“The law is your shield, direct action is your sword” – Organising the Unorganised- audio & review

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  • user warning: Table './external/cache_views_data' is marked as crashed and last (automatic?) repair failed query: UPDATE cache_views_data SET data = 'a:3:{s:6:\"result\";a:6:{i:0;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8499\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:46:\"Elections: Shouldn\'t We \'Fight on All Fronts\'?\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:1445:\"<div data-contents=\"true\">\r\n <div data-block=\"true\" data-editor=\"c9jab\" data-offset-key=\"cfk4-0-0\">\r\n <div class=\"_1mf _1mj\" data-offset-key=\"cfk4-0-0\">\r\n <span data-offset-key=\"cfk4-0-0\"><span data-text=\"true\">Anarchists are in favour of grassroots organising rather than engaging in electioneering. <span data-offset-key=\"cfk4-0-0\"><span data-text=\"true\"><em><img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/strike.png\" style=\"width: 400px; height: 321px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 3px; float: right;\" /></em></span></span>Some crticise this position, stating something along the lines of:<br />\r\n <br />\r\n &#39;<em>But what about social housing, free education, and an increased minimum wage? That&#39;s change which will make a big difference to people&#39;s lives. And electoralism and grassroots organising aren&#39;t mutually exclusive. We shouldn&#39;t concede that ground to the right, we should fight on all fronts&#39;.</em></span></span><br />\r\n <br />\r\n <span data-offset-key=\"cfk4-0-0\"><span data-text=\"true\">Social housing, free education, increased minimum wage - there are worthwhile reforms which might be achieved by a left wing government, or might not, but they&#39;re fairly beside the point. It&#39;s worth remarking though that the best way even to achieve reforms through the state is by having strong social movements which can apply pressure to politicians.</span></span></div>\r\n </div>\r\n</div>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1497286800\";}i:1;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8470\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:73:\"WSM Points of Unity Explained: 1 - Class Struggle and Leadership of Ideas\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:778:\"<p><em>&#39;1. Anarchism will be created by the class struggle between the vast majority of society (the working class) and the tiny minority that currently rule. A successful revolution will require that anarchist ideas become the leading ideas within the working class. This will not happen spontaneously. Our role is to make anarchist ideas the leading ideas or, as it is sometimes expressed, to become a &#39;&#39;leadership of ideas&#39;&#39;.&rsquo;</em></p>\r\n<p>We&#39;re usually told that class society is a thing of the past. After all, aren&#39;t we all middle class now? But this is false, and there still very much exists a severe division between people based on property and work, a hierarchy which is a basic fact of the economic system known as capitalism.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1491552000\";}i:2;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8471\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:51:\"WSM Points of Unity Explained: 2 - Power Structures\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:560:\"<p><em>&#39;2. We reject the idea that society can be changed through &#39;good people&#39; gaining control of the power structures. This means we reject both the electoral strategy of the social democratic and green parties and the &#39;revolutionary&#39; strategy of the various left groups.&#39;</em></p>\r\n<p>The WSM is working towards a free, equal, democratic society. We believe the only way to achieve this is by people taking their destinies into their own hands, forming grassroots mass movements, and creating new truly democratic institutions.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1491552000\";}i:3;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8472\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:50:\"WSM Points of Unity Explained: 3 - Platformism (1)\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:495:\"<p><em>&#39;3. We identify ourselves as anarchists and with the &quot;platformist&quot;, anarchist-communist or especifista tradition of anarchism. We broadly identify with the theoretical base of this tradition and the organisational practice it argues for, but not necessarily everything else it has done or said, so it is a starting point for our politics and not an end point.&rsquo;</em></p>\r\n<p>The WSM practices a form of anarchism which strives to be highly organised and coherent.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1491552000\";}i:4;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8473\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:50:\"WSM Points of Unity Explained: 4 - Platformism (2)\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:1238:\"<p>&#39;<em>4. The core ideas of this tradition that we identify with are the need for anarchist political organisations that seek to develop:</em></p>\r\n<ol>\r\n <li>\r\n <em>Theoretical Unity</em></li>\r\n <li>\r\n <em>Tactical Unity&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </em></li>\r\n <li>\r\n <em>Collective Action and Discipline&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </em></li>\r\n <li>\r\n <em>Federalism&rsquo;</em></li>\r\n</ol>\r\n<p>Federalism is an organisational structure based on &ldquo;the free agreement of individuals and organisations to work collectively towards a common objective&rdquo;. It is finding the best balance between independence and coherence. All decisions are made by those affected by them as opposed to centralism, where decisions are made by a central committee for those affected by them. This means, for example, that while all WSM branches are united under a common national policy, they are also autonomous, i.e they can make their own local decisions. It also means that we have no leaders or officials with higher authority than others. Rather, we have &#39;officers&#39; who are delegated temporary authority to perform certain tasks as mandated by the membership (for instance, to be treasurer).</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1491552000\";}i:5;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8474\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:57:\"WSM Points of Unity Explained: 6 - (Other) Mass Movements\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:1309:\"<p><em>&#39;6. We also see it as vital to work in struggles that happen outside the unions and the workplace. These include struggles against particular oppressions, imperialism and indeed the struggles of the working class for a decent place and environment in which to live. Our general approach to these, like our approach to the unions, is to involve ourselves with mass movements and within these movements, in order to promote anarchist methods of organisation involving direct democracy and direct action.&#39;</em></p>\r\n<p>While the workplace is of course a critical site of political activity, there is a much broader terrain on which to strive for our liberty. Ultimately, we want a world where people are free and content. So, everywhere that we are ripped off, suppressed, attacked, sidelined, or degraded, is a place for us to fight back and band together with others. In a social order which thrives on us keeping our heads down and being passive, resistance in its many forms is to be encouraged and supported. Whether or not that resistance is as radical or as &#39;pure&#39; as we&#39;d like we should engage, of course with our anarchist heads screwed on. While being a purist sect on the sidelines can feel satisfying to the initiated, ultimately it is a redundant way to make change.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1491552000\";}}s:10:\"total_rows\";i:1539;s:5:\"pager\";a:5:{s:9:\"use_pager\";s:1:\"0\";s:14:\"items_per_page\";i:6;s:7:\"element\";i:0;s:6:\"offset\";i:0;s:12:\"current_page\";i:0;}}', created = 1503127529, expire = 1503127829, headers = '', serialized = 1 WHERE cid = 'wsm_only:block_1:results:692e0a14e0b7ab966d18830fa49232e2' in /var/www/public/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
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  • user warning: Table './external/cache_views_data' is marked as crashed and last (automatic?) repair failed query: UPDATE cache_views_data SET data = 'a:3:{s:6:\"result\";a:6:{i:0;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8496\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:78:\"An Anarchist Response to “Anarchists, It Is Our Duty To Vote In Elections”\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:1313:\"<p dir=\"ltr\" style=\"line-height:1.38;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;\"><span style=\"background-color: transparent; text-align: justify; font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;\">As the title suggests, this article has been written in response to this <a href=\"https://troubleandsqueak.com/2015/04/25/anarchists-it-is-our-duty-to-vote-in-elections/\">article</a> </span><span style=\"background-color: transparent; text-align: justify; font-size: 11pt; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;\">which was written over two years ago just before the last UK General Election and as Hillary Clinton was beginning her campaign for US presidency. Coming from my own knowledge and beliefs on voting I was surprised when reading fellow anarchist Paddy Vipond&rsquo;s article that he omitted major anarchist arguments against voting. In addition to serving as a response to Vipond&rsquo;s piece I will discuss what he left out under his headings and address some issues that have become apparent during this current election campaign particularly with the hope that Corbyn&rsquo;s Labour has sparked among the UK electorate and indeed further than that among the international electoralist left.</span></p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1497358019\";}i:1;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8488\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:58:\"Yes Duplicity: Irish State, Give Queer Chechens Asylum Now\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:702:\"<p>Will the Irish state offer asylum to queer men in Chechnya (and, in fact, all queer people there) who are enduring a state-lead cam<img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/chechnya100%20asylum.jpg\" style=\"width: 400px; height: 251px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 3px; float: right;\" />paign of terror and persecution of the gravest nature, or are queer people&#39;s lives another vote-catcher?</p>\r\n<p><br />\r\n We described both what is happening in Chechnya and the Dublin counter-demo <a href=\"http://www.wsm.ie/c/dublin-protests-chechnyas-queer-concentration-camps\">in detail here</a>, as well as warning against these atrocities being seized upon for an anti-Muslim agenda.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1493712000\";}i:2;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8450\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:47:\"An account of how #Strike4Repeal went in Dublin\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:547:\"<p>Andrew spent the day of March 8th 2017 recording #Strike4Repeal and has edited this 20 minute video account of how the day went down in Dublin. &nbsp;Below you will also find a &nbsp;text transcript of his account.</p>\r\n<p><iframe allowfullscreen=\"\" frameborder=\"0\" height=\"315\" src=\"https://www.youtube.com/embed/uwINNvCclew?rel=0\" width=\"560\"></iframe></p>\r\n<p>I headed into Dublin early on #Strike4Repeal day because a little birds had told me of&nbsp;the plan to cover up and alter some of Dublin&rsquo;s statues in the early morning.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1490711109\";}i:3;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8448\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:34:\"Intersectionality - A Basic Primer\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:1074:\"<p>The WSM&rsquo;s politics are fundamentally intersectional. &lsquo;Intersectionality&rsquo; is a fancy word for some rather basic ideas. You can think of it as &lsquo;overlap-ism&rsquo; instead. There are three main points, <strong>1)</strong> that each person needs to be seen as a whole, <strong>2)</strong> that no power system exists in isolation, and <strong>3)</strong> that all forms of oppression and exploitation should be uprooted at the same time.</p>\r\n<p align=\"center\"><img alt=\"\" height=\"312\" src=\"/sites/default/files/intersections.PNG\" style=\"border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 3px; float: right;\" width=\"500\" /></p>\r\n<p>The first point refers to the fact that real people aren&rsquo;t cartoons. We are each complicated and multi-dimensional. For instance, a person is not just &lsquo;working class&rsquo;. They also have a gender. In general, life for a working class woman will be significantly different than for a working class man, not only because a woman is oppressed by sexism but because class itself is experienced differently.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1490482800\";}i:4;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8435\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:87:\"Hitting Tesco where it hurts: Strike sees sales fall more than 80% leading to back down\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:1393:\"<p><img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/TescoPowerOfStrike.jpg\" style=\"width: 400px; height: 402px; margin: 3px; float: right;\" />Tesco agreed Friday to suspend its attempt to impose a worsening of pay and conditions on its long term workers and to return to the Labour Court, leading to the suspension of the strike.&nbsp; Monday&rsquo;s Irish Times carries a report on just how hard Tesco have been hit by the strike action, the Finglas superstore saw a massive 80% decline in takings.&nbsp; These leaked figures stand in stark contrast to the attempt by Tesco PR to suggest the strike was ineffective and unpopular.</p>\r\n<p>The figures reveal that even those stores which had not yet voted to strike, and which subsequently did not have pickets, saw a decline of 30% in sales.&nbsp; According to <a href=\"http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/tesco-sales-fell-significantly-in-picketed-stores-during-strike\">Conor Pope&rsquo;s report</a> in Tesco Clearwater on the Monday before the strike <em>&ldquo;sales were &euro;165,901, while a week later they were under &euro;35,000, a drop of &euro;130,916 or nearly 80 per cent&rdquo;</em> and <em>&ldquo;The fall between the two Mondays across 29 stores of all sizes totalled &euro;827,896. .. 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It&#39;s estimated that 1% of the US population took to the streets to protest the Trump presidency that day with solidarity protests in dozens of cities around the world including Belfast.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1486462807\";}}s:10:\"total_rows\";i:727;s:5:\"pager\";a:5:{s:9:\"use_pager\";s:1:\"0\";s:14:\"items_per_page\";i:6;s:7:\"element\";i:0;s:6:\"offset\";i:2;s:12:\"current_page\";i:0;}}', created = 1503127529, expire = 1503127829, headers = '', serialized = 1 WHERE cid = 'not_wsm:block_1:results:6f171fd0922b167e997398452392a596' in /var/www/public/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
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Date:

The topic of this talk (audio link below) was on organising unions in non-unionised workplaces, and possibly re-invigorating places where unions are ostensibly still organised. Our labour market locally is increasingly casualised, de-skilled, and less well paid. “Flexible” arrangements between employer and employee are the current code word for the slashing of security of contract and the threat of relocation of capital. Unions have historically been the only means of lower paid workers countering trends like these, so the question as to how workers organise and fight back is coming back into focus more and more. This talk intended to address just that, and the speakers put forward arguments for an alternative to the top-down trade unionism that evidently isn’t working today.

 

Dave is the first to speak in this hour-long talk. He is an organizer in the North of England for the Industrial Workers of the World (also known as the Wobblies), and started his union activism as a worker in a Pizza Hut. A self described “gabby opinionated [troublemaker]”, was involved in left wing politics for years prior to this, and it was only in the course of a casual conversation with a colleague, after years of working there, had the thought of actually organising to confront management occurred to him. The second speaker, Dec, also an organiser with the IWW has been involved for years. Unfortunately, Dec didn’t give much away on how he got involved - from his attitude you could tell he could have kept the room entertained with stories of activism for hours.

The IWW is a radical anarcho-syndicalist union that was founded by anarchist organisers (amongst others such as Mother Jones / Mary Harris) in the United States in 1905. The union represents the most vulnerable of workers, and has its roots in organizing casual labourers in the US’s Mid-West, when work was temporary and uncertain, health and safety non-existent, and capitalists under no pressure from anyone to improve conditions for workers - conditions similar to the ones we find ourselves in today.

The common thread of the talk was how to get workers thinking in terms of “everyone’s an organiser”, rather than workers paying an organiser to be the union for them. This is the model the IWW work off, and in academic circles is categorised as solidarity unionism. The name comes from the principle that the union as a legal entity exists only as a result of pre-existing solidarity and mutual trust between workers in a workplace. The workers organise horizontally in local branches and make decisions on direct actions and negotiations themselves first, only making recourse to local organisers when they feel necessary. This is opposed to rank-and-file unionism, the model most mainstream unions (think SIPTU) work off - which is where a fulltime paid organiser with the union deals with all the day to day union issues for workers, and as such, usually makes all the decisions for them.

There were a lot of solid pointers given on getting people interested in solidarity trade unionism by both speakers:
- Avoid even the most well meaning people becoming superman/woman activists, which leads to exhaustion and can unravel lots of work;
- Get people talking to each other first about their grievances, before talking about a union
-  Innoculate people from management misrepresentation by explaining the potential unions aims before they try to misrepresent the organisers objectives,
-  Ensure you formalise structures like committees to keep people involved and keep power close to the workfloor rather than keeping things unformalised
- Workers will always want to support each other when under pressure, the goal is in changing how think about doing this.

Dave gave the example of a change in attitude that can lead to bigger changes in thinking -  instead of taking 7 minutes break instead of 10 because your colleague is under pressure and on their own, support your colleague by making sure everyone takes their ten minutes and recognises that the issue isn’t with the breaks it’s with inadequate staffing. It’s a small thing, and it’s the understanding as to why you/we/all of us should do it that makes it important.

What was stressed more than anything however, was to make sure the little victories happen, and are recognised. People need to see their work giving results if they’re not to lose heart and the hard work that’s put in dissipate.
Examples were given of where this is working, and the types of workplaces unionised is really inspiring considering where most young people work today. Three particular examples jump out - Starbucks, Pizza Hut and Jimmy Johns (a fast food company in North America).  These types of companies have a huge turnover in staff, are immensely profitable, and immensely anti-union, descriptions which cover a multitude of Irish service based companies. Why shouldn’t the model which has worked abroad work here?

Both Dave and Dec were keen to point out that this model of working is not a silver bullet though. There are a number of issues with this type of organisation that were outlined, including the high expectations of commitment on behalf of the workers, sustaining peoples interests once the initial buzz of a union drive wears off, the development of informal hierarchies between workers and applying this form of organisation on a larger scale.  One other big issue mentioned is how some of the more traditional mainstream unions in th UK are beginning to instrumentalise this form of unionising (i.e using its form, but not really believing in its philosophy of worker led representation and direct action).

There were a couple of questions and contributions from the floor at the end, centering on countering legal issues, internal IWW organisation, and how unions can act on a broader scale in countering austerity. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to really allow the discussion flow, or to even discuss other unions that organise like this (for example the SAC anarchist union in Sweden) but from the short time available it was clear that the message of the Wobblies had piqued peoples interests at the very least.

As a follow up to the discussion, there was talk of possibly an IWW training weekend being arranged at some point over the next few months. Keep an eye out for any developments.


Reviewed for the 1013 Anarchist bookfair by E McM
Download an mp3 of the talk

 

Organising the Unorganised in unions - Dublin Anarchist Bookfair 2013 session by Workers Solidarity on Mixcloud

 

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