Tag Archives: informal economy

Behold! The Urban Miner

State minimum wage rules for all urban miners, now!
Note: The following was written in 1994 by John Imani, an organic intellectual genius, community member, and revolutionary from Los Angeles.
Below you will find an analysis of one of the workers of the informal economy–booted out of the ‘real’ economy (in the second circuuit, Production)–as capitalism can no longer use all of us as workers, i.e. the output of production outstrips the increase in population, more is produced with fewer workers.  The expelled, the exo-industrial, workers form ‘the reserve army of labor’.
These workers are called “scavengers”, “bums”, “dumpster divers” and worse.
And yet these workers cannot be fired.  They set their own hours and write their own checks .   We must recognize these workers as part of us.  We must salute these comrades who do this distasteful and dirty work that benefits us all through recycling. We must recognize and defend these workers and all workers in the ‘informal’ economy who are trying to scratch out a living, in this case, by ‘mining’ recyclables from our trash.
This paper was originally written in 1994 and there is nothing in it that I would change save that I would have added a call for state minimum wage rules being applied to this sector.  The industry itself is a product of the state with its imposition of the CRV.
Behold!  The Urban Miner:

THE URBAN MINER, AN EXO-INDUSTRIAL PROLETARIAN

 “The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society.”[1]

Urban Miner Mr Joseph Kemp, 84, Los Angeles, CA

Three o’clock in the morning and the protesting squeal of unsteady metal wheels overcoming friction, gravity and a thousand miles of heavy usage grows louder and then slows to a stop.  This is followed by the squish of plastic bags being lifted, poked, probed and opened.  There is the clank of metal and the clash of glass.  After a pause…the by-now familiar sound of the bags as they are returned to their former environs.  Then the plaintive rattle of the wheels again picks up its solitary refrain and fades on into the night.  It is Tuesday.  Trash pick-up day.  Asleep before the chickens and now awaking the rooster up, an Urban Miner is at work.

“The proletariat created by the breaking up of the bands of feudal retainers and by the forcible expropriation of the people from the soil…were turned en masse into beggars, robbers, vagabonds…The fathers of the present working class were chastised for their  enforced transformation into vagabonds and paupers.”[2]

He punches no clock but is obedient to the timepiece of necessity.  His stem is wound tight by the dicta of the pitiable piece-work wage he is paid.  He goes off to no factory, no shop, no store. Neither does he work at home.  His ‘office’ is the not-so-great-outdoors which if he is ‘successful’, that is if he is to continue to scratch out a living, he will navigate with both the wary skill of a frontier scout and the fears and dread of a gold-rush prospector who is down to his last biscuit, his last can of beans and winter acoming on.

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What is the role of Marxists in an Economic Crisis?

“The day after the UAW pushed through the contract—claiming it would prevent the company from declaring bankruptcy and save jobs—the number three US automaker filed for Chapter 11 protection and released plans to close eight plants and eliminate another 3,500 jobs.”

“Organizing a fightback using some of the militant tactics of the ‘30s like eviction blockades, mass protests, and strikes with fighting pickets is the only way we can effectively resist. ”

Here are two articles, each one illustrating a different approach to resisting massive capitalist crisis.

In the face of crisis in the 1930s, the Communist Party refused to surrender to circumstances, organizing creatively to stop evictions in the communities, to organize labor in untraditional ways (through a new union federation called the CIO) and to involve the whole working class in its work (e.g. organizing the unemployed despite the contracting economy, organizing sharecroppers, making conscious efforts to reach out to and organize black workers, etc). Nothing they did was perfect, but these strategies demonstrate the creative spirit the left so severely lacks today.

For example, the union movement has no far-left participation within it. The left has no roots in the working class, be they unionized or not. This creates a situation in which UAW can get away with telling its members to accept cuts in pay and benefits and claim that resistance would be futile because workers have no leverage. The defeatism is justified by conjuring up the danger of businesses going bankrupt or moving overseas. When the working class lacks “leverage” in the form of a high demand for their labor, political consciousness and militancy becomes their most valuable asset.

It’s the job of Marxist militants to bring that consciousness to the workers, whether they are blue-collar workers, like in the auto industry, welfare recipients, white-collar computer industry workers, soldiers or veterans, informal economy day-laborers like maids or nannies, or students. With class consciousness comes solidarity, and solidarity generates not only deep commitments to struggle, but also opens up many more paths to action, helping the proletariat redefine the terrain of battle and outflank the capitalist enemy (and supposed progressives in union bureaucracies, non-profit organizations, and of course the Democratic Party). Tthis is the reason why, objectively, internationalism, ant-sexism, anti-racism, pro-ecology, etc., are fused with true proletarian class consciousness. The internalization of these principles creates more unity and opens up options to exploit capitalism’s most vulnerable points at any given time. Some have confused these areas of struggle as alternatives to class struggle, but really they should be seen as extensions of class struggle.

Everything from sexism and racism and ecological destruction are products of class societies and capitalism, even it didn’t generate them in the first place, sure capitalizes on them to increase exploitation and derive profits. what left group is organizing (not just theorizing) along anti-capitalist, class based anti-racism or environmental protection? what organization is doing this with the goal of seizing the means of production, knowing that unless the way we produce, distribute, and consume is thoroughly democratized and socialized, the basis will never exist for any of the cultural and ideological revolutions we know are crucial components of a real communist revolution?

Here are the articles:

White House relies on UAW to ram through GM Job Cuts, Concessions By Jerry White 19 May 2009

Organize and Fight Back – 1930s Struggles of the Unemployed Hold Lessons for Today May 18, 2009 By Jesse Lessinger

“Organizing a fightback using some of the militant tactics of the ‘30s like eviction blockades, mass protests, and strikes with fighting pickets is the only way we can effectively resist. “

“The day after the UAW pushed through the contract—claiming it would prevent the company from declaring bankruptcy and save jobs—the number three US automaker filed for Chapter 11 protection and released plans to close eight plants and eliminate another 3,500 jobs.”


Here are two articles, each one illustrating a different approach to resisting massive capitalist crisis.

In the face of crisis in the 1930s, the Communist Party refused to surrender to circumstances, organizing creatively to stop evictions in the communities, to organize labor in untraditional ways (through a new union federation called the CIO) and to involve the whole working class in its work (eg organizing the unemployed despite the contracting economy, organizing sharecroppers, making conscious efforts to reach out to and organize black workers, etc). nothing they did was perfect, but it demonstrated the creative spirit the left so severely lacks.

for example, the union movement has no far-left participation within it. the left has no roots in the working class, be they unionized or not. this creates a situation in which UAW can get away with telling its members to accept cuts in pay and benefits and claim that resistance would be futile because workers have no leverage. the defeatism is justified by conjuring up the danger of businesses going bankrupt or moving overseas.

when the working class lacks “leverage” in the form of a high demand for their labor, political consciousness and militancy becomes their most valuable asset. its the job of marxist militants to bring that consciousness to them, whether they in a blue collar job like auto, welfare recipients, are white collar computer industry workers, soldiers or veterans, informal economy day laborers maids or nannies, or students. with class consciousness comes solidarity, and solidarity generates not only deep commitments to struggle, but also opens up many more paths to action, helping the proletariat redefine the terrain of battle and outflank the capitalist enemy (and supposed progressives in union bureaucracies, non-profit organizations, and of course the Democratic Party). this is the reason why, objectively, internationalism, ant-sexism, anti-racism, pro-ecology, etc are fused with true proletarian class consciousness. The internalization of these principles creates more unity and opens up options to exploit capitalism’s most vulnerable points at any given time.

some have confused these areas of struggle as alternatives to class struggle, but really they should be seen as extensions of class struggle. everything from sexism and racism and ecological destruction are products of class societies and capitalism, even it didnt generate them in the first place, sure capitalizes on them to increase exploitation and derive profits.

what left group is organizing (not just theorizing) along anti-capitalist, class based anti-racism or environmental protection? what organization is doing this with the goal of seizing the means of production, knowing that unless the way we produce, distribute, and consume is thoroughly democratized and socialized, the basis will never exist for any of the cultural and ideological revolutions we know are crucial components of a real communist revolution?

/////////

White House relies on UAW to ram through GM job cuts, concessions

By Jerry White
19 May 2009
Organize and Fight Back – 1930s Struggles of the Unemployed Hold Lessons for Today
May 18, 2009
By Jesse Lessinger