Meanwhile, away from London…

So, it’s been a while since I got around to posting anything on here. For quite a while now,  a lot of the internet (and real-life) news and debate sources I pay attention to have been pretty much entirely taken up with idiots saying terrible things about the Assange case, and then other people getting wound up by said idiots. I don’t really have anything to add to the mountains of words that have been written already about the case, except to note one thing that I haven’t seen pointed out anywhere else: Indymedia UK, which for a long time has been a bit of a cesspit, is now actively censoring comments critical of Assange, and even of the Ecuadorian government. Indymedia’s famous open publishing model, which is happy to accept valuable pieces of news like this or this, apparently isn’t quite open enough to host an open debate about whether people who piss off the US government might also be capable of doing bad things.
But, other than that, I don’t really have anything new to say about the case; just as I can’t compete with the Void when it comes to welfare issues, I also can’t keep up with the likes of Stavvers when it comes to the Assange case. I also don’t have that much new to say about anything else, but I thought it was worth doing a quick linkdump of various stories you may have missed away from the Ecuadorian embassy.
First up, in my (predictable, workerist) opinion the most interesting thing to happen in London recently was the victory by striking cleaners at John Lewis. Sadly, this inspiring victory for good old-fashioned industrial action was accompanied by the setting up of the Industrial Workers of Great Britain, a splinter from the IWW. Since I’m neither a wobblie nor a Londoner, I’m a double outsider to this case, but I can’t say I’m that enthusiastic about the new development – apart from the obvious stupidity of having two One Big Unions, the press release announcing the new union has some fairly worrying language, managing to claim that  they have “nothing in common with the… old Labour Party model of state-ownership… We seek… democratic self-management and social ownership, instead of control of our lives by corporations and their politicians” while also celebrating the fact that “Twenty-four MP’s signed an Early Day Motion 301 submitted by John McDonnell MP showing their support for the John Lewis Cleaners, many writing directly to Charlie Mayfield, John Lewis Chairman.” While the Cleaners’ Branch in the past has displayed a heartening willingness to criticise the mainstream unions, the IWGB appear to be cosying up to the rest of “the Labour movement”, singling out Steve Hedley, Assistant General Secretary of RMT and Chris Baugh, Assistant General Secretary of the PCS, for praise, rather than rank-and-file members of those unions.
Internationally, while the horrific massacre of miners in South Africa has rightly got a lot of attention, I’ve not seen much discussion of the waning of the Quebec student strike. The strike movement in Quebec has been one of the high-water marks of social struggle and anarchist involvement in mass movements this year, and if it’s approaching its end then that’s a really important development that we need to be seriously discussing. I don’t have the time or energy to fully discuss what I think of the latest news from Quebec right now, so I’ll just direct you to CrimethInc’s in-depth coverage, Cindy Milstein’s staggeringly extensive blog and particularly her latest post, and this critical report from Infinite Strike. As ever, there’s no guarantee that any of these sources are flawless, but a decent sampling of all three should be a good starting point for making up your own mind. The major lesson that I’ve taken away is that, just as in Wisconsin and May 1968, the electoral process is amazingly good at killing combative social movements. This is an important lesson, and a worrying one as the Presidential elections approach; if we can’t find a way of getting around it, then any revolt we’re involved in will always have a very limited life-span. I’d like to say a revolt as inspiring as the one in Quebec can’t just fade away to nothing, but looking back at the student movement of Winter 2010 and what it looked like by the start of 2011, I think there’s every danger that it can.
For those interested in ongoing debates about anarchist organisation, this critical piece from a former member of Ireland’s Workers Solidarity Movement is worth a read. Since the WSM is one of the more prominent platformist organisations in the English-speaking world, and I’ve recently become more critical of some basic platformist assumptions, I was interested to see it; I was then quite disappointed to find that he ends up equating “the anarchist concept of organisation” with the WSM’s trajectory over the last decade or so, and coming out in favour of centralised leadership; hopefully spending some time in a hierarchical organisation will disillusion him on that point. Still, it’s worth a read, all the beautiful theoretical models in the world are useless if they never connect with reality, and that’s what makes it so important for anarchist militants to openly and critically reflect on their own activity. Personally, I found his use of people’s full names on the internet to be a bit dodgy, but if all the people named have already put their names out there as anarchists then I suppose it’s not too bad.
And finally, latest news on the disability front: after the unions abandoned strike action over Remploy, and many of the factories closed their doors, it looked like the dispute was effectively over, but apparently there’s still some appetite for a fight, as five-day strikes have been announced at two sites and Remploy workers briefly occupied the company’s head office, before leaving after having been promised more information. Welcome as this news is, it’s not enough: a five-day strike is better than a one-day strike, but taking action at two sites in a national dispute is still very limited, and while occupations are brilliant, they’re only worth anything while they last; occupiers need to follow the example of the Vita Cortex workers, who understood that promises from employers aren’t worth the hot air used to utter them, and stayed in occupation until they’d actually got something. But, whether or not there’s still any hope for the fight to save Remploy, the fight to beat Atos is definitely still on; the Atos Games called by Disabled People Against Cuts are coming up, and should be supported by anyone interested in standing up against the war on claimants.
Oh, and one last piece of industrial news: the recycling workers’ strike in Sheffield, which was called off after a somewhat limited deal, will be starting back up in September.
That’s all for now, I may or may not write up some more interesting and coherent thoughts about Quebec and/or that WSM article in the near future.

About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
This entry was posted in Anarchists, Disability, Gender, Occupations, Protests, Strikes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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