UPDATE: On Tuesday it was announced that the strike has spread to 28 stores in 12 states. Fucking Yes.
Last Thursday began Walmart’s first ever strike at several stores in Southern California, which was met with some media buzz and an endorsement by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, as well as (inevitable) retaliation by management. Now, however, it’s getting realer, according to the UFCW website:
We have just received exciting news that the Walmart strike that took place last Thursday has spread. Inspired by their coworkers strike in the Los Angeles area, workers in the Dallas area and in Maryland went on strike this morning to protest Walmart’s attempts to silence workers who speak out for change. We have also received reports that individuals from around the nation are going on strike at their stores as well.
Nobody can say where this is going, but there is ample opportunity for this to be a burning focal point for the vicious worldwide struggle between exploiter and exploited. Consider the dimensions of this - not only are the retail and warehouse workers treated like cattle, but on top of it all, unsafe working conditions and racial/sexual discrimination, and the apparent uselessness of lawsuits, have provided the icing on the cake for these workers. What needs to be understood, however, is that there’s nothing special about Wal-Mart in this sense – the same problems exist in any workplace (as well as in the domestic sphere where wages are usually nonexistent) and can be tied directly to the historical and material contradictions and resulting social arena of America in particular, and capitalism in general – no, what’s special about Wal-Mart is how fucking huge and impenentrable it seems to be, and how much it is symbolically a cornerstone of the long-term pacification of the majority of its working class.
So what does this mean? It literally all depends on the political forces at play – from the unions to the state (police, etc.) to the organizations and parties that are out there supporting them, or should be if they had any sense. The level of spontaneous unity here is impressive – international Wal-Mart employees are voicing their support and solidarity – so it wouldn’t be wise to dismiss this as simply a bunch of privileged middle-class people looking for more milk from the tits of imperialism. Again, the development of any kind of revolutionary consciousness among the strikers depends very much on who/what leads them politically (and you can guarantee someone is leading them politically), as well as on how the forces of the status quo reacts (and you can guarantee they will react, whether through outright force or through divide/conquer, or both). It could remain a wage-dispute, or it could turn into something more. One thing that should be clear, however, is that a defeat of Wal-Mart is a serious bruise on the face of bourgeois-democratic legitimacy, and that’s no small accomplishment.
It would be nice to see this resistance link up with that of the unemployed and imprisoned black and latino masses, those whose land America has occupied in the Middle-East, women and queer people in all societies suffering under different forms of heterosexual male supremacy, the indigenous peoples, the disabled, etc. The ruling classes are pretty keen on keeping everyone divided though so get ready for a fight if that’s what you’re after.
- The Internet Wizard