Wednesday, February 10, 2010

If You Don't Steal From Your Boss, White People in Ties Might Steal It Instead

Crimethinc has called for a day of action - no, not save the bagels day, Steal Something From Work Day! When I first heard about this project, I was excited. I have some reservations now, but I still think it's a cool idea and we'll see where we can go with it. Regardless, cool conversations will be sure to come up with people as we try and 'get the word out' about this. But, it does bring up some interesting tensions that we can explore.

First - intentions. Many of us steal from our jobs. If you work, you probably take things in some regularity, when you come across them and it is in your interest to take them. So then, what is the reason behind having a "day" where you steal? Are you going for gold? Is this the day that you finally get that coffee maker you've been eyeing, or you finally shut off the cameras and have a friend "rob" you? Is the goal to get people who don't steal to steal? Can we assume that other people don't steal? Is the purpose of this day simply to start conversations with people about resistance to work - and thus how theft at work plays into that? We seem to be making a moral argument then don't we? Work sucks, bosses suck, so it okay to steal from them, they deserve it. I like this logic, it could be beefed up to an understanding that bosses and those who work are two different classes and will never have the same interests.

The video summs up my ultimate problem with this project. As it states something along the lines that since bosses extract surplus labor value from us, stealing from work offers us a chance to get a little bit of that back. While this is cool and conflictual, it holds the same logic of thinking that dumpster diving is somehow a moral act against capitalist waste. Something like Steal Something From Work Day might get people to talk about destroying capitalism, but ultimately it as a project will have to be superseded for capitalism to be destroyed. Why then have projects that only go half way? If capital can only be negated by the self-activity of proletarians negating their class roles and their labor and acting in their own interests collectively, then let us push for projects which push toward or create those associations - not attempt to make moral arguments in the face of exploitation.

Hmmm...what the project seems to be getting at is how to organize or network with people on the job, however, Steal Something From Work Day seems to resign itself to the individual doesn't it? It's great Timmy the anarcho-punk dish washer, or Susie the queer bike messenger racked a roll of toilet paper at Craig Rosebraugh's latest Vegan cafe in Portland or whatever the fuck, and they can run home and upload a photo of it for the site, but it seems to be what we are after is a qualitative way of relating to people at work that gives us power - not just a few material items.

Sure, stealing from work is part of that, and the act in doing so can create trust between people that can hopefully lead to other things, but what is important out of that is not so much the act in itself, but the association that is created between proletarians. Hopefully this leads to other forms of action: taking out and resistance to the implementation of surveillance at work, collectively getting raises, collectively refusing the implementation of new policies at work, preparing for strike actions, covering for each other, etc.

Within this tension, we come to a critical question: in the modern age, how do we resist at work? For those of us of a more insurrectionary or left communist mind, we largely are at a loss. If we accept the critique that unions are the left wing of capital and stamp out working class self-organization and militancy and also reject anarcho-syndicalism's call for the formation of industrial unions ala IWW, then what do we propose? We seem to be at a loss for how to resist at the one place where capital needs us to be - work.

While I am glad that Steal Something From Work Day at least attempts to grapple with this tension and move the debate forward, obviously I think that the end project falls short of what such an idea could do, simply because it seems to be more about the individual than the collective. However, this is an open project, and people should run with it. At your workplace, what kind of associations could you create around such propaganda, ideas, and conversations? Could this lead to other forms of action? Could this plug into something that you are already doing? Check out their site and get some of the stickers and posters made up and start talking to people. At the very least they are funny as shit and will help add to a confrontational tensions between labor and capital where ever you work. The video at the top is also amazing and already has up to a 1,000 hits.

Furthermore, as insurrectionary communists and anarchists, how do we resist and organize at work beyond just theft, avoidance, etc? How do we link up with other wage earners?

Here is a link to Seattle Solidarity Network that hopefully holds some clues. Long live the mob!

Also, a link to Modesto Anarcho #4, which includes the article, "Workplace Resistance at a Small Business." About a shoplifting worker's council (one of the last articles).


  1. Ideally, by making a holiday out of the act of stealing from work (which obviously happens year round, not just on April 15), we can more easily enter into conversations with our co-workers about WHY we steal, and more immediately HOW and WHAT we steal. I think this is one of the least abstracted examples of developing class conciousness that is out there.

    Also, while I share some of your reservations about the video, I really appreciate the silly attitude of it (the paper clip part might be a bit too much though...). I think it's important for proles to destigmatize the shit we have to pull to get by. One idea for this project would be to have a party or something with a yankee swap (look it up if you don't know) of gifts that everyone stole from work that day. I remember an interview with Alice Nutter of Chumbawamba where she talked about the shoplifting competitions they would have amongst each other. She smiled thinking back about it.

  2. It's nice to see a project come out under the Crimethinc label that anarchists, radicals, and/or proles of all stripes can get into and shape their own way. Doesnt leave much space for some more Smack a White Boy drama.

    We're planning on doing the yankee swap mentioned. Awesome way to materialize the bonds from stealing.

  3. I stole from my ex-boss (charged it to company) but gave the toys to charity. I now feel awful about it even though I thought it through. Help!