The following is a piece by Comunidad de Lucha, an ultra-left project out of Chile. Written & published last year (March 3rd, 2018). A timely & prescient look into the mass fare evasion which set off a generalized wave of proletarian revolt across Chile.
Anyone who has suffered from overcrowded & the tortuous wait of [pubic transportation] during “rush hour” knows well the inhuman nature of the transportation system. Indeed this system has not been created to suit our needs, nor has it been made for the comfort or pleasure of those who travel on the buses or metro rails. Quite on the contrary, it has been designed with the same egotistical and calculating rationality as that of a businessman shopping for trucks to transport animals to the slaughterhouse: the well-being of people does not matter, what matters is the well-being of business.
That’s to say, the system has been created to make of wage-laborers, and their children, a permanent source of accumulation of capital: directly exploited as workers, and also as “users” of a service which they have to pay for. The fact that the “Panel of Experts at Transantiago” has decreed a fare increase 19 times, since its public offering in 2017, is evidence of their true work: to improve the economic profitability of their company.
The financial, legal, and police support by the State for transport companies is an indisputable fact, given that [the State] administrates and protects capitalist domination: it is in its interest that the gigantic mass of wage-laborers be able to be transported everyday, in large quantities, to sites of work and consumption. Further, on January 18th , the famous “Anti-[Fare] Evasion Law” was passed which severely penalizes not only the non-payment of fare but also creates a national registry of “evaders.” Thus not only the profits, investments and private property of capitalist and politicians are protected with fines, prisons and blacklists; it also has the double objective of persecuting those who do not pay, and of isolating and dividing any manifestation of rebellion by the exploited and destroy any possible outbreak of solidarity.
The existence of inspectors, as well as the police, is proof that we have never abandoned the era of slavers: where slaves control and beat other slaves1We do take umbrage with this loose of the word “slave” since a wage-laborer is an qualitatively different position than that of a chattel slave. The use of “wage-slave” is common and it’s something we would like to see abolished immediately.
But the true symbol of the misery of this capitalist system, the revealing secret of its impersonal & inhumane existence, are the turnstiles.
The turnstile, far from being a neutral or accidental object, that with Machiavellian ingenuity is used by businessmen to force us to pay, is really a model for this whole society, the true spirit of the false community; an image that sums up our non-life: pay to live, live to pay.
Don’t we pass through a limitless amount of turnstiles through our lives? And how many of those turnstiles are impossible to jump over? There is the turnstile of housing: live to be housed, to sleep, to have a space – reduced in size for many of us – in which we can survive. The turnstile of health: pay to heal ourselves and continue our existence, not as human beings, but as wage-laborers. Further, when you work for less then $400 Chilean pesos2$0.54 US Dollars (which is to say half those who work in Chile), getting sick becomes a death sentence. And don’t you dare have a chronic illness! Because then the “pharmacy turnstile” will charge you a monthly amount so that you can continue to breathe. And if you fall into debt and can’t pay, there will also be inspectors, accompanied by police, which will go to your home and seize you because of your impudence of having fallen into debt to keep yourself alive. And there’s the “turnstile of education.” Pay so that you can sell yourself at a better price which is the best of cases and is rare at that. A precarious and insecure work situation is more common and here again…Don’t you dare have personal problems, get depressed, get sick, have kids that need you while you’re at work or have any family problems. Remember there are hundreds, if not thousands, waiting to replace you! In short: if you do not pay, you do not eat; you have no housing; you have no health services…so that if you don’t pay…you don’t live!
Under the current system of transportation, and its organization, the whole of the misery of our everyday life is revealed. In a way, Metro & Transantiago are a manifestation of the universalness of our non-life, where the critique of the transportation system – and the social routine & boredom which it generates – is as the same time the critique of the whole of society, and the confirmation of the need of a life not submitted to money nor wage labor. It is therefore not about a particular injustice committed against us – the turnstile, the overcrowding, the humiliation, the surveillance – but rather a universal injustice is committed against us that, encompassing all dimensions and facets of our social life. The problem is not such and such aspect of this capitalist society – transportation, health, pensions, education, etc. – but rather that the way we produced and reproduce the totality of our lives. It is then necessary to create within this inhumane society a community that does not accommodate exploitation: a community that allows us to collectively imagine and create a way life liberated from fear and the effects of all forms assumed by repression, and above all, from a non-life mode based on domination over human beings and nature.
The community partially begins with collective rebellion against the alienation of our lives on the chip of a card; by individually and massively refusing to reinforce a system that transports us directly into our [wage] slavery. But for the current passivity and individual evasion to become generalized rebellion, it would be necessary to question practically all aspects of our life, of which the transportation system – however fundamental – is only one element among many others. A community of struggle3comunidad de lucha can only emerge with a rupture with capitalist isolation that we reproduce daily, not only with evasion or refusal to pay the fare; not only preventing inspectors and the police from taking off the bus those who cannot or refuse to pay; but to collectively subvert against capitalist society.
We must go to the root of the problem. We must stop paying the fare as a first step in refusing to pay to live. We must abolish private property and wage-labor, which are the real bases on which the State and the capitalist system grow. A community of struggle can only affirm itself through rupture against the totality of the system, and not just against a particular aspect of it; with the collective creation of a life which directly attacks the social and historical fundamentals of this inhumanity. Rebellion against the system, though it may manifest for now in situations that appear the most unfair – such as fare hikes – carries in itself a universal spirit: the beginning of an era of collective overcoming of the capitalist isolation.