Oil refinery strikes

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Django
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Jan 31 2009 09:59

According to Ian Bone's blog this demonstration in on Tuesday. This isn't official yet though.

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 31 2009 10:48
oisleep wrote:
we have someone posting both a picture of a worker with a sign saying british jobs for british workers while tut-tutting and also posting that same phrase in the context of a national front paper, also chipping in with 'ah well at least there was no union jacks waving in the protest'

you're referring to me here, and i'm not sure what you point is. in situations like this there's all sorts of different tendencies, some at odds with one another. here we have basic class demands (for income security/jobs full stop) being mixed up with nationalist articulation (which seems at least media/union promoted, although i don't doubt many of the workers frame it in national terms too). i fail to see what's wrong with criticising the nationalist content whilst supporting the class demands, and trying to figure out what's actually going on.

i mean when brighton bin men occupied their depot back in 2001, there was a national current because the private owner was a french company. the local paper picked this up and made out they were striking for british bosses (headlines of 'au revoir SITA' and the like). this wasn't the case at all, although some of the strikers articulated it that way. they're a multinational workforce and they've since occupied against 'british' bosses too. again, i fail to see what's wrong with trying to unravel the various tendencies in any real world struggle and promote those bits which further class solidarity whilst not liking class demands being chanelled into nationalism. this isn't "tut-tutting."

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Jan 31 2009 11:57

We've just written this leaflet - it's not yet up on our site. feel free to distribute or quote from it. Comments welcome.

Strikes in oil refineries and power stations
The class struggle is for all workers!

The walk-outs and demonstrations by workers in oil refineries and power stations over the question of unemployment show the depth of anger in the working class faced with the tidal wave of redundancies brought about by the economic crisis.

This wave of lay-offs and short-time working is not confined to Britain but is engulfing the globe. From the USA to China, from western Europe to Russia, no workers’ job is safe; and even when they have work, wages are being cut and working conditions worsened.

But workers around the world are showing their unwillingness to accept these attacks: there are daily strikes and demonstrations in China; at the end of January 2.5 million workers in France struck in protest about unemployment; students and young workers in Italy, France, Germany and above all Greece have been out on the streets demonstrating their rage against a society which offers them no future. The anger of the workers in the refineries is not specific to Britain but part of an international response to the deepening economic disaster.

Nationalism leads to a dead-end
However, the main slogan raised in the energy strikes – “British jobs for British workers” - can only lead the workers into a complete dead end.

The threat to the jobs of workers in the power industry or anywhere else does not come from a ship-load of Italian and Portuguese workers who are being used by a network of British, US, and Italian firms to cheapen labour costs. Capitalism doesn’t give a jot about the nationality of those it exploits. It only cares about how much profit it can extract from them. But it is more than happy when workers are set against each other, when they are divided up into competing national groups. The idea of “British jobs for British workers” is directly opposed to the ability of workers to defend themselves. This is because they can only stand up for their interests if their struggles extend as widely as possible and bring all workers, regardless of nationality, into a common resistance against their exploiters. Workers in the UK have no interests in common with British bosses and the British state and everything in common with so-called ‘foreign’ workers, who face the same threat of unemployment and poverty because the crisis of capitalism is a world-wide crisis.

Trade unions peddle the nationalist delusion
The main force pushing the nationalist delusion in this conflict has been the Unite and GMB trade unions who have taken up Gordon Brown’s slogan – itself filched from the British National Party – and placed it at the centre of the movement. This is not the first time the unions have tried to peddle the “British jobs for British workers” line. Last year building workers on a construction site at a power plant in Plymouth were laid off by the contractor. Other workers walked out in solidarity with their comrades. The union tried to argue that workers from Poland on the site were taking “British” jobs. This rang very hollow when these Polish workers joined the strike. The union which had protested so loudly about British workers being laid off then made a deal with the bosses to get the striking workers back to work and to leave the laid-off workers unemployed.

The media have also played a big part in spreading the nationalist message. Normally they are very quiet when workers take unofficial action or engage in illegal solidarity strikes, but they have been giving maximum publicity to this conflict, constantly focussing on the “British” placards and slogans. .

Although there’s no denying that the workers in the oil refineries and power stations have swallowed the nationalist bait to some extent, reality is much more complex, as can be seen from this statement by an unemployed worker protesting outside a Welsh power station: "I was laid off as a stevedore two weeks ago. I've worked in Cardiff and Barry Docks for 11 years and I've come here today hoping that we can shake the government up. I think the whole country should go on strike as we're losing all British industry. But I've got nothing against foreign workers. I can't blame them for going where the work is." (The Guardian On-line 20.1.2009). Other workers in the industry have themselves made the point that thousands of oil and construction workers from Britain are currently working abroad.

The future is the international class struggle

In the face of an economic crisis of devastating proportions, it is not surprising that workers will find it difficult to find the most effective way of defending themselves. The energy workers have shown a real desire to organise themselves, spread the struggle and demonstrate in support of comrades in other plants and other parts of the country, but the nationalist slogan they have adopted is going to be used against the whole working class and its ability to unite.

The ruling class has no solution to this crisis, a crisis of overproduction which has been gathering pace for decades. It can no longer conjure it away with further injections of credit – the resulting mountain of debt is obviously part of the problem. And closing each country up behind protectionist barriers – which is the logic of “British jobs for British workers” – was already shown in the 1930s to be a way of sharpening competition between nation states and dragging workers off to war.

The working class has no immediate or local solutions to the economic catastrophe. But it can defend itself against the attempts of capitalism to make it pay for the crisis. And by uniting in self-defence, across all divisions and borders, it can start to discover that it has a historic answer to the collapse of capitalism: an international revolution and a new world society based on human solidarity and not capitalist profit.

International Communist Current 31.1.09

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Jan 31 2009 12:28

alf, i would say the whole voice of the leaflet seems to talk over the heads of 'the workers' - it reads like something written by communists intended to be read by other politicos as opposed to something you'd hand out on a picket, imho. but some good content, i mean you're not wrong it's just a presentational quibble.

in other news, thousands of people have demonstrated in eastern russia under banners of "we can't live like this!" in reaction to the worsening economic situation. however "The anti-government demonstration in Vladivostok was called by the Communist Party. 'The crisis is in the heads of the authorities, not in the economy!' chanted protesters." imho it's worth stressing that workers everywhere are being effected in the same way, not as an abstract point of internationalism but with concrete examples (clearly it's not a problem 'in the heads of the authorities, the appeal of such an argument being obvious to the CP or other leftists who hope to replace the current managers of capital).

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Jan 31 2009 12:48

I think we need something which reads like Tea Break to be handed out at pickets and demos. Leaflets like the above and what we have on the site are fine if we're aiming them at a general audience or politicos, but we need something less abstract to give to strikers and their supporters. We should think about how we would talk to people if we were there.

baboon
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Jan 31 2009 13:36

Irem, the company that supplied the Italian workers for Lindsey refinery made a statement last night (Newsnight). In it they said, and there's no reason to doubt this, that they had held preliminary talks with the unions and suggested that there was agreement. I would speculate that it was the union',, then the blockade and abuse directed against the Italian workers must come to a halt and expressions of solidarity made in order for them to join the strike.

The workers have a point in saying that it's crazy economics that brings these workers here while the same firms are making job cuts. For the Italian workers it's crazy also having another chunk of their wages taken out by Irem and housed in a virtual prison.
Without speculating too much (which I'm about to do), Irem is based in Sicily. The Mafia and Commorah have done very well out of the EU and its regulations. The guy that wrote the book about the Comorrah talked about Britain's involvement in the racketeering I believe. But that's just speculation.

I support the ICC leaflet though have some sympathy with the question of tone - possibly trying to say too much. It was important for the ICC to point out the postive elements of this movement and not dismiss it out of hand as "nationalist". I wouldn't underestimate the danger of a nationalist campaign here (and you can bet that the bourgeoisie will play it up for all its worth - Newsnight showed its "impartiality" last night in this respect). But on the protest, from reports and the words of workers themselves, there's been a surprising number of overt expressions of internationalism - more than I've ever heard before. In one mass walk out shown on the TV last night, the workers looked seriously militant and there wasn't one nationalist slogan to be seen.

baboon
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Jan 31 2009 13:40

Fucked up the first para in that post above:
I meant to say that I wouldn't be surprised if the unions had demanded that the Italians (and other) be housed separately and separate canteens provided.
The second correction is that for this struggle to go forward then the blockage and abuse of the Italian workers must stop.

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Jan 31 2009 13:44
Joseph K. wrote:
oisleep wrote:
we have someone posting both a picture of a worker with a sign saying british jobs for british workers while tut-tutting and also posting that same phrase in the context of a national front paper, also chipping in with 'ah well at least there was no union jacks waving in the protest'

you're referring to me here, and i'm not sure what you point is. in situations like this there's all sorts of different tendencies, some at odds with one another. here we have basic class demands (for income security/jobs full stop) being mixed up with nationalist articulation (which seems at least media/union promoted, although i don't doubt many of the workers frame it in national terms too). i fail to see what's wrong with criticising the nationalist content whilst supporting the class demands, and trying to figure out what's actually going on.

my point was a straightforward reply to Steven, i raised the general point about it being workers who are being branded as racist/nationalistic even though they are reacting to a situation where because of their nationality (at least on the surface) they are not being considered for work - he asked who had branded them racist/nationalistic and i replied that it's being done explicitly elsewhere and somewhat implicitly here - i agree with you (now) that a lot of the nationalist articulation is media/union promoted so therefore i'm somewhat surprised to see it being added to by conflating what's going on with national front newspaper front pages - that seems to be doing the exact opposite to the sensible thing which is to highlight and push forward the class nature of the dispute - people rightly here criticise the media portrayal of the strike due to the dangers that can cause with the BNP ready to step in and fill vacuum like they do elsewhere, so i see no help in implicitly doing the same thing here viz a vis national front slogans

as for tut-tutting that's certainly the impression it gave me reading it at face value, you post a picture of a striking worker with a crying smiley underneath and a 'ah at least they are no union jacks there' - and then a straightforward comparison of slogans with the national front - didn't see much unravelling of tendencies there to be fair and whilst people who know you will no doubt realise your analysis is somewhat deeper and nuanced than that, i wonder what the response would be of these striking workers who you seem to all be keen to make connections with if they stumbled across the thing

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Jan 31 2009 14:08
Baboon wrote:
But on the protest, from reports and the words of workers themselves, there's been a surprising number of overt expressions of internationalism - more than I've ever heard before. In one mass walk out shown on the TV last night, the workers looked seriously militant and there wasn't one nationalist slogan to be seen.

Do you have any links to them? I've seen a couple quoted in newspapers, some statements in Welders' and Builders forums and what a comrade of ours put out, saying theres a fair level of recognition that the foreign workers are in the same boat (which isn't surprising given the amount of work abroad that comes with engineering trades). I've not seen much in the way of explicit xenophobia, and on the net this stuff seems to be challenged by others pretty quickly. I don't doubt its there though, and what is there will be legitimised by the union line.

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Jan 31 2009 14:32
oisleep wrote:
therefore i'm somewhat surprised to see it being added to by conflating what's going on with national front newspaper front pages

well the slogan being pushed by the prime minister and the unions is word for word borrowed from the far right. that doesn't mean conflating the strikes with fascism, as there's clearly lots of sentiments being expressed by workers that are at odds with the official slogan/reporting.

oisleep wrote:
as for tut-tutting that's certainly the impression it gave me reading it at face value, you post a picture of a striking worker with a crying smiley underneath and a 'ah at least they are no union jacks there'

well it's depressing to see class problems articulated in nationalist terms, hence the crying smilie. but it's reassuring that the demos aren't full of flag-waving and the like, so they're not overwhelmingly nationalist by any means.

oisleep wrote:
i wonder what the response would be of these striking workers who you seem to all be keen to make connections with if they stumbled across the thing

fair point

ernie
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Jan 31 2009 16:46

Joseph K

Thanks for the comments, very helpful to hear these. One point to keep in mind though is that this leaflet is not aim specifically at the striking workers (though if we can we will distribute it on picket lines, and hope to be able to do so at the Tuesday demonstration if it happens) but towards the class generally. But we are certainly willing to learn.

ernie
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Jan 31 2009 17:12

This struggle reflects a wider discontent in the working class and generally. Though no real barometer, we sold or gave away 8 WRs today during a street sale. All ages and sexes, the headline: The working class is already responding to the capitalist crisis, was clearly what drew people to buy. There was a real sense of not wanting to put up with things anymore.

Interestingly the BNP was also selling today, something that it pretty well unknown here. And of course their slogan was British Jobs for British workers, one of them told me that workers were coming out on strike Monday to protect there jobs.They clearly feel that they can take advantage of the situation.They appeared to attract very few people to them.

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Jan 31 2009 20:33

Does anyone know if the UNITE demo on Tuesday is confirmed, or so far just something in the proposal stage?

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Jan 31 2009 21:45
Django wrote:
I think we need something which reads like Tea Break to be handed out at pickets and demos. Leaflets like the above and what we have on the site are fine if we're aiming them at a general audience or politicos, but we need something less abstract to give to strikers and their supporters. We should think about how we would talk to people if we were there.

Agreed. I'll start a thread..

EDIT: Here we are

baboon
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Jan 31 2009 22:03

Django - no I don't have any links - only what I heard on several news bulletins yesterday. The words of the workers themselves and reporters quoting them.
An important phenomenom of this strike has been its extension and simultaneity. It is threatening to spread on Monday to workers in the nuclear industry and even with the state imposed baggage this movement has, this would be a positive development posing further questions. I believe that the strikes in France, well reported here (showing the concern of the bourgeoisie), were not a negative factor in these walkouts. It would be interesting what discussions went on before workers, clearly angry and militant, walked out and joined demonstrations.

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Jan 31 2009 23:41
ernie wrote:
Interestingly the BNP was also selling today, something that it pretty well unknown here. And of course their slogan was British Jobs for British workers, one of them told me that workers were coming out on strike Monday to protect there jobs.They clearly feel that they can take advantage of the situation.They appeared to attract very few people to them.

of course the feel that, just as many on here feel the exactly the same

did they attract fewer than the 8 people who were attracted to your rag?

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Feb 1 2009 00:03
Django wrote:
Choccy wrote:
Any scope for taking the statement Django made and JoeK suggested turning into a leaflet and handing it out locally or at any future solidarity walkouts elsewhere?

Theres a demonstration in London coming up which would be easy to do. The walkouts seem to be in areas where there isn't much in the way of organised groups.

I think we should be making links on the ground, at least to find out what way the wind is blowing.

Aye I was thinking some of us could head to Killroot should there be another solidarity walkout (which depends on us getting onfo on when) and try and get a general feeling for what workers up there actually feel about this.

capricorn
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Feb 1 2009 11:59
baboon wrote:
Irem, the company that supplied the Italian workers for Lindsey refinery made a statement last night (Newsnight). In it they said, and there's no reason to doubt this, that they had held preliminary talks with the unions and suggested that there was agreement.

What's this supposed to mean? That the unions agreed to "foreign" workers being used? But I thought your argument was that as nationalists they were opposed to this.
I realise that, in your eyes, whatever they do, the unions can do no right. And this is a blatant example of this. The unions are damned if they oppose the use of "foreign" workers and damned if they support it.
I wouldn't be surprised if you think the whole thing is a union conspiracy to win worker support and spread nationalist ideas. That they agreed to Italian workers just to provoke a nationalist reaction.
I don't want to make an amalgam but I imagine the BNP too are going around saying that the unions agreed to Italian workers being imported.

ernie
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Feb 1 2009 13:26

Our argument is that the unions are there to control the workers and one of the ways they can do this is by stirring up divisions. Why is it so odd to think the unions could agree to the use of the workers but then stir up an nationalist campaign against them. Divide and rule is the oldest trick in the book!
On the wider level, capricorn why is it that Unite and the GMB have made such a song and dance about their concern for jobs faced with 'foreign' workers whilst they have muttered a few words faced with the tidal wave of lay-offs.

ernie
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Feb 1 2009 13:31

Capricorn

Unite and the GMB certainly should be damned for their spreading of the slogan British Jobs for Britiish workers, or don't you not think so!

ernie
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Feb 1 2009 13:36

Oisleep

You may hate us and our 'rag' but not put down those who are looking for a revolutionary answer to the situation we are faced witih. Or don't you make a difference between a newspaper defending internationalism and the workers struggle, and a far right nationalist rage spreading hate!

capricorn
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Feb 1 2009 14:29
ernie wrote:
Capricorn
Unite and the GMB certainly should be damned for their spreading of the slogan British Jobs for Britiish workers, or don't you not think so!

Of course I do but do you damn unofficial strike committees for doing so too.

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Feb 1 2009 15:08
ernie wrote:
Oisleep

You may hate us and our 'rag' but not put down those who are looking for a revolutionary answer to the situation we are faced witih. Or don't you make a difference between a newspaper defending internationalism and the workers struggle, and a far right nationalist rage spreading hate!

i don't hate you or your rag, i was only amused at the fact that within the same sentence you pointed out that the BNP attracted little interest at the protests/strikes, yet championed the fact that you managed to sell (or give away) a massive 8 copies of your paper and in addition went on to pontificate about the reason why those 8 people were attracted to you

as to those who want a revolutionary answer to the situation we are faced with (all eight of them) are you comfortably assured that the act of taking a paper from you (some without even paying) translates into a definite expression of a desire for a revolutionary answer to the situation facing them? If this is the case then my response to them would be the same as my response to those who rattle on about it here - it's a great sentiment and i'd like to see it, but lets be realistic about what will and what will not happen - what won't happen i'm afraid is a revolutionary transformation of the social & economic basis of organising society which would result in a more progressive way of life than what we have at the moment (and just to make clear before you all jump up and down and start calling me a reactionary again, my view is based on realism not idealism, ideally i'd like to see it but realistically i don't see it happening)

as for making differences between the far right and lefties/anarchists, i make a difference in the politics and aims of the groups but why should i see a difference (in tactics) between two groups who both look to exploit and take advantage of the situation for their own intended ends?

ernie
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Feb 1 2009 19:08

Yes we would struggle against this nationalist demand in official strike committees. We make this clear in our leaflet:
Strikes in oil refineries and power stations: The class struggle is for all workers!

baboon
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Feb 1 2009 20:04

It's clear that the unions are acting in the national interest Capricorn and don't almagate my position to that of the BNP.

There's a clear anti-union element to this movement - it shouldn't be overestimated but it's there. You could see it in some of the filmed walkouts and the militant appearance of the workers, unled and carrying no union paraphanalia underlined the wildcat nature of the strikes.
Channel 4 news tonight reported that the unions were banned from the mass meeting at Sellafield tomorrow. There are other mass meetings taking place at refineries and power stations.
It is becoming clear that the workers are fighting against an EU racket for the greater movement of cheap labour. Welcomed by the bourgeoise everywhere in their national interests and welcomed by the capitalists. Nationalism, British jobs, etc, is a danger and the workers surrounding the Italians and Portugese workers at Lindsey tomorrow should extend their solidarity and call their comrades out on strike.
Simpson, the union leader, said on the same news that he had been warning the government for weeks about this and other union leaders longer - thus fulfilliing one of the union's roles.

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Feb 1 2009 21:11
Quote:
What's this supposed to mean? That the unions agreed to "foreign" workers being used? But I thought your argument was that as nationalists they were opposed to this.
I realise that, in your eyes, whatever they do, the unions can do no right. And this is a blatant example of this. The unions are damned if they oppose the use of "foreign" workers and damned if they support it.

The point is capricorn, as has been pointed out before on other threads, the unions act in the interest of the national capital - i.e. the interest of the bourgeiosie, of which they form a part. It's not a case of what is in 'our eyes' but what they're actually doing and the results of these actions. It's not only in 'our eyes' that the unions don't act in the interests of workers, as numerous wildcat actions and increasing outright hostility indicate. It's not 'damned if they do, damned if they don't' it's more that they'll 'damn well do what they have to in the circumstances'.

Once you understand that then you won't have to say things like :

Quote:
I wouldn't be surprised if you think the whole thing is a union conspiracy to win worker support and spread nationalist ideas. That they agreed to Italian workers just to provoke a nationalist reaction.

It's a bourgeios conspiracy.

Quote:
I don't want to make an amalgam but I imagine the BNP too are going around saying that the unions agreed to Italian workers being imported.

You don't want to, but what the hell, eh?

It doesn't matter if the BNP is going round saying the same thing - the important point is what is their class standpoint? What conclusions do they draw from this? Once you ask these, then you can see the difference between a revolutionary position and a reactionary one.

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Feb 1 2009 21:13
Quote:
what won't happen i'm afraid is a revolutionary transformation of the social & economic basis of organising society which would result in a more progressive way of life than what we have at the moment (and just to make clear before you all jump up and down and start calling me a reactionary again, my view is based on realism not idealism, ideally i'd like to see it but realistically i don't see it happening)

as for making differences between the far right and lefties/anarchists, i make a difference in the politics and aims of the groups but why should i see a difference (in tactics) between two groups who both look to exploit and take advantage of the situation for their own intended ends?

To be fair though, at least anarchists and others on here are honest about what they want, i mean personally I entirely share your pessimism and I kinda respect it, but I still think i'd rather not wander off like an elderly couple down the post-modern garden path that yourself and to a lesser extent the IWCA as a whole seem to be so fond of.

raw
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Feb 1 2009 21:31

This is on monday.

From CAIC (campaign against immigration controls):

Quote:
There will be two pickets against the strike for "British Jobs for British Workers" tomorrow morning called by CAIC at the UNITE OFFICES, 128 THEOBALDS ROAD - 5 minutes from Holborn Tube Station.

One is in the morning at 7am. This will coincide with a mass meeting at Sellafield where workers are deciding whether to join the strike.

The other is in the evening - from 5pm onwards.

It is unusual for the likes of us to oppose a strike and we certainly support constructive militant actions to defend jobs, action that has not, in the recent past, been encouraged by the trades union movement. But we believe that, despite protestations to the contrary from the union leaders who are now supporting this strike, that it is driven by and in turn drives hostility to 'foreigners'.

BTW CAIC argues for an internalist working class position

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Feb 1 2009 21:38

i think opposing the strikes per se instead of the union/PMs 'British jobs...' line is a mistake, since it dismisses the reality of class concerns (recession, precarious employment...) that are mixed up in the nationalist articulations being emphasised by the unions and the media (and held by many workers, no doubt), which can surely only further conflate the two and push the the strikers into the arms of the right?

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Feb 1 2009 21:43
cantdocartwheels wrote:
To be fair though, at least anarchists and others on here are honest about what they want, i mean personally I entirely share your pessimism and I kinda respect it, but I still think i'd rather not wander off like an elderly couple down the post-modern garden path that yourself and to a lesser extent the IWCA as a whole seem to be so fond of.

i'm honest about what i want, i'm also realistic about what the chances are of that coming about - if you want to credit those who due to their blindness by the former lose all touch with the later then fair enough, but don't wrap it up in some kind of moralistic honesty thing - i mean what does that even mean 'are honest about what they want'? - i can only read an implication in that you think i am not honest about what i want - if so please tell me what lead you to that conclusion, if not can you explain what you're talking about? all i get from that is that people who are honest about something but deluded about the chances of it happening are 'worth' more or are somehow 'better' than those who share the same ideals but are awake to the practicalities and realities of the current circumstances they find themselves in and attempt to (what little) they can within those conditions without being weighed down by an ideological ball and chain from the previous two centuries (btw using your method of analysis you must give credit to the BPP for example because they are honest about their desire to create a white workers state in britain - something that's as likely as happening as a complete social & economic transformation of society which raises the living standards of the majority, reduces the amount of work we all have to do and leads to a far more progressive mode of existence that we have at the moment)

as for labelling the IWCA approach as post modern, i'm at a loss to see the connection - take a look at the iwca website and look at the kind of analysis and news items that are on it (or take a cursory glance back over the last 10 years or so at the type of analysis around new labour, multiculturalism etc...), how on earth you can come out with a post modern label of that is beyond me - there is anything but a rejection of grand narratives or a retreat to the fragments and the gaps of life - it's a far more coherent attempt (and engagement with reality) to explain what's going on around us, in totality, than most offerings from the various anarchists groups

anyroads, probably best not to derail this thread any further