Tuesday, August 23, 2005


A Social Strike

I always thought a social strike meant wearing a "Choose Life" tee-shirt to a funeral. Apparently, a social strike is being organized by SF and Bay area Indymedia on September 1st.

The local transport service, MUNI is raising fares to $1.50. Organizers say:
Passengers are being encouraged to not pay fares as they enter buses and trains, and drivers are being encouraged to not accept fares.
Hence the 'social' component.
Management is counting on the targets of this plan -- riders and drivers -- to remain divided, silent, and passive. Rather than being adversaries, transit workers and transit riders are finding that they have a lot in common, and they plan to work together during the Social Strike.
A website describes how it works:
  • Acknowledge the driver or station agent as you enter the MUNI.
  • Show the "transfer" flyer we have distributed, or wink, or mention the strike. Be polite and don't antagonize the driver, or try to trick them and sneak on.
  • Other ways to help: If you must pay anything, consider paying partial fare -a few pennies, nickels or dimes. Ask for a transfer and pass it on to someone else as you leave MUNI.
  • If police or MUNI officials accost you, don't answer their questions or incriminate yourself. Contact legal@socialstrike.org or as soon as you can.

  • Do what you can to help riders avoid fares. Be creative!
  • If police or MUNI officials give you trouble, don't answer their questions or incriminate yourself. Contact legal@socialstrike.org or as soon as you can.
Whilst I encourage forms of protest which don't involve pointless destruction, and even regret the lack of protest our outrage at senseless gouging (dollars at the pump for example) this effort seems to be a little problematic.

Firstly, what if the driver doesn't know about it? How far will your wink get? As far as a smile and discretely winking your way past a ticket attendant at any bus service in the world I expect. Why not simply walk on the bus and in a loud voice announce your protest? Presumably this would draw your protest to the attention of others and gain more publicity for it.

Secondly, as raised in the comments over on Indymedia, who is actually organizing this? It seems to be anonymous. On Indymedia, there is much argument over whether it is socialists, anarchists, trots or any other sectarian group.

No doubt if it is succesful we will find out. Presumably we won't when/if it fails or someone gets arrested for fare evasion. This was nicely summed up:
"My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds or people; those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be the first group; there's less competition there." -- Indira Gandhi
Update: Reader Alene has suggested I may have fallen victim to a conspiracy theory by not understanding the background to high fuel prices, including Indian and Chinese demand versus supply. I do accept there are numerous quite legitimate (howsoever unfortunate) reasons for high prices. I also know there are some examples of artificial price rises (e.g. gas station owners jacking up prices because they can). I raised it however, merely because it's an example I imagine most people could relate to. I wanted to illustrate how people don't always stand up for what they believe in. Thanks Alene for encouraging me to correct this.

If anything, protesting (in all its forms) has been made a dirty word by the violence and stupidity of some of those upon whom I report. In a democratic country, this is a shame. If you have the right to speak up, sometimes you should! That's all.

In re: Gas prices

It would be interesting to see a gas station explain why their prices rise the same day that oil bid prices rise. Especially seeing as how oil is bid in the futures market some months out...
what makes you say that SF Indymedia and Indybay are "organizing" the protest? You can't be that dumb can you, especially for someone that writes a blog called "IndymediaWatch"
I have said it before - If you are going to call me dumb, be sure to check spelling and punctuation. At the very least, use a capital letter at the start of sentences.

I understand your point, however the post as it appears at the link provided is not an independant report on the actions of organizers. It gives the impression it is being supported, endorsed and/or organized by activist participants of Indymedia.

If the article attributed the strike to a third party or started with "some guys are organizing this, and here's what I think..." I might agree with you.

However it doesn't and Indymedia is complicit in its organization in a similar way to which I would be if I put posters up around town, without actually planning the event to which the posters refer.

For example the article says: "Passengers are being encouraged to not pay fares as they enter buses and train". Encouraged by whom? As it now stands, only by the article and its writer, on Indymedia.

Think about it. I am probably not as dumb as you suspect.
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