All posts by Ronnie Burk

Jobs Are Jails

On the morning of December 6, 1999, marching with over four hundred people protesting the presence of WTO officials at Bank of America in downtown San Francisco, I found myself once again doing the cake walk with this city\’s bankrupt left/ Following the tremendous earth-shattering explosion in Seattle, where some 500 kids rocked the multinational corporations to their foundations, exposing for all the world to see that US capitalism is no longer safe within its own borders, it was truly insulting to see the old guard in SF up to their usual theatrics. There were, of course, the innocuous hootenanny types singing godawful folk songs that always remind me of Christian tent revivals, the Birkenstock peaceniks, the sectarian lefties hawking their tired rags, but most unnerving were the self-promoting \”spokespeople\” laying claim to \”The Battle of Seattle,\” all the while decrying the \”violence.\” You can\’t have it both ways, folks. Had the black-hooded anarchists and animal rights activists not taken the initiative to trash the storefronts of corporate America, there would have been no news, no headlines, no electronic media reporting as to just how fed up a sector of the American population is with \”business as usual,\” and consequently, no \”Battle of Seattle.\” At a time when members of the emerging new generation have demonstrated their aversion to wage slavery by destroying the very edifices of bourgeois capitalism, the dried-up crusty rinds of what is left of the left were only able to recite their tired old litanies of \”jobs not jails.\”

So it was with a sense of humor that I started chanting \”Jobs are Jails!\”, a turn of words that my young anarchist and animal-rights friends found amusing, and also began chanting. The knee-jerk left found our message so offensive that Rebecca Solnit found it necessary to walk up to me and accuse me of \”elitism.\” That was a remark I found to be both racist and elitist, coming from a white woman in a black flannel suit who likes to brag she\’s studied art and aesthetics at the Sorbonne.

\”My dear,\” I informed her, \”my mother was a campesina, and worked in the fields as a child. I myself have done every shit job in the universe, from washing dishes to picking up garbage, and let me tell you, jobs are jails!\” Her comment seemed to encapsulate everything that is wrong with the left, afraid of revolt, hoping to legitimize itself by promoting bogus \”pro-union\” agendas, trying not to offend the tourists and Christmas shoppers, leashed in, muzzled, with blinders on, just where the union bosses and their bosses, the corporate elite, want them. These (anarchists) don\’t want to sit at the table and talk-they want to turn the table upside down and pull the plug on high finance capitalism, and all I can say is that it\’s about time.

Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange made quite a show of herself after the initial trashing of downtown Seattle. Decrying the violence, getting out brooms, aiding the police, such activists did us all a favor by showing their true interests. In their desire to sit at the table with representatives of the corporate establishment, they have sold out the very people we must support if we are serious about bringing on the real changes this planet so desperately needs to survive the next century.

Whether it is Global Exchange, Mother Jones, the Sierra Club, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Pacifica Radio, or other despicable examples of the corporate left, one thing is clear-none of these organizations are interested in destroying the system, as they need to ensure their positions as \”paid staff.\” For those of you who are afraid of flying glass, who only see \”elitism\” in the cause of freedom, who insist now is not the right time to bring down the system, who prefer to sing rather than riot in the streets while the children of Indonesia are denied bananas and rice and millions across the nation are denied the simple pleasure of having a place to live, I say, stand clear. We are entering a new era that demands new ways of strategy and subversion and the only thing limiting us is our own lack of imagination and daring.