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"Bossnapping" - Workers React to the Crisis of Capitalism

Another piece written for Socialist Appeal. It also appears on Marxist.com.

Luc Rousselet, who works for Minnesota-based 3M, recently told reporters that talks between his company and its employees were a good thing. This, however, was only after he was kept in his office for more than 24 hours by workers he was intending to fire. Rousselet, who manages one of 3M’s French factories, was described as a “scoundrel boss” by the workers, who demanded negotiations surrounding their layoffs. This case, along with similar situations across France and in other parts of Europe, has been dubbed a “bossnapping.”

Bossnappings have quickly caught the attention of the world Capitalist class. Recently, Forbes.com went so far as to post an article on how to avoid such an embarrassing ordeal. The article largely reads like the motherly “don’t talk to strangers” speech given to a young child, and no doubt puts executives’ fears to rest when it offers brilliant advice such as, “escaping rather than freezing in a kidnap situation.” There are at least three Belgian Fiat managers who probably wish they had had access to such valuable insight when the workers decided that their bosses could camp out in their office until they agreed to renegotiate job cuts a few weeks ago.

What the business press won’t explain is that workers’ interests are in direct contradiction with those of their bosses. This is the real reason behind bossnappings and other similar actions. Unfortunately, most of the workers’ leaders seem equally confused – or are downright negligent – as they also harbor fantasies about class harmony. While workers around the world begin to exert increasing levels of revolutionary vigor, their leaders continue to ask for a cuter, greener, friendlier Capitalism.

Yes, winning economic reforms are important, but without any political demands, we are simply begging the Capitalist for crumbs off of his or her table. It is great to get a good severance package – but you’re still without a job. It is wonderful to occupy a factory, but if that factory isn’t nationalized under workers’ control you’re still working at the mercy of the Capitalist system, be it in the form a few large shareholders in a traditional business structure or a group of mini-Capitalists in a cooperative.

Without a clear working class political program, most workers don’t draw the necessary conclusions from their situation. Substituting the conscious action of the masses of workers for the actions of a handful of “self-sacrificing” activists will never solve the problem. This has been proved time and time again. Eventually, the protests end, smashed windows get repaired, black face masks are put away, and economies recover. Without a conscious development of the flame sparked by the current global economic crisis, it will burn down to a mere flicker. This is where the revolutionary party comes in. Not to substitute itself for the masses, but to fight as part of the working class, as its most class conscious and dedicated layer.

As the crisis of Capitalism deepens, we are seeing workers in the industrialized countries, as well as in the less developed, react to the attacks on their conditions of life. From the uprising in Greece, to the factory occupations in the UK, to the large protests in Iceland, to the general strike in France, to the continuing Venezuelan Revolution, to countless other actions all across the world; bossnappings are simply the latest working class innovation to deal with the failure of Capitalism. They are another reminder of the awesome power the working class holds.

We, as Marxists, understand we should not only be in the trenches fighting the battles for reforms, but also be explaining the historical role the working class must play in removing the rotting corpse of Capitalism altogether. Armed with an understanding of this dialectical struggle, another world is not only possible, but is our duty to make a reality.

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