This is the speech I gave during the Hip Hop Occupies May Day rally and showcase. Unfortunately I forgot to make a couple of the points included here, but this was the overall message. My goal was to convey a few key points, as accessibly as I could:
1. Unemployment/underemployment is not primarily due to globalized labor markets, but to mechanization or the shift from formal to real domination of capital.
2. Class struggle is for unemployed and precariously employed people too.
3. Really winning is going to take serious effort to develop ourselves theoretically and strategically as a class.
May Day started when Chicago police massacred workers and revolutionaries who were fighting for an eight-hour workday. Back then, workers drudged through ten, twelve-hour shifts. Today, factory workers in China, seamstresses in Pakistan, and farmworkers in eastern Washington face the same long hours at dangerous work and still barely make enough money to get by.
But for some of us, instead of working too much, we can’t find work at all, or can’t get enough hours in the jobs we have. Some say this is because jobs have moved overseas, but did you know that the US still produces more than China? In fact, a big reason why so many of us are out of work is not because we’ve been replaced with 3rd world workers, but because we’ve been replaced by machines.
In a sane world, it would be a good thing to have machines to do boring, dangerous, backbreaking work. It would mean that all of us have more time to learn, to be creative, to spend time with friends and family. But this isn’t a sane world. This is capitalism. We produce enough to feed, house, and clothe every person on the planet, but millions starve and live without homes. This is because with capitalism the fundamental reason we produce things like food, houses, and clothing is not to use them, but to make a profit for the rich.
There’s an alternative, where we produce what we need in order to use it, and where all of us have a say in what we make and how we make it. So how do we get there? I don’t claim to have all the answers. This is something we have to figure out together.
But there are a few places to start. One is to study how these oppressive systems develop and how oppressed people fight them. The capitalists are smart and have a lot of resources on their side. If we want to win we have to be smarter and that means we have to learn both through study and through our experiences in struggle.
Second, we need to develop networks of people who can effectively fight the capitalists. If you have a job, organize with your coworkers so you can learn how to take power from your boss. Talk with folks from the Occupy Seattle Workers Caucus or the Industrial Workers of the World if you’re interested in this. If you don’t have a job, you can still hit the capitalists where it hurts like we did during the Port Shutdown in December.
And this isn’t just to fight for better wages or more respect on the job. If we have a strong network of people ready to take militant action together, then the next time the cops murder somebody, the next time Israel attacks Gaza, the next time an immigrant dies behind bars, instead of protesting and going home, we can punish the capitalists by shutting this city down as we develop ourselves to eventually smash their system completely.