Plan C have been busy recently – their Teesside group have a new writing project, Luxcom, that looks to be worth paying attention to, and they also have a new interview up tracing the origins of the “social strike” idea, a theme that’s also taken up in this article on how to socialise the UCU strike at the universities.
Reading the social strike interview, something that struck me (no pun intended) was how European-focused it was, with the social strike being presented as something that developed out of the Italian and French contexts. This is interesting because to me, a lot of the experiences that are useful for making sense of the idea have been American ones – particularly the chain of struggles that ran roughly from the attempts at a general strike in Winsconsin, through the Oakland general strike and the port shutdown across the West Coast. While this chain seemed to peter out a bit after the failed attempt at a US-wide general strike for May Day 2012, the tactics and methods it involved could be seen again in the Black Lives Matter movement, which, while it did briefly crossover into workplace and education struggles, was perhaps most interesting for its use of tactics that aimed to attack the economy by blocking circulation. While thinking about North American social strike-type movements, it’s probably also worth thinking about the events in Quebec that started out as a student movement and then spilled over into neighbourhood assemblies.
Thinking about the social strike in this kind of international context lets us realise how many other possible perspectives there are: what would a discussion of the idea informed by workplace and community struggles in Egypt, or South Africa, or China, look like? Not to mention all the examples closer to home, like attempts to challenge public transport fares from Checkywatch to the South Yorkshire Freedom Riders.
For what it’s worth, the Novara article on socialising the UCU strike did also seem to miss one fairly obvious suggestion: it talks about the potential of staff and student unity, but the only practical suggestion made is about the rent strike, which, while it’s great, is only happening in a few London unis. A (potentially) more unifying moment of student sabotage and refusal is the proposed boycott of the National Student Survey, so it’d be good to see more efforts to link this up with the UCU dispute.
But as ever, all these thoughts are only starting points, or at least a contribution to an ongoing conversation. There’s much more to be said on all these things. If you’re interested in these ideas, you should think about contributing some of your own.