Monthly Archives: November 2010

Taxing Our Taxing Our Lives: Unpaid costs and wages in transit

by S. Nappalos

The film Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a surreal comedy-fantasy depiction of a city run on entertainment in which a corrupt judge, who runs a company that took over a trolley car line, attempts to take over and buy the city. The fantasy is based in some reality. In the 1930s and 1940s, an alliance of major automotive capitalists united to purchase mass transit companies and replace electric rail services with buses. Firestone, Standard Oil of California, Phillips, General Motors, Federal Engineering, and Mack formed corporate front companies for these purposes, and a 1947 federal anti-trust suit found them guilty conspiracy to acquire control of a number of transit companies to form a transportation monopoly, and conspiring to monopolize sales of buses and supplies to companies owned by the City Lines (one of their front companies)[i]. While it’s been suggested that this is the major reason for the collapse of mass transit in the US, the data is lacking. The impact of the so-called GM conspiracy has been overstated; other larger factors probably played a more significant role in the demise of mass transit. There is however a shadowy underbelly to the role that transit plays in our lives. Continue reading

The Intermediate Level Analysis

by S. Nappalos

There is a left tradition of thinking about and taking action within two realms of activity: the mass level and the revolutionary political level. There are different ways to cash out these concepts, but at their most sensible they are distinguished by levels of unity and content. The mass level is where people come together based on common interests to take action in some form, with unions being the most obvious and traditional example. A higher level of unity is the revolutionary political level where people take action based on common ideas and practices. These are concepts which are tools or instruments that can help us make sense of the world, and better act to change it. In so far as they do that, they work, and if they don’t we get new ones. At the level of reality, this division is not so clear and in fact I think we see mixtures of unity and action everywhere. That being said, these concepts help us parse out how as revolutionaries we can relate to social groupings, and how we can intervene. Continue reading