Category Archives: Autumn 1998 (8/5/98)

International Solidarity Conference 1999

We propose that a conference be held in San Francisco, California from June 1st through the 5th 1999. We hope to facilitate discussions regarding the working class and our struggles with capitalism. These are issues that we hope to address at the conference;

  • Stop factionalism within the progression towards a more effective movement of direct democracy.

  • Combat the world bank and its structural adjustments by seeking alternatives and taking action.

  • Illustrate connections between workers, the environment, poverty and other pressing issues which urge resolution because of our need for an involved and compassionate society.

  • Explore alternative forms of organizing and cooperation.

    Registration, input for the agenda and applications to facilitate workshops/ discussion groups are all due to the following address by December 31, 1998. Please contact us at these addresses for further information.


    I99 International Solidarity Conference Committee

    c/o San Francisco IWW
    POB 40485
    S.F. CA 94140 USA
    Email: intl99@iww.org
    Web: http://www.iww.org/~intl99/

  • Music Review
    Mermaid Avenue

    Music by Woodie Guthrie 50 years later

    I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you or me, says this folksong about murdered IWW organizer Joe Hill. And so it is with Woody Guthrie. With the release of Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg and Wilco, a fifteen song album of unpublished Guthrie lyrics, it’s clear that, in the words of Bragg Woody Guthrie has not spoken his last words to us…this is just his first record for fifty years.

    And that’s exactly how Nora Guthrie, Woody’s daughter, wanted it. But she also wanted the album to feel like a collaboration- one between herself, Bragg, and, of course, her father. Woody was really open to other musicians, she says. And it was important to work with a musician who was like that. I didn’t want to just hand over this stuff and say, OK, go make a record; I’ll see you in a year. Mermaid Avenue (named for the street where the Guthrie family lived on Coney Island) does seem like a collaboration, one between two musicians who were in it not just for the music, but for the politics as well. For anyone familiar with Billy Bragg’s music, his socialist sensibility is always evident in his lyrics; and we all know who wrote This Land Is Your Land. The cuts on Mermaid Avenue show us a more complicated man than just a social commentator. However, we see that Guthrie had written plenty of songs that expressed his radical ideals and vision.

    Woody definitely was a visionary. As, She Came Along To Me proclaims But I’m sure the women are equal, and they may be ahead of the men. As Bragg commented when I saw him play last month at the Fleadh The fact that Woody managed to write a song about women’s liberation in 1944, that’s just amazing. Yes, it is. I Guess I planted, an extremely well done pro-union song, while not exactly visionary, certainly speaks to his ideals and hopes for the world, the proletariat in particular.

    This Woody Guthrie album is excellent, and there are many more to come. Not only does the Billy Bragg and Wilco ensemble have enough tracks cut for another album, but Nora has some 2,500 lyrics left in her father’s archive. And she intends to put them to good use. She has collaborations planned with The Klezmatics, an avant garde klezmer band from New York who will create music for Woody’s lyrics on Jewish themes, and Ani DiFranco, who is certainly an artist who carries on the Guthrie singer-songwriter tradition. Nora Guthrie is just as brilliant at choosing artists who can do justice to interpreting her father’s lyrics for a new generation as Woody was at writing them in the first place.

    Lucy Parsons Center: Please help

    The Lucy Parsons Center, Boston’s only collectively-run autonomous infoshop/bookstore was hit with disaster on Saturday, June 13th. An extraordinary amount of rain hit the Boston area over that weekend, and flooded our basement with over a foot of water.

    The center was relocated to this temporary space in Davis Square after having been evicted from our former location in Central Square just over a month ago. With plans to move to a permanent storefront within the next month or so, our morale has been crushed as about 2/3 of our stock was stored in the basement. We have no estimate of the damage done at this point, but we have absolutely no insurance that will cover the loss.

    Already suffering from very low sales and participation due to our low visibility location, our funds have been depleting quickly and we are not sure how we will afford the higher rent of a new location. We are setting forth a plea for any fundraising help that anyone can give us. Never in our 30 year existence have we dealt with such a blow. Please extend your solidarity in helping us to ensure that the Lucy Parsons center continues to exist.

    Lucy Parsons Center
    259A Elm Street
    Somerville, MA 02144

    The Year 2000 Problem, the Social Revolution, And You

    The upcoming millennium shift has to be the most anticipated event in the history of the Christian calendar. Some people are consciously expecting the end of the world (or at least the end of the world as WE know it), while most others are simply anticipating that something will happen. As I will unfold, in these attitudes may lie an important opportunity for people interested in creating a new decentralized, non-authoritarian, socialist society.

    The different feelings about the millennium in the collective unconscious of Western civilization are mirrored by the uproar surrounding the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer problem. People who already expected some kind of apocalypse see this electronic quirk as a validation of their beliefs. Others who heavily depend upon computers, to the point that they cannot imagine life without them (like, say, computer programmers) are in an uproar about the collapse of major world computer systems. Their minds have suddenly been confronted with the larger implication that the Y2K problems makes about our ridiculous over-dependence on technology and our often idiotic misuse of it. The misuse which I am referring to is the sloppy way that most important computer programs are written with the emphasis (as with everything produced in our capitalist society) on speed of production and the glitzy outward appearance of speed and complexity. With this ethic of computer programming predominant, most corporate programmers completely sacrifice the idea of creating space- efficient programs which can perform simple, utilitarian functions free of long term glitches and bugs.

    With the advent of Y2K, computer programmers are beginning to see how the computer controlled society which they have helped to create is ridiculously wobbly and full of holes It has them so scared that someone recently told me about visiting a huge survivalist supply store and finding employees of Intel, Microsoft and other such corporations lined up out of the door to stock up for the forthcoming apocalypse.

    But it is not the attitudes of these pathetically frightened members of the professional, managerial class which should most concern people interested in using the Y2K computer problem to spread social revolution. The emotions which we can most readily capitalize upon are the ambiguous anticipation lying in the back of the minds of the masses. Something has to happen to mark this numerological change over, and it should be something as big as the birth which this calendar commemorates. Something must come to end the lives of desperation that most people live, even in the bountiful land of America, tied to soul-crushing jobs which waste their time in unfulfilling, repetitive tasks that only serve to prop up a capitalist regime which keeps them chained to constantly escalating material desires while our social, mental and spiritual natures are increasingly stifled and perverted.

    Scores of fly-by-night and corner-store prophets are waiting to take advantage of this millenarian anticipation. Their answers are on the whole nothing but pernicious superstition meant to prop up some new authoritarian, hierarchical reign. In the end they are all too small, scattered and unappealing to the majority of the population to be any threat to the current regime.

    But perhaps the shining light of anarchism can brighten this millenarian darkness of superstitious obscurantist cults trying to take advantage of modern capitalism being crippled by computer problems.

    And anyone who has even looked over the technical facts cannot doubt that our capitalist government will be at least partly injured by computer problems with the coming of the year 2000. Even if the California DMV has managed to safeguard its records, the systems are too widespread and variegated to avoid all computer chaos on this momentous date. The Y2K problem may well cause a majority of the electronic toys used to distract the first world masses from their enslavement to suddenly break down and stop functioning. It also has the potential to do great damage to the webs of electronic registration and observation which are increasingly used to monitor the most minute details of our lives.

    The Y2K problem will certainly not bring down the U.S. government and its massive military in one fell swoop. If anyone has the monetary and technological resources to avoid such catastrophe, it would certainly be them. Even if its systems are disrupted, computers are not necessary to a large-scale repressive state. As the German Nazis and the imperialist dynasties of China proved, only violent force and perhaps well-kept paperwork are necessary. But the year 2000 may well bring the collapse of the TV-internet mind control network at a time when massively repressive militaristic emergency measures are required for America’s capitalist government to maintain control. This has the potential to suddenly make a whole lot of people aware of the ultimately repressive nature of government.

    So what better time for an anarchist revolution and a libertarian socialist re-structuring of society?

    What we need to keep in mind here is that its always a good day for a revolution — and January 1st, 2000 could be the best day of Ôem all. As year 00, it’s certainly got the numerological significance requirement covered. At the least the anarchist community and other groups of radical social activists need to stop buying wholesale what the capitalist press is telling us about possible Y2K problems and begin realizing the opportunities that they are offered by a massive shock to the technological systems which our modern capitalist government relies on to maintain its power. Revolution now!

    Work Less, Play More

    Berkeley Initiative would require full pay for 35 hours of work

    An initiative measure on the Berkeley ballot this November, if passed, would require Berkeley employers to reduce the work week to 35 hours, with no reduction in pay, and pay double time for all hours worked over 35 hours.

    Although the 35-for-40  law must be passed on a state or national level in order to be truly effective, and although the measure does not appear to cut the work week for the many salaried workers in Berkeley, folks should pass  35-for-40

    Although government reports show that US unemployment is low right now, the government statistics don t count the long-term unemployed.  And, the US numbers count under-employed and part time workers as employed, distorting the picture.     Decreasing the work week will mean more full time, good jobs at better wages.  A 35 hour week also gives workers more hours to enjoy life or participate in their families.  In a era when almost every parent works, the 35 hour week is  pro-family.

    The Berkeley ballot measure would apply to all Berkeley businesses licensed by the city or having contracts with the city.  In addition to requiring double time for hours worked in excess of 35, the bill would make compulsory hours over 35 illegal.  The proposed law is similar to a bill introduced in Congress in 1980 by Rep. John Conyers of Detroit.  That bill would have created an estimated 7 million extra jobs nationally, but it was never voted on.  Currently, American workers are working a longer work week than workers in almost any other industrial country.  Although the 35-for-40 law would only apply in Berkeley, and it is admittedly difficult to make labor standards advances in one small city in a competitive capitalist context, Berkeley voters need to vote their self- interest and pass 35-for-40. 

    Voting against giving yourself an extra hour everyday shows a lack of self-respect and is, in a word, pathetic.  Passage of such a law in Berkeley would put cutting the work week back on the political map in the US for the first time since the 1930s.    A majority of Berkeley s voters work for someone else, either getting a salary or a wage.  Salaried workers should vote with those who earn wages, as a majority of Californians recently voted on the minimum wage increase ballot measure which recently passed.  Although not everyone earns the minimum wage, and not everyone would benefit from 35-for-40, it advances the interests of everyone who works for an employer.  That the media has already dismissed the measure s likelihood of passing, and that even the progressive politicians in Berkeley have not endorsed 35-for-40, only shows how far American political discussion has been dominated by the boss s interests.    Having a 35 hour week in Berkeley may cause some bosses to move certain jobs to Oakland or elsewhere, which is why the 35-for-40 ballot measure in Berkeley is only a first step.  If it can be passed in Berkeley, the next step is passing a similar law at the state and national level.  Ultimately, getting a fair share requires more than just voting – mass organizing, union drives, and worker solidarity on an international level are required to achieve any adjustment in the distribution of wealth between workers and bosses.  Reducing the work week gives workers more of the wealth they produce, and bosses will never voluntarily accept it.

    The Share the Work Committee, which wrote the ballot measure and collected over 3000 signatures to get it on the ballot, is planning a grassroots campaign to pass 35-for-40.  Volunteers and donations are need.

    Contact the Committee at 841-7460 or write to PO Box 5832, Berkeley, CA 94705.

    Ban All Clearcuts!

    A measure on the November ballot in Oregon gives voters there the opportunity to ban clearcutting, the use of herbicides and other environmentally irresponsible logging practices in Oregon s forests. The Oregon Forest Conservation Initiative (OFCI) would require environmentally sensitive and labor intensive logging methods. This could create more forest related jobs in Oregon logging communities that have lost jobs, even as the pace of deforestation in Oregon has increased.

    After more than 100 years of logging, less than 5 percent of the original old growth forests remain in Oregon. Over-cutting and road-building have caused significant soil erosion and have eliminated wildlife habitat. Repeated clearcutting and poor forestry practices will eventually render Oregon forestland incapable of producing any wood products at all.

    The OFCI, if passed by voters, would provide that clearcutting shall no longer be a lawful forest practice on federal, state and private forestlands in Oregon. Clearcutting is defined as any timber harvest which leaves fewer than 70 well-distributed trees at least 11 inches in diameter per acre. The measure also bans cutting any tree in Oregon that measures more than 30 inches in diameter at breast height, effectively preventing the cutting of the oldest trees. The ballot measure requires that the state Board of Forestry rewrite logging regulations to minimize the use of heavy equipment and roads to prevent soil compaction and erosion and maximize the replanting of a diversity of native tree species. The Board of Forestry would also have to require timber harvesting methods which maintain or maximize areas of large, live trees, standing dead trees, and large, downed logs to provide habitat for species dependent upon such habitat on at least 50 percent of each harvest unit.

    The OFCI also contains a citizen suit enforcement provision that would award attorneys fees to citizens suing to enforce the law. Finally, the law contains provisions aimed at triggering Federal Clean Water laws to restrict logging on Federally owned lands, which cannot be controlled by the Oregon law. The measure is an impressive example of how environmentalists can use the ballot initiative process to put supposedly unrealistic laws to a vote.

    Oregonians for Labor Intensive Forest Economics (OLIFE) director Gary Kutcher writes of attempting to get forest protections passed by the Oregon legislature: In the Oregon legislature, we came face to face with the dozens of lobbyists representing the timber industry, chemical companies and other huge corporations. We watched with dismay as legislator after legislator capitulated to the political pressures these lobbyists exerted and we came to the earnest conclusion that if the forests of Oregon are to be given serious protections through tough ecological forestry standards, that it will be the people of Oregon who will accomplish this via a stateside ballot initiative.

    OLIFE collected almost 100,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. Most were collected by volunteers. Now they hope to get 2,000 Oregon volunteers to leaflet and campaign to pass the initiative. OLIFE expects a vigorous, and well-funded, campaign against the measure by the timber industry and corporate interests.

    To help pass the OFCI, contact OLIFE at 454 Willamette #211, Eugene, OR 97401, 541-683-1494 (Eugene) or 1017 S.W. Morrison #301, Portland, OR 97205, 503-294-0681 (Portland). They are also seeking donations. For a copy of the OFCI and lots of other excellent information about ecological logging methods, purchase the new book Can We Restore Paradise? from OFCI for $5 ($2 each for 5 or more copies). Please include postage $$–they weigh about 6 ounces each.

    Despite 114 Day Occupation Victory, Dump Project Still Scheduled

    Anti-nuke protesters and members of local Native American tribes continue to keep vigil in Ward Valley at the site of a proposed nuclear waste dump. In June, the 114 day occupation of the site ended when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rescinded an eviction notice issued on February 13. At the same time, the BLM dropped preparations for further soil tests at the site. According to the Save Ward Valley office in Needles, the outcome of the 12 year effort to halt the desecration of Ward Valley is once again in limbo. A hearing is scheduled in Federal District Court in Washington DC for sometime in August. The hearing is to consider a lawsuit filed by the state of California to force the US government to transfer the land to the state so the dump project can go ahead. Campers are still needed in Ward Valley. Call the Save Ward Valley office at 760-326-6267. And stay tuned. N. Sandy Crab

    Fight for Pro-human MTC Transport Plan

    In August and September, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will hold workshops and hearings for public input on the 1998 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The RTP is the blueprint that will determine how Federal and State transportation funds are allocated to projects in the nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area served by the MTC.

    Two coalitions of environmental-social justice-transit advocacy organizations are determined to see that alternatives to the private automobile get a better share of what funds are available. The Transportation Choices Forum and Urban Habitat Program have raised questions about the inadequacy of the RTP where access for minority and low-income citizens who can’t afford automobiles are concerned. The lack of performance goals is being questions as well Ð after years and years of attempting to meet air quality goals and reduce traffic congestion, there’s no improvement in either.

    There is also a great need to direct MTC’s attention to another worthy goal. The oldest adverse environmental impact of motor vehicles are accidental deaths and injuries. In a June 29 article, the Examiner cited an International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent 1998 World Disasters Report which predicted that by the year 2020, traffic accidents will take third place in the world for death and disability, ahead of respiratory infections, tuberculosis, war and HIV.

    As an excuse to give preference to highway expansion projects, the MTC likes to remind us of how many millions of productive hours are lost by commuters sitting in congested traffic. But they never tell us what portion of these lost hours are the result of traffic accidents. We must keep reminding our planners that most congestion is caused by accidents that have killed four times as many Americans as were killed in all our nation’s wars from the Revolution until the present day. We can reduce this tragic toll not by increasing our highway capacity, but by providing safe alternatives to the automobile: more public transit and safer conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.

    For additional information on meeting dates, times and locations regarding the RTP, contact the MTC, 101 8th Street, Oakland (across from the Lake Merritt BART station) at 510-464-7700.

    Art Weber is Transportation Chair of the Berkeley Gray Panthers:. 548-9696.

    Free the Buses

    Cars get subsidised by driving on free roads
    it s time transit users got a free ride

    While Congress recently passed a $218.3 billion, six-year highway bill to subsidise more car driving and new suburban sprawl, AC Transit bus service continues to be whittled away. AC Transit buses; which underserves densely populated East Bay cities and its more colourful and poorer ridership; run less frequently, fewer hours, and on fewer routes. Anyone entirely dependent on buses and other public transit for getting around faces increasing isolation. When Berkeley mayoral candidate Don Jelinek recently announced his candidacy, he proposed making AC transit buses free to everyone anywhere within the Berkeley city limits.

    Jelinek has discussed the idea with the AC Transit Board and other officials and believes transit service could be made free by pooling money already spent by large Berkeley employers such as LBL, Alta Bates, Bayer and UC on their own shuttle vans or on subsidies for bus service. There are also state and federal grants available to get the idea off the ground. Santa Clara County already runs free bus service almost entirely with private money

    In return for a steady funding flow, AC Transit would take over the major employer and UC van or bus service, which is currently provided by private services, and provide special, new AC lines servicing the employees or students, plus anyone else who cared to ride. Since AC transit would have a steady source of money from the city, it could afford to work with Berkeley to increase service city wide, including more frequent service and the use of more vans or smaller buses where appropriate.

    Unlike in Seattle and Santa Cruz, where free bus service is provided only in the downtown area mainly to avoid heavy traffic in the business district, Jelinek favors a citywide service so that all of Berkeley s residents could benefit from the free service. In contract, a few years ago Emeryville introduced limited free bus service that only went from BART to major employers, but skipped local residents along San Pablo Avenue. Such free; service is really a further subsidy to commuters and business that seems designed to avoid service to poorer customers.

    Jelinek points out that people might start making short trips within Berkeley by bus instead of car if they didn t have to pay to get on the bus. He hopes free and better bus service would draw people out of their cars and relieve the parking crunch throughout Berkeley.

    International Round-up

    The 1st global street party

    Tens of thousands of people around the world participated in the Global Street Party against globalization on May 16. A sampling of actions elsewhere: Geneva, Switzerland 4000 people wearing costumes and carrying flags and banners wound through the streets attacking banks, jewelry shops and local branches of McDonalds in an effort to Reclaim the Streets from global capitalism. Riot police stopped the demonstration from reaching the world headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Professor Swamy from the Indian Karnataka State Farmers Association addressed the crowd at the barricade The WTO kills people; we must kill the WTO. Moments later, a Mercedes limousine was overturned, sending a flutter of diplomatic papers into the air. The street party raged at a main intersection into the night.

    Prague, Czechoslovakia Over 3,000 people spontaneously marched from the RTS street party to block Prague’s main road after a street party which featured 4 sound systems, 20 DJs, puppet shows, drums, live music, fire performances, etc. Without warning, riot police attached the crowd, starting a riot that lasted hours. Up to 100 people were arrested and severely beaten, 22 police were hospitalized, 3 McDonalds restaurants and a KFC were trashed, 6 cop cars destroyed. One RTS organizer was later arrested and may be facing 2 years in jail. Email letters of support to Slavomir Tesarek, tesarek@usa.net.

    Toronto, Canada About 500 people reclaimed a major downtown street for an hour with dancing, puppets, drumming, children drawing chalk pictures on the street and balloons until police with knives and horses waded into the celebration to pop the balloons (!) and arrest a number of party-goers. Four were charged with crimes including one who suffered a broken arm, apparently in police custody.

    Sydney, Australia About 4,000 people reclaimed the streets in the largest RTS event yet in Australia. The party featured 3 stages (Rock, Central Techno and Hip-Hop/Raggae/Dub), 25 foot tall tripods blocking the street, carpets, sofas, food fundraiser, skateboard rail, five terminal sidewalk internet station, sandstone sculptors, poets, fire twirlers, street gardeners, recycling and RTS supplied rubbish bins. Police were on hand but didn’t stop the party. Berlin, Germany Over 1000 people, in three groups, some on bikes, came together in the center of Berlin at the same moment for Berlin RTS. The party blocked a road crossing with a huge soundsystem, a drum group, furniture, etc. The party included dancing, drinking, volleyball, chess and artistical stuff. Because of media reaction to police violence on May Day, only 3 people were arrested and only a handful hit by cops. The police were taken by surprise by the protest.

    Tel Aviv, Israel About 500 people reclaimed a major road with a rave and mobile sound system in a van. The party had a police permit to be near the location of the party and when they poured into the street, the cops were powerless to stop them.

    Turku, Finland About 2000 people, marching from different locations, joined up to reclaim a city block of road in the central city, including one of the main bridges over the river. An advance action group blocked the street before the marches arrived. Banners and flags hung from the bridge and the police didn’t interfere: no problem with your illegal demo, but please a big less volume.

    Utrecht, Netherlands 800 people blocked a six land highway with a street rave and a wild dance party for about five hours. The police didn’t interfere and even helped set-up the generator for the sound system. Valencia, Spain About 300 people reclaimed the Streets for 5 hours. First, we thought to take the market square, in the traffic-polluted heart of the city. But this wasn’t possible, only for half an hour, because the police isn’t a body which is made to dance. Later the party moved throughout the city, blocking streets and visiting the Virgin Mary at the Cathedral, who also didn’t dance.

    York, UK 250 people blockaded the street, drummed and listened to a bike powered sound system.

    Brisbane, Australia Police, some on horses, arrested a number of people, seized the sound system and towed it away, but the street party proceeded with drumming and whistling.

    Ljubljana, Slovenia About 40 people reclaimed the streets with a Critical Mass ride. The group had such a good time that more rides were planned for the rest of the summer.

    Tallinn, Estonia 50 cyclists and pedestrians blocked a 6 lane road where a cross-walk had been removed the previous year and replaced by fences, requiring bikers and pedestrians to walk half a mile to cross the road. Their banner red Kellele kiirteed, kellele piirded (Some get highways, others get fences). Lyon, France 200 people with costumes, bikes, signs and a float marched through the streets before blocking a road with a tripod. Police forced the crowd off the street into a park, where people danced and splashed in a fountain.

    Stockholm, Sweden People with drums and flags marched through the streets for an hour and then danced in a park. The anarchists of Stockholm were more colorful than ever before.

    Birmingham, UK London RTS, which called the Global Street Party, organized May 16′s largest party at the site of the G8 international meeting of world leaders. 8,000 people, some dressed as clowns with cream pies, reclaimed a traffic circle for several hours near the G8 meeting to laugh in the face of global capitalism. Ha Ha Ha. A huge kite with the names of other cities hosting street parties flew above the festivities. Police in riot gear were more obnoxious than at past RTS gatherings and one of them got a pie in the face for their efforts. A car abandoned in the midst of the gathering was flipped and trashed but, after much discussion, not set alight. Thanks to London RTS for organizing an amazing international outpouring of rage. When was the last time an international protest of this scale happened with such a minimal amount of work and central bureaucracy? The only question now is: when is the next schedule and how many cities will have parties next time?