Occupying Workplaces: An Absolute NecessityPosted: February 8, 2012 | |
Greece is, to put it simply, fucked, and the Greeks realize it. The EU and IMF are meeting today to figure out how to fuck them over further in the name of preventing a default and thus triggering another crisis of capitalism when we haven’t even remotely come close to recovering from the last one. If anything, a Greek default could cause a bigger crisis because of how precarious things are right now.
Yet the Greeks have been remarkably resistant and the EU’s decision-makers have yet to figure out the best way to make Greece play by the privatize-and-burn neoliberal model that’s been forced down the throat of dozens of countries in the developing world. This is, to some extent, due to their unions and some of their left wing (their Communists are regrettably moving in lock step with the government). Lagarde, Merkel, and Zapatero had hoped, like in every other instance this particular model had been rolled out, it could be pushed through in an undemocratic fashion as fast as possible because ‘there is no alternative’ and ‘this is a crisis and you have to take bold action’.
Except that there is an alternative to what the European Commission and the IMF have planned for Greece, and some workers at a hospital in Kilkis have decided to take bold action, just not the bold action the international financiers were hoping for.
Health workers in Kilkis, Greece, have occupied their local hospital and have issued a statement saying it is now fully under workers control.
The workers have responded to the regime’s acceleration of unpopular austerity measures by occupying the hospital and outing it under direct and complete control by the workers. All decisions will be made by a ‘workers general assembly’.
The hospital has stated that. “The government is not acquitted of its financial responsibilities, and if their demands are not met, they will turn to the local and wider community for support in every possible way to save the hospital defend free public healthcare, to overthrow the government and every neo-liberal policy.”
As I’ve stated earlier, this is what Occupy here in the US will have to move towards doing. It requires a big leap of faith and a lot of courage, because the first successful one will be attacked by police just as savagely as Occupy Oakland was on the 28th and heaped with scorn in the media, likely in the vein of, “look at those Occupy hippies tryin’ to get jobs AND THEY STILL CAN’T DO IT RIGHT!”
It will get attacked by the cops because taking over a failed capitalist institution and turning it into a going concern outside that framework is intolerable to the employing class. An enterprise like reopening a failed business as a worker collective shows their method of organizing society to not be the only way, but potentially a less successful one. So out come the enforcers with tear gas and rubber bullets to prevent this from even making a short-term run at success. I’d also add that it’s important to take over a closed business and not start up a new worker co-op. Part of the point is to be provocative and confrontational, and by doing so draw attention to this effort.
Once the cops have cleared the reoccupied business, it then becomes necessary to figuratively poison the well, to keep people from trying something like this again, which is where the media reaction to this fits in. Occupying abandoned buildings for community centers and the like is at least noble in intent, which is why you barely saw why the OPD embraced their inner blackshirt on January 28th mentioned. If an Occupy reopens a shuttered business in this time of massive un-and-underemployment, that would be entirely too good of a story to just ignore, but the media couldn’t afford to depict in in a positive light.
The media narrative would be along the lines of, “Well, those Occupy hippies have done it again! They finally got jobs, but since they are dumb hippies, they can’t just do things normally like getting a job at McDonalds. Get this…they took over an abandoned business and started it back up again, and since they are dumb hippies, they decided to run it democratically! How crazy is that! How can they function without a boss! Good thing the cops went in and cleared them out before something bad happened.”
Granted, the actual phrasing would probably be a bit more subtle than all that, but that would be the general tone. Make no mistake: the Occupy protests in their current form have the employing class worried. The reoccupation of foreclosed homes has them alarmed. A shift to this kind of occupation, just taking over shuttered businesses and running them democratically, would scare the fuck out of them and push them to try and break up the Occupy movement for good. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s possible to win this particular battle.
So if I’m right about the reaction to such a workplace occupation, how do you successfully defend it? Firstly, you take over the space quickly and quietly. You don’t announce it beforehand, you don’t launch the start with a march. You pick out a dozen or so people from the group who are interested in doing this, take over the space, and get it up and running. Operate it quietly as any other business for a couple weeks if possible. Then launch it as an Occupy effort. Have the march, the big press release talking about putting power back in the hands of the people, the whole nine yards. When the cops come to clear you out, to hell with Chris Hedges’ liberal ass and fight them off. Make the cops go full-on stormtrooper to shut down the business and make sure you capture them doing so on video (this last part probably won’t be a problem) and slam them for physically assaulting ‘job creators’. Finally, when the media comes to pass judgement on this enterprise, have another two reoccupations in the pipeline that you can launch so you can prove them to be liars when they say it was unsustainable.
The next stage of this movement has to be reoccupying closed workplace. I’ve said that for a while, and I think this Kilkis hospital takeover hints at me being correct about this. I’m going to watch what news emerges from that like a hawk because it presages what’s feasible here in the US. A better world is possible, we just need to bring it into being.