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  • authored by Members for Democracy
  • published Sat, Sep 18, 2004

Rebellion: It's About Ideas Not ID's

Since the launch of this web site in the spring of 2000, we've been relentlessly outspoken about the behaviour of mainstream unions and their umbrella federations. Their disdain for democracy and democratic principles, their hamfisted suppression of dissent and their insistence on slavish allegiance by millions of union members to out of touch leaders deserves criticism - lots of it. The mainstream labour movement in North America looks more like a cult than a workers' movement.

We've also been relentless in our criticism of the gatekeepers of the mainstream union machine, the paid staffers at the union and Federation offices whose job it is to keep the members in line and make sure they never get too big for their britches. We call them machine heads because of the important part they play in the functioning of the machine, their aversion to independence of thought or action, their predictability and their obsolescence in the era of the Internet.

The mainstream labour leaders hate us and we're alright with that. They've had a good gig goin' on for years and here we are we're saying all along they've been lip syncing like Britney Spears with a hangover. Too bad there isn't a track on their "best of" that would help them offer up a plausible defence for their lame track record. They never take us up on our offers to engage in debate or defend their lame decisions and harebrained strategies.

Periodically they do, however, send their machine heads to communicate with us. Usually this happens after we've posted some story or opinion piece that has really struck a nerve with some pompous lord of labour. The machine heads' messages are always predictable:

  • Identify yourself as a mainstream labour functionary.
  • Arrogantly announce your displeasure with the story or commentary without explaining why or offering up a contra view.
  • Demand to know the identity of the writer or writers, question their loyalty to the labour movement and imply some sinister motive.
  • Make reference to slander, libel or defamation.
  • Wag your finger sanctimoniously, offer up a self-righteousness cliche about loyalty, duty, brotherhood and/or solidarity.
  • Insist on a private discussion - on their terms.

We've never taken them up on their offers of private chats but we have invited them to the forum where they can offer up their opposing views and defend them by engaging our contributors in intelligent debate. They never show up. Their purpose is not to set the record straight, it's to shut the record down. Their tactics are transparent and pathetic and show the extent to which the corporate unions are dependent on secrecy and silence.

The more that our community understands about these tactics the sooner we will shut them - and the machine heads who use them - down. From time to time we hear from workers who have been on the receiving end of the machine's head games and appeals to shut the f**k up. The machine heads' appeals to loyalty, might, authority, even pity can be confusing and intimidating if you don't understand their game.

It's helpful to understand how these gatekeepers operate and how you can avoid getting sucked under their cone of silence. In the spirit of spreading knowledge, we're going to discuss, analyze and respond to a pissy little missive we received earlier this week from the Canadian Labour Club.

Last weekend we posted a stinging commentary - Canadian Labour Congress Hush Order is Bush League - about the use of secrecy by mainstream labour leaders as a means of retaining control over millions of working people whose interests and objectives are not exactly the same as theirs but on whose blind allegiance the leaders depend for their power, status and cushy jobs. We commented on the use of secrecy generally by oppressive elites and discussed some recent developments related to its use by the biggies of Canadian labour.

The use of deception, through secrecy and other means to retain control of their subject populations for purposes of advancing their own agendas.

Control requires loyal obedience from the subjects and that invariably requires suppression of free speech and free thought. Depending on the despot and the laws of the land that he inhabits, obedience may be coerced in unpleasant and very direct ways or it may be achieved more subtly - through manipulation of the media, vilification of critics and dissenters and - secrecy.

Under current President Ken Georgetti, the Canadian Labour Congress has evolved a cult of secrecy. Decisions that affect the lives of millions of workers are made by Georgetti and his small cadre of insiders and put to a larger circle of insiders for the rubber stamp of approval. Union leaders are encouraged to keep intra and inter-union problems (like disenchanted members, escaping members, leaders colluding with bosses, affiliated unions poaching each other's turf) "in the family". These important issues are labeled "dirty laundry" and the faithful are implored not to let it hang in public. Members who refuse to be silent and insist on speaking out on issues that are of high interest to them, are chastised for bringing embarrassment on the family... um, labour movement.

In the spirit of paternalism that is shared by oppressors - big and puny - throughout the ages, all of this supposedly is done for our own good. In the same spirit, the fact anything that curtails our most fundamental of freedoms - the right to think and communicate our thoughts - is bad for us, is not even worth mulling.

"How pervasive is the cult of secrecy in the corporatist labour movement?" we asked. Pretty damn pervasive.

In case anyone had trouble believing that the self-proclaimed voices of the people were working hard to silence the people, we posted a letter from a CLC functionary named David Rice who last month issued a directive to Labour Councils in British Columbia instructing them not to discuss with their members an attempt by a one union to acquire the members of another with a little help from the BC provincial government.

Within days we received a pissy-gram from the CLC. We're treating it as an "official call" since the author identified herself as a CLC employee and requested that we contact her at her CLC office.

Pray tell me* who *wrote this article.....................and what's the
reason you don't identify yourself? Are you concerned about libel?
I can understand that you would be but really if you write something
like this then the browsing and maligned public should know your name
and which Union you belong to.
Courage and truth usually go hand in hand my friend.
I work for the CLC and can be reached at 604-430-6766.
Brenda Makeechak
(I don't accept hate calls)

Our administrator responded to Brenda, CLC Representative, advising her of the main reason that many dissident writers use pseudonyms and inviting her to express her views about the commentary in MfD forum or to submit a rebuttal commentary of her own. She has responded to this offer although she's made a couple of subsequent efforts to ferret out the identities of the authors. So...without further ado, here they are:

Hey B,

This commentary was written by me, remote viewer, and my colleague, about_unions. Those are our names - don't wear 'em out. We write under these names because we feel like it. Our "official names" are for driver's licences, pay checks, tax returns, credit cards, birth certificates and other administrivia. They're our "mainstream labels" but there are other dimensions to us and we express them where, when and how we want.

We were a bit surprised at your reaction to our CLC Hush Order piece. We've written stuff that's way more controversial than that. Glad we got your attention though.

We're not sure if you know this but the use of pseudonyms, writing handles, noms de plume, noms de guerre and the like has been around since people started writing stuff. It's a practice that is quite common among writers, artists, musicians and especially among rebels. You've probably heard of Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Queen Latifah, Voltaire, Snoop Dogg, Clara Barton, Mother Teresa, George Orwell, Leo Trotsky, Bob Dylan?

Well - get this - those aren't their real names! Or how about James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay? They all used the same writing handle when they wrote the famous Federalist Papers way back in 1788. How whacked out is that? Gasp!

The use of the alternative ID by dissidents is especially commonplace. It's probably the rule rather than the exception. The reasons for this are so obvious and widely known that we feel almost embarrassed to have to explain them but here's as short list in no particular order:

  1. To avoid harassment and persecution of themselves, their families or colleagues.
  2. To piss off their oppressors.
  3. As a gesture of non-conformity.
  4. As an aid to creativity and expression.
  5. To disassociate themselves from the oppressive "code" that is associated with their "given label".

In this, the 21st century, the use of online ID's is especially common online and it's actually quite healthy. It promotes discussion by allowing people to focus more intently on issues and ideas rather than on the gender, ethnicity, race, occupation, nationality, geographic location and other bio-info of the people who are engaged in the discussion. Those of us who commune online are often surprised by the ease with which connections are made and the depth in which issues are discussed. That's because no one is paying much attention to the superficial characteristics that our elitist rulers (a diverse group of control freaks which includes, on its lower tier, mainstream union leaders) want us to use to decide who we will and won't talk to.

Alternative ID is also very useful in encouraging the evolution of dissident culture and the dissemination of ideas that defy mainstream norms. Ideas matter, ID's don't. Communication among people precedes rebellion and does not require flashing ID. No wonder you're not happy.

At MfD, we adopt alternative ID's for the reasons I've noted above and also to encourage others to do so. It may give them the courage to express their ideas, to engage others in discussion more freely, to focus on ideas more intently and - this is really important - to step outside the roles that have been imposed upon them by the elitist control freaks who dominate our society.

Besides that, we really like our MfD ID's. I like being "remote viewer". It means someone who can see through walls and around corners. If you read my shit, you'll see that's me. My colleague and co-author of the CLC Hush Order piece is about_unions. He's a union member, activist and champion of free speech. What could be a better handle for him than that? We're all ears B.

Are we concerned about libel? No, we are not concerned about being libeled. (That's what you actually asked us.) We know what you meant of course. No, we're not afraid of spurious threats of litigation. Ask the UFCW what that will get you.

We're not exactly sure of just who is "the browsing and maligned public" or why it needs to know our names or what unions we belong to. Nor do we understand how the "browsing public" (which numbers in the billions) has been maligned. For that matter, we're not sure how it is the CLC figures that it can speak for "the browsing public". If it does, you guys should take a dose of ego laxatives and call us in the morning.

"Truth and courage usually go hand in hand my friend." That's a nice but fallacious little bromide. The last time we looked, truth and courage are nouns. One does not require the other in order to be.

Truth: Conformity to fact or actuality. A statement proven to be or accepted as true.

Courage: The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.

In certain circumstances, courage may be required to acknowledge a fact (but not to establish or create one), it is not always or even usually the case. If it's raining today and I say, "It's raining today", that hardly requires any courage. Still I am stating a fact. Similarly, courage is required to do a lot of things that have little to do with facts. Indeed, a lot of courageous acts are undertaken for reasons that have nothing to do with the truth. Indeed, it could be argued that doing secret deals with employers requires a certain degree of courage on the part of union leaders because of the risk of being exposed or squeezed for more favours down the road. Think it through B.

We take it that what you are suggesting is: Truth and courage go hand in hand therefore courage is required to disclose our "mainstream labels" to you. If we decline to do so and instead choose to flip you the bird, there can be no truth to something/anything that we've said in our commentary. Your premise is entirely fallacious however. The ID of a speaker or writer have nothing to do with the veracity of what they are saying and even less to do with the legitimacy of the opinions they express or the ideas they share. If you were right in your premise, then all of the people behind the noms de guerre noted above (and millions of others) would be a bunch of bullshitters and we know that can't be. Think it through B.

Please don't be sitting around your CLC office waiting on our call. We're not playing the secrecy game: Let's take the discussion off-line, into a private place, where no one else will hear. If you take issue with anything in our commentary, you are more than welcome to post your comments in the discussion forum or submit a rebuttal commentary which we have already promised to post "as is" without editorial comment, self-righteous banality or threats of legal action (even if we disagree with every word of it).

It's good to know that you don't accept "hate calls". Of course, we know you're not just telling us this because you want us to think that you're a sensitive person who doesn't hang with hatemongers. This statement is intended to tell us that, when we call you up, whatever we might say other than "yes B, no B, you're right B, we're sorry B, forgive us B" you will deride as "hate speech". That's cheap and offensive B. It demeans and affronts people who are victims of real hate speech. Give your head a shake.

It's like this B: We live in a democracy. One of the fundamental principles of democracy is freedom of expression. That's expression not oppression. It's such a fundamental right that it's protected in our Constitution. It means we can say what we want, when we want, where we want subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

It means we're free to express ideas and opinions and if that bugs anybody, they'll just have to get used to it. We're looked high and low in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and we can't find anything that says, "Dissing of the Canadian Labour Congress not allowed." Sparing the CLC embarrassment and multiple pains in the ass by expressing our opinions about it just isn't one of those reasonable limits that the Charter talks about.

The Internet is rendering a lot of cults of secrecy ineffective B. Do you see how it works B? You wrote us expecting that we'd give you an opportunity to crap on us in private and dissuade us, through threats of litigation and expulsion from our unions (I'm not in one by the way), from further criticism of your esteemed organization. But we took your words, shared them with our community, discussed what you were trying to pull and provided some pointers on how to deal with similar orders from headquarters (put them online where the whole world can see 'em - that's the great secrecy neutralizer). It also made us think about the usefulness of alternative ID and how liberating it can be for rebel writers and activists in general and so we shared our thoughts about that as well.

AU and I did enjoy hearing from you though. You gave us some ideas about the mainstream labour cult of secrecy that we can share with our community. For that we thank you.

I'll share a little secret with you before I sign off: As soon as I read your note, I got that hip hop tune going in my head, I think it's by Eminem...

(scratches) Hi! My name is (what?)...my name is (who?)... my name is... Slim Shady
Hi! My name is (huh?)...my name is (what?)... my name is... Slim Shady
Hi! My name is (what?)...my name is (who?)... my name is... Slim Shady
Hi! My name is (huh?)...my name is (what?)... my name is... Slim Shady

...and now I can't get rid of it! :)

The browsing public looks forward to hearing from you. RV with AU

Other controversial commentaries about secrecy and the courageous leaders of mainstream unionism from MfD:

This Ain't the CLC Web Site

Stuck in the House of Labour

Rats Get Fatter

Solidarity Whenever

We Won't Take Anymore Shit & Abuse

Knowledge is Power, Knowing How Little You Have Is Not

A Free and Independent Press is the Lifeblood of the Power Source

Sidelined by Secrecy - No More

The Inevitable Media of the Power Source

The Inevitable End of an Era

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