Something Is Building
There's a reason authoritarians are growing more bold: around the world the people are rising up against tyrannical regimes and despotic corporations
The protests this week at the Foxconn industrial complex in China were explosive. Scores of workers clashed against security forces in a display that looked more like the labor battles of the 19th and early 20th century than anything modern. Eventually, the situation grew so out of control that the company began offering unhappy employees the equivalent of $1,400 dollars to quit their job and vacate the premises.
To understand the conflict, it’s important to remember this is the company responsible for assembling the iPhone, one of the most influential and lucrative products in the world, and expectations and conditions are so unbearable that overworked, overburdened workers often choose to take their own lives rather than continue laboring. In fact, the problem got so bad the company began installing suicide nets to prevent workers from ending their suffering.
Full disclosure: I am writing this article, critical of Foxconn, Apple, and a whole host of similar arrangements with an iPhone literally inches away from my laptop. I say this because our reaction to these things is often to shut off because of our own complicity. It is borderline, if not totally, impossible to be ethical under capitalism. The entire system is designed to provide luxuries and goods and services that are at a distance from the exploitation that make them possible. This is important when we discuss this situation, when we spread information to the people being exploited that we need to build our movement.
Meanwhile, on Friday, Amazon workers around the world staged massive protests against the retail monopoly. It was a brilliant gambit and brilliantly timed to interfere with Black Friday operations, which are central to some of the most exploitative and cruel practices at the heart of this system. In the same way we have been watching a Right Wing authoritarian movement build and construct symbiotic operations, we witnessed (or rather, we didn’t fully witness because our media largely blacks out these events as they share a corporate-centric view of events with the corporations being protested.
On an almost weekly basis now supposedly powerless workers have been troubling these corporate behemoths, including Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Starbucks, supposedly some of the most powerful entities in world and human history. The people are racking up victories. Actions of solidarity like strikes and the forming of unions are rising rapidly and seem to be hinting at a future crescendo, which would mean an all-out showdown with concentrated capital the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Progressive Era, if not the Era of Labor.
Simply put, people are tired of this shit.
History tells us there is a zone of acceptibility, or rather, a “Goldilocks” region of labor relations in which the capitalists and their businesses can have profitability, production, and also a measure of power or leverage over the people. This happens because the people are given decent standards of living, including acceptable pay, perks, benefits, and a society that at least seems to work or trend toward fairness. The truth, unfortunately, is that much of this is predicated on the exploitation of Others, including the workers at Foxconn or in so-called “Second” and “Third World” countries, suffering which is beyond our perception or experience.
It does not have to be this way, and the burgeoning People’s Movement, which has grown in those “Second” and “Third World” places where exploitation has been especially cruel and made it necessary to push back, is pressing against this expectation. In China, the people are pushing back. In Iran, the people are pushing back. In Russia, the people are pushing back. And in America, where the “acceptable” conditions have long since been replaced by systemic exploitation, cruelty, and corruption, the people are pushing back.
Have hope. Because something is building. There is a palpable feeling that, in action and in thought, in physical reality but also the psychic space, that things are changing and moving toward democracy and a movement that will ultimately, thankfully, change the world.
And so, unfortunately, this also brings us to the subject of rising Authoritarianism and the growing openness with which they are spreading hate and fear and fascistic ideas.