Since this article was written, most factories in Italy and the rest of Europe have shut down, but not until worker protests forced them to. In the US, auto plants are still operating and have only promised more cleaning and safe practices as the UAW pressures them to close.
“We’re not cannon fodder!” cried millions across Italy as wildcat strikes erupted in every major industry to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease. Workers were protesting government and corporate attempts to force them to keep the factories open, risking their lives in unsafe factories so the bosses could jam them into cramped assembly lines to pump out profits.
“Fuck the police” or “let’s build cooperatives.” Does either anarchist slogan point to a pathway for changing the structure of society? This is the question we must ask in deciding whether to follow the anarchist road or aim for communist revolution. Is it essential to aim to replace the capitalist rulers of the world or is it enough to poke at the enforcers of their power or reorder the lives of small groups of individuals in an ideal way and hope for a gradual evolution of society? We hope to raise this broad question while not attempting an exhaustive investigation of the long history of multiple variations of anarchism.
One of the most heartbreaking encounters of my life occurred in 2011 when my husband and I were on a Global Exchange environmental justice trip to Ecuador. One stop on our trip was to the area of a former oil drilling town called Lago Agrio (“sour lake”) in eastern Ecuador. We met a family that lived close to a toxic waste pit from an oil drilling site of Texaco, which drilled there for twenty years beginning in 1972.
The metropolitan Washington DC area contingent of Doctors for Camp Closures (D4CC) demonstrated at the Customs and Border Patrol headquarters to protest racist immigration policies that divide and deport migrants along the Texas/Mexico border. Eight hundred and fifty thousand (850,000) to one million (1,000,000) people were arrested at the border in 2019, including 50,000 families and 76,000 children traveling alone! The US Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program requires asylum seekers and others to stay in Mexico while the US processes their claims. US immigration sent back approximately 50,000 people to Mexico to live in squalid and dangerous areas while they waited. (Washington Post, October 8, 2019; PBS News Hour, October 30, 2019).
On October 24, 130 mechanics and bus and garage workers at the Cinder Bed Road Metro garage in Lorton, Virginia walked out to demand equitable pay and benefits. Like auto and food industry workers, they receive lower wages and higher health insurance costs than other Metro employees performing the same jobs who are part of the same union.
WMATA, or Metro, is the publicly funded transportation system of bus and subway routes serving the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 represents the 8,000 workers who operate out of bus garages, offices, and subway stations. Members earn relatively high wages, health benefits, and pensions compared to other jobs that don’t require advanced education.
On Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Philadelphia, PA over 80 members at the American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting and several local activists from Puentes de Salud (Bridges of Health, an NGO) protested detention centers, deportations and borders with a spirited march to the ICE office four blocks from the Convention Center, chanting “No Borders!” to recognize that borders only help the capitalists and divide workers. Thirty (30) marchers signed up to be contacted in the future to strengthen the fight against racist deportations and ICE.