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Fight Like Hell for the Living and the Dead

Talia Lux

 

Deandre S. Morrow, 28, of St. Louis, Missouri

Kevin D. Dickey, 62, of Carlyle, Illinois

Clayton Lynn Cope, 29, of Alton, Illinois

Etheria S. Hebb, 34, of St. Louis, Missouri

Larry E. Virden, 46, of Collinsville, Illinois

Austin J. McEwen, 26, of Edwardsville, Illinois


These are the names, ages, and residences of the Amazon workers most recently murdered by their employer.


On the evening of December 10, 2021, tornadoes raged through southern Illinois, devastating an Amazon warehouse. An EF3 tornado, with wind speeds between 135 and 165 miles per hour, hit the facility—quickly tearing off the roof, collapsing several exterior walls, and killing six workers. Larry Virden was one of those workers; his last message to his girlfriend was, “Amazon won’t let us leave.”

 
 

The Amazon workers at the Edwardsville warehouse were provided with no shelter areas and were in fact actively prevented from returning to their homes; and they were threatened with termination if they did leave. Instead of allowing their employees to go home to their loved ones during the tornado, Amazon intimidated their workers with the removal of their livelihoods, thereby giving the workers the classic ultimatum of capitalism—the “choice” between a quick or a slow death.

In the quest for profits, Amazon cut corners on their warehouse construction, and pushed their workers to fulfill orders while the tornado raged outside. In the end, all of those packages were destroyed; Amazon will never receive money from those orders.


Yet, Amazon will receive insurance pay-outs for the collapsed roof while continuing to make billions of dollars—all without batting an eye at their six murdered workers.


Some might argue that this would not have happened had the workers been unionized. Unfortunately, in the United States, workers often have nothing but reactionary professional unions in service of the Democratic Party. In particular, the AFL-CIO actively works against the radicalization of its union members and in fact worked with the CIA to disrupt unions in other countries. [1]


Large professional unions in the United States often yearn for the oversight of the master; as James Connolly observed, “the trade unionist wishes to limit the power of the master but still wishes to have masters: the socialist wishes to have done with masters.” [2]


Truly, the only master we should strive for is the actualized sovereignty of the proletariat, where workers own the means and methods of production.


Many have argued that communists in the United States should join unions to push them left. This is often as effective as pushing the Democratic Party left. Lenin commented on this by noting that there “lies the tendency to reduce the working-class movement mainly to a trade union movement, to keep it as far away as possible from an independent (i.e., revolutionary and directed towards a democratic dictatorship) policy.” [3] In 2018, for example, there was a wave of teachers' strikes across the United States—one such strike taking place in the state of Oklahoma. The resolution of this strike was brought about by union leadership accepting terms dictated by the employer, thus pressing the unionized teachers to end the strike.


At this point in time, one could argue it is better to organize one’s workplace without the assistance of the large established unions. With the recent unionization of service workers, such as Starbucks and Moe’s Books, more and more workers are coming to the realization that they do not have to organize with the large professional unions; that they can, in fact, turn to the radical unions, like the Industrial Workers of the World, who have zero connection to any of the political parties in the US.


In the past year, there have been unionization efforts for Amazon workers at different locations but have all been crushed by Amazon through union-busting activities, the firings of organizers, and ballot manipulation.


With this most recent tragedy in Edwardsville, we take hope in Marx's words: “The bourgeoisie produces its own gravediggers. Its downfall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” [4] Amazon was the gravedigger for those six workers. However, with their sacrifice, we are seeing that their spirit lives on in the people.


Amazon is culpable; it did not allow its employees to leave in the face of a natural disaster—and now Amazon is facing an enormous backlash from the people. Let us continue to pressure and boycott Amazon. Do not let those workers die in vain. We must demand better working conditions, safer working conditions, and better pay for all.


May the memories of the fallen workers be a blessing; may we fight for them and for all workers.

 
Endnotes

[1] Hill, Herbert. “The CIA in National and International Labor Movements.” p. 405–6.

[2] Connolly, James. “Labour Representation.”

[3] Lenin, Vladimir. “Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution.” https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/tactics/ep-s1.htm

[4] Marx, Karl. Manifesto of the Communist Party. Ch. 1.


Bibliography

Connolly, James. “Labour Representation.” Workers’ Republic, 1898. https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1898/08/laborrep.htm


Hill, Herbert. “The CIA in National and International Labor Movements.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 6, no. 3 (1993): 405–7.


Lenin, Vladimir. “Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution.” 1905. https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/tactics/index.htm#ep-s1


Marx, Karl. Manifesto of the Communist Party. 1848. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm#007

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1 Comment


aameen amitoj
aameen amitoj
Dec 18, 2021

A very well summarized article. I hope working class consciousness grows and the people find their own paths of emancipation rather than turning the other cheek in the bipartisan electoralism of America every four years.

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