Fetishism of Digital Commodities and Hidden Exploitation: the cases of Amazon and Apple

ItalianoFrançais - Español .

[The original version of this essay was published on Giap on 26 September 2011, which means several days before Steve Jobs died. The French version was published on Article XI on the eve of Jobs’ death. The piece had already received a lot of attention, backlinks and comments when the news arrived. However, it obviously sky-rocketed to the status of “crucial” text as soon as the media landscape was filled with iGrief, and it kept attracting people when anonymous cultural activists “displaced” the discussion on iGrief by creating the “Steve Workers” persona. The present English translation was done collectively on a Wiki page on Mauro Vanetti‘s website. Many thanks to Mauro, SandorKrasna and all the guys who gave a hand. This version retains some additional mini-explanations Wu Ming 1 wrote for the French readers. We also inserted a few additional links that weren’t in the original text but came up during the discussion.]

Last week a Pennsylvanian daily newspaper, The Morning Call, published a long and detailed inquiry – entitled Inside Amazon’s Warehouse – on the appalling work conditions at Amazon warehouses in the Lehigh Valley. The article, resulting from months of interviews and direct checks, is being spread around the world and has gotten coverage from the New York Times and other mainstream media. The picture is grim:
- extreme job insecurity, a mood of perpetual blackmailing and lack of rights;
- inhuman work routine, with a pace that can be doubled overnight (from 250 to 500 units per day, with no advance notice), at an internal temperature beyond 40 Celsius that at least in one case reached 45 °C (114 °F);
- disciplinary actions against workers who slow down the pace, or simply faint (a report of the 2nd of June mention the fainting of 15 workers due to heat);
- “exemplary” immediate sacking, with the guilty escorted outside before the eyes of co-workers.
And there is more. Read the whole piece, it is worth it. The key sentence was said by a former Amazon warehouseman: “They’re kiling people mentally and physically“.


iClasswar! #SteveWorkers is the guru of the proletariat!

Steve Workers. Image by We Are Müesli

Think different: billionaires are not on your side.
Stay foolish: fight capitalism.
Stay hungry: eat the rich.
- Steve Workers, 2011

Steve Workers will be giving keynote speeches in the streets as the global crisis worsens.

Steve Workers is ready to occupy everything. iClasswar.

Steve Workers is a bad apple and wants to overthrow the system.

Steve Workers is alive (and kicking with heavy boots).

Steve Workers will be striking and marching in support of #OccupyWallStreet and #OccupytheUS

Steve Workers and his comrade Bill Opengates will fight until the bosses are defeated.

Steve Workers says: Planet Earth is like one big Foxconn plant. Don’t kill yourself, organize! Beat the crap out of your boss!

When he was eight, after only a bite, Steve Workers threw an apple at his mothers’s boss, even if he was hungry.

Here’s a blog entirely devoted to Steve Workers. Use the “Submit!” link to give your contribution to the myth.

On Digital Commodity Fetishism and Hidden Exploitation On and Around the Internet (FR)

The Pyramid of Capitalist System

For those who speak or at least can read French, «Fétichisme de la marchandise digitale et exploitation cachée: Les cas Amazon et Apple» is the translation (*) of an essay Wu Ming 1 wrote and published – with great resonance – on our Italian blog Giap a few days ago. It is also being translated into English and Spanish. We’ll make those versions available as soon as they’re ready. If you like a good work in progress, the English translation is being made by a group of people using this Wiki.

N.B. If you take a look at the Italian article, you’ll see that it also relies upon a few embedded videos. They’re respectively about:
1. Workers’ suicides at Foxconn plants in China;
2. The really depressing inauguration of the biggest Apple store in Italy;
3. An example of how people live and work in an African e-waste dump (this one is in Ghana);
4. Andrea Casaleggio’s Gaia-inspired totalitarian vision of the future
[Casaleggio is the ideologist and marketing guru of the neo-poujadiste, neither-left-nor-right, digital-fetishist movement headed by former comedian Beppe Grillo].

BTW, be patient, we’re going to relaunch this neglected blog as soon as possible!

* French translation by Serge Quadruppani.

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We are the Wu Ming Foundation, a collective of writers based in Italy. We are the authors of several novels and non-fiction books written with literary techniques (which we prefer to describe as UNOs, Unidentified Narrative Objects). As of May 2015, four of our novels are available in English: Q, 54, Manituana and Altai. This is our supremely neglected blog in English. Ugly and no longer updated after May 2013. Once we thought it was better than nothing, but then we became more and more doubtful about it. Whereas we're a little bit ashamed about it, certainly we wouldn't be ashamed about, er, nothing. As a matter of fact, we're gonna kill off this blog by the end of Spring 2015 and replace it with an entirely different thing. BTW, our livelier, regularly updated blog is in Italian and it's called Giap.