Mid-August round-up: fascists, landlords, prisons and all the rest

Another round-up of ongoing campaigns and events of interest:

The Anti-Fascist Network on the march in Liverpool.

First off, the complete humiliation of the White Man March in Liverpool last weekend is a total victory and deserves to be celebrated as such. The official Anti-Fascist Network write-up says pretty much everything that needs to be said, but the Class Action Liverpool and Vice reports are also worth a look, along with this charming video of people showing off some souvenirs of the day. Yesterday’s NWI/NF protest in Manchester also attracted fierce opposition, even if it was a bit less decisive. Considering how recently it’s been that militant anti-fascism was rebuilt pretty much from scratch – it was only in late 2011 that the AFN was founded – it’s good to see that the network can now organise this kind of impressive and highly effective action.

Meanwhile, down on the South coast, there’s a few different events coming up in solidarity with the Calais migrants, while Calais Migrant Solidarity remind us that it’s possible to take action against the border wherever you are.

Keeping up the fight against evictions in London

In housing news, on Friday 21st the cops shot someone during an eviction in Brixton. Meanwhile, Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth have written two articles for the Occupied Times sharing their organising strategy, ACORN Bristol report on how tenant organising has pressured landlords into making repairs that they’d been putting off, and coming up, the Sweets Way occupiers need your help to save their headquarters, starting with people showing up for their court hearing on the morning of the 27th at Barnet Court. Further ahead, there’s also the March Against Evictions organised by Focus E15 in mid-September.

On the welfare front, Johnny Void reports on how the DWP’s attempts to use the #WECan hashtag to promote workfare turned into yet another embarrassing shambles, and Liverpool IWW are asking Families Fighting For Justice to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary.

The IWW in general are also keeping busy, with their national speaking tour still ongoing, and the London branch are still fighting for the sacked Friends House workers, with their next demo called for August 27th.

In other workplace news, the United Voices of the World union are continuing their campaign for the reinstatement of the remaining Sotheby’s Two, with a protest planned at a Sotheby’s car auction on September 7th in Battersea, and Teesside construction workers are continuing their #paytherate protests, which have led Sembcorp bosses to pressure Cleveland police to arrest workers involved. The Blacklist Support Group are also keeping busy as ever, with a protest against blacklisting at Royal Liverpool Hospital starting at 6:30 on 4th September, along with a host of other events.

On the topic of repression, the 23rd-30th of August has been called as an international week of solidarity with anarchist prisoners. UK anarchist prisoner Em Sheppard’s written a letter to mark the occasion, so why not send her one back? It’d also be nice to send some support to the Czech comrades who’re currently being held as a result of Operation Fenix. Overseas, Eddien Patterson and Steven Loughman are both in need of support, as they’re both facing charges following an incident where the KKK were chased out of South Carolina. There’s a lot more to be said about the current wave of resistance against racism in the USA, but that deserves a whole post of its own really.

Winning the water war in Ireland

Finally, over in Ireland, August 29th will see another massive demonstration in the ongoing fight against water charges. The campaign so far has been amazing, and I’m sure August 29th will be another impressive show of strength in a movement that hasn’t just confined itself to big setpiece demos, but has also involved real local resistance to the charges, including direct action to stop water meters being installed.

Posted in Anarchists, Housing, Protests, Racism, Repression, The right, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Supplying demands: a response to Wayne Price on demands

A graffiti writer in London prefers Crimethinc's approach to Price's.

I recently stumbled upon a pair of articles by the US anarchist Wayne Price on the subject of demands. I think they’re worth reading and thinking seriously about, but I also have serious disagreements with his approach. These two pieces, which I’ll reply to together, are essentially an argument for anarchists to take up the Trotskyist idea of “transitional demands”. While this idea is by no means the worst thing to come out of the Trotskyist tradition*, I really don’t think there’s much use to be had from it either, for reasons I’ll set out below.

I’m not opposed to demands as an absolute principle, but I have serious differences with the approach advocated in Wayne Price’s articles. For one, I deeply disagree with the statement in the first article that “anarchists too should be for full employment demands, which speak to the existing needs of people.” We should be absolutely clear about this: employment – wage labour – is not a need that has to be met. Housing, food, and other resources are things that people need, and in this society the only way to meet those needs is through money, which for proletarians usually means employment, but it is a complete mystification to confuse the things we actually need with the wage labour we have to perform in order to get the money we need in order to buy the things we need.

This isn’t just abstract pedantry for the sake of it: this kind of card trick, shuffling up our actual needs with the work we have to perform to meet them, is a key part of capitalist ideology in the current era, one that has sadly infected much of the left, and anarchists should be absolutely clear in our rejection of it. The actual experience of job creation programmes in the current era shows that the only way we can expect governments to deliver “full employment” is by the creation of more low-waged and even unwaged work (as in the example of “workfare” programmes that make workfare recipients work for their benefits). “Full employment”, in the hands of the state, would inevitably become a weapon to force work on those too ill to work, those unable to work due to unpaid caring commitments, and – let’s be honest about this – those proletarians who just prefer to try and meet their material needs without selling their time to the bosses. On this point, it’s worth considering the fate of the slogan “right to work”, which is used equally happily by UK leftists demanding full employment and US right-wingers wanting to bust unions.

Do full employment demands “speak to the existing needs of people”? Well, yes and no. For instance, someone who is out of work, unable to pay their rent, and in danger of losing their house, would definitely benefit from finding employment that would enable them to pay their rent and keep their house; but this need could also be met by a state housing benefit scheme that guarantees rent payments for those unable to afford them, or by the development of a mass squatting movement that would enable people to live rent-free, and would be capable of resisting attempts by landlords and the state to evict them. All these solutions are alike, in that they would help this individual meet their need for a home; at the same time, there are differences between them, and the first one, as the only one that ties the right to a house directly to our ability to produce value for capital, seems by far the least desirable.

The next point of difference with Price’s article is a fairly complex one, so it’s worth quoting at length:

“Also funding should be provided for groups of workers to start their own non-profit cooperatives. For this, businesses should be expropriated (confiscated, taken away from their owners) without compensation. This should be done, the program should say, if they cannot provide employment, or if they pollute, or if they mainly make armaments, etc.. Who is being called on to take the firms away from the capitalists and turn them over to their workers and local communities? Most people will look to the existing state. After all, it has a lot of money and power, and it claims to represent the community. Why not challenge it to live up to its claims, they ask? And indeed, just as working people can make demands on a firm’s management (raise wages, recognize a union, etc.), they can make demands on the state, which is the overall management of capitalist society.

It is even possible that the government might make some minor reforms in this direction (say, tax breaks for worker-owned businesses). But the state would never carry out the main parts of this program, which would threaten the existence of capitalism. For the program to happen, workers and their allies would have to form a federation of workplace committees and neighborhood assemblies to replace the state with a self-managed society. Revolutionary anarchists must not try to fool people. They would need to openly say that this program would require a libertarian-socialist revolution—even as they expect people’s own experience to demonstrate that they are right.”

I think there’s a tension here: On one hand, the phrase “funding should be provided” makes it sound like this funding is going to come from an external actor (the state) rather than being raised by workers themselves, and Price adds that “just as working people can make demands on a firm’s management…, they can make demands on the state, which is the overall management of capitalist society. It is even possible that the government might make some minor reforms in this direction” – all of which seems to suggest that making demands on the state is a reasonable thing to do and something anarchists should support. On the other, there’s the statement that “Revolutionary anarchists must not try to fool people. They would need to openly say that this program would require a libertarian-socialist revolution.” Clearly, there’s a contradiction between encouraging people to demand something from the state as a plausible reform that might well be granted, and saying something is a demand that the state will never meet and that “workers and their allies” need to organise ourselves to fulfil it directly, without expecting any external body to do it. The latter option is perfectly legitimate, if that’s what you want to do; but it seems wholly compatible with the “dual power” strategy that Price is apparently writing to criticise, and very far from a “mass movement” strategy, if the latter is defined by making demands of the state.

In the second piece, there’s a further example of where Price’s position appears not so far different from the arguments he aims to criticise:

“Instead Crimethinc proposes that we “implement the changes we desire ourselves, bypassing the official institutions.” (1) I am all for building alternate institutions, such as coop groceries, credit unions, community centers, bike clubs, worker-run enterprises, etc. They are good in themselves. But, as a strategy, these do not threaten the capitalist class enough to force it to implement changes. Our resources are just too limited as against the class which controls the market and the state (which is why it is called the ruling class). It is another matter when workers take over, occupy, and start to run, factories and other workplaces! That really would threaten the ruling class and force it to make deals—or, if widespread enough, lead to a revolution.”

This is a particularly bizarre example: Price rejects the idea that we should “implement the changes we desire ourselves, bypassing the official institutions”, and, as an alternate strategy, proposes workplace occupations – that is to say, a strategy that bypasses the official institutions and involves taking action ourselves. It’s hard to see what, if anything, Crimethinc could disagree with here – occupying workplaces is, in itself, not a demand made of the state, even if it can be a way of backing them up.

Another point of convergence is, ironically, in the section headed “What is Wrong with Crimethinc’s Statement.” Here, Price picks out a statement that he thinks sums up the problems with Crimthinc’s approach:

“Crimethinc concludes this section by asserting that it “believe[s] that the fundamental problem is the unequal distribution of power and agency in our society…. No corporate initiative is going to halt climate change…no police force is going to abolish white privilege.” (3) This gets to the heart of what is wrong with Crimethinc’s statement. Sure, Crimethincers believe this, and I believe it, and all revolutionary anarchists agree with this view. But most people do not believe it. This includes the hundreds of thousands who marched against global warming as well as the militant demonstrators who protested angrily in Baltimore. It is not enough for a marginal minority of radicals to be super-militant; it is necessary for broad numbers of people to participate in militant action. There is virtually nothing in this document which discusses what can be done to win over the majority of working and oppressed people. They too should “believe that the fundamental problem is the unequal distribution” of power and wealth, and that significant, lasting, reforms cannot be won through the system. Crimethinc’s statement is all self-centered: what actions should be done by the few people who already agree that the system needs to be overthrown. Instead, the question is how can this anti-capitalist minority win over the many who are oppressed and exploited so that they too will believe that the system needs to be overthrown.”

The problem is, this section feels not so far different from Price’s earlier statement that “Revolutionary anarchists must not try to fool people. They would need to openly say that [their] program would require a libertarian-socialist revolution.” In particular, I’d be impressed if anyone can explain why saying “the state would never carry out [our demands]” (Price) is fine, but saying “No corporate initiative is going to halt climate change…no police force is going to abolish white privilege” (Crimethinc) is self-centered. If Crimethinc stating that fundamental change is needed means that they’re not interested with communicating with other people who don’t share their views, then surely the same goes for Price’s statement that a revolution is required; on the other hand, if Price can argue the need for revolution as part of an attempt to “win over the majority of working and oppressed people”, then surely Crimethinc’s statements can be viewed in the same light.

Price then sets out a taxonomy of three different kinds of demands:

“the reformist or liberal version of demands: only demand things which the bosses can deliver… Alternately, there is the view which is (perhaps unfairly) ascribed to the Trotskyists, of making demands which they know cannot be won. The aim is to devilishly trick the workers into making such demands and thus being forced to learn that only a revolution will solve their problems.

Instead our idea is to demand what the people need—whether or not the system could provide it. The people need a decent standard of living. Since the capitalists claim the right to run society, we demand that they provide jobs or a guaranteed income for all. If the capitalist state provides what we demand (or at least some improvements), then great! The people will have learned that mass pressure works, and anyway life will be better. If the state says it cannot provide such (needed) benefits, then revolutionaries argue that the capitalists and their state must be replaced by institutions which can provide them (that is, by the self-organized working people).”

There’s a problem with this: when we issue any specific demand, we need to have some kind of idea as to whether it can be met or not. There are lots of demands that we can issue and think it’s reasonably likely we’ll be able to win them: for instance, a lot of syndicalist and solidarity network activity, like fighting wage theft or demanding landlords make repairs, falls into this category. But these clearly aren’t what Price views as truly radical demands, since they can be met short of a revolution. He also rejects the traditional Trotskyist model of transitional demands – that is, asking for impossible things while presenting them as possible. But it’s hard to say what that leaves: should we demand things from the state that we know the state can’t provide, while openly saying that the state won’t be able to provide it? This might be more honest than a traditional Trot transitional demand, but it still sounds hopelessly confused – “What do we want? [This demand!] When do we want it? Whenever, we know we’re never actually going to win it anyway!” is hardly the most inspiring of slogans. On the other hand, if we accept that the state and capital can’t meet our needs, and look for ways to fulfil them directly together… we seem to be back at the “dual power”/Crimethinc model Price is polemicising against.

In summary, Price seems to waver between two different models: the absurd “transitional demand” method of encouraging people to demand things we’re confident they won’t get, and then the method that he alternately warns against and embraces, of organising directly to meet our own needs without making demands of external forces. If Crimethinc’s inflexible hostility to demands cuts them off from tactics that can be useful in building a movement, Price’s revolutionary ambitions seem to point to either some confused sub-Trot idea of raising impossible demands, or back to Crimethinc’s decision to favour “goals and objectives” over external demands.

This ambiguity comes up again and again: despite stating earlier on that he rejects the idea that we must “devilishly trick the workers into making such demands and thus being forced to learn that only a revolution will solve their problems”, in his conclusion he claims that “to build a militant, participatory, and angry movement of many people who are prepared to fight against the capitalist class and its state… requires a willingness to openly demand a better life for all from those who rule, and when people see that they cannot provide it, to overturn and dismantle all their institutions”, which sounds suspiciously similar.

To be clear about my own views on this matter: On the question of short-term, immediate demands, I do agree with Price’s view that “overall, I think that it is better for a movement to win its demands than to fail to get them. When it comes to building a movement, winning is better than losing!” That’s precisely why, when it comes to bigger, more ambitious objectives, I favour the Crimethinc approach of relying on our own abilities to find ways to meet our own needs, instead of asking the state for things that it can’t and won’t give. The “transitional demand” seems like a simultaneously confused and cynical idea, an unhelpful inheritance left over from the many twentieth-century groups that aimed to offer a leadership no-one wanted or needed.

A post-script: Although Price deals mainly with demands made of the state, there are, of course, other forces that one can make demands on. In the approach of most Trot groups, the correct way to escalate a dispute is always to “call on” the official union leaderships to do this, that or the other: “call on the unions to make this wildcat dispute official… to organise nationally to support this local strike… to turn this sectional dispute into a general strike” and so on, even when this course of action would involve breaking the law and so would put these institutions in serious trouble, something they’re clearly not willing to do. In contrast, the strategy favoured by anarchists and syndicalists has usually to been to try and bypass official union structures as much as possible and reach out to other rank-and-file workers directly. It would be interesting to hear Price’s views on this subject.
*for a much worse example, see this exchange between US anarchists the Utopian and May 1st, which features an attempt to argue that anarchists should adopt the utterly ludicrous idea of offering the Ukrainian government something called “military support” that doesn’t actually involve any actual military support.

Posted in Anarchists, Bit more thinky, Debate, The left | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

The Sweets taste of victory: bailiffs seen off at Sweets Way Estate

Some of the people who came together to prevent an eviction today

Great news from the Sweets Way estate in North London, where direct action and solidarity prevented an eviction today. There doesn’t seem to be a full write-up available yet, but the Sweets Way Resists facebook page have reported:

MOSTAFA REMAINS HOUSED!

The bailiffs came, the bailiffs went! They were not prepared for the show of collective power that came out in the family’s defence today!

We need to stay vigilant, but today has been a powerful reminder that even High Court bailiffs are not immune to a group of peaceful committed individuals coming together to take a stand!

Stay tuned and let us know if you can be involved in future eviction resistances and the fight to keep Mostafa’s family in their home!

Barnet Housing Action Group have uploaded this video of ITV news reporting on the action:

See here and here for more background on the story. UPDATE: The Mirror have also just covered the story here. To keep informed about the amazing organising that’s going on at Sweets Way, you can check their blog, facebook or twitter.

Posted in Housing, Occupations, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

From Jez-pair to where?

A room full of people giving a standing ovation for Jeremy Corbyn…

…and a reminder that this is hardly the first time lots of people have got in a hall together to listen to some lefty speeches.

A few more thoughts on the Corbyn phenomenon (and apologies for how many times I’ve returned to the subject now, but it’s only because everyone else seems to keep on banging on about it as well):

Firstly, an admission. Like a lot of people, my initial reaction was mistaken, at least in so far as it consisted of something along the lines of “lol, he’s got no chance”. Clearly, I’d underestimated the market that still exists for left-Labourism. At this stage, I don’t feel confident enough to make any predictions, either about whether he could win the leadership contest or about how he might hypothetically perform in a future general election. What I do feel confident in saying is that, either as leader of the opposition or even as a potential Prime Minister, he would be subjected to a sustained battering from all the forces that capital has deployed over the last few decades to make social democracy impossible, from Mitterand and Pasok in the early 1980s to the “waterboarding” unleashed against Syriza today.

So, in short, we can expect that, for the foreseeable future, the offices of leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister will both be filled by either someone with an ideological commitment to austerity, or by someone who’s being put under an enormous amount of pressure by a ferocious and extremely well-organised campaign intended to bludgeon them into dropping any attempt at resistance to austerity. Either way, there’s very little chance of any real positive change unless it comes from a determined and courageous movement from below that threatens to destabilise things to the point where offering concessions seems like the safest option.

At this point, it’s worth touching quickly on the distinction between having sympathy for someone and thinking they have a workable strategy. It’s certainly understandable why people have a lot of time for Corbyn, if only on the grounds that he’s made all the right enemies; but if my enemy’s enemy is not necessarily my friend, there’s even less guarantee that he knows what he’s doing. To put it another way, it’s worth bearing in mind the experience of Syriza, who also said a lot of the right things and made enemies of a lot of the right people: but in the end, their good intentions were a lot less decisive than the forces of international capital. The anti-austerity majority in Greece might have been able to elect Syriza and win the referendum, but they lacked any means of affecting how “their” government behaved with the power they’d given it. Likewise, Corbyn’s supporters might well be able to get him elected, but that’s not the same thing as having any influence over how he behaves once in office.

In recent days, I’ve seen people making a lot of the size of some of the meetings Corbyn has addressed. But I’m old enough that I can remember quite a lot of big lefty gatherings that have been and gone without leaving any lasting results in terms of building power. To that end, I’d like to ask a question I’ve not seen addressed anywhere: what steps are the Corbynites taking to build lasting organisation? Certainly, the number of people who’ve been attending his meetings, let alone those who are talking about intending to vote for him, is large enough that if even a reasonable proportion of them took the decision to act together, they could form the basis for an anti-austerity organisation that would easily dwarf the likes of the People’s Assembly or Left Unity. I’m sure I’d have my disagreements with any such organisation, but at the same time the current UK political landscape is in such a poor shape that that the emergence of any kind of mass anti-austerity campaign, even one with questionable politics, would have to be a step in the right direction.

But it’s a step that will never be taken unless those involved take the decision to organise it for themselves. So, for those who’ve decided to go along with the Corbyn campaign, some unsolicited and probably unwelcome advice: don’t wake up the morning after the results are declared with nothing more than a hangover to show for it. Start making plans. When there’s a big campaign meeting in your town, don’t let it be a big meeting of hundreds of individuals who leave with no connection at the end of it: share contact details. Appoint a decent, non-flaky individual or group of individuals to take care of communications. Decide on a practical project. You could decide to collect contact details for people who’re prepared to block evictions and make sure that people who’re at risk of eviction know how to get in touch with you; or you could do a similar project for UKBA raids; or set up a foodbank; or take a leaf out of Haringey Solidarity Group’s book and launch a determined campaign against a local workfare exploiter; or research big warehouse and distribution centres in your area and make sure the workers there are aware of other struggles and developments happening in their sector; or set out to make practical links with other anti-austerity groups doing useful work in Ireland or Germany or Greece or wherever; or if there’s a collective already doing good things in your area you could dissolve yourselves into them instead of needlessly duplicating efforts… the potentials are endless.

The important thing is that whatever you decide to do, it should be something practical you can do together to advance the issues you think are important, and it shouldn’t be determined entirely by the priorities and timescales of national political organisations you have little or no control over. Your chance to have a say about who leads the Labour Party will end quite soon. Your chance to shape the political landscape that politicians have to operate in is much more open-ended.

Postscript: I am aware of, and open to, the possibility that what I’m doing here is essentially just a slightly more sophisticated version of the reflex of the Trot hack who looks at any big vaguely lefty gathering and sees a crowd of potential paper buyers and party recruits. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that’s what I’m doing here: I’m not particularly arguing for anyone to abandon their existing organisations and projects and get involved in ones that I prefer, so the line I’m arguing here is more just that people should take their own projects seriously and self-organise to take on practical tasks. That doesn’t seem like a particularly dictatorial line to try and impose on anyone. Also, I’d like to express my gratitude to Aaron Bastani and James Butler for their pieces “7 Things I Learned from Chatting to Jeremy Corbyn” and “Curb your Corbynthusiasm”, which helped me clarify some of my own thinking on this subject, even if I can’t understand how the latter decided to go for a pun as laboured [no pun intended] as “Corbynthusiasm” when the much better “Corb your Enthusiasm” was just there for the taking.

Posted in Labour, Stuff that I don't think is very useful, The left | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Another win against workfare

Haringey Solidarity Group occupying a North London Hospice shop against workfare

Some good news from North London, as Haringey Solidarity Group report that their nine-month campaign against workfare at North London Hospice has ended in victory. In their own words:

NORTH LONDON HOSPICE PULLS OUT OF WORKFARE

Following 9 months of protest from Haringey Solidarity Group, North London Hospice has agreed to stop taking part in the government’s workfare scheme. The charity, which has been using the six-month forced, unpaid “Community Work Placements” to staff its charity shops, has agreed to replace all forced labour with the work of volunteers. Running 18 shops in North London and a major supplier of Community Work Placements, the charity’s pledge to pull out will have a significant impact on the scheme’s viability in Haringey.

Under Community Work Placements any jobseeker who hasn’t secured employment for two years can be forced to work for free for six months or be sanctioned – losing their benefits for between 4 weeks and three years. Last year over 560,000 claimants were sanctioned (a shocking one in five jobseekers) resulting in rent arrears, hunger, and poor mental and physical health. Although the government still refuses to publish data on sanction-related deaths, we know these sanctions have resulted in cases of suicide and death by other causes. Charities are increasingly unwilling to use the controversial scheme and almost 600, including Oxfam, The Children’s Society and the Red Cross, have signed a pledge never to use forced labour.

Until this month North London Hospice was one of the few charities in Haringey to remain involved in the scheme. Haringey Solidarity Group has been in discussions with the charity’s senior management for 9 months, taking a variety of actions against the organisation including picketing the shops and, latterly, occupying their shops at Turnpike Lane and Crouch Hill. While North London Hospice told Haringey Solidarity Group and the media they ‘intended’ to pull out of the scheme, they continued to actively recruit for placements.

They have now committed in writing to pulling out of the scheme. Pam McClinton, CEO of North London Hospice, told Haringey Solidarity Group:

“The Board have decided that North London Hospice will no longer initiate any new placements through the CWP scheme. We are committed to honouring existing placements… The last of these placements concludes in December 2015.”

Tony Woods, member of Haringey Solidarity Group, says: “We are pleased North London Hospice has finally realised that it is unacceptable to force people to work 30 hours a week for no money. Volunteering has to be voluntary and work should be paid, otherwise people are being exploited. We will be keeping a close eye on North London Hospice to make sure they keep their promise to have completely left the scheme by December this year.”

This kind of committed, dedicated campaigning can really pay off. Like the construction workers who won the reinstatement of a victimised worker by breaking a High Court injunction against their protest, the Sweets Way occupiers making derelict homes habitable again, the Sotheby’s workers carrying on the fight against the sackings of workplace militants or the mass non-payment campaign that’s driving Irish Water to the brink of collapse, the committed, highly effective campaigning against workfare by the likes of Haringey Solidarity Group is an inspiration to all of us who want to take back power over our lives. If we’re prepared to stick around for the long haul, we can win real victories.

Posted in Protests, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, Unemployment/claimants and welfare | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Conflicts in construction, strife at Sotheby’s, and more: late July round-up

Another round-up of a few things that’re going on:

Looking at the ongoing housing movement in London, the occupiers at the Sweets Way estate have started work on their “people’s regeneration show home”, aiming to make a condemned and derelict house livable again. You can read more about their project here. Further ahead, the Focus E15 Mothers are calling for a march against evictions to mark their two-year anniversary in September, as well as being part of an East London day of action this Saturday. Also in East London, there’s East London Rising, a week of free events at the London Action Resource Centre in early August, that’ll include a day focused on anti-eviction and housing campaigns, as well as a day on claimants’ and workers rights and more.

The Blacklist Support Group joining the #paytherates protests in Teesside

In workplace news, things have been incredibly busy in the fight against blacklisting and the construction sector more broadly. To just pick a few of the biggest stories, as well as the spectacular immediate victory won by rank-and-file direct action at Canary Wharf earlier this week, last week was supposed to see the Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith go on trial for charges related to an earlier protest against the sacking of a worker on the Crossrail project, but at the last minute it was put back to early January. Apart from anything else, this story shows why every worker in the country should be green with envy at the uniquely relaxed working conditions enjoyed by the incompetents at the Clown Prosecution Service – can you imagine turning up to work, explaining that you’d not prepared properly to meet an important deadline, and being told “oh, it’s fine, just come back some time next year and do your best to have it sorted out by then”?

Staying with the blacklist theme, this week also sees the start of the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing, and to mark the occasion Undercover Info have published a long list of blacklisters who’ve been named after a court order. They share information on us, let’s share information on them.

The busy times in the construction industry certainly haven’t been all confined to courtrooms and building sites in London either. Up in Teesside, construction workers have been continuing their campaign against the undercutting of wages which has been running for sixteen weeks now, and has seen cops with guns turning up on picket lines in Redcar. Reel News have been covering the dispute, and for more information or to show your solidarity, check out Teesside Construction Activists and the #paytherate hashtag.

In other workplace disputes, the United Voices of the World union is still fighting for the reinstatement of the last two sacked workers at Sotheby’s, as well as for the original demand of sick pay and fair treatment, with their next protest scheduled for Friday 31st at 5.45. Bike couriers in London are also continuing a campaign of flashmob protests at clients of courier firm Citylink as part of their fight for the London Living Wage. And throughout August, September and into October, Dave Pike, national secretary of the IWW, will be doing a national speaking tour to introduce this fighting union and its activities.

Looking at the fight against racism and nationalism, reports are circulating of sabotage against an immigration raid in Shadwell, while the next big antifascist mobilisation coming up is against the White Man March in Liverpool on August 15th, with transport now running from Sheffield, Manchester, and the East and West Midlands, as well as an open mobilising meeting in Leeds in early August.

And finally, two pieces of cheering international news: comrades from down under report on how Sydney Solidarity Network won a worker money that her employer was refusing to pay up, and the US-based Workers Solidarity Alliance have a round-up of recent grassroots victories in the class war over there, including another success for the long-running and incredibly effective Seattle Solidarity Network. Over there, as over here, solidarity and direct action get the goods.

Posted in Housing, Protests, Racism, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, Unions, Work | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

More Corbyn confusion

By pretty much anyone’s standards, the Corbyn leadership bid is a weird phenomenon. Here we have a man who, by all accounts, is a very nice and principled fellow, trying to become the leader of an organisation so totally venal and amoral that, when asked a question as simple as “do you support or oppose the idea of taking away £30 a week from disabled people?”, most of its elected representatives responded with something along the lines of “oh, I dunno really, that’s a bit of a tricky one.”

Seeing a self-professed socialist making a bid to become leader of the modern Labour Party in 2015 is a bit like if Mary Poppins came to life and announced that she was going to try to take over the Mafia. Sure, on some level you’d have to wish her well because she seems nice enough, but it’d be very hard to imagine her succeeding, and even harder to imagine what on earth she’d be able to do with her new position once she’d got it.

So it’s no wonder that many people on the left, particularly those who’ve historically been in favour of working outside the Labour Party, have been a bit confused about how to respond. I thought I’d seen this confusion in its purest form with Ian Allinson’s recommendation that we should sign people up as affiliate supporters in order to then tell them to leave, but another article has now offered a stance which might be even more confusing. In a new article by Richard Seymour, he makes some perfectly valid observations about the pointlessness of signing up to Labour if you’re not willing to commit to it, states that he won’t be paying his £3 to vote – and then concludes that what he’s said “doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to support Corbyn’s bid…, in whatever ways we can.”

Just to repeat: this is someone who thinks he has a responsibility to support Corbyn, “in whatever ways we can”… except for by voting for him. If anyone actually tried to apply this approach in practice, it’d make for some pretty odd conversations:

“Hey, could I have a minute of your time? I’ve come round to encourage you to vote for Corbyn.”

“Hang on, aren’t you that lefty who’s always banging on about how bad the Labour Party is? Huh, never thought I’d see the day you voted in a Labour leadership contest.”

“Oh, no, I’m not going to do it myself. I have a responsibility to support him, in whatever ways I can, but I won’t be voting for him. But I’m here to tell you that you should.”

“…”

Like Seymour, I can’t see much point in signing up to an organisation you’re not willing to commit to. Unlike him, I don’t think I have any responsibility to support someone’s quest to become an anti-austerity, social democratic leader of a firmly pro-austerity neoliberal party. My perspective now, just like it was a few months ago before all the Corbyn hype blew up, and just like it’ll be in a few months’ time when it’s all died down, is still based around what was once described as the “tendency of working class struggles to go outside and against the government and politics, and to create new forms of organization that do not put our faith in anything other than our own ability”. It may not be an especially popular stance, especially not at the current moment. But it’s coherent, it makes sense, and it helps me to avoid coming out with claptrap like proclaiming that I have a responsibility to support a candidate who I have no intention of voting for.

As someone once wrote long ago, “Because the traditional parties cannot be ‘reformed’, ‘captured’, or converted into instruments of working class emancipation – and because we are reluctant-to indulge in double-talk and doublethink – IT FOLLOWS that we do not indulge in such activities as ‘critically supporting’ the Labour Party at election time, calling for ‘Labour to Power’ between elections, and generally participating in sowing illusions, the better at a later date to ‘take people through the experience’ of seeing through them. The Labour and Communist parties may be marginally superior to the Conservative Party in driving private capitalism along the road to state capitalism… But we are not called upon to make any choice of this kind: it is not the role of revolutionaries to be the midwives of new forms of exploitation. IT FOLLOWS that we would rather fight for what we want (even if we don’t immediately get it) than fight for what we don’t want and get it.”

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