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New SolFed community strategy

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Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
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Jul 31 2011 19:05
New SolFed community strategy

We just had our National Delegate Council which approved a new community strategy. It's mostly a distillation of existing best practice, but interested to hear any comments. Obviously the concept of 'community' can be problematic, but we found it less clunky that 'non-workplace strategy'!

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bulmer
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Jul 31 2011 21:23

I like it and the way that SolFed has been going recently. Keep up the good work!

If I wasn't moving away for a while I'd consider joining wink

Martin O Neill
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Jul 31 2011 23:57

I don't think this is a SolFed community strategy. It is more like a general framework or constitution for organising in a libertarian way in the community.

What is SolFed's specific role in organising in the community, getting from a to b, getting from the society we live in now to libertarian communism?

In the industrial strategy it is pretty clear what the SolFed role is. SolFed locals initiate workplace networks with the aim of creating revolutionary unions.

Why isn't SolFed advocating initiating community networks with the aim of setting up community unions?

Isn't the community organsiation advocated here a bit too much like council communism in the community?

I'm surprised certain people haven't objected to the possible implications of being part of community organisations that are not for SolFed members only!

Or is this finally a collective acknowledgement of SolFed's minority role in the working class or that there is no real need for SolFed's existence or for any so-called revolutionary organisation outwith moments of working class self activity?

Or does it not really matter as the community strategy of is of secondary importance, because the real class struggle happens in the workplace where the the means of production can be captured despite most working class people not having jobs? And despite many of the more dynamic and militant working class activities in the last 25 years happening in the community and not in the workplace?

Before I get any abusive replies or am ignored I don't have any magic answers to these questions. Either you try and set up a community initiative with other activists which generally the rest of the working class ignores or you get involved with a pre-existing community struggle against a closure for example and try and encourage as much direct democracy and direct action as possible. You may be able to discuss community control with your neighbours and not just other activists. However once the campaign is over most people go back to the lives they had before, which is understandable, but the community campaign never turns into a long-term revolutionary organisation.

I guess you just keep trying and don't pretend that you have all the answers or the definitive strategy.

Even with the cuts and a centre under possible threat of closure there is nothing happening in the geographical area I live in. The most dynamic and militant community self activity has happened in a non-geographical community - a particular community of students. I hope the SolFed 'non-workplace strategy' takes factors like this into account and that political activists can contribute something positive.

On Community Self Management: How will community organisations relate to industrial organisations?
In a libertarian society a residents or community collective, even in a society with no money, rotation of the crap unpopular work and the carrying out of some tasks collectively as neigbours, there will still be a need for the residents collective to 'employ' someone to carry out some specialist work that only some people can do, even in a society where there is greater skill sharing and things are produced with a greater emphasis on as many people as want to being able to understand easily how they work. Even if these specialist people are organised collectively they can still be hired or fired by the community collective. There will still be a power realtionship. This has troubled me for years! Is there is a solution to this?

.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 1 2011 09:23
Martin O Neill wrote:
I don't think this is a SolFed community strategy. It is more like a general framework or constitution for organising in a libertarian way in the community.

what is the difference between a general framework and a strategy in your opinion? the strategy sets out some general principles, then highlights our approach to the most common issues we're involved in. it's obviously version 1, so it can certainly be improved.

Martin O Neill wrote:
What is SolFed's specific role in organising in the community, getting from a to b, getting from the society we live in now to libertarian communism?

it's in the strategy isn't it? we get involved in things like anti-racism, letting/employment agency disputes and anti-gentrification struggles on the basis described. maybe it could be more specific, but there's two considerations here. firstly, it's based on experience, so we can only specify to the extent of that experience. secondly, it's not meant to be an exhaustive blueprint, but a guide to action which summarises the debates and experiences in SolFed in such a way that gives any member an immediate point of departure for organising without having to have been involved in all those debates or reinvent the wheel. i'm sure as we get more experience of various things it will get amended.

on the 'how do we get to communism', it's really only dealing with what we do today. the general point of this is that everyday struggles can help "promote a culture of resistance, confidence and self-reliance" and "help promote class conscious community spirit based on solidarity and mutual aid" which prefigures libertarian communism.

Martin O Neill wrote:
In the industrial strategy it is pretty clear what the SolFed role is. SolFed locals initiate workplace networks with the aim of creating revolutionary unions.

Actually, the industrial strategy doesn't mention networks at all (though it probably should). Our view is that SolFed is a revolutionary union initiative, which organises through things like mass meetings (in the industrial strategy) and workplace committees (also not in the strategy, but probably should be).

Martin O Neill wrote:
Why isn't SolFed advocating initiating community networks with the aim of setting up community unions?

SolFed is a union intitiative, and our Locals act as (proto) community unions insofar as people get in touch with grievances, we sit down with them, come up with a plan, and organise around it. We don't (as a general rule) seek to set up separate community unions for the same reason our industrial strategy isn't based on setting up separate industrial unions; we're a union initiative, we want to organise around these issues and want to spend our energy on that, not setting up third party organisations from scratch to do the organising.

Of course, the strategy doesn't preclude that. I'm sure if we were working with, say a group of residents who wanted to form a community union we'd probably support that, just like if a group of workers wanted to form an independent trade union we'd probably advise against it, but support them if that's what they wanted to do (and give the Wobblies a ring). Though personally i'd favour a residents committee akin to our workplace committees as opposed to trying to set up a non-anarcho-syndicalist community union, since they're prone to co-optation, it would be up to the people involved and we'd probably support them even if we had reservations. This is the problem with hypothetical discussions though (although there's one example of a federation of residents associations collaborating with cops/local politicians i have in mind here wrt co-optation).

Martin O Neill wrote:
Isn't the community organsiation advocated here a bit too much like council communism in the community?

I don't know what you mean. Which council communists do you have in mind? As far as I'm aware, council communists oppose any permanent organisation organising around everyday class struggles (like SolFed). And the ones who were closest to that position (like Ruhle) were openly influenced by syndicalism, so the similarity runs the other way.

Martin O Neill wrote:
I'm surprised certain people haven't objected to the possible implications of being part of community organisations that are not for SolFed members only!

eh? why would we possibly want to only organise our own members? confused

Martin O Neill wrote:
Or is this finally a collective acknowledgement of SolFed's minority role in the working class or that there is no real need for SolFed's existence or for any so-called revolutionary organisation outwith moments of working class self activity?

You've lost me i'm afraid. We have around 100 members. The working class in this country is tens of millions. Obviously we're a minority, and still would be if we grew a hundredfold. I don't think that's ever been in dispute. In terms of our role, the industrial strategy has long seen mass meetings as a means to organise beyond our membership (this has recently been supplemented by workplace committees, but these have yet to filter through into the strategy). Why would launching a community strategy be an acknowledgement we don't need to exist? Are those the only two possibilities, recruit the entire working class or disband? confused

Martin O Neill wrote:
Or does it not really matter as the community strategy of is of secondary importance, because the real class struggle happens in the workplace where the the means of production can be captured despite most working class people not having jobs? And despite many of the more dynamic and militant working class activities in the last 25 years happening in the community and not in the workplace?

Again, I've no idea how launching a community strategy could be read as us saying community struggles are of secondary importance? What on earth gave you that impression? The strategy is mostly based on existing best practice within SolFed, as well as looking at groups like SeaSol and drawing on members' past experiences in groups like the IWCA. We've long been doing a lot of this stuff (in fact until recently, the vast majority of our activity wasn't workplace oriented at all), but never systematically discussed it and distilled it into a strategy document before now.

Martin O Neill wrote:
Either you try and set up a community initiative with other activists which generally the rest of the working class ignores or you get involved with a pre-existing community struggle against a closure for example and try and encourage as much direct democracy and direct action as possible. You may be able to discuss community control with your neighbours and not just other activists. However once the campaign is over most people go back to the lives they had before, which is understandable, but the community campaign never turns into a long-term revolutionary organisation.

SolFed - as a revolutionary union intiative - is a "long-term revolutionary organisation". we're not expecting say, an anti-gentrification campaign, a residents association or anti-fascist group to morph into a revolutionary organisation, nor is the strategy aimed at 'boring from within' in order to do so. It sets out the basis on which we'll seek to take the initiative to organise struggles (Office Angels being the best recent example), and the basis on which we'll be involved in wider campaigns (arguing for direct democratic structures etc).

Campaigns will come and go. Some organisations will do the same, others, like residents associations may be more durable. Through organising such struggles using direct action methods, more people will probably be drawn to SolFed and revolutionary unionism, which hopefully puts us in a stronger position to organise further struggles on a similar basis.

Martin O Neill wrote:
Even with the cuts and a centre under possible threat of closure there is nothing happening in the geographical area I live in. The most dynamic and militant community self activity has happened in a non-geographical community - a particular community of students. I hope the SolFed 'non-workplace strategy' takes factors like this into account and that political activists can contribute something positive.

We've been heavily involved in the student movement, although I'm not sure that really informs the strategy beyond the general principles. The purpose is slightly different. you say there's "nothing happening" in your area, the point of this strategy is to change that. I don't know where you live, but there's certainly going to be landlords and letting agents stealing deposits and neglecting repairs, there's going to be temp agencies and dodgy employers stealing wages, and as you mention, a centre under threat of closure. The community strategy is meant to act as a guide for SolFed Locals in turning such grievances into action.

Martin O Neill wrote:
On Community Self Management: How will community organisations relate to industrial organisations?
In a libertarian society a residents or community collective, even in a society with no money, rotation of the crap unpopular work and the carrying out of some tasks collectively as neigbours, there will still be a need for the residents collective to 'employ' someone to carry out some specialist work that only some people can do, even in a society where there is greater skill sharing and things are produced with a greater emphasis on as many people as want to being able to understand easily how they work. Even if these specialist people are organised collectively they can still be hired or fired by the community collective. There will still be a power realtionship. This has troubled me for years! Is there is a solution to this?

Well, the organisation of a libertarian communist society is somewhat beyond the scope of a 2011 community strategy! fwiw i don't think it would be a hire/fire relationship since the specialist's livelihood wouldn't be dependent on the work. probably a new thread though tbh...

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Aug 1 2011 10:02

Hi Martin.

Martin O Neill wrote:
I'm surprised certain people haven't objected to the possible implications of being part of community organisations that are not for SolFed members only!

Not sure why anyone would make this objection. Most of us are involved in groups that are not for SolFed members only, such as anti-cuts campaigns, asbestos awareness groups and anti-fascist organisations.

I certainly wouldn't call our community strategy a definitive blueprint, but it is definitely a necessary step in showing that we want to engage with the working-class as a whole, not just wage workers or, worse, the anarchist ghetto. In particular, unemployed and retired comrades in SolFed have seen it as a positive development.

For me, the purpose of the strategy is clearly contained in the first two points of the general principles section:

SolFed community strategy wrote:
to advance working class struggle locally
to promote a culture of resistance, confidence and self-reliance
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Aug 1 2011 16:24

Martin O Neill wrote

Quote:
Before I get any abusive replies or am ignored I don't have any magic answers to these questions.

You've got plenty to say for someone whose massive rant looks like its based purely on trying to destroy something genuinely positive. Furthermore, it comes over as personal and bitter.

This strategy, imo, is long overdue, it shows how the solfed has matured as an organisation and I for one welcome it.

Well done Solfed!

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Steven.
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Aug 1 2011 18:26

I don't mean any offence, as people know I'm a supporter of Solfed, but to me the strategy doesn't really say much. It kind of looks a bit like people have thought "we have a workplace strategy but we care about stuff outside the workplace so we better write something about that as well"!

Still, good work with the Guardian comments on the report-and-anarchist-to-police story

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 1 2011 18:34
Steven. wrote:
I don't mean any offence, as people know I'm a supporter of Solfed, but to me the strategy doesn't really say much. It kind of looks a bit like people have thought "we have a workplace strategy but we care about stuff outside the workplace so we better write something about that as well"!

Out of interest, what kind of things would you expect it to say? The problem we have is being limited by those areas we have experience in and not wanting to be too prescriptive, i'm sure it could be more detailed but we've tried to describe best practice rather than come up with hypothetical ways to do things (i.e. when we've done more Office Angels style stuff, we can expand on the dos and don'ts, ditto for anti-gentrification etc). I mean, most of it's probably 'common sense' to libertarian communists, but it's still pretty different to any other left-wing group or trade union, for example.

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Aug 1 2011 19:04
Steven. wrote:
[...]to me the strategy doesn't really say much.

Seems useful to me, important to show interest/intentions in areas beyond workplace struggle, no? Also appropriate for SolFed (as far as i understand it) to have a more developed workplace strategy as that's where the focus and experience is

These simple little text can be a great way of explaining what you're on about, be linked to in forums,chats emails etc. I was always pro ICC linking, ideally all groups would have these snippets as they important parts of online "conversations" imho.

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Aug 1 2011 19:12

Maybe it is just cause there isn't much new to add "strategically" or in outlining an approach or forms of organization to accomplish things. I'd assume a lot of that is already in the Industrial Strategy. Wouldn't you also be able to set up community assemblies, networks, committees, etc

I think Martin is trying to take a shot at SolFed for perceived "dual organizationalim"

*Shrugs* I think it is a fair document.

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Aug 1 2011 19:34

Sabotage wrote

Quote:
I think Martin is trying to take a shot at SolFed for perceived "dual organizationalim"

Anarcho-syndicalism should have - and has had in the past - as much to do with community organisation as workplace. Obviously the workplace is the main front in the fight against capital, but community and workplace organisation should be symbiotic.
The only draw back is obviously the small membership of solfed! But the strategy is a good step in the right direction and a wake up call to those that would accuse anarcho-syndicalists of being only interested in the workplace.

On a note Sabotage, when referring to dualism, are you referring to DeLeonism? Which the Solfed is most definitely not! smile

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 1 2011 20:15
Sabotage wrote:
Wouldn't you also be able to set up community assemblies, networks, committees, etc

we did discuss this (just copying the Industrial Strategy as a base, then editing it), but decided against it as mass meetings in a non-workplace setting raise all sorts of different issues and we don't have much experience organising them (to my knowledge). i'm sure there's a place for mass meetings, but i think we'll have to find that out through doing, trial and error etc. Ditto for things like tennants committees. We could describe them hypothetically based on workplace committees, and I'm sure something like that could be useful, but to my knowledge we're not currently organising that way so the strategy will catch up with best practice rather than try and theorise the best way to do things on paper. inevitably that means it's lacking details in places.

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klas batalo
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Aug 1 2011 20:33
plasmatelly wrote:
On a note Sabotage, when referring to dualism, are you referring to DeLeonism? Which the Solfed is most definitely not! :)

No I mean the orientation of most of the neo-platformist groupings as well as other specific anarchist groups throughout time, including Malatesta's view, of political militants also being members of revolutionary or non-revolutionary unions.

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klas batalo
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Aug 1 2011 20:38
Quote:
We could describe them hypothetically based on workplace committees, and I'm sure something like that could be useful, but to my knowledge we're not currently organising that way so the strategy will catch up with best practice rather than try and theorise the best way to do things on paper. inevitably that means it's lacking details in places.

Which is pragmatic and realistic.

I did notice it misses issues around transit? I am sure you know about Planka.nu? Also Black Orchid Collective in Seattle and some other anarchists seem to be starting a "Free Riders" union fairly similar to that, including a Greek style "We wont pay" angle as well. Though as we can see in America you are shot for not paying your fare sooo...

Caiman del Barrio
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Aug 1 2011 21:02

Personal capacity and not entirely decided on everything, since this is an issue which vexes me too:

Martin O Neill wrote:
I don't think this is a SolFed community strategy. It is more like a general framework or constitution for organising in a libertarian way in the community.

Yes, that's how I saw it too. I missed much of the discussion around it, but maybe the national org saw the importance of the existence of such a framework? Nothing to say it can't be added to...

Quote:
What is SolFed's specific role in organising in the community, getting from a to b, getting from the society we live in now to libertarian communism?

Ideally, I think SF members should be using their Locals as a means of catalysing struggles over issues that affect them. We should also act as a pole of attraction/support network for friends, neighbours or complete strangers (via self-promotion) who have grievances over the issues outlined in the strategy. We would use direct action to support them and look to collectivise.

I also think that a part of SF's Community Strategy should be to participate in and support existing groups and campaigns where viable and appropriate. Much of our Local's recent activity (Social Centre Plus, J30 Street Party and Critical Mass, student solidarity, Lewisham Town Hall demo) has been outside of the SLSF moniker, for better or for worse.

So IMO, in answer to this:

Quote:
Why isn't SolFed advocating initiating community networks with the aim of setting up community unions?

I would say that where they were existent or there was a push to form one, SF members should be involved in that process and arguing for direct democracy and federating with other such groups.

Quote:
Isn't the community organsiation advocated here a bit too much like council communism in the community?

Errr...dunno, is it?

Quote:
I'm surprised certain people haven't objected to the possible implications of being part of community organisations that are not for SolFed members only!

Haha very funny.

Quote:
Or is this finally a collective acknowledgement of SolFed's minority role in the working class or that there is no real need for SolFed's existence or for any so-called revolutionary organisation outwith moments of working class self activity?

Err well it seems quite clear that it's good to have individuals arguing for direct democracy, direct action and broadening of the struggle in our communities. It also seems pretty obvious that individuals entering into conflict with the local ruling class/state would benefit from having a pool of resources to help them, such as people, experience, office space, etc.

In the medium term, it would seem to make sense to gather the folk who felt that these tactics made sense and that the pool of resources was worth maintaining.

Quote:
Or does it not really matter as the community strategy of is of secondary importance, because the real class struggle happens in the workplace where the the means of production can be captured despite most working class people not having jobs?

I certainly don't see things this way and I think my political activity over the last 6 months has bourne this out.

Quote:
And despite many of the more dynamic and militant working class activities in the last 25 years happening in the community and not in the workplace?

Debatable but I take your general point anyway.

Quote:
Before I get any abusive replies or am ignored I don't have any magic answers to these questions. Either you try and set up a community initiative with other activists which generally the rest of the working class ignores or you get involved with a pre-existing community struggle against a closure for example and try and encourage as much direct democracy and direct action as possible. You may be able to discuss community control with your neighbours and not just other activists. However once the campaign is over most people go back to the lives they had before, which is understandable, but the community campaign never turns into a long-term revolutionary organisation.

That's conjecture, although I sympathise if you've experienced something like this yourself. I also respect the fact that you acknowledge that there are no "magic answers". There really aren't, and even if there were, they'd fall on deaf ears without a knowledge of local and particular context, as well as an open, responsive attitude.

I would also stress that I don't see community (urgh, what a disgusting word, reeks of workerist tokenism) campaigns solely as a means of recruitment to an org. Just cos people don't join something immediately doesn't mean that the experience was worthless. A campaign doesn't even need to be victorious to alter the balance of class power, after all, and will just as likely serve to increase class confidence and combativity.

Quote:
I guess you just keep trying and don't pretend that you have all the answers or the definitive strategy.

pretty much, give or take the occasional nervous breakdown. wink

Quote:
Even with the cuts and a centre under possible threat of closure there is nothing happening in the geographical area I live in. The most dynamic and militant community self activity has happened in a non-geographical community - a particular community of students. I hope the SolFed 'non-workplace strategy' takes factors like this into account and that political activists can contribute something positive.

See above vis a vis the self-styled anti-cuts movement. Perhaps the issue is with the word 'community', which is often misnomered on all sides of the political discourse.

Quote:
On Community Self Management: How will community organisations relate to industrial organisations?
In a libertarian society a residents or community collective, even in a society with no money, rotation of the crap unpopular work and the carrying out of some tasks collectively as neigbours, there will still be a need for the residents collective to 'employ' someone to carry out some specialist work that only some people can do, even in a society where there is greater skill sharing and things are produced with a greater emphasis on as many people as want to being able to understand easily how they work. Even if these specialist people are organised collectively they can still be hired or fired by the community collective. There will still be a power realtionship. This has troubled me for years! Is there is a solution to this?.

Not quite sure what your point here is. How is the 'community collective' any different to the industrial one on this point? Could you give me some examples of specialist work?

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Aug 1 2011 21:07
Joseph Kay wrote:
Steven. wrote:
I don't mean any offence, as people know I'm a supporter of Solfed, but to me the strategy doesn't really say much. It kind of looks a bit like people have thought "we have a workplace strategy but we care about stuff outside the workplace so we better write something about that as well"!

Out of interest, what kind of things would you expect it to say? The problem we have is being limited by those areas we have experience in and not wanting to be too prescriptive, i'm sure it could be more detailed but we've tried to describe best practice rather than come up with hypothetical ways to do things (i.e. when we've done more Office Angels style stuff, we can expand on the dos and don'ts, ditto for anti-gentrification etc). I mean, most of it's probably 'common sense' to libertarian communists, but it's still pretty different to any other left-wing group or trade union, for example.

Again, I don't mean this in a negative way, but a fair few bits strategy just seem to be put in there because you felt like they should.

For example, the section on antisocial behaviour and violent crime says it is possible to tackle these issues, but with no information on how. (And I'm not sure that tiny pro-revolutionary minorities can have any meaningful impact on this. The IWCA claimed to but do not seem to have provided any evidence of this.)

Regarding landlords, is deposit theft still an issue following the law changing meaning that you no longer pay your deposit to a landlord? I thought that had pretty much fixed the problem.

Regarding gentrification, I see a lot from anarchists about anti-gentrification struggles, but I'm not aware of any that have had any success. Nor any real ways of fighting it which have had any impact (Class War pushing shit through the letterboxes of "yuppies" aside). And your strategy doesn't say how either.

Now, I don't mean this as a criticism of Solfed as such, because to be honest this stuff is really difficult. And they just haven't been many examples of these kind of class successes since the poll tax.

Finally, I think something on campaigns to defend public services, incorporating service users (particularly schools, hospitals, etc facing closure) is a big omission here, especially as some of these campaigns have actually been successful - like Defend the Whittington Hospital, for example, or save Frank Barnes deaf school.

Caiman del Barrio
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Aug 1 2011 21:11
Steven. wrote:
Regarding landlords, is deposit theft still an issue following the law changing meaning that you no longer pay your deposit to a landlord? I thought that had pretty much fixed the problem.

Yeah, good ol' landlords, always obeying the law eh? Definitely never ever cash in hand deals going on, or anyone living in non-residential properties, or even just unscrupulous fucks relying on their tenants not knowing the law cos they're...I dunno, not a union rep? wink

Quote:
Finally, I think something on campaigns to defend public services, incorporating service users (particularly schools, hospitals, etc facing closure) is a big omission here, especially as some of these campaigns have actually been successful - like Defend the Whittington Hospital, for example, or save Frank Barnes deaf school.

I think this is really important. If possibly the two hardest hit sectors by the cuts will be unpaid carers and single mums, how are we to support them?

martinh
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Aug 1 2011 21:38

OK, my Local did dissent a bit from this, but failed to get anywhere with our arguments. (Not that we were against having one or think it is not important).
I think personally there is an issue here in that we are trying to get too much into a "community" strategy, hence covering a wide range of issues. Some of which are what I would term "community", in that they affect a community, whether geographically or socially defined. But I also think issues like sexism and racism, while running through all our politics, are effectively "social" issues - they happen throughout society, in different ways depending on where we live or work.
I'm not sure, I could be totally wrong on this as seeing there being 3 things we need to be concerned with - those affecting us at work, where we live and socially.
Hence, a workplace or community issue is relatively easy to define, a social one is, if anything, what most people here would think of as "political", so something like SlutWalk, to use a recent example, would be "social".
Am I making sense here?

Regards,
Martin

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 1 2011 21:42
Steven. wrote:
Now, I don't mean this as a criticism of Solfed as such, because to be honest this stuff is really difficult. And they just haven't been many examples of these kind of class successes since the poll tax.

yeah all taken in good faith. that's precisely it; there's scant precedents so we'll have to feel our way by trial and error, and distil the best bits back into the strategy to improve it as a point of departure.

take something like antisocial behaviour. depending on the issue, you could go door knocking, organise a community meeting, make a proposal for direct action and take it from there. so if it was say, kids racing their cars up and down a residential street, you could blockade the street until the council puts in speed bumps (assuming talking to the kids failed), or blockade a major road, or something.

gentrification is immensely difficult, but occupations are the obvious tactic. i don't think we have consensus on what to fight (e.g. not all developments are necessarily destructive of community (such as it is), not all supermarkets are inherently bad etc), but it's a case of where there's local anger setting out the basic parameters for organising and some of the obvious pitfalls to watch out for.

Lack of experience stunts us on both of those issues. Anything much more detailed would just be conjecture, which might look good on paper but would be based on hypotheticals. It may well be some issues get added in and others dropped over time (it's not an exhaustive list anyway, more an indication of what we see as within our remit). So they're pretty minimal at present, but that's our point of departure, as we get more successes (and failures) we can learn from that and embellish the strategy accordingly.

I mean i think there's still a fair bit to it. E.g. the stuff that isn't in there, like squatting for example, is pretty central to the practice of many anarchists, but while we've had some involvement in things like squatted social centres this hasn't filtered through into a strategic orientation to that kind of thing. Also, the orientation (imho) leans more towards finding issues to organise around (i.e. trying to initiate struggles) than simply intervinging/getting involved in existing campaigns (which of course we don't rule out, that would be mental, indeed we set out our general approach). I think the stuff on anti-fascism is also pretty clear and coherent, even if it seems like 'common sense'.

Like i say it's Version 1.0, and likely to be revised at various points in the future.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 1 2011 21:46
sabotage wrote:
I did notice it misses issues around transit? I am sure you know about Planka.nu? Also Black Orchid Collective in Seattle and some other anarchists seem to be starting a "Free Riders" union fairly similar to that, including a Greek style "We wont pay" angle as well. Though as we can see in America you are shot for not paying your fare sooo...

i was actually chatting to some AF comrades about this kind of thing at the Sheffield bookfair. i brainstormed it with a few SF people but the general consensus was British public transport makes this kind of thing pretty difficult (barriers on train stations, preponderance of pre-paid travel cards in London, difficulty boarding buses without a ticket where there aren't pre-paid travel cards...). it's not something i'd rule out at all, and a community campaign around say rising public transport costs could be quite decent, but it's not something we could see any immediate way into (people i spoke to anyway, and nobody else raised it at a national level or on the wiki draft of the strategy iirc).

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Aug 1 2011 22:26
Joseph Kay wrote:
gentrification is immensely difficult, but occupations are the obvious tactic. i don't think we have consensus on what to fight (e.g. not all developments are necessarily destructive of community (such as it is), not all supermarkets are inherently bad etc)

[OT warning]
About gentrification: One angle might be to attack developments that have a low social housing ratio. Developers always try to get the number down in spite of planning conditions etc.

When that's not possible they will try to
1) build another building for social housing elsewhere on less attractive land.
2) build a separate building as part of the same development
3) have a separate core (stairs, lifts etc) for the social housing thus avoiding mixing.

The thing is that this is negotiated in spite of local guidance national rules etc that strive to mix tenures. The built result is often the result of a long process of wearing down the resistance from the planning authorities. Attacking this issue might embarrass the planning authority and the council enough to do something about it. This info is a bit old and the Tories might well have changed things locally (london) and nationally. But the issue is also likely to get worse due to the cuts.

Checking the entrances and ownership splits is an easy way of identifying thoroughly *bad* developments.

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Aug 1 2011 22:26
Joseph Kay wrote:
sabotage wrote:
I did notice it misses issues around transit? I am sure you know about Planka.nu? Also Black Orchid Collective in Seattle and some other anarchists seem to be starting a "Free Riders" union fairly similar to that, including a Greek style "We wont pay" angle as well. Though as we can see in America you are shot for not paying your fare sooo...

i was actually chatting to some AF comrades about this kind of thing at the Sheffield bookfair. i brainstormed it with a few SF people but the general consensus was British public transport makes this kind of thing pretty difficult (barriers on train stations, preponderance of pre-paid travel cards in London, difficulty boarding buses without a ticket where there aren't pre-paid travel cards...). it's not something i'd rule out at all, and a community campaign around say rising public transport costs could be quite decent, but it's not something we could see any immediate way into (people i spoke to anyway, and nobody else raised it at a national level or on the wiki draft of the strategy iirc).

I used to be an expert at avoiding tickets in England. Now helping a bit with the effort in Seattle, we'll see how it goes but I think we might run into limitations pretty quickly...

Caiman del Barrio
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Aug 1 2011 23:28

The Free Riders' Union's one that currency around the SE London anarcho/squatter scene (lol cos I know this). So far it exists in the form of random text alerts for when TFL board bendy buses (which have more than one entrance and thus you can dodge the driver's vigilance of payment).

Martin O Neill
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Aug 2 2011 00:39

The point I was trying to make is that the community strategy is not that different from other organisations that may also be part of a Solidarity Network. The industrial strategy is quite distinct and different from other organisations and a worker or workers group can decide to join SolFed, because they think they it has the best strategy. Most of the practices described in the community strategy are not that different from what the likes of ECAP, the IWW or the AF do in practice in the community.

The following is not an entirely far-off hypotheticial situation:
Say for example someone joins SolFed and wants others in a Solidarity Network to join SolFed how can you ask working class people, not in the workplace, to join SolFed when it's community strategy isn't that different from other organisations, but you want anarchosyndicalism and revolutionary unionism to be a major parts of working class culture.

It appeared to me to be a contradiction that SolFed advocates setting up industrial networks in the workplace where you have to be a member of Solfed to be a member of the industrial network, but doesn't advocate setting up the equivalent in the community. That is where I got the mistaken idea that community organisation is not considered as important as workplace organisation. However from what JK has said, if I have understood it properly, the workplace commitees SolFed advocates are more or less equivalent to the residents commitees in the community that SolFed advocate.

Regarding council communism - A couple of years ago a discussion document was circulated inside and outside of SolFed. I thought some members of SolFed objected to some of it as some ideas were too similar to some council communist theory i.e. too much ad hoc organisation only during moments of working class self activity.

When the DAM changed into SolFed and the industrial strategy that first involved industrial networks was being formed I remember the general idea was that SolFed would grow and become a mass organisation. A lot of the discussion now around changing the organisation from a political organisation to a political-economic organisation echoes a lot of discussion from that time. I am encouraged by some of the new ideas that have emerged. There appears to have been a change in culture to an acceptance that SolFed will be a minority influence within the working class.

I have been involved in a number of initatives where I live like JK describes against landlords etc in the last couple of years to change 'nothing happening', but they have not really got anywhere, mostly because of internal organisational problems too long to go into here. I am not making the points I am making from a postion of inexperience, but from being involved with community organisation over a period of over 20 years. I might have something positive to contribute. A personal attack from one person doesn't help matters.

Nothing I have said is intended to be a serious dig at SolFed.

Thanks to JK and Gonzo for addressing the points I was trying to make.

Sabotage - you make good points all the time, but I really don't know where you got the 'dual organisationalism' thing from, from what I said. I guess I just didn't explain anything very well.

I think the question I asked about the relationship between community and industrial organisations is relevant to a community strategy in 2011. I might be able to explain it better on a diffrent thread tomorrow.

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Aug 2 2011 09:48
Martin O Neill wrote:
Most of the practices described in the community strategy are not that different from what the likes of ECAP, the IWW or the AF do in practice in the community.

I think SolFed is now starting to offer something distinct from the direct action casework model of ECAP, the apolitical industrial unionism of the IWW and the general anarcho-communism of AF. Through the community strategy we're showing how anarcho-syndicalism is not just relevant to workplace struggle and we're also putting the community activism many of us undertake into wider context.

Fwiw, here are the notes from a talk I gave at the SolFed weekend school on community strategy which can perhaps shed some more light on the thinking behind it...

Quote:
Community strategy talk

Why do we need a community strategy?

- Anarcho-syndicalist groups should be the revolutionary battle organisations of the working-class. We don't stop being working-class at the end of a shift, and the class war is not confined to the workplace. We should be aiming to win all sections of the working-class over to our ideas (non-working students, the retired, the disabled, the unemployed etc). Adopting a community strategy would be a step in the right direction and help demonstrate that anarcho-syndicalism is broadminded and inclusive.

- Anarcho-syndicalists are often criticised for being too-concerned with workplace struggles. This is a misconception that we should correct now, rather than put it off until its more convenient. At the very least, a community strategy would be a mission statement. At the most, it would be a guide for action that locals can act upon when/where possible.

- I would argue a community strategy would strengthen our industrial strategy by recognising that industrial and community struggles are essentially interlinked (particularly when it comes to the issue of cuts).

What is meant by community activism?

• Actively supporting existing community campaigns/initiatives.

• Initiating community campaigns/initiatives.

Community activism should be aimed at defending local resources, support with tenants struggles and promote mutual aid, solidarity and direct action.

Naturally, we should promote our ideas of working-class self-organisation and community self-management whenever appropriate.

Examples:

- anti-gentrification/'neighbourhood renewal' campaigns.
- resident's associations.
- tenant advice groups.
- environmental campaigns (phone masts, local industrial pollution etc).
- squatters support.
- anti-bailiff action.
- community-organised patrols against anti-social behaviour (by which I mean any activity that has a corrosive effect on living standards/community morale).
- grassroots anti-fascism (e.g. Liverpool Antifascists).
- direct action casework (e.g. London Coalition Against Poverty).
- election boycott campaigns.
- street stalls/newsletters

Case studies

These are groups whose practise could influence our own approach to community issues.

Seattle Solidarity Network

Seattle Solidarity ("SeaSol") is a volunteer network of working people who believe in standing up for our rights. Our goal is to support our fellow workers' strikes and struggles, build solidarity, and organize to deal with specific job, housing, and other problems caused by the greed of the rich and powerful.

While not explicitly revolutionary, SeaSol promotes solidarity and mutual aid and uses direct action against bosses and landlords.

IWCA

The IWCA was set up in 1995 in response to the rise of New Labour and the 'modernisation' of the BNP. Initially it consisted of pilot schemes across the UK aimed at addressing the needs of the working-class in certain localities. From the IWCA website: "These included fighting council corruption in Hertfordshire, confronting a mugging epidemic in Birmingham, the privatisation of council housing in Islington, exposing the small print in the New Deal provisions in Hackney, highlighting the dangers of mobile phone masts in Manchester, sparking occupations against council closures in Glasgow, taking up the fight against antisocial crime in Havering, and confronting drug-dealing in Oxford."

Strengths of the IWCA strategy

- Broke with left-wing orthodoxy by directly orienting towards the working-class where they lived.
- Asked people what their concerns were (through door-to-door canvassing) instead of preaching/lecturing and promising everything would be fine 'after the revolution'.
- Acknowledged issues such as anti-social behaviour and drug-related crime that the left traditionally felt uncomfortable addressing.
- Pissed off the Leninist left, middle-class liberals and the Labour Party.

Weaknesses of the IWCA strategy

- Neglected workplace organising.
- Strategy was based on long-term, intensive grassroots work meaning momentum and growth was difficult to maintain.
- Electoralism. In 2001, the IWCA registered as a political party, subsequently winning local councillors became a barometer of the organisation's success. At one point there were four IWCA councillors on Oxford City Council, now there is only one. Their decision to stand in the 2004 London mayoral election was a huge waste of money and ended in utter failure.

The IWCA now appears to be pretty much defunct.

ZSP-IWA

In October 2010 the ZSP initiated a rent strike in Warsaw against housing policy in the city and massive rent rises.

From 'Warsaw Rent Strike: Community Organizing in the Context of Social Atomization'

The Warsaw ZSP, which called the strike, had no illusions from the beginning and saw the action as a long-term one, one that would start off with the participation of the most desperate, with nothing to lose, but which could grow as people saw the support network expanding. We see the activization of people in the community as the key challenge and the element which can ultimately change the situation. For us, two months into the beginning of the action, the strike is really just starting.
ZSP saw the strike as a necessary escalation of social protest against antisocial housing policies, the mass privatization of public housing and gentrification. More importantly, it is also a way to activate the growing number of people who cannot pay their rents, or who for other reasons risk becoming homeless to organize themselves and fight back instead of falling into despair and misery.
More info: http://libcom.org/news/warsaw-zsp-starts-rent-strike-action-14092010

Liverpool Antifascists

LiverAf was set up as a class struggle alternative to the class-collaborationist UAF in Liverpool. Its main activity has been leafleting wards where the BNP are standing candidates and highlighting the anti-working class nature of neo-fascism. It has also been present on counter-demos against the BNP in the city centre, pushing a militant, class-based message of working-class resistance. LiverAf has been forging links with likeminded groups such as Tranmere Rovers Fans Against Fascism and Manchester Antifascist Alliance. Members have also attended counter-demos against the EDL but have typically ended up in UAF kettles.

Conclusion

Whereas the 'community politics' of political parties is opportunist and aimed at cynically winning votes, our approach to community issues should be aimed at promoting solidarity, mutual aid and class conscious community spirit. Through direct action campaigns, we can help foster a attitude of self-reliance that allows communities to bypass the police, the state and party politics. While the government's Big Society idea is based on bullshit rhetoric and neo-Thatcherite dogma, ours is based on a desire for revolutionary change and working-class self-emancipation.

Many of us will already have been involved in campaigns that are explicitly/indirectly related to the community i.e. school/library occupations, grassroots antifascism, campaigning against benefit cuts etc. A community strategy would put these activities into the context of our ideas and give locals a guide for future action.

The degree to which locals put such a community strategy into practice should obviously depend on the time/resources available. At the very least a strategy should demonstrate our collective willingness and intention to engage with the rest of our class where they live, and not just where they work.

T La Palli
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Aug 2 2011 17:16

Gonzo, you use several exampes; anti gentrification; tenants advice groups; residents associations. Wouldn't a strategy involve prioritising some of these examples. It seems very broad.

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Aug 2 2011 17:41

In the end run it does seem less like strategic criteria or prioritization for work in the community. I'd say it is more like a broad guidelines. Considering it is best practices tho, seems good enough for now, and it eliminates stereotypical illusions that anarcho-syndicalists are pure workerists.

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Aug 2 2011 21:39
T La Palli wrote:
Gonzo, you use several exampes; anti gentrification; tenants advice groups; residents associations. Wouldn't a strategy involve prioritising some of these examples. It seems very broad.

It's really up to locals to decide the priorities as it depends on local circumstances. Also that was just the outline of the talk I did at the weekend school, I elaborated on various points as I went through it and other comrades who were present shared their experiences of being active in residents associations, LCAP etc.

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Aug 2 2011 23:30
Steven. wrote:
For example, the section on antisocial behaviour and violent crime says it is possible to tackle these issues, but with no information on how. (And I'm not sure that tiny pro-revolutionary minorities can have any meaningful impact on this. The IWCA claimed to but do not seem to have provided any evidence of this.)

Yeah, that's a fair comment. I did intend to do some work on that section but never got round to it before the national delegate council deadline. It's definitely something that can be added to in the future though, and the issue of crime/anti-social behaviour itself merits ongoing thorough examination (such as at our weekend school next year).

I don't think it's up to revolutionary organisations to put a stop to crime etc, but to assist local residents in dealing with these problems themselves where possible. The IWCA promoted a direct action approach to anti-social behaviour and drug dealing (community patrols and pickets of drug dealers homes). Their strategy was aimed at the "isolation by the community of those who persist in making life intolerable for the community". They also talked about community restorative justice, which is an interesting option if removed from the legal framework of the state. We'd obviously draw the line when it comes to their call for the police to "return to being a civic service"...

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Aug 3 2011 00:00

It does seem a good effort. But from across the pond it looks a bit odd (perhaps this is due to differing geographic issues with legalities and class composition). From my experience (which seems somewhat acknowledged in the description) "anti-gentrification" campaigns end up with many of the same problematics as "anti-imperialism" (i.e.-encouraging cross-class ties based on culture to attack the "bigger"/"foreign" capitalist/other).
I'd expect an anarcho-syndicalist community strategy to avoid some of the cultural and 'activist' side of community organizing and focus on/prioritize the material aspects, by appearing to not do so, it also thus feels somewhat schizoid. i.e.- the call to 'bash the fash and hooligan kidz terrorizing the poor grandmas'... well unless, of course, the perception of hooligans keeps the yuppies away and property values/ rent down, woot anti-gentrification!

As others mentioned I guess I'd expect anti-austerity to be front and center... i.e - anti raising transit, utility, and schooling fees, etc. and pro-environment (i.e.-anti raising community health costs).

And there is also the absence of confronting the overt disciplinary role of the State on the working class (immigrant deportation, police brutality, prison, etc.). Which would seem to be pretty high priority for an anarchist organizations community strategy, imho.

Though a bit old, and certainly with some aspects worth critiquing... not sure if you guys perused this in your community strategy discussion but I'd still recommend:
Organizing Communities by Tom Knoche
http://www.spunk.org/texts/misc/sp001162.html

Anyhow... as SolFed wrote: "Due to the diverse nature of community issues, these general principles should serve as a guide to action. But we can also specify some of the more common issues in which we get involved - it is by no means an exhaustive list."
my quibbles about priority of issues are merely quibbles... While expressing my skepticism above I would be very excited to hear about successful collective direct action organizing around anti-gentrification and anti-anti-social behavior campaigns... since these are 'common issues in which SolFed members get involved' I am looking forward to reading about their experiences with such.

Martin O Neill
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Aug 3 2011 00:08

Caiman - Don't think we disagree about anything. Thanks for getting the joke!

Gonzo - think I finally get it. I can see how the strategy differs from ECAP or IWW where they have more of a tendency to represent people and are not explicity revolutionary and AFED's politics are too general.

Mods - the new OP about Community Self Management is turning into an article, which I will try to post in that format tomorrow. It is pretty much all relevant to 2011.