Tuesday, March 30, 2010

[olympiaworkers] On Solidarity

On Solidarity

Down in an old buoy tender, a small ship that places buoys in the water and
repairs buoys, I am working down in a very small tank below the bilge. We
are working on rebuilding a sea water system that supplies sea water to the
ship. On ships sea water is mainly used for the firemain, cooling water,
flushing water, and ballast. The sea water comes up into the ship in what is
called a sea chest, that is an opening in the bottom of the ship that is
like a square box. Most ships will have a number of sea chests, depending
upon their needs. If the piping of the system goes above the waterline that
system will need a pump to move the water down the line. If the system stays
below the waterline head-pressure will move the water.

The system I am working on needs pumps. This means that the pumps also must
be below the water in order for them to be primed. The forward sea chest is
located down in a tank and has a 6 inch pipe coming out of it. Most piping
used is schedule 40 pipe, that has to do with the wall thickness of the
pipe, and it is good for up to 150 PSI. But on salt water pipes schedule 80,
double the wall thickness, is used because salt water corrodes steel pipe.
So 6 inch schedule 80 pipe is rather heavy. Because of where the water line
is most of the piping must be run through two tanks then up to the pumps.
These tanks are small with not much room to work and only two people can
work down there at a time. That means one pipefitter and a welder. My pipes
come down through a soft patch in to the ship, but getting them to the tank
and down through tank cover, I need help. "Hey buddy can you give me a
hand?" I ask a near by pipefitter. That worker knows that in order to get
the job done at times we need to help each other. Without question, without
having to be told by some boss, that worker helps out. You can see this on
most jobs. This is natural solidarity, the willingness to give a hand when

Wake-up in the middle of the night. Try as you may, you just can't go back
to sleep. So many worries, so damn alone. Bills adding up like maggots on a
corpse. You pay some some of the bills, then don't have the money to pay the
other bills. Do you pay your rent and not pay your lights? Do you pay the
tickets on your old clunker of a car or to you buy clothes for the kids? Do
you fix your car so that you are legal or do you buy medicine for your
aching body?

The judge asks you if you have anything to say and you tell that beast that
you only have so much money and if you fix your car, buy insurance then
other needs will go unfulfilled. The judge says, as that beast has said to
countless folks just like you, the law is the law and there are no
exceptions to the law!" But you know that the laws are all written for the
rich and damn the poor where ever they maybe.

So there you are alone worrying about the way things are. It seems you were
born into a world that ain't meant for you to ever make it. But you see on
TV all them well off people and wonder why, no matter how hard you work, you
will never be among them. They are well off because you and millions of
other folks aren't. Countless times throughout your life you are told about
personal responsibility. How what ever happens in your life you, you alone
are the one to blame.

You seek help and though there are programs, they all belittle you, shame
you for the idea that someone else has to help you out.

Charity is the act of those that have more than they need giving to those
that have less than they need. Their hearts bleed for you all the while they
make it known that they are the better people and one such as yourself
should be forever thankful. Though you are taught not to question the way
things are, can you help but wonder why most of the people are just like you
and the better off folks are so few?

The answer is greed. The rich folks believe that it is their God given right
to exploit the world and all who live upon it for their personal wealth. And
that the bad people of the world are those that seek to change that

We bleed and die for the rich, fighting their wars where we try to kill
people of other lands who are just like us. We bleed and die for the rich in
the factories producing their wealth. So what can we do about this? Line up
behind politicians and parties where we delegate to others our hopes for a
better life? That be nothing more than a fool's path for there is no one out
there we can depend on but ourselves. There is something out there that the
rich folks fear. They fear it more than an enemies army or even the wrath of
their God. That such dreadful horror of the rich is solidarity of the
exploited and oppressed. While plundering the earth and robbing the people
to amass their great wealth, the capitalist class has also wielded epic
effort historically to keep working people divided and fighting among
themselves. They know that if working people stood together in solidarity,
their way of life would end. Solidarity is more than a slogan or a song, it
is a natural instinct. Solidarity is the people helping each other fulfill
their needs.

Natural solidarity can be found throughout our society. It could be just
helping someone whose car broke down. Or in times of great need leading a
hand. I remember a few years ago when a river was flooding its banks and I
went down there to help build a wall of sandbags. I knew the people who
needed help. As I was doing my part I looked around and saw that there was a
number of people helping out that did not live there. I asked one person I
knew who were those people and he said that some of them he had never seen
before. They were just there to help out. There were even kids there helping
out. As I was working a young girl, no more than 8 years old, comes up to me
and hands me some water to drink. I looked into her eyes and I could see
that she wanted to help, no one had to ask her to do that. Natural
solidarity is an instinctive part of humans. She was no less important than
anyone else there because she, like everyone else, was doing what they were
able to do to help. Natural solidarity does not need bosses or great
philosophers, people can see what needs to be done and they do it. I later
asked around to try to find who asked that little girl to hand out water
bottles. I found out that she saw a box of water bottles and just started to
hand them out to people working to hold off the flood. That is natural

No society can function without natural solidarity. In the society we live
in we have this thing call capitalism that seeks personal profit for
services and the production of goods. This system suppresses natural
solidarity and replaces it with personal greed. Everything is looked upon by
the capitalists as how it can be exploited for profit for a few. It is for
that reason that working people are exploited, the environment is polluted
and so on. This has created a world where most people do without so that a
few can have far more than they need and is doing great harm to our world's
eco-systems. This will continue as long as we are forced to live under this
system. Capitalism cannot be reformed.

Shall we leave the survival and well-being of the people and the planet to a
system that cannot change its direction away from the exploitation of all
for the benefit of a few? It does not take a great look at our world to
clearly see that a change must take place. History has given us many
examples that changing who runs the system or even changing the name of the
system does little or nothing to change the exploitation of people and the
planet. Matter of fact some of the worst polluters have been so-called
socialist states.

The change that must take place has to, in my view, take place not only in
changing systems but also in changing the way we live. We must not longer
seek to rule over each other by competing for political power. Political
power and greed as a purpose must be replaced with a common goal, that being
the well-being of all. And for that to become a reality, solidarity must
become a way of life. Solidarity is not charity. Charity only reinforces the
class system. Solidarity is helping each other out when needed.

In order to make solidarity a way of life we need to look upon each other in
a different manner. Though we all are distinctive individuals with each
having their own desires, hopes, skills and talents, we are all in the same
social boat together. All of us who are not of the ruling or managing
classes are exploited and oppressed in some manner. Some are exploited and
oppressed more than others, but as long as there is a class system in place
there is the reality of exploitation and oppression that we will always
face. In this society it is common to look at others as lesser than we are
and not realize that only helps keeps us in our place. That viewpoint only
aids the capitalist class in their purpose and helps keep all of us
exploited and oppressed.

It maybe race or sex or religion or ethnicity, it could be what part of town
someone lives in or what their culture is, the list of reasons people use to
think they are better than someone else is almost endless. It is not a
matter of having to like everything, but rather realizing what you do like
is directly connected to what everyone else likes. There are forms of music
and culture that I don't care for. That is based upon my personal likes and
dislikes. But that does not mean that I should view what I don't care for as
lesser than what I like or that those that like other music or cultures
should be oppressed.

The only way oppression and exploitation can be challenged is to organize
against it and to stand-up to it. This needs to be done by those of the
different types oppressions who directly effect. Oppression and exploitation
strips us of control over our lives and seeks to suppress our
self-expression that defines who we are. Thus the struggle for liberation
from oppression and exploitation needs to include self-determination both as
individuals and as groups of people based upon the different forms of
oppression and exploitation.

The culture of the class system grants privileges that are denied to others.
The further up the hierarchy of the class system one is, the greater those
privileges become something real. Thus how real other privileges are is
based upon class privilege.

Such privileges as race privilege and sex privilege are designed to keep
people in their "place" and it uses other oppressed and exploited people to
enforce this. Even though at the bottom of the class system these privileges
don't amount to much, the poor folks are told that if others, such as people
of color or woman, makes gains through struggle that they will lose
something and thus those people are a threat to them. The fact is that for
those of the working class there are only real few things that privilege
grants them:

1. The right to be less oppressed. A White worker is oppressed by class but
is not oppressed by race, and so on.

2. The right to help maintain the the system and culture of oppression by
helping to enforce it.

Back in the days of the old south (that is the south of the U.S.) there was
a system and culture of segregation and heavy oppression of Black people.
Black people organized a Civil Rights Movement to directly challenge
institutionalize racism. Many poor Whites were used to try to help suppress
this movement. Some did buy into the lie that Black people were trying to
take something that they had. Some just sat on the sidelines not wanting to
get involved. But a few realized that, as being very poor, as poor whites
were, that if you ain't got nothing you ain't got nothing to lose and those
that were trying to use them were those that had most everything and thus
were the reason they had nothing at all. And thus it was not Black people
who were the threat to them but rather those that exploited them were those
to blame for their situation.

Long ago when I lived in New Orleans a Black veteran of the Civil Rights
Movement told me that economically poor Whites gained more from the Civil
Rights Movement than did poor Blacks. The reason was that when the rich
White power structure, as seen in the White Business Councils, mostly
collapsed, that gave room for poor Whites to make gains. Though the system
of oppression and exploitation continued, and racism was still a part of it,
the struggle of Black people was no threat to poor Whiles but they also
benefited from it in real terms.

All resistance to the way things are is connected in two ways. First, all
oppressed and exploited people are that way because of the class system and
capitalism. Next, the privileges granted by the system are only a means to
help keep the system in place. Thus, all the resistance benefits all of the
oppressed and exploited. And the only protection against you or I from
oppression and exploitation is to get rid of all oppression and

We need to respect the importance of self-determination and not interfere
with that process. Some may point out that self-determination does not
always go where they would like it. But we all must realize that all
struggle for liberation from oppression and exploitation is a continuing
process, even among high minded anarchists. If we believe in the idea of
true liberty and self-management being the only means to get rid of the
class system then we must understand that others will reach the same
conclusion in time.

For example, the Black Panther Party was a self-determination organization
and was a progressive step in the process of liberation. It collapsed
because of government repression and the conflicts created by a hierarchical
structure. Learning from that a number of former Black Panthers became
anarchists. Along with other people of color, people of color have organized
together as anarchists and for them anarchism has become a part of
self-determination organizing.

Though we need to respect self-determination organization, but we also need
to realize that we do have connections and how well our liberation goes
depends on all of us. Thus, though we do not seek to control or interfere
with self-determination organizations, but in times of need and when asked,
we do need to stand in direct solidarity with them.

Forms of oppression do overlap. For example Woman may organize Women's
groups that include Women of color. So those self-determination
organizations would overlap with self-determination organizations of people
of color.

The largest area of overlapping is with working class self-determination
organizations. Yes such organizations as the IWW or anarcho-syndicalist
unions are self-determination organizations. The reason why this is true is
because they seek to organize working folks to the point that they can take
control over their labor and determine for themselves how they labor will be
used. That is called worker self-management.

Like all forms of oppression and exploitation, class oppression and
exploitation is directly connected to all other forms of oppression and
exploitation. And thus the working class directly benefits by standing in
solidarity with other self-determination organizations. This is important
for three main reasons:

1. All oppression and exploitation is connected and none can be liberated
without liberation for all.

2. By standing together in solidarity people learn about the cultural
oppressions that exist even in self-determination organizing. For example
there is still racism and sexism within the working class. Black
self-determination organizing could free Black people from the White power
structure, only to find some Black people replacing the White bosses.

3. The capitalist class is very powerful and well organized with its control
over governments. It will take even greater power to free ourselves. Thus
there needs to be united solidarity action by all oppressed and exploited

Solidarity should become a way of life for us all. It should be as much a
part of our natural life as is eating, sleeping or anything else. From
giving a helping hand to the person next to us when they are in need, to
standing in direct solidarity with other oppressed and exploited people, to
walking a picketline in support of striking workers, to standing together in
direct action against the dirty rotten system, solidarity needs to become
our reality of living and in that way we are creating a new world for the
well-being of all.

In Solidarity

Arthur J. Miller

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