Finding another socialist at work

December 11, 2018

A Socialist Worker reader tells about one way to take the first steps toward spreading socialist ideas in an office. This story is a contribution to the Socialists at Work series at SW that began with articles from the International Socialist Organization’s (ISO) Socialist at Work Toolkit, assembled by the ISO’s Labor Working Group. We asked readers to send their own stories and ideas about being a socialist at work. Please consider contributing about your experiences and the lessons you’ve drawn from them in an e-mail submission to SW — or just tell us what you liked, or didn’t, about this series.

I AM a temporary administrative worker at a large institution. Every day, I am reminded of the clause in my hiring letter that specifies my “at will” employment and notes that I can be discharged at any time without reason. I’m not exactly in a position to organize, and I keep my politics fairly secret around the office.

My office is small — just me, a high-level executive and a manager between us. In the workplace, my back is always straight, my work done thoroughly, my demeanor quiet. Because of my role, I spend almost no time with fellow workers. I spend most of my days sitting in my cubicle with no one to relate to but my manager.

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The office at the other end of the hall, though, has a large number of more rank-and-file types who I hear regularly commiserating about their work situations. My manager loves trash-talking them. Every time she sees more than three of them together, she says: “Don’t they have things to be doing?”

A couple of days ago, I was sitting at our front desk covering my manager’s lunch break when someone from the office down the hall came by. It was a fellow worker whom I had recently become friends with on social media.

I noticed they had been sharing some radical think pieces and had made a note to talk to them when I had the opportunity. Now was my chance. We bonded for a moment over having enjoyed one another’s articles. They said, “Yeah, we might have some similar ideas.”

I mentioned the ISO to this person, and their face lit up. They said they wanted to come to a meeting some time, and I offered to add them to our e-mail list.

A few days later, I was sitting in my cubicle on a quiet day in the office. My fingers hovered over “alt-tab” on my keyboard while I read Larry Bradshaw’s “Tricks and Traps of Being a Socialist at Work.” The office was quiet, and I was feeling inspired.

Socialists at work

An SW series dedicated to discussing how to organize in your workplace. The ISO’s Labor Working Group has contributed how-to guides, and readers are adding their own experiences.

I reached into my shoulder bag and pulled out a handy copy of Socialist Worker, rolled it up and slipped it into my back pocket. I stopped by my co-worker’s station and passed it to them. “Here’s a copy of our newspaper,” I said. “You should give it a read. There’s a lot of great reporting and solid analysis in there.”

They took the paper and unrolled it, saw the title and front page, and instinctively rolled it back up and slipped the paper into their bag.

“Thank you, I’ll definitely read it,” they said. “Anyway, when’s the next meeting?”

Further Reading

From the archives