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"Class Power on Zero-Hours" by Angry Workers

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Lucky Black Cat's picture
Lucky Black Cat
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May 21 2020 06:57
"Class Power on Zero-Hours" by Angry Workers

Has anyone read the new book "Class Power on Zero-Hours" by Angry Workers? What did you think of it? I'm particularly interested in people's take on the last few chapters.

I haven't read it but I did read the intro chapter online, which includes chapter summaries, and the last few chapters seem especially good.

https://classpower.net/intro/

Quote:
We end the book, between chapters twelve and fifteen, on AngryWorkers’ thoughts on revolutionary strategy. We look at the division within current protest movements between square occupations and street protests on one side and strikes on the other. We raise the question of how a takeover of the means of production can be imagined once these means are scattered around the globe. We try to talk about the process of revolution as a process of basic tasks for the working class, rather than a mystical moment. We end this section with our organisational proposals to you!

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May 21 2020 09:12

I'm starting to read it. It's quite a big book. I'll report back.

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May 21 2020 10:25

I've read it. It's good, I would recommend, I'm always keen on writing that doesn't just talk about "capitalism" or whatever on a vague systemic level but manages to show how these vast concepts play out and are rooted in our daily lives and experiences. I can't super remember any specific reaction I had to those chapters - in some ways, if I was going to pick out any one chapter as a standalone, I think Chapter 6 on "syndicalism 2.0" might be the most interesting, at least for people in or around syndicalist unions, but if those are the bits you're most interested in, then you can start off with a few of their texts which are available online and were reworked into those chapters. If I remember right, I think chapter 12 is based on Labour defeat - Thoughts on democratic socialism and chapter 14 is based on Insurrection and Production. There's also their text on Reflections on ‘uneven and combined development’ and ‘class composition’ which came out after the book was released and builds on similar themes about strategy and so on. Although I've not finished reading that one because it's long and my ability to read long things on screens is shot at the moment.

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May 22 2020 03:12

Thanks for the links, R Totale. You've got me excited for chapter 6. I will probably to buy the book in the future, I hear it's not available outside of Europe right now (unless you want to pay the high shipping cost).

Darren P -- cool, looking forward to it.

AngryWorkersWorld
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May 22 2020 09:46

Where abouts are your hunting grounds, Lucky Black Cat? Send us an email and we see about shipping...

angryworkersworld@gmail.com

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May 24 2020 17:23

Not had a chance to listen to it yet, but the Labour Days folk interview the AWW about the book here: https://soundcloud.com/labour-days/ep-26-class-power-on-zero-hours-an-in...

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Jun 2 2020 23:45

Thanks for the offer! I wouldn't want to drain your funds, though, just to subsidize my shipping costs. Besides, I'm so busy right now I probably won't have time to start a new book for a few months, and by then it will probably be available here.

AngryWorkersWorld
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Jun 7 2020 07:48

Cool! In any case, there is a new pretty detailed and not uncritical review out in the US:
https://brooklynrail.org/2020/06/field-notes/Class-Power-on-Zero-Hours

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Jun 7 2020 20:07

That is certainly an in-depth review. Am slightly curious as to how far the criticisms Shanahan does raise are more a reflection of the US/UK context difference than anyone else - I don't think "the colo(u)r line" is a term much used over here, and I certainly wouldn't offer it as a useful term for dealing with anti-EU migrant xenophobia. Obviously, I'm not trying to claim that's the only form of racism that exists in the UK, but it is an important one, and particularly so in the kind of context that the book talks about, if that makes sense.

AngryWorkersWorld
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Jun 10 2020 13:07

We don't think that the term 'colour line' has much use anywhere, really. You can see how eager the FT, The Economist, Starmer, Sunak etc. are to reduce the current outbreak to the question of 'racial injustice'... whereas people seem to understand that those sections of the working class who have been hit hardest and are willing to fight back hardest, e.g. inner-city black proletarian, are a rally point for much wider discontent...

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Jun 17 2020 13:14

organizing.work have a review up here:

https://organizing.work/2020/06/better-luck-next-time

I didn't like this review much. Seems to be lecturing the authors for not following some specific strategies that the reviewer likes, ignoring everything in the book that doesn't fit their organising schema. Plus, I don't know if it makes much sense to see what AWW are suggesting as a "industrialising" strategy like the Maoists, Trots, etc of old.

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Jun 17 2020 14:06

Hiya, we think the review sets us up as a bit of a straw man, probably in the struggle within the US IWW between 'proper unionists' and 'movement people'. In the book we are very honest about all the various forms of organising we undertook, but the honesty wasn't really appreciated. The many examples of 'traditional organising' (we organised family outings, cricket matches, represented dozens of workers in disciplinaries, organised meetings between female line workers and participants in important women strikes in the 70s, organised cleaners combine meetings across four factories, mobilised for collective bargaining rights by speaking to 1,000 warehouse colleagues individually etc.) are largely omitted in order to prove that as 'external infiltrators' we had to fail. Again, we could have written the book differently and boosted the many small successes that we had, but we thought that this has been done enough and what both the communist milieu and working class militants need is an honest reflection. We will write a reply at some point - not in self-defence - but because the debate is politically important: what is 'organising success' from a perspective of working class emancipation?

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Jun 17 2020 17:38

Yeah, I think the whole Organizing Work/Marianne G. brand seems to be pretty much syndicalist Eeyore/permanently in the mode of that cartoon guy pointing at a factory, and that can be fine and valuable at times, but it is also not entirely unprecedented for her to portray something in the most negative light possible to the extent of creating a barely-recognisable caricature. The terms "fly-by-night" and "can’t conceive of class power operating outside of the protection of labor law and union officialdom"(!) definitely feel like someone was reading a different book to the one I did.

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Jun 20 2020 02:40
sherbu-kteer wrote:
organizing.work have a review up here:

https://organizing.work/2020/06/better-luck-next-time

I didn't like this review much. Seems to be lecturing the authors for not following some specific strategies that the reviewer likes, ignoring everything in the book that doesn't fit their organising schema. Plus, I don't know if it makes much sense to see what AWW are suggesting as a "industrialising" strategy like the Maoists, Trots, etc of old.

This line stuck out to me:

Marianne Garneau wrote:
I specialize in the “we tried to organize and failed” genre. I think it’s important to talk about losses, and getting things wrong.

This review was made in bad faith.

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Jun 18 2020 14:37

This type of sectarianism, and the insistence need to justify ones tendency, feels like a natural result of the in-fighting that is going on within IWW.

AngryWorkersWorld
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Jun 18 2020 16:40

Ciao comrades,

here is another review, a bit less of a mash up:

https://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/three-class-struggles-and-fu...

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Jun 19 2020 11:45

Interesting review that, although I found it a tiny bit hard to follow in some places. I notice it's at least the second review to compare it to Hinterland, and the plug for Chav Solidarity reminded me that I should really get around to reading that one day. Also, a bit of a shame that one of the reviewer's major political criticisms, about the difference between their "flexible" attitude to the reformist unions and more inflexible attitude to the Labour Party, is hidden away in a footnote, there's probably an entire article that could be written about that footnote.

AngryWorkersWorld
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Jun 19 2020 12:20

Right! If we had to say it in a sentence: you can't use the Labour Party as a legal vehicle to organise a strike

zugzwang
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Jun 19 2020 14:13

Looks interesting, will have to get a hold of a copy.

Unrelated, I happened to see on PM Press site that wch podcast have a book coming out in September, with a foreword by Chomsky (think they interviewed him before on Vietnam if I'm not mistaken).

https://www.pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=1135

zugzwang
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Jul 8 2020 08:47
zugzwang wrote:
Unrelated, I happened to see on PM Press site that wch podcast have a book coming out in September, with a foreword by Chomsky (think they interviewed him before on Vietnam if I'm not mistaken).

https://harpers.org/a-letter-on-justice-and-open-debate/

Still impressed by the Chomsky foreword, even if Chomsky thinks we should be more tolerant of right-wing extremists and vote for Biden.

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Jul 12 2020 20:26

For people who like listening to radio interviews, another interview with the authors is here: https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/trax-fm-wicked/jon-bouds-all-the-ra...
I'd not heard of the show before but it sounds like they have some interesting interviewees, although there doesn't seem to be any way to find an archive of that show specifically without just digging through everything broadcast on the station.

AngryWorkersWorld
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Jul 15 2020 16:24

Pretty nice review from Plan C comrade, would have been interesting to use the review to reflect on the Plan C experience - similarities and differences...

https://www.weareplanc.org/blog/class-power-on-zero-hours-book-review/

syndicalist
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Jul 15 2020 21:43

All very interesting. Although OW somewhat excessive. As a long term anarcho-syndicslist, both make some valid points. And, FWIW, there's bunches to learn from all.

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Aug 5 2020 13:38

The Class Power book gets a mention, along with Nihilist Communism, Theorie Communiste and various others, in the citations of the new Phil Neel article: https://brooklynrail.org/2020/07/field-notes/Crowned-Plague
(OK, I'm done plugging that article now)

AngryWorkersWorld
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Aug 8 2020 09:15

For comrades in the US: the book finally arrived, no more of that pre-order business. Order your copy, get it shipped, read it, send us comments:

https://www.pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=1164

Spikymike
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Aug 26 2020 16:18

A critical review here from a left communist perspective. You don't have to take on board this groups version of 'decadence theory' or their take on the need to 'build the party' to recognise some genuine contradictions, or at least confusions, in the very brief outline of a revolutionary strategy in the conclusions to the book. The detailed storylines in the book of the AWW members experiences in various related west London workplaces are certainly valuable examples of the combination of objective and subjective barriers to class organisation even at a basic defensive level and particularly the limitations of both mainstream and 'base' unions, but these problems were well known to the AWW in advance so there must be a question as to the purpose behind their political choices here.
We as most workers will understandably make pragmatic choices from time to time in relation to joining or not various union organisations from positions of weakness but none of these are the basis of any revolutionary strategy.
Certainly communist groups do need to try and be knowledgeable and 'rooted' in their local working class geographical areas as well as being networked internationally, but this is easier said than done given our current distribution and numbers without better cooperation across present ideological divisions. There may be some lessons to be learnt from the AWW and friends experiences in helping with this but they are perhaps as much negative as positive so far?
Anyway here is the CWO's rather than my contribution:
https://libcom.org/blog/class-power-zero-hours-learning-hard-way-1408202...

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Aug 26 2020 14:03

A follow-up on the Organizing Work debate: not listened to it yet, but looking round OW for the first time in a while, I notice they have a podcast episode on "three recent articles they authored addressing the left’s role in workplace organizing — and the massive reaction online". Will try to have a listen at some point when I get around to it, but the fact that they have show notes with links to various OW articles, but no link to the AWW reply, does not make me feel particularly hopeful that they're going to be approaching things in a very helpful/honest/generous way.

Spikymike
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Aug 27 2020 11:04

Re Post #27. Reminded me why I dislike this kind of chatty podcast - It was a 'like' bit of a 'like', kinda 'like' ramble though 'like' offhand observations from 'like' two friends talking incoherently about leftists and workplace organising of little use to any worker actually looking for help in their workplace - better stick to the various written contributions that this chat was presumably intended to promote.

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Aug 27 2020 13:36

I was meaning to go back and add, it turns out that podcast really doesn't seem to add much to the discussion of the Class Power book itself, as it turns out that one of the two hosts hasn't actually read it, just the Organizing Work review. The whole thing seems to be much more focused on a different OW article, "the leftwing deadbeat", and it doesn't seem like they ever get around to acknowledging the AWW response to their review at all.
I actually didn't mind the style that much and I'd say it's a decent listen if you want to hear two people having a conversation about the role of ideological leftists/pro-revolutionaries in workplace organising, but maybe that's just my brain being broken by lockdown so I'm grateful for anything that even vaguely resembles human interaction, who knows? Either way, it's definitely not much of a contribution to the discussion around the Class Power book and their review, unless the bits I haven't listened to yet take a really sharp turn away from the parts I have heard.

AngryWorkersWorld
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Aug 29 2020 07:28

A response to the CWO review:
http://libcom.org/blog/resonse-cwo-review-class-power-zero-hours-2908202...

asn
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Sep 2 2020 11:27

There is a critical review of 'Class Power on Zero Hours' by Angry Workers World
in latest Rebel Worker Vol.38 No.2 (226) Sept. - Oct. 2020
on www.rebelworker.org