So, the strike yesterday wasn’t the only thing to happen in the last few weeks, a fair few other things have happened that I didn’t get around to covering. A fortnight ago, anti-abortion campaigners held protests up and down the country, which were met by feminist counter-demos; I’ve not been able to find a decent round-up covering everywhere they happened, but certainly everywhere I’ve heard reports from says that we outnumbered them by at least 2 to 1. However, our ability to outperform the Christian right in big cities is at least partially balanced by their ability to mobilise supporters in rural areas where we don’t have much of a presence – comparing the list of cities where counterdemos were held with the list of anti-abortion protests, there’s a lot of work left to be done before we can say that we’re confronting them everywhere they try to organise.
Saturday 28th April was also Workers’ Memorial Day. This doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as well-known as May Day, but it’s an event we should make an effort to commemorate – just as the only sane way to commemorate Remembrance Day is to work toward a future where nation-states don’t kill young people in wars, on the 28th of April we should remember all those who’ve lost their lives to work as a way of strengthening our determination to bring about the day when we won’t have to sacrifice our lives and bodies to the economy anymore.
Workers’ Memorial Day is far from being the only recent day of significance in the class-struggle calendar, since this year’s May Day was pretty dramatic in quite a few places. There’s a good libcom thread rounding up a lot of the highlights; over here, the best bits were action against workfare in London, Bristol and Liverpool, and open conflict between anarchists and Labour/union bureaucrats in Nottingham and Manchester. Over in the US, the May 1st events were certainly militant in the usual hotspots in New York and the West Coast, but I’m not sure how widespread participation was beyond them; David Graeber makes a convincing case for why the events in New York should be seen as a success, but CrimethInc’s report from the Bay Area definitely makes it sound like the potential that the Occupy movement opened up in a lot of places that don’t have New York or Oakland’s history of radicalism is starting to die off. It can’t be denied that one group of people had an ambitious plan for May 1st and they managed to bring it off perfectly; sadly, those people were the FBI, and their plan involved entrapping a few individuals in a manufactured bomb plot so they could arrest them, giving Cleveland police an excuse to clamp down on May Day celebrations. It remains to be seen how far the FBI’s plots will damage the movement, but one thing that seems pretty much guaranteed is that, in the months to come, Occupy will be increasingly caught between the repression of the cops and intelligence agencies, and the soft cops of liberals like the “99% Spring” trying to drag them back into supporting the Democrats. Still, things weren’t all bleak in the Midwest, since Minneapolis IWW had a pretty brilliant red and black truck:
No round-up of recent events would be complete without mentioning the amazing student protests in Quebec, but there’s far too much going on there for me to be able to cover it adequately, so I’ll just direct you to this libcom thread, which has a lot of updates on the situation. The fight over benefits continues with an occupation of Atos in Newcastle, a farewell party for A4e’s parasite-in-chief Emma Harrison, and the upcoming How Do We Break Workfare? conference on May 26th.
It’s been an interesting few weeks in anti-fascism: the good news is that anti-fascist prisoner Ravi Gill is due to be released today, the bad news is that following on from the far right’s humiliation in Brighton, we’ve seen a fascist attack on a socialist stall in Lewisham, and another attempted attack on a picket line in Bootle. Combined with the more-or-less total failure of far-right candidates in the recent elections, it seriously looks as though we might be about to see a major shift away from the electoral strategy pursued from the mid-90s onwards back to open street violence. It took a long time for anti-fascists to adapt to the change in the BNP’s direction, and I’m not sure that the Independent Working-Class Association, Antifa, Unite Against Fascism or Hope Not Hate ever really managed to implement a proper anti-BNP strategy – apart from any other criticisms that could be made of the first two, they never really operated on a national level, being mainly confined to a few areas, and I’ve discussed my criticisms of the latter two extensively elsewhere. Hopefully the recent launch of a national Anti-Fascist Network will help us work out a proper response to the latest shift in the far right’s tactics.
The Anti-Fascist Network isn’t the only new group to have been launched recently, since the start of May also saw the formation of a new anarchist communist group, Collective Action. I can see a lot to sympathise with in their analysis, but I’m not sure yet what their actual practice will look like; in particular, I don’t quite understand why they decided to pick this form of organisation. One piece of their statement that rings very true is “The models of activism that the Left rely upon are still tied to the mass struggles of the 1970s/80s – mass rallies, pamphleteering and paper sales, manoeuvring within political meetings. Yet years of Neo-Liberal reform since then have manufactured a working class that is de-politicised, de-mobilised and individualised. What is required in this instance is not intervention, but reconstruction. The Left are still seeking to lead and direct a mass of workers that, to put it simply, does not exist at this time.” I’m not quite sure how this fits with being a specifist group, since my understanding of the concept of “social insertion” what that it was very much focused towards intervention more than reconstruction. I’m quite strongly influenced by anarcho-syndicalism, not because I have any great theoretical bias towards it but more because the sort of activity that SolFed’s been doing with the anti-workfare campaign, along with the good work done by people outside SolFed through groups like the Glasgow Solidarity Network, London IWW Cleaners and Edinburgh Claimants seems like the best way to contribute to this process of reconstruction; we’ll have to wait and see what Collective Action’s approach will be.
Finally, I’d like to encourage everyone to read the new pamphlet that’s been produced by radicals involved with Occupy Oakland, Who Is Oakland: Anti-Oppression Activism, the Politics of Safety, and State Co-optation. It’s really really good. As the work of people who “believe in the absolute necessity of autonomous organizing” and “also believe in the political value of organizing in ways which try to cross racial, gender, and sexual divisions”, it covers some of the questions that I’ve tried to think through in the past, but rather than just being the work of one relatively isolated anarchist in England, it’s written by a group of people who’ve been deeply involved in some of the most inspiring struggles happening pretty much anywhere right now, so it’s no surprise that their ideas are a lot more developed than mine. File alongside the Black Orchid Collective’s recent work, in the category “really good analysis developed by folk on the West Coast that should be read by anyone seriously interested in developing anti-capitalist struggle in ways that actually address the problems we face today”.