Stan here. I’ve been AWOL at Insurgent American and racist initiatives of Representative John Sensenbrenner (R-WI).
It is a new hybrid culture that can be described structurally as well.
Our work is often slave-like in appearance. Six of us whacking away in a row with mattocks and shovels. Invisible to the owners of houses and yards so big and so manicured that the owners couldn’t care for them themselves even if they were so inclined.
When I made a mistake two days ago, I said “my bad” to the boss, and he got the last word by saying, “My time.” That hit home. Time, in life, is a non-renewable resource. He pays me… us… and he owns us for that period of time. Labor theory of value is fine stuff; but here is the real relation: we are rent-a-slaves. XXXX told me so himself. They get this.
The American Civil War was fought between two forces to settle the question of whether American development would proceed with slaves or rent-a-slaves. We are not paid for our work. We don’t have a list that says: $X for digging dead oak leaves out of someone’s azaleas, $Y for cutting the grass in neat lines, $Z for installing a French drain. What every minute on the clock has in common with every other minute is that we are available to obey.
These folks are proletarian and a subject nation and an emerging new nationality… and they are what Andrew MacKillop called “the dream of every reptile-minded capitalist: throwaway labor.” Hard work that requires flexible hours (based on weather and contracts) is best done with labor that is unlikely to go to the authorities when corners are cut.
Many days, we come together with other members of this throwaway proletarian nationality, at the little tienda-restaurants now dotting every town and spread throughout every city. Here is where they grab a taste of home for the 30 minutes they are given for lunch.
If anyone every wants to reach out with a subversive message to the maximum number of this class, just map the tiendas, prepare something on a CD, mix it with popular Latino music (discs reproduce really cheaply), and post the Spanish-speaking distributors at the tiendas from 11 AM through 2 PM every day for a week. Have the CD validate the experiences of those folks with interviews and-or commentary, and someone would have a beginning for building networks (I still think of that film, A Day Without a Mexican).
On another (but related) topic, this job never fails to remind me of what we are doing to the biosphere, and how these net effects on ecosystems conceal the core-periphery eco-relation. Every day, I thank Mark Jones (RIP) for putting me onto Alf Hornborg. We go to the grocery store and buy melons grown as monocrops in Sonora (where growers are subject to fewer environmental and labor protections, ergo we ship our production wastes into the periphery as we cream off the value from the periphery into the core.); then the very people who lost their land, when monocrops swallowed up small producers, are now building, painting, maintaining, and decorating our real estate.
This job gives you a whole new perspective on “beauty.” Beautiful places, even those of the “progressive” petit bourgeoisie in an academic haven like Durham, take on a different aspect when these beautiful houses and properties represent the work that makes them beautiful.
How related is the beauty myth of physical “property” to the beauty myth decried by feminists? How had do we (have someone) work to ensure that what we control and consume is simplified, manicured, idealized-and-subjugated?
Money is an entitlement to the energies of others. When you have a lot of money, you get a lot of entitlements. ABC, eh? Except that groups who are nationally dis-identified with the core have to give more for the same entitlement. Unequal exchange… Hornborg again. Only its inside our political boundaries now.
This has political implications, doncha think? But we may not know what they are yet. As we hypothetically send our missionaries over to the mom-an-pop loncherias, all that’s really needed is to raise consciousness of what folks have in common, and why, and to build the relationships. The Blanquist tendencies of many will convince them that “we” can organize actual programs and agendas.
This runs contrary to nature. Nature self-organizes. It does not attempt to read tea leaves. Raise the consciousness and make the relations. The system will provide the agenda and the program soon enough. Another Sensenbrenner outrage is gestating somewhere. Almost all the freshmen Democrats in the US House of Representatives campaigned last year against “illegal immigration.” Most of the Republicans are already there.
Rambling on here, these guys need these jobs. There is no reason they would leave their families back in Guanajuato if not to make the wages. Unequal exchange between Mexican workers and US workers has created a condition wherein these new friends of mine can take advantage of that unequal exchange by moving north and bargaining for the post-NAFTA in-between wage.
It is the existence of peripheries, as one pole of a relation with the core, that acts as a safety valve within the core. Contrary to the hoary notion that flipping the class script in the metropoles will open the door to a new future, we know now that the genuine independence of the peripheries is likely to precipitate the downfall of core power. We have to hack at tentacles.
Those in the core, and the working class itself, is trapped inside the contradiction of capital. It’s an unequal relation, this connection between worker and owner, but it is also mutually dependent.
“Tell no lies,” cautioned Amilcar Cabral. “Mask no difficulties.”
(The peripheral nations are only one periphery. We have layers of racial-national peripheries here inside the US; and let’s not forget the most universal micro-social core-periphery relation of all: gender.)
Right now, we are seeing — with the post-NAFTA migrations — as profound a demographic shift in the US as Reconstruction or the New Deal. What do we know about this? What can we know about this? What is… to be done?
So there are a few thoughts from my new proletarian job (which I need, even though it makes me dread every morning… yippee, I get to do backbreaking work to pretty up places for rich people to live!!!). I’m way past too old for this; and thank goodness it’s raining today. But if these random ruminations can provoke a discussion or two, it may be worthwhile after all.