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Commentary :: Labor
Revolting, Occupying and Refusing
30 Jan 2012
Sabotage in the Daily Routine (1)
By Mag Wompel

[This article published in: Graswurzel Revolution 10, 2012 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.//]

Why is it so quiet in Germany? Where are the protests? For years, leftists, sociologists and even politicians marveled at the astonishing acceptance of the crisis consequences and austerity packages. For a long time, there were envious glances of union leftists at western neighbors: “Learn French!” The Greek crisis protests made autonomous hearts beat faster. Again and again the frustrated question was raised: Why aren’t there pretests among us? Is life still too good for us?

Then blow after blow occurred: the rebellions in the Arab world at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 with their partially revolutionary and unexpected successes, their inspiration for a movement of the indignant in Spain, Italy and Portugal and finally the nearly worldwide intensification by the Occupy movement first on Wall Street.

This straw fire expanded incredibly quickly around the world (for example Chile and Israel) and was strong enough to even inflame some in Germany.

These protests are partially ensnared by the media and politics. The criticism of de-democratization through the priority of financial policy and the power of the banks are widespread and taken up in a populist way at the moment. Politics naturally is glad when criticism focuses on businesses which only pursue their trade.

However the protests are also brutally smashed as soon as they prove durable or pass over into praxis, for example the resistance against house evictions and strikes (Oakland, Madrid, Portland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York and Washington) – with the danger of their radicalization.

Only those who really had nothing to lose could occupy for the long term and thrash out decisions in consensus. Thus it was not surprising when the camps – irrespective of the weather situation – shriveled to the jobless and students. Whoever still has a job may come on a holiday or weekend – but hardly thinks of bringing base democratic experiences or human rights demands into the workplace or the daily academic routine.

Occupying also means preserving or defending and often demands a never fulfilled promise of a (capitalist!) “social market economy” against an unfettered capitalism to humanize capitalism. For example, voluntary activity is urged – not pressure to perform or the unjust competitive conditions - and not competition or competitive pressure in themselves. The violated sense of justice was already clear in the Hartz movement [radical German welfare reform combining unemployment benefits and income support, reducing the duration of benefits and ruled unconstitutional by the German Constitutional Court (2)[.

In 2005 “the wide acceptance of the performance-principle and wage-dependence as the only sources of secure existence prove the greatest obstacle for effective united protests and resistance against the Hartz laws. This is true for the union bureaucracy and for most of the (still?) employed and unemployed wage-earners.” (3)

After decades of de-politization, it is cynical to criticize the historical illiteracy of the movement. In almost all areas of life, we are thrown back into the middle Ages!

An anti-capitalist initiative was reserved to relatively small circles. Debate focuses on a social infrastructure available to everyone, not only to the rich.

The demand for the commons (common property and common heritage) goes far beyond de-privatization and aims at a social infrastructure of goods and services that everyone needs and to which everyone is entitled – irrespective of their performance in the capitalist system. (4)

This unconditional nature of social rights is directed directly against the capitalist exploitation pressure opposing them.

Genuine democracy, common property and justice are impossible as long as the capitalist exploitation pressure is accepted. Until then states, local communities and people can be extorted. Until then exploitation criteria will define what products are made, what services are rendered and for whom, which people are “valuable” and which are “superflu9ous.” Neither human rights nor justice, neither compassion nor character are central. Every attempt at humanizing the capitalist system ends at the limits of exploitability. Whoever accepts these ostensible practical constraints and austerity pressures can now do nothing but denounce morally being taken for a ride – and be taken for a ride in the future.

The real economy must not be judged undifferentiated over against “fictional capital. Instead the real economy should be subjected to a strict analysis like the financial system.

The real economy includes daily over-exploitation, sickening work conditions and humiliation – whether concerning cars, armaments or social pacifiers. The real economy that must be preserved hardly exists, the internationally just, humane and ecological production of products and services necessary to satisfy our daily needs and have a little fun together.

Domestic demand ensures everyday that our needs will not be relieved without regard for practical constraints of the exploitative system, without regard for the financiability and without the roundabout way around the “real economy” to be rescued.

People need goods and infrastructure. They don’t need money, paid labor or a “real economy” unconcerned with these needs. Therefore occupying parks in front of banks is not enough.

Occupying also means possessing. The symbolism is limited and symptomatic when the “superfluous” and “invisible” re-appropriate public spaces and make themselves visible. Do we really want to possess the banks? Shouldn’t we possess what we really need? Are tents in the cold our dream of beautiful housing?

House evictions amid abundant vacancies ! The Spanish movement occupies empty houses and the US movement meddles more and more in strikes and against foreclosures. The submissiveness of disappointed hopes is abandoned and business as usual resisted.

True and offensive disobedience must be staged beyond the competition- and exploitation pressure. These pressures must be revealed as system errors.

The power of capitalist over-production and consumption, the economizing of our feelings and needs, our communication and interpersonal relations must be broken in everyday conduct and not only in the parks.

Every little refusal of conformity and competition, every practiced solidarity with the weak and oppressed – at best collectively – can lead to the first step beyond this inhuman and bankrupt system without acceptance and cooperation. (5)

What does it mean concretely?

A protest movement of the real 99% (to me, 70% would be enough!) is desired that – starting from the self-organization practiced in the parks – occupies those institutions that are really socially important. Local transportation, schools and hospitals should be democratized and not only de-privatized.

Every form of refusal of conformity and competition that seeps into the daily academic and occupational routine is desirable – and indispensable for a genuine and not only cosmetic humanization of society.

Every daily act from the greeting of the bus-driver, the boycott of Christmas strawberries to the refusal of sanctions by dismissed workers should be sounded out on its overall social relevance. Who benefits from this job order? What consequences does it have for society and the environment? With whom must I compete? The job orders are increasingly vague with an ever-larger unwritten part.

Mag Wompel ist Labournet-Redakteurin.
(1)Dieser Beitrag versteht sich als eine Aktualisierung von: Wompel, M. (2009): Sabotage im Alltag! Plädoyer für antizyklische, aber alltägliche Blockade der Unternehmens- und Wirtschaftsziele. In: Graswurzelrevolution Nr. 338, April 2009
(2) Wompel, M. (2006): Vom Protest zur Revolte? In: Klassen + Kämpfe. Hrsg. Von der jour fixe initiative Berlin, Unrast-Verlag Münster, Mai 2006, ISBN 3-89771-438-8, S. 167-174
(3) Wompel, M. (2005): Alltagswiderstand und Verweigerung. Perspektiven der Proteste gegen das Verarmungsprogramm der Bundesregierung. In Graswurzelrevolution Nr. 296, Februar 2005
(4) Wompel, M. (2009): Globale Soziale Rechte als Alternative zum Kampf um jeden Arbeitsplatz in RosaLux 2/2009, S. 22-24 (9.000)
(5) Siehe dazu auch Wompel, M. (2011): Wut ist nicht alles - Empörung auch nicht… In: Direkte Aktion vom Sept./Okt. 2011


Video: Moyers & Company, “Winner-Take-All Politics” with Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, Jan 13, 2012, 57 min
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