Friday, March 17

Nothing to lose but their minds

One of the internet's great pleasures, akin to happening upon unsought information while flipping through a reference book (Brewer's is the absolute best for this), consists in turning up a strange and hitherto unknown website while looking for something completely unrelated.

While searching for information on a think tank (not the Heritage Foundation) in Washington, I came across this strange story:

I worked at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank on Capitol Hill [in Washington DC]. It's a group of attorneys, columnists, whatever, who crank out - daily or weekly or whatever - information. It's printed downstairs, in the Xerox room, and distributed to senators, congressmen, and other influential people. In a couple of cases I delivered packages addressed to Ed Meese. That gives you an idea of what kind of people work there. My basic duties were to collect mail in the mornings from the post office, sort it, and distribute it, and so on. I pretty much did everything myself and I had a lot of responsibility.

I got the job right after high school. I had never heard of the organisation, and just found the job through the newspaper. When I was working there, I would occasionally glance at what they were putting out; the more I read, the more! Thought about it and realised they were doing fucked-up things, like defending business practices in South Africa and U.S. investments there.

They have a big fundraising deal, and when they sent out fundraising requests, people would mail in checks. Sometimes they'd be huge amounts, and sometimes they were piddling. Checks came in from individuals as well as companies. So I'd randomly take an envelope, open it, see how much it was for, and throw it in the shredder. I started doing it more and more. I could tell if it was a check by holding it to the light. If so, I'd toss it, dump it or shred it.
This is an edited extract from Sabotage in the American Workplace by Martin Sprouse taken from

Clicking on the link takes one to a tediously earnest website dedicated to the revenge of the wage worker. It almost reads like a parody of radical dissenting literature, but these groups are so close to self-parodies (probably because they are aping poses and espousing ideas so outworn that their grandparents considered them dopey cliches) that it is hard to tell sometimes.

This example, however, is ridiculous even by the typically low standards of the genre. Some quotes:

"Prole" is short for "proletarian" a word used by Karl Marx to describe the working class under capitalism. We are all the people in this society who do not own property or a business we can make money from, and therefore have to sell our time and energy to a boss--we are forced to work. Our work is the basis of this society.

By this definition, I am a prole. So are most of my friends, who comfortably earn six-figure salaries working for someone else. Not being blessed with a substantial family legacy, I too am "forced to work." Marxism never promised to abolish work; what would such a society look like? Something like an all you can eat buffet, I imagine, but without any cooks.

Work, and the society that grows out of it are alienating and miserable for us. We are constantly fighting against the conditions of our lives.

Welcome to life as a responsible adult. Do you think that workers in the Soviet Union, or Mao's China, or Castro's Cuba, or the Kims' North Korea felt, or feel, any differently?

Simply standing up for our own interests brings us into conflict with bosses, bureaucrats, landlords, police and politicians everywhere.

Yeah, especially if those "interests" include slacking off, not paying your rent, and breaking the law. Society's funny that way. Again, I'm pretty sure things aren't much better outside the capitalist West. I don't think standing up for your own interests goes over too well in the workers' paradises of China, Cuba, or North Korea. Or at least it didn't for the dissidents rotting in their prisons.

We are not just the working class; we are the working class that struggles to do away with work and class, and the society built around them. The experience of those who are forced to work, and who struggle against the society based on work, creates certain kinds of ideas.

Because a society based on not-working would be a real pleasure dome. Sort of like when parents tell their kids they can eat as much candy as they want, and the kids end up gorging themselves until they are sick. Only there wouldn't be any candy. Not wanting to work doesn't make you a political visionary, it just makes you a lazy malcontent.

When we are actively fighting for our own interests, these ideas solidify into a subversive, anti-capitalist perspective. This has at times been called "communism" or "anarchism".

Also "idiocy" and "treachery."

To that end, this site is a collection of writings from a subversive and anti-capitalist perspective on theory as well as history. Some of them use needlessly obscure language, and parts of them are definitely outdated. But they all raise important issues for the modern day prole. Hopefully they will be useful to you.

Which brings me back to the Heritage Foundation story. At no point does the author claim that he was badly treated, or underpaid, or in any way disadvantaged by working in the foundation's mail room. In fact, he seemed quite happy with his job, which he found right after high school, without any further qualifications, until he found out that the foundation promulgated policies he disagreed with. (Incidentally, how long did this take? How hard would it have been to find out what his prospective employer actually did?) His workplace sabotage had nothing to do with a proletarian revolution, and everything to do with straightforward criminality. I don't agree with the political views of some of my co-workers, but that doesn't justify my taking things from their offices. This anecdote confirms my suspicion that and similar organizations are just playing at being serious intellectual movements; their real purpose is to provide a cover for the immature and lazy to pretend that their selfish posturing is part of a noble and altruistic struggle. Most young radical ideology is just a self-sanctioning excuse for shirking responsibility and ignoring reality. It is the essence of childishness and utterly boring.

Please get in touch if you would like to translate this into another language.

No response yet to my request to have the page translated into adult English.