From the explosion in border walls to the rise of Donald Trump to the books that they've read along the way, Verso authors reflect on one of the most shocking years in recent history in this 2016 review.
With contributions from: Franco Bifo Berardi, Christine Delphy, Keller Easterling, Nick Estes, Liz Fekete, Amber A'Lee Frost, Andrea Gibbons, Owen Hatherley, Eric Hazan, Helen Hester, Karen L. Ishizuka, Reece Jones, Costas Lapavitsas, Andreas Malm, Geoff Mann, Jane McAlevey, Ed Morales, David Roediger Nick Srnicek and Wolfgang Streeck.
Ninety-nine years after the Soviet Revolution the stage is set for precipitation into global civil war. While the financial class exacerbates its agenda fuelling unemployment and social devastation, the dynamics that led to Nazism are deploying worldwide. Nationalists are repeating what Hitler said to the impoverished workers of Germany: rather than as defeated workers, think of yourself as white warriors so you’ll win. They did not win, but they destroyed Europe. They will not win this time neither, but they are poised to destroy the world.
After two centuries of colonial violence, we are now facing the final showdown. As worker’s internationalism has been destroyed by capital globalisation, a planetary bloodbath is getting almost unavoidable.
After centuries of colonial domination and violence, the dominators of the world are now facing a final showdown: the dispossessed of the world are reclaiming a moral and economic reward that the West is unwilling and unable to pay. The concrete historical debt towards those people that we have exploited cannot be paid because we are forced to pay the abstract financial debt.
The year now coming to an end has abounded with bad news on the political front. After a foul and very long debate on how we could ‘strip’ French citizens of their nationality – ultimately reaching the conclusion that this was impossible with regard to both French laws and international conventions – the government abandoned the bill. Immediately after that, a fresh bill was presented to ‘reform’ the labour code, largely getting rid of the majority of the guarantees enjoyed by workers. There was a mass mobilisation against this plan, lasting across the whole spring and part of summer. It opposed demonstrators in all France’s towns and cities to a police which, as the prime minister Manuel Valls put it, ‘had not been given any orders to show restraint’.
This post first appeared in Counterpunch.
Early in the evening during which Donald Trump’s election as president unfolded, I talked to a union activist friend in Wisconsin about something unrelated. In signing off, he said he expected to stay up late seeing if the Democrats regained a Senate seat in the state, Hillary Clinton’s victory being assured. A few hours later, it became clear that Donald Trump had instead carried Wisconsin by a razor-thin margin. Who, MSNBCers wondered, were these hidden Trump voters that delivered in Wisconsin one of the three Rust Belt victories paving Trump’s road to the White House.
Read Part 1 of this May Day excerpt from Philip S. Foner and David R. Roediger's Our Own Time: A History of American Labor and the Working Day here.
Set in this context of continuing struggle over the working day, the FOTLU’s decision to press on with its bold 1884 plan to enforce the eight-hour system with a mass strike on May 1, 1886, was not extravagant. The demand was well timed — raised during a depression which made unemployment an issue and maturing during a recovery which made workers readier to strike without fear for their jobs. Of the seventy-eight FOTLU unions polled in 1885, sixty-nine supported the May 1 plan. Working-class militancy meanwhile grew in early 1886 as the Knights of Labor led the Southwest strike against Jay Gould’s railroad empire and attracted hundreds of thousands of new members.
In celebration of May Day, we present an excerpt from Philip S. Foner and David R. Roediger's Our Own Time: A History American Labor and the Working Day. Read Part 2 here.
(Strikers outside Eddy Bros. Mill in Bay City, MI. Via Bay-Journal)
Albert Parsons. August Spies. Adolph Fischer. George Engel. Michael Schwab. Samuel Felden. Oscar Neebe. Louis Lingg. The names of the victims of the governmental violence which took place after a bomb exploded in Chicago’s Haymarket Square during the unprecedented strike wave of May 1886 deserve pride of place in any account of the movement for a shorter working day during the 1880s. But the very nature of the Haymarket events, with all the excitement and heroism that surround them, has somewhat overshadowed other important considerations in understanding the period and Haymarket itself. This chapter describes Haymarket and its relationship to a continuing tradition of class struggle over hours, to the interaction between skilled and unskilled works, to ethnic interplay in the labor movement, and to the development of new organizational forms.