Last Thursday myself and other anarchists went to a rally in Longview, Washington to support longshore workers who are battling it out with their bosses at EGT, Export Grain Terminal. The longshore and warehouse workers (ILWU union) started an impressive strike last month. It was echoed in solidarity up and down the West Coast, as workers at other ports shut down their terminals and Longview was wreaking havoc. Photos started emerging of bad-ass motherfuckers like this blocking trains, grain supplies getting sabotaged on the tracks, and cops outnumbered and bewildered. Here is a short photo-blog and and an analysis of some things I found important.
As I meandered my way through the town of Longview to find the rally, I got sidetracked and ended up at a burger bar asking directions to the town square. The bartender knew about the rally and told me how to get there. I looked around their bar and saw signs saying “We Support ILWU.” A couple people playing pool and eating fries joined the conversation explaining how to find the rally. None of them were going there themselves but were eager to help me find it.
More signs of support throughout Longview appeared as I got closer to the Civic Circle gathering spot in the town center. It’s a small town and people there know this fight is all about them.
It goes like this. If workers lose this battle, everybody loses. In the end bosses lose too. Farmers and restaurant workers know this will affect them. Young people as well. Everyone’s quality of life depends on other workers winning battles like this. So when I found the rally of about 250 – 400 people (maybe more I couldn’t tell) other signs and shirts said things like “No Wisconsin Here.” There were other workers from the town and also folks from Seattle and Portland who came out to this one, inspired by the fierceness of the whole nexus of solidarity involved. Probably some EGT spies came too. Because no doubt the bosses would rather spend money fighting, as opposed to paying, the workers. (Do you need a Capitalism 101?) None of us want to eat shit, and none of us want anybody but EGT to eat shit. We want solidarity reflecting from one struggle to the next.
Prior to Thursday police and security bureaucrats informed the ILWU organizers there were going to be dangerous anarchists there that day, and there could be property damages, graffiti, riots, or confrontations. (You don’t say?) Well, we didn’t see any riot police encroaching on the rally, and there were no police attempts to physically break up the rally. Hence there were no confrontations, get it? But secondly, I think it was either (1) plain stupid or (2) all-too-clever that the police would assume longshore workers would actually be afraid of confrontations. I mean, seriously. EGT has been sabotaged, with their guts spilled all over the terminals. The whole town is in a confrontation, and whoever is ready to fuck shit up when they need to… is ready to fuck shit up when they need to.
But we’re used to being their scapegoats. Anarchists always always act-up in favor of what the bosses don’t want. (The 8-hour work day for example.) And perhaps we should rethink how we play these roles and what other types of roles we can do. What can outside militants do? One of my favorite texts about this is Fredy Perlman’s Worker-Student Action Committees, especially the chapter in part 2 called “Partial Liberation of the Militants.” I’m not worried about EGT reading this, because I’m simply not worried about them. I hope they get more of their shit kicked in and broken into, cuz really, what are they doing for the people of Longview? Nothing. Jack shit. They’re exploiting people internationally.
The fact that I’m brainstorming for everyone to see is what I do. If more people said what they really think, we’d be much better off and could skip the bullshit. We want to show solidarity, and by solidarity I don’t mean simply agreeing with causes. Solidarity reaches the highest expressions of inspiration (check out Wobblies & Zapatistas by Andrej Grubačić.)
Solidarity is mutual aid.
For example if workers need outside help with food and necessities, how are you going to find that out? (In this case probably not the ILWU, but think about the Teamster Union truckers who might be put out of work when they can’t load/unload materials.) Longview is a strong community for this and already thought ahead about all that. However, for smaller strikes a mutual aid network is a good thing to have, and starting a Facebook page is a good place to start.
Solidarity is action.
For example, after the rally a group of us went to a fast-food burger joint, where the workers seemed supportive of why we were in Longview (they knew we were there for the ILWU rally) and gave us free coffee. Solidarity is great. The more solidarity you show the more solidarity you get in return. And because Longview acted courageously, they’ve gotten courageous solidarities in response.
So we are the so-called “anarchists” the police warned them about? Anarchy is happening all around us. People who say “I’m an anarchist” – that means I’m the kind of person who sees anarchy in the way the world works. Maybe other people don’t think quite like this at all times, but they behave like that when they need to because it’s the reality of their situations. Thinking about anarchy comes easier when we’re up against the wall. Some of us feel that way always, and some of us are really aware, so we are anarchists because we know we are. The message to “beware of anarchists” was denounced as an anti-solidarity tactic at the rally. Also, as a “security alert” it was laughable compared to other tactics EGT has been trying to use against ILWU. EGT’s strategy is to divide the union workers from their supporters, and in general, to try to make everyone distrust each other or not know what to do next. If they’re confused, they’re easily controlled. (Also, power diffused is not easily controlled.) So scapegoating is one piece of that tactic. People at the rally, however, saw through the shroud of EGT strategies because they’re actually determined to win what they’ve started.
Managers will try as many as tactics can. Recently EGT found a judge to fine the union for $250,000 in damages. This is meant to seem like an uphill battle for ILWU, when in actuality, more people support the ILWU than EGT. Think about it. Nobody but the police will come out in support of EGT, and they have to be paid over-time to support EGT. We’re not getting paid anything except for free coffee. Perhaps at some point the police will see their own struggle reflected in this, because in reality they’re fighting for the people who want to make their community worse-off. And shit, if it makes any difference, I’m thinking about all these young people with student loans or other debts. If students aren’t paying down any of these debts, I think they’re all in the same boat with the workers. Whether it’s $250,000 or $14.7 trillion (the cumulative U.S. national debt not including private debts) everyone supposedly inherits the same fucked up-ness of the system… (if they want to.)
EGT’s tactics are interesting to think about. Their message sent to the ILWU (via the police) makes them sound more scared of us anarchists than all those workers shutting down other West Coast ports in solidarity with Longview. It isn’t anarchists they’re afraid of. Many workers were inspired to strike in solidarity with Longview’s militant actions. That’s what scares them. Obviously we are dangerous because we support all of that, ha! It’s obvious to me EGT doesn’t want the police to piss off the workers even more, so in fact, the real message is that they’re afraid of all of us, and especially afraid of all of us getting together – and respecting what the other is doing. What’s really dangerous is the fact that we just wanted to show up and say Hey, thanks for making the world a better place.