It is common when municipal workers go on strike in SA to resort to upturning garbage cans and strewing litter around city centres. Their message is clear: we may be at the bottom of the social heap, and you may think we are human trash — but society needs us, and if you don’t listen to us and give us a living wage, we’ll make you pay for it. Trashing a city is more than a demand for a better wage. Often, it’s also an expression of rage against employer arrogance or unaccountability, and a demand for basic respect. Such tactics are manifestly expressions of class struggle and class power, workers resorting to their most effective weapon. While they are unlikely, in extremis, to be able to confront the armed might of the state, they may well be able to make city managers and the general population wilt in the face of the stink and mess of uncollected garbage. Yet such actions are indicative of a discordant society, and a culture of littering can tell us a lot about a society’s ethos....

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