Choke Points

Logistics Workers Disrupting the Global Supply Chain
A discussion with editors Jake Alimahomed-Wilson and Immanuel Ness

Presented by The Marxist Education Project with The Left Front

An important new book from Pluto Press (plutobooks.com)

Global capitalism is always a precarious system. Relying on the steady flow of goods across the world, trans-national companies such as Wal-Mart and Amazon depend on the work of millions in docks, warehouses and logistics centers to keep goods moving. This is the global supply chain. If the chain is broken, capitalism grinds to a halt. This talk concerns the book of the same name, looking at case studies across the world to uncover a network of resistance by these workers who, despite their importance, face extreme exploitation and economic violence.

Experiencing first hand wildcat strikes, organized blockades and boycotts, the authors have explored a diverse range of organizing and related activities, from South China dockworkers to the transformation of the port of Piraeus in Greece, and from the Southern California logistics sector, to dock and logistical workers in Chile and unions in Turkey.

Join us for an evening of discussion on the potential strength our class has the ability to utilize in facing capital dominance during our period where capital has of necessity created this points that really give us the means of “choking” their power.

“This phenomenal collection is a must-read for anyone interested in the dire state of the contemporary global economy. It offers an unprecedented analysis of supply chain capitalism through case studies from around the world that are beautifully written and carefully researched.”—Deborah Cowen, University of Toronto

“Beyond analyzing logistical choke points as abstract sites for capital to route around or locations in which workers acquire untimely power, this volume takes us straight into these crucial nodes of labor struggle. Choke points in global supply chains are revealed as spaces of hazard and calculation, violence and negotiation, victory and loss, passion and organization.” —Brett Neilson, Research Professor, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University

Jake Alimahomed-Wilson is Professor of Sociology at California State University, Long Beach. He is the author of Solidarity Forever? Race, Gender, and Unionism in the Ports of Southern California (Lexington Books, 2016) and co-author of Getting the Goods: Ports, Labor, and the Logistics Revolution (Cornell University Press, 2008).

Immanuel Ness is Professor of Political Science at City University of New York. He is author of Southern Insurgency (Pluto, 2015), Guest Workers and Resistance to U.S. Corporate Despotism (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2011), and numerous other works. He is editor of the International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society.

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Prague Spring: 50 Years Later

with Pete Dolack

Histories of the 1968 Prague Spring tend to focus exclusively on the drama inside the leadership of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and the personality of reformer Alexander Dubček. The fuller story of the Prague Spring is the grassroots movement for workers’ control of industry and economic democracy.

Although reformers within the Communist Party sought significant reforms to the overly centralized system copied from the Soviet Union, including advocacy of workers’ councils, there were significant differences between the more modest reforms put forth by Czechoslovak economists and the more thorough-going concepts of activists and workers themselves.

This was a true grassroots effort, mostly organized by trade union officials and rank-and-file Communist Party members. One interesting wrinkle is that unions, representing members as individuals and freed from state control, would continue to exist alongside the workers’ councils. All this was to happen in a socialized economy in which formal ownership would continue to reside with the state but in which state and party control would be drastically curtailed.

In this conception, which began to be implemented in some of the country’s biggest enterprises, the workforce as a whole would meet in assemblies to decide broad policies and freely elect a council from their ranks that would coordinate management. Each worker would be a part of the enterprise assembly and be members of independent unions that would represent workers as individuals in disputes with the collective or with higher administrative bodies. Thus each half of the duality would be represented through separate institutions.

Statutes had been developed in several factories across the country, and a national conference that sought to codify a system of workers’ control took place in which approximately one-sixth of the country’s workers were represented, before the experiment began to be shut down. Naturally, such a well-developed movement did not spring into being spontaneously, but rather was the product of earlier experiments, years of debate, and memories of councils established in the 1940s. In part, it was also an attempt at reversing several years of economic stagnation, a stagnation that signaled that the model imposed by the Soviet Union had reached its limits.

Pete Dolack is the author of It’s Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment, a study of the 20th century’s attempts to transcend capitalism that includes a chapter analyzing the Prague Spring and the workers’ control movement. He is at work on his second book, focused on economic democracy, and writes the Systemic Disorder blog, which discusses the ongoing economic crisis of capitalism and the environmental and political issues connected to it. His writings also appear in popular outlets including CounterPunch and ZNet.

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