This story comes to us from MAS member SN Nappalos about experiences working in healthcare. –
Fabiola closed her eyes. On the television, a preacher spoke a prayer while the patient rested quietly in the bed. That day Fabiola was fired, or terminated as management called it.
The supervisor crept in quietly, and reported finding Fabiola with her eyes closed. He found a witness and returned to see her standing at the sink, the patient still asleep. Security guards entered the room shortly, and she was escorted from the building.
She was probably the best worker in the whole place, a hospital filled with tired eyes, managerial malice, and worn furniture. Fabiola was a favorite of the director, being asked to do special jobs to make patients happy, and serving on management boards for “continuous improved”. Her fair skin and tendency to speak French rather than Kreyol gave clues to her history. Everyone loved her; she could cross the lines of the clicks that can break up hospitals.
I was one of the senior staff on the unit, having been one of the few people to stay longer than a year. Constant abuse, screaming, and the futility of serving smothered any desire to stay, let alone fight.
These situations were not unfamiliar. I had worked, organized, and tried to build up counterpower in similar environments for more than a decade. The past couple years I worked to change the way we related to our work, our daily experience of work, through talking with coworkers, agitating, taking people aside, and stimulating small acts of resistance. The struggle was to find those situations that would allow us to act together and show us our common power.
Fabiola’s firing initiated a chain of banal events. Words spoken, grievances filed, committees chatted, people taken aside; business as usual. Yet she represented too much of a loved figure and too good a worker for the firing to stick. It was too egregious an error for the union to pass up, while normally they couldn’t be bothered. They wanted to file a grievance, and to let her wait a year before seeing any compensation. Let the law have its due course as God is willing.
A few people on my unit were furious. We had discussed fighting back before, because they were the ones who would speak up at meetings when management said we would have to work harder; they had let them know patients would suffer, and it was unjust. I had identified them, and tried to catalyze action; with no results.
Now they were in a different place, actively demanding we do something,. We came up with the idea of a petition, which we would deliver to management. It was clear we didn’t have the power to strike or do something disruptive to force their hand. People were concerned, but didn’t believe they could fight back.
These nurses then independently went throughout the whole hospital collecting hundreds of signatures, breaking the contract and reorganizing their day independently to take action. The union immediately short cut the activity and got ahold of the petitions, delivering them themselves. In doing so, they stopped the direct action, which was against their idea of working together with management, and it showed their higher up union bosses that they were doing things, even though the workers organized it.
Fabiola got her job back, but it was a year later. Her case was made harder because she changed her story a few times. Still, the pressure of not being able to find employees who could do what she did and the unity of the whole hospital against the firing made management swallow humble pie and bring her back.
You didn’t see any new organization or militancy spring up. The union was not moved, and this relatively small fight won no lasting gains. Outside the union, there were changes though. Fabiola and the small group of us who organized the petition were transformed by that struggle. Small gifts were exchanged, and almost tearful words spilled when she came back to work. You can see the loving and soft exchanges between those of us, who unknowingly ended up coming together. Trust and solidarity were built. Each person involved has become active around the hospital in trying to push for an alternative in small ways. Though the action was small, and channeled into bureaucracy, it was the social networks that advanced, and which have created space for further breaks from the normal means we have to settle disputes.
Our blog has moved to http://www.queerswithoutborders.com/wordpress. Check us out there.
Book Review of Black Flame: The revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism. Oakland, CA: AK Press. By Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt.
by Deric Shannon
At the outset, after reading Black Flame, it's impossible not to reflect on the massive amount of research that such a work must have entailed. The book is a narrative about anarchism and, with interest in anarchism on the rise worldwide, it could not have come at a better time. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, we need new narratives of the anarchist tradition to understand where we've been. Secondly, Black Flame contains critiques of the ways that "radical" circles contemporarily have too often turned away from the radical class politics that have always defined the socialist movement.
Ironically enough, this is both a major strength of the book, but also, in my opinion, one of its weaknesses. As Schmidt and van der Walt state their case early in the book, "'(c)lass struggle' anarchism, sometimes called revolutionary or communist anarchism, is not a type of anarchism; in our view, it is the only anarchism" (19--emphasis theirs). This essentially leads to the authors deciding throughout the beginning of the book who the "real" anarchists are and who gets defined out.
Again, there are strengths and weaknesses with this approach.
Queer is many things. It’s a critique of identity– critiquing/questioning the boxes and categories we are given to cage ourselves with. Example, we can be gay, straight, or bi. These are the choices we have. But they don’t describe reality and they do more to contain us than to liberate us. (Although, I have to note that people do find empowerment and community within these identities and I don’t mean to downplay that.) It’s a critique of the construction of sexuality– formed by the ideas we have to conceive of it. If who you fuck is what you are (i.e., “gay”) — then that’s a sexual identity. Or we can do sexuality differently– it’s not who we are but what we do– our acts.
by Wayne Price
PART I: How Capitalism has created an Ecological, Energy, and Economic Crisis
The post-WWII boom was based on cheap oil. But oil is nonrenewable, polluting, and causes global warming. It was "cheap" because the capitalists did not pay to prepare for the day when it would be harder to access oil. We have reached that day, which is one aspect of the worldwide crisis of the return to the epoch of capitalist decay.
Building democratic mass movements in our workplaces and communities should be the strategy for combating the capitalist economic crisis and advancing revolutionary struggle. An alternative economic sector does not have the capacity to win short-term reforms or fundamentally transform society.
Wayne Price and Eric Larsen at the New York Anarchist Bookfair, 4/11/2009