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The Seige of Toledo

Pavlito Geshos

Protracted Struggle, Non-Moving Target

In the days of the great Spanish Revolution, or Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939), young progressive men and women formed or joined International Brigades and traveled to Spain to help defend the Republic against the Fascist armies of Francisco Franco. Spain, as a protracted struggle, became a celebrated cause for the whole world and it became a point of attraction for those who saw themselves as internationalists and progressive warriors of their day. Conceptually speaking, Spain was essentially a non-moving target and those who went to fight against fascism did not answer a particular call to fight in any one specific battle or another. Rather the internationalist volunteers traveled to Spain when they could and then went to whatever battle front needed them. This is not to say that Spain was the only place one could go to fight against fascism, but it was in Spain that victory against the expansion of fascism seemed possible. It seemed possible because unlike Germany or Italy, the Spanish people had risen up on a massive scale and had literally fought regiments of fascists with their bare hands.

These elements of a protracted, on-going struggle, a non-moving target combined with the critical and decisive nature of a struggle to stop the expansion of some evil dynamic, all seem to be missing from the experience of the movements against global capitalism today. In other words, except for Chiapas, Mexico, there is no place that you can go, whenever you are available to go there, and be put directly into whatever battle is happening at the time. If we consider this historically, we can see that we live in a rather unusual time because episodic and diffused struggle is not really the norm. Actually, historically speaking, protracted and concentrated struggle is the norm and it is safe to assume that history will return to its usual mode of statement soon enough.

The so-called "Battle in Seattle" was a one-shot, episodic effort at a single moving target called the WTO. True enough, the WTO took a hit but it was not finished off. Furthermore, the WTO simply moved itself to a new location, its agenda only postponed until such time as it could find a safe place to meet and conspire. Since this historic convergence of "Teamsters and Turtles" in Seattle, there have been many 'calls' to action against the appendages of global capitalism, against the IMF, World Bank, Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue and so forth. No matter how effective such actions were in raising consciousness and delivering blows against these appendages of capitalism, there was no irreversible and decisive victory against capitalism.

Convergence for Concrete Victory

While today's activist is correctly concerned about the global evolution of capitalism, we must recognize that massive global economic dynamics will produce specific local atrocities both in advanced capitalist nations and in the under-developed world. The nature of these atrocities can be environmental and/or social, but it is upon these specific experiences of injustice that local people galvanize and form or join movements against the source of these crimes. Searching for these local atrocities that are linked to key dynamics in the evolution of capitalism is the first step in the process of focussing on a static, non-moving target. The next question we should ask is: What vulnerabilities exist for a particular appendage of global capitalism? Thus, we want to imagine a scenario where something like "The Battle in Seattle" makes a permanent change in the city of Seattle (or whatever city is in question). We want to consider scenarios in which the city of Seattle (or whatever city) could never return to business as usual after all of the "out-of-towners" have left the area. Furthermore, we want to see a decisive end to a particularly ugly dynamic of global capitalism, to stop it in its tracks so that it can proceed no further. In essence, we would be looking to mobilize in one place, in one or a series of actions as a convergence of forces in a protracted struggle. The goal would be to produce an irreversible defeat for some anti-social or anti-ecological dynamic of capitalism.

In other words, can a massive national convergence of progressive forces, induce a local insurgency as an intentional outgrowth of the intervention of outside forces? Can this local insurgency, combined with repeated national mobilizations to that city or location, actually stop some unfolding dynamic of global capitalism? These are intelligent questions to ask, specifically if we hope to see a full blossoming of the movement that began in Seattle in November 1999. Such a victory that wins by uniting the forces of the environmental movement, anarchist movement and the labor movement in one small place, could show the way for similar victories in other leverage points on the globe where capitalism is quite vulnerable. Rather than think of a convergence of these forces to merely deliver a moral indictment of capitalism, such as raising consciousness against the WTO, IMF and other institutions, we should begin to seek real, irreversible victories at key leverage points where these victories will be defended by a garrison of local people who have suffered the particular atrocities of a specific dynamic of global capitalism.

We must think of the convergence of Teamsters, Turtles and Black Blocs as actually stopping the wheels of capitalist machinery, not just throwing mud at the well-dressed controllers of that machinery. We must pick one head of that capitalist hydra, converge our forces on it and lop it off. We must think of ways to distill or crystallize a global issue into a local rebellion by way of addressing these local atrocities of capitalism. We must find points and places where a particular dynamic of global capitalism is just beginning to pick up steam, mobilize against it and stop it irreversibly. In a very real sense, the movement born in Seattle must produce a concrete victory soon or it will dissipate itself in an effort to repudiate all of the millions of moral evils produced by the current evolution of capitalism. To put it simply, we must find a vulnerable, non-moving capitalist target and create (or join) a protracted struggle against that target until we take it down. I propose that we consider Toledo, Ohio to be the point or place to begin our protracted struggle and I propose that the target be DaimlerChrysler. I do this because I see a point of vulnerability for a new evolution of capitalism as DaimlerChrysler launches a new and untested dynamic of production in Toledo. Furthermore, I see the raw materials for a local insurgency in Toledo, Ohio. In fact, one can say that a certain form of 'protracted struggle' has already been set into motion due to the level of local atrocities experienced by the people in that city. You just may not see it yet, but other national figures, such as Ralph Nader, have seen this and they do understand the potential for struggle and victory in Toledo, Ohio.

The Case For Toledo, Ohio

Toledo, Ohio is the quintessential melting pot of ethnic and minority groups. There are Polish, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, German, Hispanic, Arab and African-Americans in Toledo. Each group celebrates in its individual cultural heritage yet the citizens of Toledo consider themselves to be loyal, God-fearing Americans above all else. The Toledo skyline is still etched with industrial smokestacks and religious spires and steeples of all faiths. While these physical things speak of Toledo's heritage as a multi-cultural, blue-collar town, the hidden corporate agendas and political plots that are guiding this unique city's future all seem to undermine the very working class foundation upon which the city was built. Toledo has endured many plant closings as jobs and machines went south to the exotic wage rate nations of Latin America and Asia.

The Labor Compromise

Blue-collar labor (and the union wage rate associated with it) is really an endangered species in Toledo. Labor unions, particularly the UAW, have long suffered from the 'factory flight' threat and the unions have continuously made wage and benefit concessions to the big capitalists. Thus, the big capitalist who has the ability to move his factory south has found that he can make more money from wage concessions by threatening to move south than he can from actually moving south. In this way, Toledo's blue collar workers have tightened their belts just to keep their jobs. They have patiently followed a labor leadership that sold them the idea that a 'fight against the capitalist' would ultimately mean a 'flight of capital and jobs' out of the city. This fear of factory flight has been a powerful deterrent to open labor struggles in Toledo. But the dynamic of 'factory flight' is just about over and the advantages of exploiting highly skilled labor at bargain wage rates, combined with huge municipal tributes from taxpayers, makes Toledo an attractive place for global corporations to come and to stay. This is especially true for global corporations that are looking for an American base of operations, distributions and production.
This is why DaimlerChrysler chose to build their new technological wonder, their almost fully automated, roboticized production facility for Jeep production, in Toledo, Ohio. There is free land, free money and a highly skilled labor force ready to work at bargain wage rates after two decades of plant closings and union capitulation. Most importantly, there are Toledo labor leaders who are willing to openly collaborate with global capitalism, at least on a local level, to both provide a fig-leaf of unionism to a policy of super-exploitation of Toledo's workers. These union leaders are to serve as public salesmen for corporate policies both on and off the shop floor. Thus it is not surprising that Toledo's UAW Local 12 leadership is not really concerned about the massive job cuts that will result from the transfer of all Jeep production to the new Jeep plant. No, the first priority of Local 12 leaders is to pitch 'the smooth launch' of the new Jeep "Liberty" vehicle. The fact that thousands of Jeep workers will be pushed out of the production process into the jaws of unemployment is just a minor detail, an unimportant footnote, to the glorious launch of this new vehicle to be built with new non-human technology.

A Long and Noble History

Yet our assessment of Toledo's potential for massive labor resistance cannot be based solely upon the current state of affairs. Toledo is actually the birthplace of the UAW, born from the energy and leadership in the great Toledo Electric Auto-Lite Strike in 1934. True enough, the UAW was formally declared in Detroit one year after this strike, but the Toledo Auto-Lite Strike clearly demonstrated that autoworkers wanted to form and join unions to fight collectively. The majority of the UAW's national leadership in 1935 were veterans of the fight on the picket lines in Toledo in 1934. The rowdy defense of the picket line by thousands of union members at AP Parts in 1984 is another inspiring piece of evidence that the Toledo workers have a capacity and willingness to fight. Toledo was thrust into the national limelight as news footage showed workers battling cops, scabs and hired goons at the AP Parts plant who's workers were members of UAW Local 14. It is noteworthy that the majority of union men in that battle were UAW Local 12 Jeep workers who eagerly went to the defense of union jobs against an insertion of scab labor. The sad fact, however, is that if one picks up a copy of the official History of UAW Local 12 and Region 2B, there is not one word about either the Auto-Lite Strike or about the battle at AP Parts. Thus, the business unionism and the collaborationist strategies of Local 12 leaders, has relegated such incidents as Auto-Lite and AP Parts to the status of embarrassments, not proud accomplishments. But the very fact that such things did happen in Toledo, almost in spite of the business unionism of the official leadership, speaks volumes about the potential for massive resistance around union issues in Toledo.


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