The most star-studded regular radical left event in Seattle is Red May. Started by Philip Wohlstetter three years ago, the event has grown and grown, and this year the pandemic forced organizers to change its location from the real to the virtual.
Last year and the year before, the event occurred at bars (such as Saint John's Bar and Eatery) and conventional venues (such as Town Hall). This year it is all happening on Zoom. This year's participants include Jodi Dean, Leo Panitch, Kathi Weeks, Micheal Hardt, Joshua Clover, and Doug Henwood, the progressive business writer who wrote, in my opinion, the definitive book on finance in the 1990s, Wall Street. That said, something truly interesting occurred during one of the online presentations, "Thinking the Pandemic: Capital or Life," that Red May posted on Friday, May 1.
One of the participants, Sarah Mason, who is, according to Red May's website, a "Lyft driver, DoorDasher, and graduate student studying platform-mediated labor at the University of California, Santa Cruz," explained that a grading strike organized by teaching assistants and grad students at her university (they demanded more pay) in the fall of 2019 grew into a teaching strike the following winter. When Santa Cruz fired the protesters at the end of February, the movement began spreading spread across the entire UC system. But then in March, COVID 19 "plucked [the movement] out of orbit" and left it suspended. Those who have seen the science fiction horror classic Alien will instantly recognize a similarity between that movie's plot and the story presented by Mason.
Released in 1979 and directed by Ridley Scott, Alien is about a seven-crew commercial hauling spaceship called Nostromo. On its return trip to Earth, the ship is required to respond to a distress signal from a strange and dark planet. Two of the workers on the Nostromo—Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton)—are not at all happy about this mission. To begin with, it's not their job; they are workers on a commercial spaceship, not a rescue spaceship. But their main concern is, to use the words of Parker, "the bonus situation." The workers keep pressing their bosses about their pay, their contracts, the small size of their bonuses. They, like the teachers at University of California, Santa Cruz on Earth, want more. It is clear that a showdown between the workers at the bottom and the managers at the top is in the offing. But all of a sudden the alien appears. It is very deadly. It has the biological imperative to reproduce. It suspends the class struggle on the spaceship.
The alien in the movie is indeed very much like the virus in real life. But only one person survives the encounter with the space monster (Sigourney Weaver), and class conflict does not return to the Alien series again.
My point: What will class struggle be like in a post-pandemic world? One of the speakers on the Zoom panel "Thinking the Pandemic: Capital or Life," Asad Haider, an editor of Viewpoint Magazine, believes it will not radicalize Americans. He thinks, correctly, that that kind of politics does not emerge naturally, but he is demanding action, activism, and the labor of the positive anyway.