20 theses on workfare

Wrong to work cat

Blog post in which I pass off 140-character bursts from Twitter as enigmatic libertarian communist analysis.

1. Workfare represents a massive reimposition of work both on the unemployed and in undermining pay/conditions/security of waged workers.

2. This reimposition of work can only be understood as the product of a system – capitalism – which lives by exploiting living labour.

3. “Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.”

4. The drive to reimpose work, to extract more labour for less pay, is an expression of the social relation called ‘value’.

5. Value is the relation by which ‘the invisible hand’ works: the ‘double freedom’ to sell your labour, and having nothing else to sell.

6. Capitalists who don’t conform to value soon cease to be capitalists. If workfare becomes established, eschewing it will not be an option.

7. Workfare is not slavery but wage labour on the terms common in most of the world: work or starve. £64/week is a wage – a poverty one.

8. Workfare only appears as slavery in relation to the welfare ‘safety net’ which many of us have grown up with.

9. Welfare itself reflected capital’s fear of insurgent labour. As that fear has receded, welfare has been rationalised to reimpose work.

10. The present conditions are incomprehensible from a post-class/value perspective that can’t grasp capital's necessary dependence on cheap labour.

11. Rising social inequality represents successful exploitation. The cheaper labour costs, the richer the rich become.

12. ‘Neoliberalism’ has not been a shrinking of the state but an off-shoring and downsizing of the old centres of working class militancy.

13. The class struggle has continued to be fought by the other side.

14. All work tends towards casualisation in the absence of organisation. Casualisation is primarily an effect of our weakness not a cause.

15. Organisation is not synonymous with unionisation. The trade unions, based on social partnership, can only negotiate conditions of surrender.

16. Hence the battle against workfare cannot rely on the trade unions, though it may drag some of them along in its wake.

17. This battle is not primarily moral but political and economic.

18. We must impose costs on workfare firms, whose use of workfare is based the cost-benefit analysis demanded by value.

19. Only by increasing the political and economic costs of using workfare – turning away customers, tarnishing brands – will it be defeated.

20. All major parties support workfare. Labour introduced it. Politics is not in parliament but in our workplaces and in the streets.

Comments

no1
Jun 11 2012 11:13

Interesting and succinct.

Quote:
1. Workfare represents a massive reimposition of work both on the unemployed and in undermining pay/conditions/security of waged workers.

7. Workfare is not slavery but wage labour on the terms common in most of the world: work or starve. £64/week is a wage – a poverty one.

What is the significance of the wage being paid by the state rather than the 'employer'?

Joseph Kay
Jun 11 2012 11:28

From a schematic point of view it's no different; capital pays labour, labour increases the value of capital, repeat as the rich get richer. But from a political/economic point of view it suggests a change in the nature of the labour market. Wages are paid to allow workers to reproduce themselves - to feed and clothe themselves and put a roof over their heads - so that they can continue to turn up for work in the morning. In theory, JSA is meant to be enough to survive on, and housing benefit can cover the rent.

So workfare represents the state taking responsibility for reproducing a section of the labour force on condition they work, and doing so at a bare subsistence level far below the minimum or mean wages. Even if workfare only directly effects a small percentage of the labour force (up to 7%, which the mooted 2m out of 29m would be), it can only exert a downward pressure on all wages to the detriment of all workers and the benefit of all employers/capitalists.

I don't think that's something any private employer could achive - certainly not without repealing minimum wage legislation and imposing huge pay cuts. Rather this way everybody's wages will be eroded by inflation and real incomes will continue to fall, which the government presumably hopes will boost profits. But profits need effective demand, and since wages are being held down that could only come from abroad.

So if there's a plan behind this, it seems to be to make the UK's labour market the cheapest and most flexible in Europe, and therefore to attract capital to use it as a base to export to the rest of the EU. Which depends on the Eurozone not collapsing. There's all sorts of interconnecting threads here that need thinking through.

Steven.
Jun 11 2012 20:15

Good stuff.

I know that 20 is a nice round number, but I think one point should go into these wages being paid by the state rather than employees, as no1 mentions.

Joseph Kay
Jun 11 2012 20:18

it's not that it's a round number, it's just a twitter rant that happened to run to 20 tweets!

snipfool
Jun 11 2012 20:53

Nice list, good one for sharing.

Steven.
Jun 11 2012 20:55

Snipfool, I spotted that too and have corrected it.

On this one, Joseph:

Quote:
Only by increasing the political and economic costs of using workfare – turning away customers, tarnishing brands – will it be defeated.

Do you believe this? How does this compare with what you believe regarding other poverty-wage aspects of work under capitalism, like sweatshops?

Do you really think consumer boycotts are a workable model for fighting this? While it could pressure some of the more "ethical-image" brands out of the scheme (temporarily at least while the issue is big in the public eye), I think realistically the only thing which can stop it long-term is workers' action on the shop floor. Which would be more likely to be sabotage/slacking/simply bad work than outright industrial action. Otherwise I think it's going to be part of the work landscape for the foreseeable future unfortunately…

no1
Jun 11 2012 21:23
Steven. wrote:
On this one, Joseph:
Quote:
Only by increasing the political and economic costs of using workfare – turning away customers, tarnishing brands – will it be defeated.

Do you believe this? How does this compare with what you believe regarding other poverty-wage aspects of work under capitalism, like sweatshops?

Do you really think consumer boycotts are a workable model for fighting this? While it could pressure some of the more "ethical-image" brands out of the scheme (temporarily at least while the issue is big in the public eye), I think realistically the only thing which can stop it long-term is workers' action on the shop floor. Which would be more likely to be sabotage/slacking/simply bad work than outright industrial action. Otherwise I think it's going to be part of the work landscape for the foreseeable future unfortunately…

I agree that the most effective way to fight workfare is action on the shop floor (by paid workers and workers on workfare) -- but that's just another good way of increasing economic costs of using workfare isn't it. Consumer boycotts are often pretty ineffective, but turning away customers isn't necessarily identical to a consumer boycott. A lot of shop managers go mad when you picket their shop because they feel it undermines their power and how they present themselves to customers. Combined with public opposition to workfare, this can encourage staff to question their boss's power and perhaps consider taking action themselves.

edit - cross posted with JK and fingers

Joseph Kay
Jun 11 2012 21:16

If we rely on shop floor action then it's lost already. most of the companies involved have no history of organisation or militancy, and those that do (Royal Mail) have the union on board. I'd absolutely love to see industrial action against workfare, but it just seems like wishful thinking. I mean I could have written 'we need a general strike against workfare', but it's rhetoric rooted in fantasy, not strategy!

Whereas people can - and have been - occupying stores, picketing them and turning people away, and causing economic damage. Most of the firms that have dropped out seem to have done so not just from this, but from the associated brand damage (bear in mind brands are assets worth millions in their own right). The workfare schemes are full of holes, the providers barely make any money and might even be losing money (once you subtract fraud).

There's a real possibility these schemes will collapse, and every firm we force to pull out is less potential placements for providers who are paid by 'results' (getting people paid jobs). I don't think getting a load of claimants and workers to occupy, picket or blockade stores is reducible to buying Pepsi instead of coke to assuage your conscience. Consumer boycotts are an individual moral standpoint, collectively causing economic damage to firms using workfare has been forcing firms to pull out.

fingers malone
Jun 11 2012 21:19

edit- cross post with JK

Consumer boycotts seem to have worked on Tesco, but long term, it's more difficult: when all the supermarkets are involved people are unlikely to boycott all of them for example.
The thing I'm worried about regarding sabotage/slacking/bad work is the vulnerability of claimants to having their benefit cut off. I don't know how much power their employer has in terms of sanctions if they don't quit but work badly, but I'd be wary of recommending this to people if there is no guarantee they will get any backup or solidarity if they are sanctioned.

One of the major problems atm is the demonisation of the unemployed and of all claimants, so that other sections of the working class do not feel solidarity with them. This could change when people are working together but not automatically- the most typical relationship between permanents and casuals isn't very good for example.

fingers malone
Jun 11 2012 21:33

Well, consumer boycotts have been used effectively in the past to support strikes, for example.

It's not an either/or. We shouldn't stop doing the pickets because the "real" thing to do is shopfloor action, that would be stupid, stopping doing something we can do to talk about doing something that so far we can't do. However, imo we do need shopfloor action. Thing is, even paid workers in shops have found it almost impossible to organise, so this is a very difficult situation.

Basically I'm arguing that we should keep doing the pickets, and also have a long look at the problems of unwaged organising, and how to support people who are put on the schemes and want to fight, and try to work out some tactics that work for organising in minimum wage workplaces in general, which will also help for workfare.

fingers malone
Jun 11 2012 21:35

Agree with no1, pickets could make staff feel more confident, especially if they are given contact details. However, sadly some workers identify so much with the company that they will feel on the side of the employer against the picket.

Auto
Jun 11 2012 21:58

On our local picket of H&B we actually got interest from other workers in nearby shops who came out to sneakily grab a leaflet. Some even had experience of workfare and were as against it as we were... the main problem, as always, is fear. Fear of the boss, fear of repercussions, fear of 'rocking the boat'.

I think this fear is the major obstacle that we face when it comes to trying to organise in a modern capitalist world. It's hard to see how we overcome it as it's entirely rational.

fingers malone
Jun 11 2012 21:54

Completely agree with Auto.

Steven.
Jun 11 2012 22:34
Joseph Kay wrote:
If we rely on shop floor action then it's lost already. most of the companies involved have no history of organisation or militancy, and those that do (Royal Mail) have the union on board. I'd absolutely love to see industrial action against workfare, but it just seems like wishful thinking. I mean I could have written 'we need a general strike against workfare', but it's rhetoric rooted in fantasy, not strategy!

firstly, I don't think it's fair to compare what I said with saying "we need a general strike".

If you look at what I said, I wasn't talking about a "fantasy" general strike. What I think would be more likely to cause the downfall of the scheme is people being crap workers. Being inefficient, possibly stealing produce, etc. This is not something which I think will be done following a deliberate, political decision by workers.

Also, what I said was if there is not this sort of widespread generalised inefficiency or some form of more concrete action then I don't think that workfare is going to be stopped. As fingers Malone said, if it even gets to most supermarkets, you won't be able to turn people away.

I see there is a difference between pickets turning people away, and consumer boycotts, however being realistic a tiny minority of militants isn't going to be able to muster enough pickets to cause significant economic damage to any large company. What is happening is brand damage - which unfortunately is going to be pretty limited in its potential (see the brand damage that was inflicted on Nike by anti-sweatshop campaigns, for example or on McDonald's by healthy food/farming campaigns etc).

fingers malone wrote:
Well, consumer boycotts have been used effectively in the past to support strikes, for example.

out of interest, could you tell me more about this? (The examples I'm aware of are pretty much only unsuccessful ones, like the boycott News International campaign during the Wapping dispute)

Steven.
Jun 11 2012 22:37

Fingers, on the working badly etc issue I think you are right in terms of the biggest issue being what happens to people's benefits in that situation. And TBH I don't know. Anyone?

fingers malone
Jun 12 2012 08:55

JJ foods in Tottenham (dispute didn't win though). People went round local kebab shops and asked them not to use JJ foods.
Grunwicks strikers went round local chemist shops asking them not to send films there for processing. (that dispute didn't win either.)

Memphis refuse workers dispute, 1968. The black community organised a boycott of downtown shops just before Easter in support of the strike.

This wasn't actually a strike, but was good anyway so it's going in:

Bristol bus boycott against racist hiring policies.

Joseph Kay
Jun 12 2012 06:40
Steven wrote:
Also, what I said was if there is not this sort of widespread generalised inefficiency or some form of more concrete action then I don't think that workfare is going to be stopped.

no, what you said was quoting no 19:

JK wrote:
19. Only by increasing the political and economic costs of using workfare – turning away customers, tarnishing brands – will it be defeated.

...imputing this means "consumer boycotts" and asking "Do you believe this?". As I know you're a grammar pedant ( wink ), the parentheses indicate an aside - some illustrative examples which have had success already - to the main point of "increasing the political and economic costs of using workfare". Which seems to be what you're advocating! (fwiw, I'm not sure how pickets/occupations aren't concrete action?).

As I've said, shop floor action would be brilliant. But it seems very unlikely. Workfare workers are subject not just to managerial discipline but benefits sanctions*, so nicking or slacking could lead not just to discipline but to losing all income, while the firm sends them back and replaces them with someone with more work ethic.

Not only that, these schemes have been explicitly set up in such a way as to use the inevitable individual refusals to lower the welfare bill - the 50% refusal rate in a trial was considered a success. And of course lots of the firms are dangling the prospect of a (probably phantom) paid job for the best performing workfare inmate.

So all these factors make it pretty hard to encourage people to take the kind of action you're talking about imho. On the other hand, people on workfare schemes can take action at other stores with much less risk. None of the people I know who've been on both workfare schemes and anti-workfare actions wanted to rock the boat in their own workplace (though this could be unrepresentative). This kind of thing has been happening, and has already forced some firms out. It's not a hypothetical, i used those examples because it's actually been responsible for firms pulling out already.

Things will need to grow and generalise, sure. Shop floor action would be great. And by the time they get round to job substitution in the public sector (as has been happening in the NHS) the chances of industrial action are higher if there's already been several firms forced out, tens of thousands of leaflets given out, and everyone knows what 'workfare' is (which 6 months ago definitely wasn't the case). Though if the CWU are on board with it I don't hold out much hope for Unison allowing ballots.

* Edit: these have been temporarily suspended due to the controversy, so there may be an opportunity for a 'how to refuse workfare' leaflet.

Chilli Sauce
Jun 12 2012 06:42
Quote:
Consumer boycotts are often pretty ineffective, but turning away customers isn't necessarily identical to a consumer boycott

This.

I think part of the idea with actions like SF's involvement in anti-workfare action is to re-establish the legitimacy of the picket line. Personally, I think a general tactic of "boycott (all companies which use) workfare" is unrealistic. However, if we can effectively picket companies which use workfare to (1) turn away customers during the picket and (2) hopefully help legitimise the sanctity of the picket amongst a wider section of the class, we're making progress--not only as part or the anti-workfare campaign, but as part of the modern labor movement.

The NYC IWW/brandworkershave had some success using the media to force companies to boycott various warehouses which sacked union workers (after the union drive failed, it's worth adding).

fingers malone
Jun 12 2012 08:30
Joseph Kay wrote:

So if there's a plan behind this, it seems to be to make the UK's labour market the cheapest and most flexible in Europe, and therefore to attract capital to use it as a base to export to the rest of the EU. Which depends on the Eurozone not collapsing.

I've heard talk about how "we have to compete with low wage economies", but you know, wages in southern Europe are already a lot lower than they are here, and with higher unemployment acting as pressure on them too. As there is much less of a welfare state what works to reproduce the labour force is what they call the colchon, the mattress, which is family support for unemployed people, but this isn't infinite. There's people talking in Spain atm about how this has gone past sustainable limits already. So we'd have to drop an awful long way to have a cheaper labour force than Spain or Portugal, do you think that's realistically likely to happen?

Which countries in the Eurozone do you reckon would be likely to invest here or buy exports, Germany I suppose, who else?

Joseph Kay
Jun 12 2012 08:31

More practically, if you think shop floor action is the difference between victory and defeat, what can be done to make it more likely?

The problem with working inefficiently seems to be that these staff cost the companies nothing, so even if they just have someone lazily facing up or sweeping the floor it isn't costing them anything. And having worked as a porter/picker in Argos* a couple of times over the years everyone already slacks off at every opportunity, so being less productive than waged staff could be quite difficult!

A nicking epidemic might tip the cost-benefit analysis away from workfare, but it's pretty high risk (stores are covered with CCTV; I know Argos has a 'no bags on the shopfloor' policy and searches bags before you leave). Obviously stuff can still be nicked, but gross misconduct without the safety net of signing on is pretty high stakes. I know plenty of people who've been sacked for nicking from work, but are people on workfare going to do this sufficiently more than waged workers, and get away with it? Should we be encouraging people to take that risk?

* this is one of the jobs using lots of workfare

fingers malone
Jun 12 2012 08:36
Joseph Kay wrote:
More practically, if you think shop floor action is the difference between victory and defeat, what can be done to make it more likely?

Yeah, agree, let's look at this seriously.

Agree about stealing from work, and it doesn't just get you sacked either, remember a lot of unemployed people are actually trying to get jobs, so getting yourself a criminal record for stealing from work might look a bit unattractive to them.

Joseph Kay
Jun 12 2012 08:58
fingers malone wrote:
I've heard talk about how "we have to compete with low wage economies", but you know, wages in southern Europe are already a lot lower than they are here, and with higher unemployment acting as pressure on them too. As there is much less of a welfare state what works to reproduce the labour force is what they call the colchon, the mattress, which is family support for unemployed people, but this isn't infinite. There's people talking in Spain atm about how this has gone past sustainable limits already. So we'd have to drop an awful long way to have a cheaper labour force than Spain or Portugal, do you think that's realistically likely to happen?

No I don't. But if there's a logic behind the expansion of workfare beyond kicking the poor, that would seem to be it. I guess it depends how much it expands. If they're planning to go the whole way and replace welfare with mandatory labour, then that could certainly undercut Spain/Portugal (though then they could just follow suit, so it's a 'beggar-thy-neighbour' policy). And in terms of 'going past sustainable limits', imho with millions of unemployed they don't give a shit if some die - look at the Atos suicides for example. At least, as long as they die quietly and in private.

fingers malone wrote:
Which countries in the Eurozone do you reckon would be likely to invest here or buy exports, Germany I suppose, who else?

Coupled with the UK's tax haven policies, it would seem to be aiming to attract investors wanting a foot in the EU common market (whoever they are... I mean, what does the UK export? Financial services and higher education are apparently the two biggest net balance of payments contributors). Obviously the EU has its own problems with aggregate demand, what with the depression and all! But it seems like the government's plan is to privatise everything, slash conditions and impose workfare, and hoping that growth in the EU picks up to drive exports and compensate for depressed domestic demand.* Thing is even if it works, other countries could follow suit and there goes 'Britain's competitive advantage' in a race to the bottom (which would nonetheless weaken workers vs capital everywhere).

* It is possible they don't give a shit about restoring growth (i.e. capital accumulation) at all and are just in it for personal enrichment, Suharto-capitalism style. E.g. Andrew Lansley has apparently set up a private company which is taking ownership of up to £5bn NHS land and selling it at a profit to real estate speculators, creating 22 jobs on £100k + (presumably for his alumni chums). That would explain all the cushy corrupt workfare contracts to mates of the cabinet, but seems like a pretty major thing if the state isn't operating in the general interests of capital but the private interests of the cabinet.

cantdocartwheels
Jun 12 2012 15:34
Joseph Kay wrote:
If we rely on shop floor action then it's lost already. most of the companies involved have no history of organisation or militancy, and those that do (Royal Mail) have the union on board. I'd absolutely love to see industrial action against workfare, but it just seems like wishful thinking. I mean I could have written 'we need a general strike against workfare', but it's rhetoric rooted in fantasy, not strategy!

Whereas people can - and have been - occupying stores, picketing them and turning people away, and causing economic damage. Most of the firms that have dropped out seem to have done so not just from this, but from the associated brand damage (bear in mind brands are assets worth millions in their own right). The workfare schemes are full of holes, the providers barely make any money and might even be losing money (once you subtract fraud.

Personally I think, a serious level of non-compliance or simply work avoidance by workfare claimants would also have a pretty significant effect. That does't require 'organisation' in the formal sense. Though it does probably require people to be sure that the scheme is bollocks and feel less isolated.
If firms aren't getting hardly any work out of claimants then the scheme would also collapse.
Likewise if everyone refused to go or kicked up afuss in the jobcentre it'd be a alot harder to implement.

Logically these work best alongside visible opposition eg pickets, demos etc, which help keep the arguements against the schemes in the public spotlight and have a cosiderable economic effect on companies involved.

In short its not an either/or question when it comes to stuff like this, we should be picketig stores and agitating for resistance onthe shop floor.

fingers malone
Jun 12 2012 21:20

Been looking at stuff from around the introduction of Project Work, from around 1997 afaik, when there was a move to enforce unpaid work, and the two strongest groups fighting it were Brighton and Edinburgh. Maybe if anyone knows anyone from those two groups (or anyone else who was involved) they could ask them to say something about their experience of organising around the issue at that time/

Joseph Kay
Jun 13 2012 08:07

fingers, I assume you've seen Aufheben's stuff on it, from a Brighton perspective?

- Parts 6 and 7 of 'dole autonomy' (1998)
- Epilogue (1999)
- The imposition of work in the era of austerity (2011)

In terms of shop floor action, as far as I can see nobody is against it. But preferences one way or another don't really mean much. It seems the questions are:

- is shop floor action necessary to defeat workfare, or merely desirable?
- is shop floor action against workfare likely?
- is there anything that can be done to increase its likelihood?

The answers to these questions have very practical consequences. For example if you answer 'necessary' to the first question and 'no' to the others, there's no point doing anything about workfare at all. Whereas other combinations of answers suggest other strategies.

For my part, I'd say: shop floor action is desirable but not necessary. I think a large enough movement of claimants (and others) occupying and shutting down stores not just on weekends but in the week could in principle bring down workfare. Any shop floor action is a bonus.

I don't think shopfloor action by those on workfare is particularly likely for the reasons I've outlined above, but the chances increase with the visibility and momentum of the anti-workfare movement.

I'm not sure there's much we could do to increase the chances of it, but a 'how to refuse workfare' leaflet and phone tree to go and occupy Job Centres/Workfare providers in the event of anyone being sanctioned might help (the latter has been tried before but didn't get off the ground as claimants didn't want to get in more trouble, though that may have changed).

cantdocartwheels
Jun 14 2012 10:35

Personally i think that while what your saying is correct for the most part, you are viewing things a bit too formally.
Class struggle is just as much about an individual refusal of work discipline (the old stealing pens malarkey) as it is aboutformal orgaisation, the former aswell as the latter something we should at least be trying to actively encourage (using social media etc) alongside what we're doing already.
As you know, If employers felt that most people they got on the scheme would do little work for them and cause 'disruption' then the scheme would be severely weakened.

Joseph Kay
Jun 14 2012 11:18
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Class struggle is just as much about an individual refusal of work discipline (the old stealing pens malarkey) as it is aboutformal orgaisation, the former aswell as the latter something we should at least be trying to actively encourage (using social media etc) alongside what we're doing already.

I feel like I keep linking this, but the high refusal rate in the trial was considered a success. Encouraging people to refuse as individuals is quite possibly encouraging people to lose their dole and housing benefit.

The Telegraph wrote:
A pilot scheme found that one in five who were ordered to take part in a four-week community project stopped claiming immediately. Another 30 per cent never turned up and had their £67.50 weekly handouts axed. The trial was deemed so successful that a £5 million scheme will now be rolled out nationwide, targeting up to 50,000 unemployed.

If there's a way to avoid that trap I'm all ears, but we need to acknowledge the trap that's been set.

Auto
Jun 14 2012 12:02

*The following post is made up of thoughts-in-progress*

I think it definitely is a trap, but I am beginning to think that ultimately the trap is the state support in itself. It has always been a poisoned chalice (we'll house and feed you - on condition'), it's just that the coercive aspect of the welfare state is now more obvious. The conditions are becoming more and more onerous and people are forced to go along with them.

One of the reasons that working class people can't openly resist these impositions is because there is nothing for them to fall back on. Working class networks of support and mutual aid in this country have all but vanished to be replaced by state aid. This has a huge impact on the working class - the former type of aid being (mostly)unconditional and general whereas the latter is conditional and specific.

Now we obviously don't have the strength or resources to have an totally 'alternate' working class 'welfare' system - if we did we'd probably have already had the revolution. On the other hand, perhaps this is the type of collective culture we should be attempting to rebuild. To try and break down the division between 'the employed' and 'the unemployed', to rebuild our practice of mutual aid as a class and to weaken the state's power of coercion over us.

This would obviously not be a strategy for the immediate term (not by a long shot) but more of a long term building effort.

Ed
Jun 14 2012 13:18

Yeah, Auto, I've been mulling over similar ideas recently..

For instance, when you talk to people in Italy, the default view (for loads of reasons too long to go into) is that they don't even expect the state to provide a lot of social support.. as such, there's a massive tradition here of just taking what you need (squatting empty houses, 'self-reduction' of prices etc); these days its much less than in the past but, for instance, squatting empty buildings still happens a lot here (at least by British standards).. another thing you see a bit is illegal allotments..

On the other hand, I remember from the British context that people would try to set up social centres but get evicted after a few months before moving to a completely different area. The result (with a couple of exceptions) was never putting down roots, never reaching out wider than the existing activist community and, crucially, never building up the strength to defend themselves successfully.

The problem in Britain (imo) was that these attempts at building a collective culture seemed to be viewed as a way to build a movement. In my opinion they're the result of it (as in, they're brought about by the need of a militant working class movement for infrastructure).

That said, as the crisis gets worse, things like community allotments, Advisory Service for Squatters etc could well become an important part of building a workers' movement (like 'community survival programmes' - you could prob even say that the lack of industrial power most workers have nowadays makes such community-based power even more important than in the past). But I reckon they'd need to be back-up for other organising activities, not (as I've always experienced them) instead of them.

Auto
Jun 14 2012 14:56
Quote:
On the other hand, I remember from the British context that people would try to set up social centres but get evicted after a few months before moving to a completely different area. The result (with a couple of exceptions) was never putting down roots, never reaching out wider than the existing activist community and, crucially, never building up the strength to defend themselves successfully.

I think this is a key point. There have been a few attempts to create social centres in Oxford and, though some good things have come out of them, they always seem to be transitory spaces that end up having more activist than community involvement.

This is possibly because they are set up by a small activist minority that then has to try to forge links with the community majority (a very difficult task). As you rightly say, this is different from the community deciding that it wants a space and struggling for it collectively. A community resource like that can only be defended if the community is behind it.

As this relates to Workfare, I guess it shows that if we really want to resist workfare (and all of the 'structural reforms' stacked against us) we have to work on building these networks of resistance in the wider working class community. How we do that of course is an open question.