Next WEDNESDAY starting at 7 pm at Freedom Bookshop (In Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX. The alley is next to the KFC near Aldgate East tube, Whitechapel Art Gallery exit)
there will be an open follow-up discussion on ways we can cooperate and support each other as workers, unemployed, immigrants, activists and unionists, followed by a London IWW meeting immediately afterwards.
Free copies of the film “An Injury to One” will also be available.
P.S. –see the article below (for the next issue of Freedom & the Industrial Worker) – it offers a few ideas we could build on. Other ideas welcome.
London Wobblies celebrate and plan
The recently established London IWW group, which seems to have given a new lease of life to the Wobblies in the British Isles, held on the 5th November an IWW centenary celebration at the RampART squatted social centre in East London. It was our first public event where the core group, which was established a few months ago, had a general presentation of its ideals, goals and methods.
The high point of the evening was the discussion on building autonomous workers’ resistance in London. This was largely centred around trying to draw on previous experiences, such as the lessons of the Gate Gourmet dispute (1), which has confirmed the importance of militant rank-and-file unionism as the only promising means for annulling the present laws against solidarity strikes.
The grassroots democratic model of the Workmates Collective of West London tube workers (2) was also mentioned.
Partly drawing on the useful perspective of minority/solidarity unionism (3), the Paris Solidarity Collective (4) and, similarly, the concept and practice of flying squads/pickets are particularly refreshing, even if far from being a historically new tactic.(5) In addition to the benefits propagated by Shantz and Levant, flying squads/pickets could also contribute, among other things, to the creation of an authentic “community of resistance” - greater cooperation, coordination and general interaction within “the broader movement”, linking groups and struggles which have previously been isolated and disconnected, or at least failed to live up to their true potential. However, there is also a possible danger of stagnating and inward-turning flying squads slipping into “activist” roles, followed by progressive disassociation from the workers themselves.
Serious and consistent strategising is needed, which should also involve a greater openness to the labour-community model of organising. The unfolding “regeneration” (gentrification) of East London (further legitimised and also accelerated by the 2012 London Olympics) and the probability of a council tax increase, property values and rents skyrocketing etc. (thus effectively driving out working-class people out of the city and to the outskirts – a phenomenon which has already happened to many Cockneys during the “regeneration” of the Docklands in the 60s, 70s & 80s) - coupled with tens of thousands expected new, mostly Eastern European (hyper-exploited) building workers, relatively militant transport workers and the great bargaining power of the many service industries closely tied to the Olympics - constitutes a potentially explosive mix which could offset a general upsurge in working-class combativity.
One of the prominent issues which where raised in the discussion (particularly by disenchanted, yet active members of the business unions) revolved around the benefits of dual membership (which the IWW allows) and the need for a core group of the most militant workers & unionists who could more easily develop rank-and-file factions and networks in and across their unions, simultaneously helping to provide the IWW with a larger pool of experience, resources and access to rank-and-file union members (and in turn increasing the chances for building stronger and new workplace resistance groups).
Obviously, there are many other strategic and tactical considerations and possibilities, many of which are more typical of the general IWW approach it is famous for. One thing is certain - there is no adequate substitute for challenging the labour dry spell, and it is high time for the British libertarian left to finally start embracing workers’ struggles, agitation & organising again. I believe the IWW could have an important role to play in these efforts.
Dan Jakopovich, London IWW
(1) See for instance my article Gate Gourmet: ‘not over yet’, Freedom (Anarchist News and Views), 15 October, 2005 - http://www.infoshop.org/inews/artic...051010185322971 .
(2) See http://libcom.org/hosted/sf/nelsf/s.../html/03.htm#04 and http://libcom.org/hosted/sf/nelsf/s.../html/04.htm#04 .
(3) http://www.iww.org/nl/organize/strategy/solidarity.html .
(4) See for instance Struggles of migrant workers in Paris, prol-position news #1, 1.3. 2005 - http://www.prol-position.net and Loren Goldner, Marx & Makhno versus McDonald’s in Paris, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review #41 - http://www.syndicalist.org
(5)“Flying squads -- rapid response networks of workers that can be mobilized for strike support, demonstrations, direct action and working class defense of immigrants, poor people, and unemployed workers (…) may consist of little more than phone lists and meetings (…).” The emphasis is on “the emergence and growth of autonomous rank-and-file networks. The need to build a resistance that includes rank-and-file unionists, non-organized workers, non-status workers and migrants is critical.” (Jeff Shantz, Developing Workers Autonomy: An Anarchist Look At Flying Squads, 1.2. 2004 - http://nefac.net/en/node/915)
“Supporting striking workers, as well as unorganized, unemployed, and unpaid workers, stopping deportations, challenging abusive landlords, and mobilizing for mass protests against capitalist globalization are some of the activities that flying squads in Canada have engaged in. (…) By developing abilities that normally atrophy under capitalism, flying squads help overcome the crisis of working-class self-organization.”(Alex Levant, Flying Squads and the Crisis of Workers’ Self-Organisation, New Socialist, Spring 2003- http://www.newsocialist.org/magazine/40.html).