We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Boston-Area Union Will Block Factory Auction to Save Jobs

by Jane Slaughter from Solidarity Economy.

In a move to save factory jobs that evokes shades of the ’30s, the United Electrical Workers are asking supporters to block a December 14 auction of presses and equipment from a plant south of Boston. The UE is calling for mass picketing and blockading of entrances to the 80-year-old plant if necessary.

Esterline Technologies Corp. of Bellevue, Washington, has refused to hold off on selling the equipment till another buyer can be found. The union’s request to buy the closed plant, which would create an employee-owned factory, has been ignored.
Another plant closure that illustrates, once again, the deep contradictions between a capitalist system and the needs of communities and societies. The system is designed to serve private needs not social needs, and the end result is that society functions to serve private interests--wealth and power. Collectively, these private interests create a class of people, also known as a ruling class, who govern society and insure that society functions to serve their interests.

In this latest example in Massachusetts, we see that the 80 year old plant is "owned" by a corporation in the State of Washington (not far from where I live). 

Under the rules of capitalism--not ordained by some god, but a system created by people, powerful people in the past--this plant became a thing, a commodity, that could be owned by some people with money whose interest was making more money. 

The plant, of course, was the end result of endless generations of working people that created the technology and the wealth that created the form of this plant 80 years ago. Since then workers in the plant created wealth for the various owners of the plant, but they also created wealth for the community that sustained it and helped it grow. The community and the larger society, in turn, sustained the workers by educating them, providing them with health care, entertainment, media, culture--in reality, this entity is a social organism. 

Capitalism, on the other hand, is essentially an asocial system. Capitalists deny the existence or importance of the concept of "social organism". That is why a capitalist leader, Margaret Thatcher, made this statement:
...there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.
Thus capitalists must deny the reality of collective decision making and collective welfare that sustained humanity for more than 98% its existence.

Now this community in Massachusetts, and to some extent the larger society, is threatened because the "owners", whose only interest in the plant is to make money, want to make more money elsewhere. Because they "own" the plant under the rules of capitalism, they are permitted to do this. Why should they "sell" the plant to the workers? The plant might compete with products they want to produce in Mexico and southern California, and thus cut into "their" profits. Thus the workers face an uphill struggle to win the battle to take over the plant.

This is the pattern in the US that has been playing out most dramatically in the last 30 years. More and more plants have been moved to other countries where cheap labor and weak environmental laws provide greater opportunities for capitalists to make more money. Because they govern their societies, capitalists can get away with it. 

We are now witnessing the devastation caused to communities and the larger society in the forms of unemployment, deskilling of American workers, families torn a part, more crime and drug addiction, poverty, mental illness, etc. 

Meanwhile, the "owners" fear that the "natives" may be getting restless and will fight back. Hence, we are seeing more and more repressive police measures and surveillance of citizens which could lead to a police state.