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Some Wobbly Proposals for Hawai'i - 1993

Why Wobbly?

Founded in Chicago in 1905, the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, Wobblies, or just Wobs) is an international labor union whose members work towards real, participatory democracy and the replacement of bosses and employees by worker ownership and control. The IWW is dedicated to helping working people organize themselves into autonomous local affiliates of one big union with the purpose of eliminating employer/employee relationships and labor and consumer exploitation. We recognize that owner/employer classes and current systems of government steal the Earth's limited natural resources and the product of our labor. Peace, economic justice and environmental sustainability are possible when wage slavery is displaced by worker control of the means of production, when production is for need, not profit, when coercive heirarchical power relationships give way to respect for individuals of whatever age, gender, ethnicity and sexual preference, and when competition and war between states are replaced by cooperation, consensus and mutual aid among peoples.

History shows that none of this is possible under capitalism or authoritarian state socialism. A creative, personally fulfilling, intellectually stimulating, egalitarian society will not be attained by bloody cataclysmic revolution. Such revolutions help one ruling elite seize power from another, when it is the system that needs changing, not who runs it. Nor will it be achieved by casting ballots every few years for politicians and political parties, who represent themselves and the interests of their financial sponsors. We believe in participatory, not representative, democracy. We can build a healthy society gradually, starting on a small scale (acting locally, thinking globally) through education in reading and discussion groups, and by establishing federated networks of free schools, worker-controlled production and consumption cooperatives, health and education cooperatives, and so on. We believe in voluntary participation, tolerance and mutual respect. We advocate workers using nonviolent direct action to control their own lives.

We believe these values and ideas are relevant in Hawai'i today. In fact, we think they are much more in tune with the values and cultural beliefs of honest work, mutual aid, extended family, local community identity and respect for the environment long practiced by the indigenous Hawaiian people and by immigrant plantation workers than the "me first," materialist values of the outsiders who now control most things here. We are not so arrogant as to believe we have all the right answers or any right to impose our ideas on others. This pamphlet is intended to offer radical alternatives to the depressingly narrow range of options, most already known to fail elsewhere, which are discussed in what passes for public debate in Hawai'i. They are intended to make people think, to stimulate discussion and action. If you reject our views, or some of them, fine. Why, and what can you suggest in their place? What are your ideas? Hawai'i certainly needs some new thinking if our fragile environment, economy and quality of life are not to deteriorate even faster and further than they already have.

The Economy & Jobs

Hawai'i is dangerously dependent on two volatile industries: tourism, which accounts for about 35% of jobs and wealth, and the US military, which, with related government and service jobs, supplies another roughly 20%. As a result, we are very vulnerable to forces outside our control: wars, hurricanes, oil prices and oil spills, crime sprees against tourists, and other nations' economies. Both tourism and the military are very damaging to the environment and our minds.

Private business is always protesting "government interference" and having to pay taxes, but when they are in trouble (or claim to be), they run crying to the legislature to demand that the tax-payer bail them out. Recent examples (1992-1993 alone) include the tourist industry (more advertising, a race car and a convention center), Hamakua Sugar, Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaiian Electric and the profit-gouging insurance companies. Local politicians have sold out Hawai'i's people by giving money to the private sector and refusing to diversify the economy. They should immediately cut back in both areas-- tourism and the military-- and meanwhile start charging them more realistic rents and taxes. The room tax in Hawai'i (zero until 1986!) was just 5% in 1992, and hotel operators warn of disaster at the mention of even a 2% rise, but it is 20% or higher in many US cities. If hotels and bases close down and move away due to increased taxes, so much the better-- we need the land back!

The tax revenues should be used to start networks of small-scale, democratically-run, worker-owned and controlled co-ops, open to anyone willing to work. They could be modeled on the highly successful 40-year experience of the famous Mondragon co-op federations in Spain and adapted to local conditions. The Spanish co-ops work very efficiently, easily outperforming nearby capitalist businesses and providing high-paying, intellectually satisfying, skilled work and stability for over 20,000 workers and their families.

In Hawai'i, it would be necessary and relatively easy to multiply the system many times over. The first result would be federations of environmentally friendly co-ops on each island dedicated to agriculture and aquaculture, including restoration of the ancient Hawaiian fishponds. Hawai'i could fairly quickly become self-sufficient in food, as it once was under the kanaka maoli. (With rich land and a good climate, why do we have to import poor-quality food and pay inflated prices for it?) There would also be co-ops for education, health care, wind and solar energy production, housing and construction, baking, brewing, printing, food retailing and manufacturing (e.g., of clothing, bicycles, electric-powered scooters, and specialized, non-military, ships.) There would also be second-level "service" co-ops providing capital and technical expertise to new co-ops through a People's Labor Bank.

If the state won't support such efforts, we should follow the examples of workers in many other countries and do it ourselves. It has worked well elsewhere, and it can work well in Hawai'i, where a cooperative spirit is still an important part of many cultural groups. It is time to get up off our knees and take control of our own lives, starting with our places of work.


The overwhelming military presence in Hawai'i is a combination of US imperialism and state government complicity. The numerous bases use huge amounts of land that is needed for agriculture, housing and recreation.

The function of the US military is to back up First World imperialism with brute force. The occupation of these islands by marines 100 years ago is a prime example. Since we oppose imperialism and coercion of all kinds and consider violence an outmoded means of conflict resolution, we think the US military should leave Hawai'i immediately.

Meanwhile the US-installed state government acquiesces to, endorses, or even begs for just about any of the military's demands, including nuclear weapons and vessels in a constitutionally non-nuclear state, and "our representatives" in Washington fight to keep US troops here. Hawaiian workers should not be intimidated by threats that without the military, our economy would collapse. What would collapse without the military is the current power structure, the ruling class' exploitation of our labor and the destruction of our environment.