Work has just been published in German, thanks to our comrades Black Mosquito. Our poster depicting the pyramid of capitalism is available alongside it in German translation, as well. A German-language speaking tour to present the book is ongoing, following last spring’s English-language tour on the same subject.
Black Mosquito recently suffered a police raid in which the authorities used a pretext to steal their computers and merchandise. Our comrades remain unstoppable, but should the authorities continue to harass them, we will call for solidarity actions. We would also like to express our appreciation to everyone who has been involved in the occupation of the Hauptmann School in Berlin, taking direct action against police attacks on refugees.
We reproduce here in English our introduction to the German version of Work, which briefly reviews the goals of the project, the context in which it appeared, and the preliminary results.
Notes Introducing the German Translation of Work
We’ve sold 15,000 copies of Work in the past three years, and distributed over 60,000 copies of the accompanying poster. The text has been published in Serbo-Croat, Russian, and Korean, among other languages. We also sent several hundred copies of the book and thousands of posters to rapper POS, who sent them out with his album “We Don’t Even Live Here.” That put the books in the hands of many people who don’t ordinarily seek out anarchist literature; we’ve received really positive feedback from some of his listeners.
As with all of our publications, we approached Work as a multimedia project, not simply a book. It exists on multiple levels: as the “pyramid of capitalism” poster, updating the IWW poster from a hundred years earlier; as a series of other posters, which were pasted across the walls of many cities for months after it was published; as the book itself; as a series of speaking tours spanning three continents, engaging with the subjects it addresses; and finally, as a series of internal discussions aimed at sharpening our understanding of the current economic context and what strategies are best suited to it.
We chose to revise the original IWW poster on account of its centennial, and to express continuity with the old workers’ movement—a great deal has changed, but we are fighting our conditions as our predecessors fought theirs. At the same time, we wanted to depict a more complex pyramid, showing the wide variety of hierarchies created by capitalism and emphasizing that the problem is not the ascendancy of any particular social body but the power imbalances imposed by the market. Rather than a didactic or inflammatory poster, we wanted to create a design that would pose questions.
We began work on Work in mid-2010, when the economic recession had been in effect for more than a year but there was little evidence outside Greece of the global upheavals that were on the way. We had just published “Fighting in the New Terrain,” and aimed to create a general outreach project that would pick up where the projects critiqued in that retrospective left off. Several of us read a wide range of material and met regularly to hammer out a shared understanding of the contemporary economy, starting from the details of our daily lives. Through lengthy arguments, we agreed on the details of the pyramid poster—as well as an analysis of the growth of the service sector, the proper wording of the paragraphs about sex work, and many other challenging issues.
As we were finishing the book at the beginning of 2011, the so-called Arab Spring was underway. At the end of the design process, we included a photograph of a poster bearing text from the draft, which comrades had pasted up outside the occupation of the capitol building in Wisconsin. For a few months after the publication of Work, we were ahead of the course of history, proclaiming to anyone who would listen that no uprising in the United States would spread that began from fixed positions in the economy (such as job security or union rights): that the important thing was to begin from the shared precarity increasingly imposed by capitalism.
This hypothesis was corroborated by the eruption of the Occupy movement. During the following months, we participated in the actions that pushed it to its limits, and organized speaking tours across the country to address protesters newly curious about anarchism and revolution.
In 2012, as the Occupy movement was dying down, comrades in New York City sent us the copy of Work that had been in the Occupy Wall Street library when the New York police raided the encampment and confiscated everything. After months of being passed from one hand to another through rainstorms and pepper spray, and then months more in police custody, the book looked like it had been through a war.
One of the distinctive things about Work is that it is an attempt to distill an anarchist—that is to say, non-Marxist—analysis of the economy. Some Marxists, who (like monotheists) see the workings of their master in everything they behold, have misunderstood the project: for them, there is no critique of capitalism without Marx, so anything that addresses economics must be evaluated as better or worse Marxism. From our perspective, rather than studying the ideas of the Great Men of history, the important thing is to be constantly and collectively refining our own analysis of our conditions, based above all on our firsthand experience.
The process of developing our critique for this book has gone on sharpening our strategic acumen in the years since we sent it to the printers; that critique continues to evolve, as evidenced in our more recent projects such as “Deserting the Digital Utopia.” Above all, Work is meant for those who are committed to updating their resistance to respond to the latest developments on the economic terrain, rather than navigating by blueprints a century and a half old.
This book may be especially relevant in Germany today, precisely because of the differences between the German and US context. Germany has yet to experience a real recession, but all the world is on the same slow track towards economic precarity as the old treaties erode between state and subject, employer and employee. What we are today, so you shall be. Be ready.
For the revolutionary abolition of capitalism and work itself, —a CrimethInc. ex-Worker