What this paper does...
The left talks about class in ways that are often contradictory and confusing. This paper represented our collective use of class and how we understand exploitation. The scope of what we cover means that it necessarily makes sweeping generalisations but the goal is to sketch what our collective perspective is around these, not to be an educational resource in itself.
What this paper is...
What we summarise below is what the WSM has collectively agreed are the prospects for struggle in the short and medium term both in terms of global and local capitalism but more importantly of the existing movements and struggles and those we think are coming into existence. It should be read in conjunction with ‘The Role of the Anarchist Organisation’ which is the long term strategic view within which these short and medium terms considerations are shaped. Fundamentally we think ‘kick it till it breaks’ leads to burnout and inactivity. Sustained organising over decades requires a collective understanding and identification of the moments of opportunity scattered through the periods of preparation and experimentation.
What is this?
This paper outlines how we the intersections of exploitation and oppressions and what approach the WSM takes in relation to this. Our collective theoretical understanding is framed in the WSM Constitution’s core point of unity number 7: “We actively oppose all manifestations of prejudice within the workers' movement and society in general and we work alongside those struggling against racism, sexism, [religious] sectarianism and homophobia as a priority. We see the success of a revolution and the successful elimination of these oppressions after the revolution being determined by the building of such struggles in the pre-revolutionary period. The methods of struggle that we promote are a preparation for the running of society along anarchist and communist lines after the revolution.”
That theory is informed by the individual and collective experiences of WSM members over 30 years and our adaption of anarchism to our local contexts which includes specific experiences of oppression and personal & historical experiences of the anti-colonial struggle in Ireland and elsewhere. The development of this paper involved our own experiences being placed alongside our discussions of the broad set of writings and observations emerging from the anarchist and feminist study of the relationship between gender, class and race and in particular what is often referred to today as ‘Intersectionality’.
As they have driven ISIS back in northern Syria / Rojava the Kurdish YPG and their allies in the SDF have won increasing visibility in western media. While such reports often mention the key role in this fight played by women in the YPJ, there is otherwise little examination of the revolution happening behind the front lines in Rojava. That revolution is why they stood and fought ISIS rather than fleeing. This can be true of a lot of alternative media coverage. In part this is due to the limited amount of information on what this revolution involves. but it’s also in part because photographs of women with guns are judged to be more striking than women workers in a co-operative bakery or a community assembly.
We’ve tried to address this imbalance somewhat, both in our coverage and through bringing a number of Kurdish and other speakers over to talk at the Dublin Anarchist Bookfair. They spoke about what is happening behind the front lines. What is it that is being constructed that so many have judged is worth going to the front lines to defend against ISIS? Our speakers this year included Erjan Ayboga author of ‘Revolution in Rojava’ and US academic Janet Biehl who has visited the region twice since the revolution to investigate what is happening on the ground.
There's a funny glitch in both US and Irish society that whenever 'Black Lives Matter' (BLM) is said, inevitably there's an echo of 'All Lives Matter' (ALM). Like good social technicians let's try and fix that glitch.
Black Lives Matter is variously accused of being 'racist', 'divisive', and 'distracting' from what's 'really' happening and 'real' issues. But this is mistaken.
'Black Lives Matter' is not a statement made in a vaccuum, out of nowhere - 'Black Lives Matter' is a response. It's a direct response to every killing of a black person by the police, as agents of the white supremacist state. Every killing, and the subsequent indifference of (white) society and impunity of the killers, is a message: BANG, BANG, 'Black Lives Don't Matter'. 'No' is the reply, 'Black Lives Matter'.
One of the most common arguments against the establishment of Anarchist Socialism is that there would be no incentive to work in a new, future society - leading to widespread apathy and laziness among the general population, with a few carrying the burden of the overwhelming majority at best and at worst nothing will be done at all. The aim of this piece is to highlight that the opposite is instead true - that in a socialist society there will even more of an incentive to work productively (in the capitalist sense) and to contribute to the communal pot which we can all then draw from.
Firstly we should reject the capitalist ethos of what is productive labour. To summarise under capitalism productive labour is valued by how much profit can be made in a transaction of goods, services or ficticous capital - not by how valuable it is on a human level. Take for instance stock brokers who get enormous pay checks for betting on and moving currency or goods around the world, while mothers and the care givers of children get next to nothing, becoming slaves to charity, the state or their partners (possible all of these) to support them in the rearing and socialisation of children, so arguably one of the most important jobs in society gets no remuneration.
Since the worldwide recession in 2008, we have seen governments around the world make neoliberal reforms, states hammering through austerity measures. In Ireland we know only too well the extent of austerity, the state has cut everything from healthcare to social housing. We have seen the struggle communities have been fighting against the privatization of water. We have seen the ever rising number of people being made homeless, mothers and fathers having to sleep in cars and parks with their children. We have seen massive unemployment, our loved ones having to emigrate to the other side of the world to find work.
Around 1000 people currently live in a camp near Dunkirk in France. Many of them are Kurdish, fleeing either ISIS in Syria, the Iranian state or the Turkish states war against the Kurdish part of its population. Some families have already spent 10 months in the camp.
Many hope to get to the UK just a short and very famous journey away across the sea. There is a motorway near the camp and when traffic slows down some in desperation try and leap onto passing lorries. Sometimes people get killed doing this.
It’s an all too familiar story and there is a liberal tendency to paint the people living in these conditions as victims requiring our charity. What we want to talk about here is how this isn’t the case, that instead people in the camps are self organising with solidarity activists and in the most difficult of circumstances taking some control back over their lives. It's solidarity we need to talk about, not charity.
The Leave / Brexit vote in the referendum came in the end as a surprise, a narrow win for Remain was expected. This may be because the core Leave vote was in the run-down white working class communities of the now desolate English and Welsh industrial zones. A population trapped in conditions of long-term unemployment and poverty who no one really pays much attention to anymore.
Some on the left have seized on the makeup of this core vote to suggest that there was some progressive element to the Brexit vote despite the campaign being led by racist hatemongers and wealthy US-oriented neoliberals. Mostly that’s a mixture of wishful thinking and post hoc justification for having called for a Leave vote in the first place, but it is true that a section of the working class, C2DEs in marketing speak, voted to Leave in close to a 2:1 ratio. Is the class composition of that vote enough to automatically make it progressive regardless of content? And what does it tell us that a section of the radical left seems to think the answer to that question is yes, that it is enough to be anti-establishment?