More Sabotage

Posted by : Rev. Ouabache | Monday, March 29, 2010 | Published in

If you are one of the half dozen long time readers that I still have left then you will no doubt remember my ground breaking post on the OSS Simple Sabotage Manual from last year. According to StatCounter it is the most popular post that I have ever written and still gets hits via Google every couple of days. (My post on The Book of Dirty Tricks, not so much.)

Since everyone in the audience loved the sabotage post so much I decided to share another little gem with the class. While browsing through Scribd recently it suggested a short pamphlet entitled "Sabotage: The Conscious Withdrawl of the Workers' Industrial Efficiency" by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Flynn was a labor leader for the International Workers of the World and feminist who helped found the ACLU. (And later in life, chairwoman of the United States Communist Party.) As you can imagine, she was full of spunk and probably accused of being uppity many times.

In 1916 she wrote "Sabotage" after being arrested during the Paterson, NJ silk strike. In it, she showed how sabotage can be used as an effective protest strategy instead of, or in conjunction with, workers' strikes:
The strike is the open battle of the class struggle, sabotage is the guerrilla warfare, the day-by-day warfare between two opposing classes.
I happen to like her definition of sabotage:
Sabotage means primarily: the withdrawal of efficiency. Sabotage means either to slacken up and interfere with the quantity, or to botch in your skill and interfere with the quality, of capitalist production or to give poor service. Sabotage is not physical violence, sabotage is an internal, industrial process. It is something that is fought out within the four walls of the shop. And these three forms of sabotage -- to affect the quality, the quantity and the service are aimed at affecting the profit of the employer. Sabotage is a means of striking at the employer's profit for the purpose of forcing him into granting certain conditions, even as workingmen strike for the same purpose of coercing him. It is simply another form of coercion.
She then goes on to give examples of how to effectively use sabotage to your advantage including "an unfair day's work for an unfair day's wage", interfering with the quality/durability/utility of the product, being brutally honest with the customer you are providing service to, and one of my personal favorites, "Work-to-Rule".

Reading through this gives you a real feel for how bad class struggles were even in the early 1900s. It's hard to imagine a day when workers had to fight for not only decent wages and benefits but also adequate sanitation, ventilation and even lighting. Say what you want about the sometimes bloated union organizations of today but a hundred years ago they were still very much needed for the health and well being of the everyday worker. If you work in a safe work environment with good pay and a 40 hour work week, then you have people like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn to thank. If you don't, then...
I am not going to attempt to justify sabotage on any moral ground. If the workers consider that sabotage is necessary, that in itself makes sabotage moral.
You can read "Sabotage" on Scribd, on IWW's website, or even listen to the audio version on Librivox.


(As always, ChaoSkeptic does not explicitly endorse the use of sabotage in everyday situation. If legal troubles should arise due to the use of techniques from this or any other work posted on ChaoSkeptic then you are on your own, Mister)

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