Interview: Out of the Bedroom
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Legal: The Fantasy of Choice
Politics: Labor Pains
Economics: Economics and the Public Purpose
Corporate: House of Horrors
History: Clash Of Cultures
International: Childs Play
Culture: Folk You Mate!
Review: Last Holeproof Hero
The Locker Room
Contract With Australia
Clash Of Cultures
Who Gives You Work and Why Should You Do It? asked The Clash in one of their many classic songs, The Call Up.
Some years earlier Joe Strummer and Mick Jones had expressed their view of work slightly differently (in New Boots and Contracts) but with a similar message:
You gotta drag yourself to work
Here I go again. In a line that WorkChoices makes accurate (from Career Opportunities):
If they wanna get me, well, I got no choice
Precarity is a theme that has been developed around May Day in Europe, at least since 2000 as they face up to what workers in Australia also now see as the normal notion of work: casual, part time and precarious. At the same time, the opposite of precarity is regular wages and stable housing. But this supposed 'opposite' to precarity is often just another version of it. The privileges of enjoying this material security is at the cost of everything else - your time, life, energy, integrity, creativity and autonomy."
The precarity network has spread to many countries, but the theme remains the same. A quick look at precarity.info shows the call:
This Mayday we call for freedom of movement across borders for everyone and the right to stay and work in the country of their choosing, with access to all the benefits and freedoms available to that population. We reject an immigration system which allows the movement of goods but not people, of the rich but not the poor; which forces migrants, refugees and asylum seekers into a choice between destitution and illegal, often dangerous work.
Unions are learning to organize precarious workers but they are not dealing nearly well enough with a precarious planet.
The final lines of The Call Up push us to another way of thinking:
At fifty five minutes past eleven
It is 55 minutes past 11 for the humans on this planet, and May Day the day in human history when the workers, the maginalised and oppressed have gathered to celebrate their release from the shackles of work, if only for a few hours, or to protest their continued immersion in an industrial oppressive system that traps us into a capitalist system that is now signaling that it will destroy the planet as we know it rather than sacrifice the right for the few to exploit the many.
Workers and peasants have suffered many defeats in the years since the working classes began May Day marches in the 1880s and 1890s. But they have not stopped organizing and generating new waves of resistance. The resurgence of alternatives is happening in Latin America, following the defeat of the Sandinistas (Again, The Clash celebrated their initial victory on an extraordinary triple album) after the years of violence and boycott inflicted by the Reagan Administration. The Zapatista revolt, begun in 1991 was the first signal of the rise of the precarious against 'El Norte'. Hugo Chavez is using his oil revenues for the people, to the horror of the US. The Venezuelans have also come to the aid of Cubans, and the results of elections in Bolivia and Chile (the Friedmanite horror that began in 1972 finally overcome perhaps) show a rising confidence and demand for a new way, not one that cements precariousness or that cements regimented factory labour, whether in an office, on a farm, at your home or on the street, but one that allows people to be productive in the truest sense, with their creativity released from the bonds of their bosses, to imaginer a build a world that can survive and thrive.
That many around the world see Chavez's approach as a way forward is highlighted by Tariq Ali in the current New Left Review:
Chávez has visited the major countries in every continent, embarrassing some of his hosts by demanding a global front against imperialism. His hour-long interview on al-Jazeera had an electric impact on 26 million Arab viewers. It received the station's largest ever email response-tens of thousands-with the bulk of them posing a simple question: why can't the Arab world produce a Chávez?
If we demand less than this, then our world will whither and die, as the coral reefs are already doing as our seemingly insatiable demands for more move the planet to the brink.
Unions have carried the working class banner for many years, but to continue to do so requires giving "power to imagination" as the May 68 slogan said. To demand, as that early May Day speaker William Morris put it, Useful Work instead of Useless Toil embraces a denial of the power of the energy industry, the military powers and those who seek to deny workers everything but a right have a job with whatever conditions an employer wants.
May Day has always been a truly international celebration and protest against the industrialization of our lives and we must continue to make it a space to demand, as the French protestors of May 68 did, "No replastering, the structure is rotten."
May Day is our window to open a new way of seeing and acting that we need to leap through to chart a new course for a better world. We need to redefine work to re-imagine the world.
See these spaces for a clearer picture:
May 68 info and outline at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_1968
For the lyrics of The Clash: http://londonsburning.org/main_lyrics.html
Tariq Ali's excellent "Mid Point in the Middle East is at http://www.newleftreview.net/NLR27201.shtml
HISTORY AND CULTURE EVENTS COMING UP
Work, Industrial Relations and Popular Culture Conference
Work and Industry Futures QUT, and the Department of Industrial Relations Griffith University are convening a one-day conference that explores Work, Industrial Relations and Popular Culture.
David Pope, (http://www.scratch.com.au) the cartoonist behind the Heinrich Hinze cartoons will be Keynote Speaker with his presentation "Is the pen mightier than s356? Cartoons and Work"
We welcome any paper that explores the manner in which popular culture is used by unions, management or policy makers or alternatively, how work and industrial relations is represented within popular culture.
Sub-themes for the conference include:
Call for Papers.
The convenors would welcome participants to submit proposed titles earlier to assist in preparations. For further information please contact Keith Townsend ([email protected]) or David Peetz ([email protected])
Rekindling the Flames of Discontent: How the Labour and Folk Movements Work Together
A CONFERENCE / DINNER / CONCERT
The Brisbane Labour History Association is holding a Conference/Dinner/Concert on Saturday 23 September. This event will explore the historical relationship between the labour movement and the folk movement in Australia with a particular emphasis on Queensland.
Why? To celebrate the history of the interaction between the Folk and Labour movements, and promote its longevity.
When? Saturday 23 September. Conference from 1pm. Concert from 7pm.
Where? East Brisbane Bowls Club, Lytton Rd, East Brisbane, Next to Mowbray Park
It is still in the formative stages, but to date the following are confirmed:
1-5pm CONFERENCE (will include music with the presentations):
5 - 7pm Drinks followed by DINNER
7 - 11pm CONCERT
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