe the activities of the wealthy class as exploitive; they all seek, in one way or another, to make men labor and create vast quantities of wealth for their economic masters. This is the status of things, which every man of intellect will accept, which every working person will sadlly confess to, as every person concerned in the processes of government, no matter what their class, will agree upon. These are the way things are. It's extremely oppressive and without any sense of natural justice. The way things are has become the enemy of the working man, and we work everyday so that we can overthrow these oppressive, exploitive relationships in society.
There is no doubt that the economy operates on this principle of exploitation. Who will deny that there is a small sect of wealthy people who have massive control over all of the produced wealth? Who will deny that most working class individuals are poor, without means to make themselves wealthy, without any direction in the economy except as a wage laborer? Who will deny that the wealthy use their influence to bribe political leaders, or use their wealth to support the campaign of a political leader who will support their interests? Who will deny that the poverty of the working man drives him to crimine, to preying on his fellow man to ease his pains that were caused by this system; that is to say, long work hours, low pay, and the misery of cruel labor? These are arguments that no serious person will ever doubt. These are not exaggerated statements. This is the situation of America it exists now and as it will continue to exist until we do something to change it. We, as Socialists, Communists, and Leftists, all seek to eliminate the Capitalist system.
The average person who looks at this, and agrees with these words, one of the members of the common working class who identifies himself as a Socialist and a Communist, when reading all of these arguments, he is content with the ideas, supportive of the measures, and a proponent of our initiatives. "The means of production must become the collective property of the public; there shall be no masters and no slaves in our society!" But, he errs; he becomes a Marxist. His solution to the problem has been to have a revolution of the voting poll; a swing shift of voters attempting to elect Socialist party candidates. "All we have to do is make tyranny illegal," the nominated Socialist declares to a toast at his party headquarters. The working class soldiers rally to the call, but they soon become unimpressed and lose faith in the process of elections and campaigning. So long as a state exists, there will be great compromises between the working class desires and the interests of megacorporations and their billions of dollars of influence. So long as there is a state, there will always be a hierarchy, there will always be the dominating figure of authority threatening liberty, there will be unfair class divisions of the ruling over the ruled. In this regard, the government becomes our greatest enemy. And by government, Anarchists mean all organizations that are based on authority and oppression, on control and obedience. For all of these reasons, we have the understanding that Democratic control of the law is the only just means of social organization. It is the only method where the liberty of the average citizen is guaranteed in a society based on equity and tolerance, the precursors to a true freedom without leaders.
What then, I am asked, is the way in which we go about securing this better future for ourselves? Every other reform movement or social issue group in the past has worked towards legislation, lobbying, letter-writing. The Prohibitionists worked on getting anti-liquor candidates in to office. Many of the Civil Rights advocates lobbied to get anti-discrimination laws passed. And, again, the Feminist movement has to thank the vocal women who demanded the media not to glorify large-breasts or perfect body images. All of these movements in the past have effectively changed the status quo of society from their voting. It was the legislative process of the system that allowed for their minority opinions to become democratically important. I do not doubt the ability of the system to make some small changes, as insignificant bartering techniques with the working class, but the government never made any changes until they had been created by the people. There was no serious discussion about passing a Civil Rights bill in either the congress or the senate, until news studios started to carry stories about police dogs ripping apart African American protestors who are demanding their liberty.
The government itself has never taken on any of these great public works projects; it has never worked to improve the personality of mankind or enhance the liberty of artists, poets, and inventors. The government is, and always has been, the vanguard soldier of the past, ancient traditions of our forefathers. It has always been the enemy of whatever progressive policy brings to the table. Whether it's the case for Civil Rights, the right for women to vote, the right of Homosexuals to be free of job discrimination, or the right of the working man to receive a minimum wage, it has always been opposed to by the government. The standing order of old power and wealthy rulers have always been the bitter and antagonistic enemies of these new changes. These changes always have to be yanked out of the hands of the establishment, they must be demanded with the powerful screams of a unified population; rights were never allowed by the oppressor on to the oppressed. There was always struggle, always battles, always social conflict. Once the popular movement of change and revolution has become accepted by its own direct action does the ruling class take notice. Only when there is serious pressure on them or they will lose their job will they ever act on behalf of the people. And while people are in the streets being beaten to death by police officers with clubs and batons, these "representatives of the people" are enjoying the plush seat of power, doing what they can to smother the liberation movements.
Martin Luther King Jr. never ran for presidency. He never sought out any office of any kind. His message was not a political one, but a social one. He didn't drive his followers to the voting polls; he drove them to the streets! "Make the people in this national community understand our pain! Make the content people in their homes recognize that there are these terrible tragedies being inflicted on minority citizens! Be the change you seek in society!" The Communist or Socialist will tell you things will change by a new system of government, "one that breaks the seemingly concrete trend of governments oppressing the people." What the workers must do is organize. They must work together and perform all matters and means of strike, boycott, and picket. As unionists, a group of people combined to express their interest as a group, we will be able to stop the entire structure of Capitalism. To survive, all businesses need labor. Without it, their factories will not get operated, their fields will not get farmed, their stores will not get stocked. If one business in an industry comes to a quick hault, the entire economical chain becomes unbalanced. The master corporations of the economy start to lose money, and they sense themselves losing power, and willing to give in to any deal so that they can start making their wealth back. But, if a union is smart, and federates itself with other unions of the same industry, then an entire industry can go on strike. For however long, necessities like coal, food, clothing, or oil will be completely rare. Society begs its masters to give in to the demands of the unionists, as the masters themselves suffer greatly. And the Capitalists quickly try to settle the matter; they strike an agreement with their workers for higher wages, lower hours, and job security. Liberals in office increase the minimum wage by $.25, but unions gain $3.00 per hour in collective bargaining agreements.
As unionists, we are men and women who are united together because we believe we are the common victim of this senseless social machine. We are citizens, students, thinkers, and friends. We make up the community and are the ones who are most concerned in alleviating the problems of everyday social life. The power of decision-making should not be in the hands of a few select who hold no care or concern for the workers. The power of decision-making should be in the hands of the people, in a completely democratic system where every person creates policy, as opposed to only the wealthiest creating policy. In supporting these ideals, as unionists, we also support the activities of Anarchists. Those stencilists, nighttime painters, these masters of graffiti and amateurs of the bomb, these pamphleteers and friends of the world. These are individuals who support libertarian organization, based on the idea of cooperating to obtain a common end, in this case, in abolishing capitalism. They are the protestors, the picket line extras, the weekend pamphleteers, the squatters, the shoplifters, the inner city drummers. As an Anarchist and a worker, I feel I am obligated to organize fellow workers in mutual, cooperative efforts to increase our wages and our working conditions. So should every worker. It is only by working day to day, earning the trust of fellow workers, and then organizing in a mutual, cooperative manner to obtain a better state of society, a better organization of social relationships.
Not only would this method of worker self-organization and cooperation help in obtaining the interests of the working class, but it would prepare the worker for his new role in a better society, in a better world. By working together as strikers, boycotters, and picketers, we are forcing our oppressors to make concessions to us, we are forcing them to give in to our demands and change the status quo. Above all, though, we are managing to obtain our ends without resorting to violence. No doubt, we must support our fellow comrades who use physical destruction without harming anyone, but we are all good and kind individuals of a peaceful, cooperative, and non-violent culture. If we can achieve political change without arming ourselves, we feel that we have accomplished an even more powerful goal. We showed the world how we can achieve political and social change by non-violent methods. The Bolsheviks achieved their political power by military uprisings. They gained power only through the gun and the soldier. Once they had gained this power, the public wanted them out of office. Lenin, the leader of this so-called Army of the People's Republic, ignored the vote and seized power. Those leaders, who wanted to get prosperity, equity, and liberty for their people, as social and economic units, those leaders were often apt to becoming corrupt, cruel tyrants. This is not always the case, but there is certainly the possibility of it. For this reason, we support social and political change from the position of Direct Action, by striking, boycotting, and picketing; the real ends of cooperation in an economic sense for the good of our working class. If we can change the system, then we are worthy of the title revolutionary, but if we can change the system without bloodshed, then we are truly working class heroes.
If we look at the situation from every perspective, we will realize that the means of the strike is simply a method of civil disobedience. We are very much like those protestors who lock arms and disallow entrance to certain buildings, like those people who chain themselves to the doors of certain buildings, like those who form road blocks and march in streets and hold signs on the lawn of the capital of the nation. These activities prevent them from building and gaining power effectively. If we, for example, were to have the entire paper industry on strike, then all of those offices, stores, and other businesses that rely on paper would also be unable to function. We would prevent taxes in the form of sales tax, income tax, or social security tax. People wouldn't be able to work or behave as they would in a normal system of human relations. So, the great and abominable Capitalist class falls to its knees, agrees to new contract and negotiation talks, and the strikers are allowed back at their jobs. The strike worked. The union succeeded. It was all because of the strength of the workers, in their boldness of their character that lets them risk employment to achieve a better world, in their loyalty to their fellow workers and their refusal to purchase products from oppressive corporations. By these traits, the working class will only be able to soar and create the type of society that at present we are only capable of dreaming of.
With all of this theory understood, with a common ground to stand with all others that you call your friends and allies, there is the question of title. What exactly is this movement of the working class? When many people look at the working class, they are content to believe that they are looking at people with hard habits, with rusty culture, with malnourished humor. They feel that a hard day's work and a quick instinct for alcohol will make a man become thick minded and thick hearted. Those of us who know that we are being ripped off by this system of commodities and wage-slavery, we have agreed upon some very uniform principles in our revolution. We believe in a class unity, in a unity of all working people, without prejudice of race or skin color or nationality or religion, and I believe in the organization of these people in order to express the will of the general population. With our knowledge of authors, writers, and philosophers of the past, of Bakunin, Goldman, Malatesta, Proudhon, Godwin, and Paine, we have decided to call ourselves Anarcho-Communists, Anarchist Communists, Anarcho-Syndicalists, Unionists, Direct Actionists, Libertarian Communists, or sometimes just Anarchists.