The Hellhole – Week of 10/8

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Photo by R. Mendes of an old-fashioned typwriter with "Seattle Hellhole" written overtop

There exists a fourth dimension beyond which is known to third-way capitalists. This dimension extends as vast as space and as timeless as L’Internationale. It serves to hold the line between the pit of exploitation and upholding the worker’s exaltation. This is the Hellhole…

Families are torn apart by the capitalist government

As if the week weren’t bad enough as the paper of record for capitalists unsurprisingly endorsed a fascist in Brazil, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) dropped heinous rule changes. Public comment opened on two dockets of immense legal importance to the proletariat. How nefarious can rule changes in institutionally xenophobic organizations be? 

Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seek to overturn the Flores vs. Reno settlement which prohibits detaining children with an unnecessary delay from being released back to their parents, closest relative, or a supportive environment. Right now, this limits delays to 20 days. DHS and HHS are such a joke that they wish to abolish those meager protections and open the door for indefinite detention. Buried in the docket, CBP admits to apprehending over 113,920 juveniles in FY 2017. Border Gitmo for kids — and possibly on toxic Superfund sites? La Gente deserve better!

Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds

Doubling down on this vile cruelty is a new attempt by the Trump administration to put forward what’s known as a “public charge” rule. Essentially, the new rule would allow the government to revoke the green cards from residents for the heinous crime of having ever received certain public benefits (like Medicare Part D).

There is already a lot of misinformation and confusion out there on the topic, as well as a Vox-splainer and Politico thinkpiece. The long and short of it, however, is simple class war. If you’re ever poor enough or old enough or young enough to need and receive support, you no longer get to stay in America. Only rich professionals or real estate speculators in their prime earning years need apply.

DHS/HHS just now made the changes available for public comment. Share them far and wide. Tell the bullies in DHS and the billionaire class to kick rocks.

A Note on “Supreme” Power

The Courts won’t protect immigrants, especially with racist lackeys like Kavanaugh, a straight-up anti-immigration judge, taking the bench. The Senate confirms each Supreme Court nominee. As the Senate itself, in conjunction with the 3/5 rule, was born out of compromise to slaveholders, the Senate and Supreme Court of today continue to embody that legacy. The system was set up to give disproportionate power to the cruelest minority of rich, white, elites. They have and always will reflect the values of a few and not the people en masse.

Meaningful democracy in government, in the workplace, and at home frightens many who traditionally hold power. Without their unearned wealth and privilege, the powerful would work the way the Campesinos work or the way the shop floor works. They could not leave it to the servant. The problems with the Supreme Court, Senate, and DHS/ICE/CBP aren’t which party is administrating over them; it’s whose power put them there and that they exist at all.

Amazon treats workers poorly. Pay is only part of that.

The capitalist mode of production forces workers to compete against one another for ever-lower wages. It’s debasing. It’s humiliating. The evening news stories on how an exploited laborer walks twenty miles to work inspire some but there’s a cruelty in any system that forces people to such ends for survival. A recent New York Post article on Amazon’s Seattle warehouses is in the same vein. In it, a speaker asserts that the Amazon raise to $15/hr is bad, not because it shifted lines on a ledger (from stock and bonuses to payroll) but because “Amazon raises their wages so publicly, other people are forced to do so – thus starving out the competition.”  Woof. That’s the problem with preserving the capitalist mode of production and fetishizing markets at the expense of people.

Lacking a class analysis leads to dubious conclusions as seen above. Work serves as a means to an end because that end is meeting human needs. After all, a well-paid job of pressing one’s face against a grindstone still stinks. A job where you lack the dignity of a personal life because of working 80 hours overtime-exempt stinks too. Even if it’s making video games. Even if you have a cool but unoccupied apartment because that 7 hour conference call was so important. Workers, humans, should not be a means simply used to extract profit.

Jobs exist to meet OUR needs. Period. Not markets. Not invisible hands. If some rationale bumps human dignity to number two, to hell with that reasoning! Keep the pressure on Jeff Bezos. It’s working.

Management Bankrupted Sears. Workers deserve better.

Retail workers stand most of their shift. It’s exhausting. Sore feet, hips, back: the works. But retail workers, like the one’s at Sears, don’t have a say in their company’s trajectory. Neither does store management. Neither does most upper management, because too often hedge fund vultures are calling the shots. Outfits like Bain Capital come in, pick off the valuable parts, load the carcass up with debt, cut investment in workers and facilities, and leave with fat checks while the carcass rots from the inside out.

Sears, like Toys ‘R’ Us before it, is just the latest to be devoured. Its CEO, Eddie Lampert (a Ayn Rand billionaire hedge fund sociopath), is sailing into the sunset, blamed it on e-commerce and change of habits and shrugged his shoulders. During his reign, Sears’ workers were coerced into working in and even hiding terrible conditions but no one was fooled.

Let us not mourn brands. Instead, let us support the workers who wanted to put food on the table and retire before their back gives out from lifting literal refrigerators. These folks have lived for years wondering whether their store would be the next to close. Of making do while short-staffed. It’s also why organizing is so important. Sears was a notoriously union-busting outlet, treating workers as little more than widgets from which to steal the most value before the inevitable turnover.

What does an alternative look like?

The gaps store closures create can be filled. If only people can imagine more. A nearby mall turned from rent-seeking property into a worker or municipal-owner co-op keeps money in hometowns. Worker-owned businesses can thrive instead and keep profits from being siphoned off to management firms, long-disconnected from the means of production. Communities could mandate housing as part of these structures as well.

Such an idea is not new. ZCMI in Salt Lake City opened as one of the first department stores and existed to help socialize the cost on larger orders of materials needed to produce goods, eventually by and for workers. Capitalist wholesalers explicitly charged higher prices to racial and religious minorities. The Mormons saw a way out. However, instead of banding with free black and native peoples, early Mormon leaders chose whiteness over solidarity and colonization over collaboration.

Of course, there is something even better than worker co-ops and profit-sharing, which are simply more-egalitarian models working in a system of oppression. We of course need, full democratic control of the entire economy. 

Phew.

It’s been an exhausting week because capitalism. Was there any good news?

The Capitalist State Cannot Execute Us (in Washington)

Washington State’s Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional under state law because of its clear racial bias. This news offers meaningful reprieve from the death sentences handed out in courts, but does little to assuage the overall violence and racism admitted to and perpetuated by the carceral state. While the death penalty is off the the table, it’s still very possible to die at the hands of a cop who does no jail time, or to die in jail on a non-violent drug charge, or of having your life destroyed because you can’t make bail or can’t pay court fees. Or of dying in senseless war-profiteering or the world falling apart through cycles of overproduction and imperialist environmental damage through the 2030s.

So, a draw? We’ll take it. We need a little less death in the world this week.

Note: The Seattle Hellhole represents the views of its writers and are not official positions of Seattle DSA at large. Its writers are a collective working on independent pieces, editing, and design to deliver this each week. If you want to volunteer, join us in #communications on Slack or email [email protected]