"Lefty" Hooligan -- What's Left?

column from MRR #179 - April 1998

The man's a serial rapist and proud of it. He brags about the number of women he's raped over the years even as he threatens to rape more. He boasts that the police will never catch him because he's too clever for them.
You've tried lecturing him every time he talked about a new assault, telling him it's legally and morally wrong to violate another human being. He just laughed at you. You did call the cops and they questioned him, but they didn't have enough evidence to arrest and hold him. You then tried to warn and help his intended victims, a slightly more effective strategy. One out of twenty women he tried to rape managed to fight him off. The woman was black-and-blue but not raped, while nineteen other women were not so lucky.
So you get together with a few of his victims, track him down, knock him out, and cut off his dick...
A friend of mine wore a button that made most men reading it squirm: "Disarm rapists!" But this isn't a column about rape. As you've probably noticed, a common hooligan technique is to draw readers into an argument with a catchy analogy. Broad or point-by-point, my analogies are usually extreme.
In this case, the United States government is the serial rapist. For 220 plus years its military forces have routinely invaded, occupied and crushed smaller uncooperative nations, systematically subverting and destroying rebellious popular movements around the world as well. So many instances of rape. The US just got done trying to bomb Iraq back to the stone age once again, and it's still "keeping the peace" in the Balkans and Haiti. It has a million and a half troops in one of the world's largest standing militaries, a quarter million of them perpetually stationed outside its borders in Europe and at military bases in the Third World and on naval vessels constantly patrolling the high seas. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US is the only country with military troops permanently stationed in other countries, and the only country with a navy regularly visiting ports of call around the world. Did I forget to mention that the government's arsenals of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons still threaten humanity's very existence?
Needless to say, I don't have much faith in appealing to the UN to condemn US imperial adventures, nor do I think it'll do much good trying to convince foreign policy makers to "respect the sovereignty of other nations" as homegrown anti-interventionism would have it. Anti-imperialist solidarity with the victims of US military mauling is slightly more effective. With the help of the peace movement and a crumbling US army, the Vietnamese did kick American ass. But at what price? Over a million Vietnamese died during an undeclared war in which the US dropped more than 8 million tons of bombs on southeast Asia, more than four times what the US dropped during all of the second World War. And now, Nike operates sweatshops in Vietnam. Most of the time, as Iraq amply demonstrates, anti-imperialism is powerless to prevent the US government from flexing its military might as it wishes. Finally, in not targeting the US state as the instrumentality of American imperial violence, anti-imperialism guarantees that there will always be "victims of US military intervention" to support.
Said in simple, overly rhetorical terms, it comes down to overthrowing the government, smashing the state, unleashing a social revolution in order to get the US off the back of the rest of the planet...
No, I don't think folks are gonna take up arms and take on the powers-that-be any time soon. This is a question of what we're working for. Are we willing to spend all our time and energy showing solidarity with an endless series of victims of US military aggression? Or are we trying to destroy what perpetrates this terrible history of intimidation, destruction, invasion and occupation?
Regular readers of my column will recognize this as yet one more restatement of my well-worn anti-statism theme. Much of the recently revived antiwar movement continues the futile activity of putting out brush fire after brush fire instead of going after the arsonist, to pile yet another analogy on all of this. Perhaps that's because many of the individuals and groups claiming to "lead" this antiwar upsurge are ML-types with a religious belief in Leninist anti-imperialism. Sounds like it's time for another installment of...
The good news is that troglodyte Trot Sam Marcy died recently. The bad news is that his thuggish spawn, the Workers World Party, continues to muscle for the leadership of national antiwar sentiment. As you might have remembered, the WWP loves to organize through front formations—All-People's Congress, National People's Campaign, International Action Center (IAC). The IAC was in the middle of organizing for yet another small tedious protest in San Francisco at Powell & Market on Feb. 17 when the WWP vomited up the "mother of all fronts," the National Emergency Coalition to Stop the War Against Iraq (NEC for short). By this time, at least in the Bay Area, folks on the Left were getting awfully tired of IAC/WWP honcho Gloria LaRiva's iron-fisted (and ham handed) control of antiwar protest in the City. The Ad Hoc Coalition to Stop the U.S. War in the Gulf (AHC—initiated by a wider range of folks, from liberal Peace Action to Trotskyist Socialist Action) called for a demo at the SF Federal Building on Feb. 21 even as the NEC announced their nationwide protest action for Feb. 28 (in SF a march from Dolores Park to UN Plaza). AHC followed with a rally/teach-in at UN Plaza on March 7. With few exceptions it was stock leftist march-and-rally format, no matter who sponsored what.
From the Hooligan point-of-view, both coalitions express little that is outside of mainstream, mundane anti-interventionism/anti-imperialism. Their basic demands are inches apart ("No new bombing of Iraq/End the sanctions now" for the NEC; "Bring the troops home now/End the sanctions now" for the AHC). The AHC's Feb. 21 rally in the pouring rain pulled over 1,000 people, and after the speeches about 300 folks took off in a spirited, unauthorized march toward the Mission. The cops stopped the march and the standoff between cops and marchers lasted for about an hour, during which a couple of folks were arrested for obstructing traffic. Thanks to nice weather after a string of storms, the NEC's Feb. 28 event had the draw with 2,500 folks in attendance, which in the Bay Area isn't even much of the Left. I never liked feeling that I'm demonstration "cannon fodder" for some vanguard party, hence my dislike for the WWP dominated NEC. The AHC is more pluralist, yet no less knee-jerk about its idiot anti-interventionist/anti-imperialist assumptions. San Francisco is now a two coalition town like it's a two newspaper town. Barely. SF antiwar demos 2/17 thru 3/7/98 = µµ (one unimaginative star plus a star for the street action).
...ON-THE-JOB F.S.U...
Yep, another new feature. On-the-job fucking shit up, suggested by a recent e-mail. A word of warning, the following feature may contain language or ideas offensive to bosses and capitalists. Today: WORK TO RULE.
The basic idea behind "working to rule" is that every workplace has so many formal and informal rules that, if workers followed all of them, production would slow to a crawl, if not grind to a halt altogether. I worked the unsupervised second shift—4 pm to midnight—as a typesetter for a yellow pages company. The official rules were that each typesetter had to do the type for 40 ads per shift, but that we were also supposed to double check that each ad package had all the necessary component parts before it went to the paste-up artists for them to complete. Salespeople got commissions for selling advertising, and they were responsible for including everything needed to finish the ad they sold, including ad copy, logos, pictures, graphics, etc. in one ad package. But the more ads a salesperson sold in a day, the more commission he or she earned, so there was a strong incentive for them to do the absolute minimum on each ad package, meaning they often illegibly scribbled out the ad copy or forgot to include something important like the company logo or a picture of the product. If there was something wrong with the ad package, the typesetters were supposed to first spend a few minutes seeing if we could solve the problem. If we couldn't, the formal rule was that we should set the ad package aside and go on to the next one. Informally though, the idea was to get the paste-up artists something to work with, even if it came back for revisions or corrections.
Each paste-up artist had a quota of 25-30 completed ads a shift. They had to keep a log as to how many times an ad package needed to go back to typesetting for revisions or corrections, and they were always under pressure to make these returns as few as possible. The company got the most profit when a paste-up artist put together his or her daily number of ads in one sitting, which of course never ever happened. Well, someone in accounting regularly reviewed these ad logs, and accounting was always badgering our Art Director to cut down on the number of revisions or corrections the ad packages seemed to require. The Art Director had an art department meeting one morning to crack down on the paste-up artists, who promptly blamed the second shift typesetters for giving them bad ad packages. When our shift got in, the Art Director read us the riot act, threatened to fire us if we didn't "shape up and get the 40 ads done right the first time," then promptly left for the evening, his day done.
So the second shift typesetters had our own meeting. We decided to "work to rule;" the formal rule that if an ad package was bad and we couldn't correct it quickly, we set it aside and went on to the next package. We designed our own log sheet to account for our time and what was wrong with the ad which we attached to each package. We spent three quarters of our shift rejecting bad ad packages and produced type for only ten ads per person that night. The Art Director had the next day off, and we produced only seven ads per person that night. We literally ran out of ad packages in the queue and spent the last three hours of our shift playing cards and computer games, sending out for food and making a liquor run. We expected the "shit to hit" the third night, because the Art Director would be back. But when we all got into work, he was in a meeting with company management. He came back around 7 that evening, when everyone else in the art department had gone home. The Art Director gathered us all together and quite sheepishly informed us that, while our log sheets and efforts to "play by the rules" had been admirable and informative, we should return to churning out 40 ads a night, doing the best we could with each ad package.
"Just get the paste-up artists something to work with," he said. "Even if it comes back for revisions or corrections."
He never formally apologized for threatening us, but we'd proved our point. The reason that the ad packages needed so many corrections was because they came from the salespeople all fucked up to begin with. But the company couldn't come down too hard on their salesfolk because, after all, they were the company's main revenue generators. They did back off harassing the paste-up artists and typesetters on the issue for a while, long enough for me to get another job.
The IWW pamphlet, Worker's Guide to Direct Action, gives another example of "working to rule:" "The United Parcel Service (UPS) has always been a stickler for the rules (when they benefit the bosses), and routinely conducts 'method audits,' in which employees whose actions do not conform to the established procedures are disciplined. This, of course, gave the workers a potent weapon. The UPS workers retaliated with 'Methods Awareness Days'—MADs—on which all union employees follow the entire UPS maze of regulations to the letter. The result is, as one shop steward gleefully reported, 'Production just falls apart.'" This pamphlet gives several more practical examples of how to "work to rule," so get it for $3 from the Industrial Workers of the World, 1095 Market St., San Francisco CA 94103. Now, with a slightly new layout, an old feature...
OUR OWN BACK YARD... "Roberto Flores, an educator at Layola Marymount University who spent last year in Chiapas, says that while the Zapatistas need help, they have repeatedly told visitors that the best way to help them is to organize in their own communities against the global corporate culture or 'neoliberalism.' As such, many supporters are beginning to organize 'autonomous barrios' both in Mexico and the United States to challenge local governments. The Zapatistas believe that rather than sending delegates to Chiapas, people in the United States should be fighting discrimination and finding ways to stop youths from killing each other, says Flores. The battle in Chiapas, he says, belongs to the Zapatistas." (P. Gonzales, R. Rodriguez; 12-29-97, SD Union-Tribune) I couldn't have said it better myself to all those radical-chic Chiapas tourists and Zapatista cheerleaders. And there's more than enough to do in this country. The US "is giving the Mexican military extensive covert intelligence support and training hundreds of its officers to help shape a network of anti-drug troops around the country" according to the SD Union-Tribune of the same date, and there are already allegations that military officers involved in anti-drug activities "have been linked to the torture and disappearance of suspects; failures of due process and proper legal procedure by soldiers stepping in for the police." Shades of the School of the Americas. The 12-8-97 Honolulu Advertiser reports that the US has been negotiating the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) for the past two years without any media attention. The treaty scheduled to be signed this May after which it must go to the Senate for ratification. MAI "is the most sweeping agreement in history in regard to the authority it marshals to protect investors," a triumph for neoliberal capitalist globalization that makes NAFTA and GATT look positively provincial. Thanks to Karl Koons for all three stories... RED ZONE: You Are Now Leaving The American Sector is a new irregular publication of the ultraleft persuasion. These folks tried to get a magazine called Red Planet going, but that never panned out. They scaled down their ambitions and their name, and Red Zone is starting out as a free broadside. The first issue is entitled "Toward a Maximum Antiwar Movement," and it came with the accompanying statement: "Western pundits declared the United States the de facto victor of the 'cold war' after the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, proclaiming as well that there was now no viable economic alternative to market capitalism. Yet working people around the world continue to rise up against American hegemony and the power of capital. In Mexico, these rebellious regions are called 'red zones' by the government which subjects their populations to low-intensity or counter-insurgency warfare." A copy of the first Red Zone can be had for a self-addressed stamped envelope to POB 29251, Oakland, CA 94604-9251. WORKING CLASS HEROES... Seattle cabdriver Dick Falkenbury and street poet Grant Cogswell "were two men with no money, scorned by the political establishment and ignored by the press, whose campaign [to place a ballot measure] consisted of going around Seattle with a plywood sign that urged people to build a $1 billion mass transit system [extending Seattle's 1-mile monorail]. When the two won, gaining nearly 53 percent approval, it was perhaps the biggest political upset in the Pacific Northwest since a bartender was elected mayor of Portland 10 years ago." (J.P. Hicks, NY Times News Service, reprinted 12-26-97, SD Union-Tribune) Just goes to show what can be done by a few folks with "one track minds." Submitted by Chula Vista's own working class hero, Bob Barley... COLLECTIVE ACTION NOTES has an interesting pamphlet out called Communism is the Material Human Community: Amadeo Bordiga Today by Loren Goldner. Be forewarned, this is not an easy read, though it does make some excellent points. Bordiga, who considered himself a disciple of Lenin, acutely argued that in Capital Marx describes capitalism as the system that solved the "agrarian question" before going on to industrialize the economy. Every Leninist "socialist" regime to date has merely solved the "agrarian question" and then industrialized the economy, hence Leninism is nothing more than capitalism run in the name of the working class. Available for $2/£1,50 from Collective Action Notes, POB 22962, Baltimore, MD 21203. RED SKINS... Take a hard left at SHARP and you come to RASH. Red and Anarchist Skinheads. RASH is a loose international federation trying to organize local chapters of leftist skinheads. From what I can tell from the web pages, RASH chapters vary; some are more Marxist and others are more anarchist. They keep such diversity together because they share a common working class traditional skinhead culture as well as a common enemy; nazi boneheads. My only criticism is that this red skin fighting nazi skin focus sometimes degenerates into plain old gang warfare; the usual fill-in-the-blank boot boys vs. the fill-in-the-blank skinheads gangbang bullshit. The main US RASH page is at http://www.geocities.com/CapitalHill/ Lobby/17531/ with email at redskin@geocities.com. There's a mirror RASH page at http://mediaport.org/~rash containing somewhat different information. Connections to red skin politics, music, football (soccer), local scenes, events, even red straightedge. Important US RASH contacts are RASH Indy, 3756 Rockville Rd. Box 24, Indianapolis, IN 46222 and RASH NYC, POB 365 Canal St. Station, NY, NY 10013. Give capitalism the boot... WAY TO GO... On March 6, 1998, accountant Matthew Beck arrived at work and shot four of his bosses. Four executives of the Connecticut lottery, including the president. Beck didn't target his fellow workers. He knew which way to point his gun. Then he committed suicide as the cops closed in. If you gotta go, take as many of the assholes with you as you can... PERSONAL PROPAGANDA... I can be contacted at hooligan@sirius.com. My book, End Time, can be purchased from AK Press (POB 40682, SF, CA 94140-0682) for $10. Keep sending me your newsworthy items and interesting news clippings c/o MRR.