The Anarchist Communist Group comments on the recent TUC demonstration in London.
The demonstration organised by the Trades Union Congress in London on May 12th attracted tens of thousands from around England and Wales. It included large contingents of postal workers, rail workers, transport workers and seafarers, firefighters, health workers, shop and store workers, white collar workers in the civil service and other government agencies, teachers, etc., who marched under the banners of ASLEF, CWU, FBU, GMB, NAS-UWT, NEA, PCS, RCM, RMT, UCU, Unite, Unison, USDAW. Mobilisation for this was done primarily through union branches, the Morning Star paper and the various leftist organisations, with little or no street publicity.
What is the significance of this, the biggest demonstration in London in years?
The TUC pushed a New Deal in language reminiscent of the American New Deal of the 1930s and the old “a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work”. The demands of this New Deal are:
1. We need a minimum wage of £10 an hour, now
2. Ban those exploitative zero hours contracts
3. Fund our NHS and public services properly
4. Repeal the trade union act which makes it harder for us to stand up for working people
5. Crack down on tax dodgers who starve our schools and hospitals of funding
In addition, the leadership of unions like the postal workers union, CWU, who seem to be a main architect of this New Deal, are talking about the end of zero hour contracts, fixed-term contracts, short-term contracts and specific event contracts, as well as the need to appeal to the young and organise unemployed workers.
The trade union bureaucrats in the TUC and allied unions are seeking ways of restoring their importance within the Labour Party and dream of the good old days of beer and sandwiches with Labour government leaders. They also wish to strengthen and reinforce the hold of Corbynism over the Labour Party. They are also concerned about the shrinkage of trade unions, which will affect their positions in the TU bureaucracies. They are responding to this by the merger of unions and by recruiting drives. The talk about organising unorganised workers is in response to the relative success of the base unions (CAIWU, IWGB, IWW, and UVW) in organising workers often neglected and considered “unorganisable” by the mainstream trade unions.
At the same time, the large turnout on this demonstration shows a mounting anger within the working class in the UK against privatisation, wage freezes, work conditions and attacks on pensions and social services. The trade union bureaucrats need to respond to this by the usual safety valve of an A-B march. In addition they are talking about raising the need for a day of action at the approaching TUC Congress. This day of action would take place “early in the New Year”!
Cast your minds back to the TUC Congress in 2010 where there was much talk about militant action and finally a day in March the following year (!) was assigned. There were half a million on that march on March 26th 2011. Again it was the usual A to B march with nothing achieved. The same thing happened in July 2014 with another A to B march, followed by days of action and strikes called by trade unions on different days (!) in October of the same year. The safety valve tactic was used once again and the TUC maintained a radical aura by talking militant (and actually doing nothing). Meanwhile the attacks on the NHS, pensions, wages and work conditions have continued without letup.
Workers have gone into action without waiting for the trade union bureaucrats to tell them what to do and they have done this all over the world. The trade union bureaucrats and their allies in the UCU Left sabotaged the recent university lecturers' strike. Workers have to start organising at a grassroots level. We should not wait for a worthless day of action or the possible election of a Corbyn government at some point in the future. We need to rely on our own strength, solidarity and organisation.
Apart from ACG comrades distributing propaganda there was no visible presence of anarchists. This is not surprising taking into consideration the increasingly marginalised and ghettoised "anarchist" "movement" in the UK. Nor was there the presence of a Radical Workers Bloc as on previous TUC demos. Serious class struggle anarchists need to fight this malaise, look for unity with those of a similar mind, and increasingly turn away from the anarchist ghetto and face outwards towards our class.
Original article on the ACG website
Shame that theres wasn't much
Shame that theres wasn't much of a radical presence. Do you have an online copy of what you were handing out on the demo, Serge? Was it Jackdaw?
Btw, just noticed that in the tags section, all the union names are ran together as One Big Tag.
Thanks for flagging the tags
Thanks for flagging the tags up. I've just had a shuftee and I'm not sure why it's happening. Can a more techie minded mod sort it out please?
Not sure what they were handing out though. Battlescarred will know.
ACG wrote: Cast your minds
While it wasn't revolutionary, this is a bizarre re-writing of history.
M26 had huge amounts of militant (if symbolic) actions - ranging from the Ritz getting smashed up on one end of the spectrum, to hundreds occupying Fortnum and Mason on the other. It had huge, rowdy feeder marches without official sanction (and in fact denounced by the TUC before they happened!). While the effect was temporary, it provided a huge boost to anarchist and radical anti-austerity organising.
I'm not sure what is gained by this - it didn't stop austerity, but pretending it was just another A to B seems deeply obscuritant.
Quote: There were half a
Whether anything was achieved is another question, but not *quite* your usual A to B.
But where have all those cool
But where have all those cool looking anarchists gone now? Maybe they've got into Corbyn and Momentum?
rat wrote: But where have all
Maybe, but that wouldn't mean that the rowdy feeder marches etc didn't happen. As i recall, AF were distributing this on the day (which i still think is brilliant), so its not like it was just some cool kids doing the latest hip thing before moving on to something else with no engagement with the political ideas, or without any attempt to spread the ideas to new people.
Fall Back wrote: ACG
I think you're misreading slightly there. The writer's focus is on the TUC A-to-B March of M26. Though yes, accepted there were more militant minority actions at that time. Pity the anarchist and radical organising was non-existent this time round.
I imagine a lot of it was
I imagine a lot of it was about anarchists wanting to get out of the leftist ghetto. If you want to avoid that, then leafleting a relatively small TUC demo isn't really the way to go.
Tags fixed (there were no
Tags fixed (there were no commas between them)
Fall Back wrote: I imagine a
Anyway, tens of thousands isn't relatively small. Most of those on the demo weren't exactly "leftist ghetto" either.
Cheers for fixing tags, Fozzie.
It was small relative to
It was small relative to every national demo against austerity since the crash, on the basis that it was by all accounts the smallest one yet.
Would be much better if the ACG, perhaps, called a radical workers block or similar themselves, rather than moaning that no one did it for them - especially when plenty other anarchists were actually out organising.
Would be (vaguely)
Would be (vaguely) interesting to look at how this one compared to the previous ones, both in terms of size and anything interesting/spiky happening - guessing 2011 was both the biggest and the most militant, but a few of the ones in between had both DPAC and Boycott Workfare getting up to stuff, while my impression this time round is that BW seems to have kind of fizzled out, while DPAC seemed to sack the whole thing off: https://dpac.uk.net/2018/03/disillusioned-with-mass-marches-through-london-organise-your-own-tuc-demo-at-home/
This one seemed to have hardly any publicity, even compared to the last few - I was going to say that it might just me being less plugged into the lefty ghetto atm, but thinking about it I went on the ritual may day trudge through town the other week and I don't even remember being given any leaflets for it then.
R Totale wrote: This one
Yeah, the first I heard of it was people on Twitter moaning about there being a media blackout about it, shortly before the BBC and The Guardian made it their lead story.
Fall Back wrote: Would be
Do you actually think the ACG is "moaning" that others didn't do something for us? Blimey, you really know how to put a spin on things!
Uncreative wrote: Maybe, but
Yes, I agree with that. I was a member of the Anarchist Federation at the time and handed out those excellent leaflets alongside a fair amount of other AFers on the demo. Several of us also joined the 'black bloc' as it charged through the Soho area. All good fun.
But I still do wonder where all those anarchists are now. Maybe they are still around and involved in all sorts of things? Or maybe there has been a dwindling of class stuggle anarchist numbers? Maybe not?
I chuckled at the 'how to hold your own TUC march' lol
Fall Back wrote: I imagine a
But Fall Back, why not hand out anarchist leaflets and papers at at TUC demo? Do you think there is good reason to not leaflet such a demo?
A range of people go to those demos, and a few of them can be open to anarchist communist ideas, so it is a possible way of connecting with them.
I've already spoken to people who aren't anarchists that went on the demo, but were interested in the Rebel City paper that was handed out.
I've no problem if people
I've no problem if people want to do that. Go for it. There are plenty times when going to a march and presenting your politics is a good use of time, and a way of engaging people who are fucked off about austerity (or whatever other issue).
But don't berate other anarchists for not doing it. And certainly don't act like tail-ending a relatively small TUC demo is getting out of the ghetto, when it's pretty much the exact opposite.
If you think there should be an organised anarchist intervention/block/whatever on a march like this then go make your case and organise it. But putting out shitty snide articles about how everyone else needs to get out of the ghetto and do it isn't doing that, it's just going to wind people up the wrong way.
(oh and the M26 rewriting of history didn't help either, but that's a different issue)
If I think of what's going on
If I think of what's going on in London, these are all good examples of outward facing activities:
Angry Workers of the World who produce a local industrial bulletin: Workers Wild West: https://angryworkersworld.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/workerswildwest-no-7-a-west-london-workers-paper/
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth: https://housingactionsouthwarkandlambeth.wordpress.com/
The Anti-Raids network, for example Haringey Anti Raids does a regular stall: https://twitter.com/HaringeyAR/status/992725022560215041
If you know about these, then it would be possible to promote them as possible things to get involved with (and between those three groups they cover South, West and North London).
And those comrades who were
And those comrades who were on the TUC demo are also involved with those struggles mentioned above. Also Rebel City reports on those campaigns and actions too.
Fall Back wrote: And
Hi Fall Back, would you be able to explain a little more about what you mean? It does seem that you are suggesting that going on the TUC demo is somehow conterproductive.
I haven't said it's
I haven't said it's counter-productive. But it's a leftist ghetto activity, so imo not hugely productive either.
But as I said, go for it if you think it's a worthwhile use of resources. My issue however is with ACG using a write up of their participation in an entirely leftist ghetto activity to berate other anarchists for being stuck in a ghetto. It's beyond hypocritical. A viable, successful, active anarchist movement enmeshed in working class struggle might well end up having a presence on evens like this, but it absolutely wouldn't be presence on such events that made us outward facing.
The TUC demo is a lot of
The TUC demo is a lot of things we might not like, but one thing it isn't is a "leftist ghetto". The anarchist scene, certainly in this country, has become more and more ghetto-like in recent years, totally divorced from most working class people's experience. I wasn't even aware that such a view was particularly contentious - though you, Fall Back, seem to think it is. Whatever, it's worth criticising though I accept you disagree.
So all those workers I saw
So all those workers I saw ion the demo were part of the leftist ghetto? I think not.
In the sense that they're the
In the sense that they're the self selecting subset of of people who go on a (relatively) small, poorly advertised trade union demo, yes. Seriously like, we're not talking about a mass demo here.
As I said, sure go for it, but just don't kid yourself it's anything more than it was, a London day out for the left, followed by speeches by the trade union bureaucracy and the Labour Party.
Sure, there are issues with anarchist practice being ghettoised (altho I very much reject the idea that it's particularly worse at the moment than it's been at any point in the last 15 year or so), but if the limits of your horizons are tail ending a TUC march, then the problem is much closer to home, and you are in absolutely no place to be lecturing anyone else.
It was people from all over
It was people from all over England and Wales. A mass demo? Depends what you mean by that. One involving tens of thousands, not seen in London for years
And No one is saying that "tailending" a TUC march are the limits of our horizons. You seem to regard the article as a personal attack on yourself and your organisation, when if anything Solfed has tried to face away from the anarchist ghetto to its credit,
So was the Radical Workers Bloc called for South London Solidarity Federation for The March FOr The Alternative(Another TUC venture) in 2011 the same sort of thing? Please enlighten us.
Mike Harman wrote: If I think
I don't really know what you're trying to say here, Mike. We've both given publicity and written about the above networks and actions as well as being involved in some of the above as well as other housing and land initiatives.
Battlescarred wrote: I don't
What is the basis for this claim?
Given all the participants in this thread know that there are multiple ongoing outward facing things in London which people are involved with, are there less of those than 5, 10 or 15 year ago?
HASL, AWW, and Brighton SolFed as a functioning solidarity network all didn't exist 15 years ago. I can't really think of great outward facing things from that time that have disappeared (at least definitely not more of them than the new ones).
This doesn't have to be an optimistic view, just things either seem about the same, or a bit better.
I get the impression there was a glut of new people between 2010-2012 (when I really was not keeping track of London/UK developments much) which many of whom have joined the Labour Party, this is not so much the anarchist movement being inward facing as abandoning it, so doesn't seem covered by the above.
Maybe I've got that wrong, but no such information is contained in the post which would answer the question one way or the other, it's just given as an statement with no evidence. Instead of justifying the statement, you're questioning the motives of the people who noticed it.
If things really have got inward facing, then what is it that has disappeared and not been replaced? (other than blocs on TUC marches, which would seem to be at most a symptom rather than cause).
If someone reads this who is not familiar with any of these things (maybe after googling the ACG after reading your leaflet from the march), does the article give them any pointers on what to get involved with, or rather the impression that there used to be more people turning up to TUC marches and now there is less?
I'm still not clear what your
I'm still not clear what your point is. It should be obvious to anyone involved in what passes for an anarchist movement that there is an ongoing crisis with hardly any local groups, Class War a parody of a parody, Solfed's attempts to create a revolutionary union ending with an actual shrinkage of membership, the split in the AF, Meanwhile increasing illusions about nationalism, whether Kurdish, Scottish or Catalan are rampant, whilst Corbynism has accounted for propagation of illusions in Labour in anarchist ranks. And meanwhile class struggle is seen as just one of many in a pick and mix bag of oppressions,
The outward looking efforts involve a minority, and include people who would not describe themselves as anarchists. Class struggle has to be re-affirmed against the increasing turn towards lifestyle and irrelevance., We have constantly stressied the positive nature of these outward looking initiatives, so really don't see what yu are talking about,
Fall Back wrote: In the sense
Fall Back, I have to admit that I don't understand what you mean here. What is a "self selecting subset of people"?
Battlescarred wrote: I'm
1. Why not offer some positive examples in the piece? (not everyone will know what you've published elsewhere, it could even just be a link to another piece).
2. Why not substantiate the argument?
1. Possibly because the positive examples weren't there on the day? Yes, of course there are positive examples elsewhere and we cover those quite well on our website and in Jackdaw.
2. I think you'll find he did substantiate the argument:
The fact that the anarchist 'movement' is in desperate need of a swift kick up the wheeto is hardly controversial... at least it shouldn't be here on Libcom. But the fact that a couple of people on this thread are upset about such mild criticism is noteworthy.
Especially as 99.9% of the
Especially as 99.9% of the article was about the machinations of the TUC and t.u. bureaucrats!!!!
Serge Forward wrote: 1.
The march was on May 12th, on May 8th Haringey Anti-Raids were running a workshop in Tottenham on resisting raids. Assuming doing both wasn't an option, which should they have done?
Well I cross-posted, and there's no substantiation in the article, responding to that below though:
That's an ongoing crisis, it doesn't mark a recent decline.
That's been the same since I've ever been aware of Class War.
Is this causation or correlation?
They went from an organisation that often used to end articles with "and this is why we need an anarcho-syndicalist union" to one with a local that's able to report back from concrete struggles it's involved with a couple of times per month: http://www.brightonsolfed.org.uk/ not sure if the number of members nationally is the most important thing there. People in solfed might have other perspectives of course.
There's a recent split, but there was a split ten years ago as well.
This is an issue, again I'd question whether it's a new one (as opposed to something which has been brought up by events), but given only some anarchists and some Marxists are anti-nationalist seems like quite an inward-facing concern. Having said this I've been thinking about this problem a lot recently, this blog post was the first result of that thinking and research, but have plans for a couple of follow-ups.
This is a new problem, but we have to ask then were the people with illusions in Labour actually anarchists (and this affects other groups of anti-state communists as well apparently)? Or just people who did not think the options on offer were any good and would jump ship as soon as something vaguely viable showed up?
Have said it elsewhere but I think the options being so identical for decades meant that anti-electoral arguments often weren't as rigorous as they could have been, boiling down to 'all the same' whereas there are obviously clear ideological differences between Corbyn and May (or Diane Abbott and Rees-Mogg).
The structural limitations to putting in place even Corbyn's mild liberal social democratic policies weren't put forward as much in the past - because there wasn't a pressing need to with someone so obviously bad as Blair/Brown/Miliband. An examination of how exactly the 2008 crisis -> occupy -> student protests/riots (and BLM in the US) ended up with Corbynism and Bernie Sanders would be worth doing. But this again this isn't a problem with an anarchist movement looking inwards as opposed to people abandoning principles and jumping ship for silver-haired social democrats.
Some of the worst Labour fanboys describe themselves as 'class war social democrats' so just arguing for a return to class struggle from 'the anarchist ghetto' is not really going to change that - the problem there is that people see social democracy as a vehicle for 1. their shitty ideas 2. a shortcut to some concessions 3. their careers (my assessment of why this happens) and anarchism as 'purist'/not-pragmatic (a paraphrase of assessments I've seen from them).
I was waiting for this one. So do you think people organising against immigration raids on working class communities (anti-raids and the various anti-hostile-environment groups) are engaged in class struggle or one of 'a pick and mix bag of oppressions'? Or when Sisters Uncut campaigns against cuts to domestic violence services which one is it then? Do you have an example of people organising or focusing on pick and mix oppressions to the detriment of class struggle, if you think those examples are broadly positive?
For me I think there's a limitation to some of this stuff that it can get into 'campaign' territory and even with the hostile environment stuff the groups are not necessarily linked up well. But any of those problems aren't due to a 'pick and mix' but more structural/organisational, and could affect workplace organising too (Living Wage campaigns are campaign-y too). With something like Docs not Cops or the Schools census it has involved some limited workplace organising like refusing to comply with reporting requirements, staff/student staff/patient solidarity etc.
People who don't self-identify as anarchists doing good political work seems preferable to people who do self-identify as anarchists doing bad political work (like canvassing for Labour). Political labels that people choose don't necessarily reflect their actual politics.
Again, you've given some examples of negative trends, but the only ones that are recent are 'joining the Labour Party' and 'nationalism', which are neither lifestylism, nor irrelevant (there is a global tendency towards increasing nationalism and populism) but different problems altogether.
Mike Harman wrote: I was
Good grief. The RCP used to argue just like that back in the day. Criticise one thing and get falsely aligned with all sorts of reactionary garbage. In this instance, express concerns about the negative influence of identity politics in anarchist circles and it's strongly implied you're opposed to a long list of worthy campaigns. Please Mike, turn down your spin control. It seems to be set to 11.
Serge Forward wrote: Mike
A claim was made that there has been a retreat into 'identity politics', I suggested two examples that I didn't think were a part of that retreat, or that you'd include in it (since you'd positively mentioned some of them up thread), and asked for a concrete example of what you do mean.
Instead of an example, I'm told I sound like the RCP.
If identity politics is the reason the anarchist movement is in such a state, you must have a list of such examples to hand, because there'd be a whole trail of these retreats to illustrate the point with.
If you think it's ridiculous that Sisters Uncut could be associated with identity politics, here's someone accusing them of both identity politics and being 'liberal feminists', and someone else citing them as a positive example of an identity-based self-organised 'liberation politics' counterposed to bad identity politics. So both sympathetic and unsympathetic characterisations of them as organising politically around identity-based oppression.
If you can't give examples, how is anyone supposed to know what you're actually talking about?
But you do sound like the RCP
But you do sound like the RCP and when have we ever seen you inolved in any sort of struggle in London, which you seem to be an expert on?
Battlescarred wrote: But you
I see we've moved onto the "what do you do?" depths of argument as well as calling me a Trot.
I was last involved in 'any sort of struggle in London' ten years ago when I lived and worked there, which I don't any more. Do I need to move back there to reply to an article about a national TUC march that's complaining about the decline of the anarchist movement across the UK? Serge brought up Catalonia and Rojava as problems facing the anarchist movement, but god forbid replying to a post on an internet thread and not living inside the M25, can't be having that.
The last activisty things I was involved with in London before I left were the Broadway Market occupation and producing + distributing Tea Break at sorting offices, which I'm pretty sure you know about. Neither perfect, but both pretty 'outwards facing'.
However HASL, Sisters Uncut, the anti-raids network - none of these existed when I lived in London, they've all developed since 2011 or so. So at least from some distance, they seem like positive new developments. As does Brighton SolFed, which is in Brighton, and where neither me nor you or Serge (as far I as I know) live.
Am I wrong in thinking they're positive developments? If not, does me not personally being involved in those groups means I can't point to them as something encouraging? I could understand if I was just sitting here slagging everything going on in London off, but I'm in fact doing the opposite.
And I don't think I have a massively rose-tinted view of things, I know the numbers involved in decent groups are pretty small and overstretched (ffs libcom is small and overstretched), I just don't feel like there's been a decline.
Could there have been a resurgence in the wake of 2008-2011 which failed to really materialise? That's a very different question, but to answer that you need to have an honest appraisal of what the problem is, not just accuse everyone who asks some very simple questions of sounding like the RCP or doing fuck all to avoid dealing with criticism.
Battlescarred wrote: It was
My rough rule of thumb for what Joe Public is taking an interest in tends to be "is anyone at work talking about it", and I can confidently say that libcom is the only place I've seen anyone discussing it. The more-or-less spontaneous demos that took place all over the UK last year after Trump announced the travel ban last year are the most recent thing I can think of that felt "mass" in that sense to me.
I would have thought that would be obvious - there might be a large number of people on the demo, but all or virtually all of them will be people who work in one of the remaining unionised industries and have some fairly active level of engagement with that union, overwhelmingly public sector workers on permanent contracts. You're not going to run into, for instance, people who've never seriously considered the possibility that it might even be an option for workers to collectively resist the bosses and win, which imo is where a large amount of the population/class is at. In that sense it's qualitatively different to even, say, going door-to-door, doing distros to commuters at a transport hub, leafleting a jobcentre or something like that, where you'll get a much wider range of people. To say that there's limitations to who you can reach isn't to say it's pointless, I think that engaging with relatively active unionised workers is worth doing, but the limitations are there all the same.
It might be worth a whole new thread, but I think that comparing a) the class struggle and b) the anarchist movement today to, say, the Reclaim the Streets/summithopping/WOMBLES heyday could be really interesting. I'm not quite long in the tooth enough to be able to contribute any direct observations though.
This is a bit weak, I think - 1 and 3 we might not be able to do anything about, but if someone says they want to get involved with Labour because, say, they depend on benefits and think they're less likely to get sanctioned under a Corbyn gov't, we should be able to give a better answer. A bit-by-the-numbers, but I thought this recent piece from Black Rose was decent at setting out the "electoral stuff isn't a pragmatic shortcut to get concessions, mass class struggle is the pragmatic shortcut that gets concessions" case. And if there were groups like Brighton SolFed or Housing Action SL spread out evenly across the country then people making the "anarchists are unpragmatic dreamers who never achieve anything" arguments would look stupid, but as it is, if someone in, say, Bolton or Skegness says that they're involved in Labour because it's the most realistic option for class struggle, and our response is "if you moved to Brighton or Lambeth you could get involved in something really good", then we would look stupid.
Also I guess it's easy in theory to draw neat lines between Communists and Social Democrats and say that never the twain shall meet, but in practice I think things tend to be messier, and - barring everyone leaving the Labour Party overnight, which would be my preferred outcome - it would be nice to have a situation where decent people who're in Labour have some level of respect for us and are likely to, for instance, join in with IWW or SolFed pickets, turn up at AFN meeting points rather than UAF/Stand Up to Racism ones, and so on, rather than looking at us as a quaint oddity or whatever. How we get there is a whole other question though.
I think there might be an SWP
I think there might be an SWP placard in the picture as well. Probably :o
R Totale wrote: This is a
This is much more the sort of discussion I was hoping to have, thanks for bringing it back from the brink.
So when Momentum started, one thing I thought would happen, but actually does not seem to have really happened at all, would be that local momentum branches would get involved in grassroots (or at least, 'grassroots') activism as a way of consolidating gains and bringing more people in.
So protest outside a private landlord one week, but try to get members to canvas for local councillors and MPs campaigning on rent controls/social housing/landlord regulation the next, and steer clear of attacking councils as landlords themselves if they're Labour controlled, this sort of thing. Closer to the DSA in the US. But instead it looks like there's loads of paper membership, they canvas for elections, and some people get involved in constituency Labour parties, not a lot more. However, I completely agree that in the absence of anything else, even as a hollow and mostly on-paper organisation it's still going to draw people in who want to 'do something'.
Yes that would be an improvement. I'd also draw a very, very wide distinction between someone who joins Labour because they just do not see other local or industrial options for organising, and someone who joins it as a career move or because they've convinced themselves that when Marx wrote the machine fragment it undid everything he ever said against Lasalle et al.
I know if you guys are maybe
I know if you guys are maybe talking a bit at crossed purposes.
Mike seems to be arguing against the idea that they has been a marked deterioration in the anarchist movement over the last 10 years. Whereas Battlescarred seems to be saying there has been a "recent" deterioration, although I would've thought he may well be talking about a much longer time scale, i.e. since the 1980s.
Fallback, I don't really get why you so upset by this article. It basically looks like the author forgot about the additional stuff which happened at the 2011 demo. I don't really think that is a hanging offence, or one worthy of particular opprobrium.
Also Mike, I don't think it's fair to criticise an article about a demonstration for not listing a bunch of other activities someone could get involved in. Not sure exactly who wrote that, but I do know that other people in the same group regularly write stuff for publications like Rebel City which do talk about the kind of struggles you are talking about, and do direct people to the relevant organisations.
Can't we all just get along? There are few enough of us as it is…
Steven. wrote: Fallback, I
I think fairly major inaccuracies in fairly recent events do undermine the article as a whole, but it's a side point really. I think it's shitty for a group like the ACG to use lack of anarchist interest in a fairly insignificant TUC march (and again, I'm not saying this one in particular was) to have a moan about how everyone else is in the ghetto.
For all the problems with the anarchist movement, my experience is it is on average far, far better at facing outward than at any point I've been involved - Mike listed lots of good examples of stuff various groups are doing - even with numbers at a pretty low ebb.
Honestly, stuff like tail ending TUC demos leafleting ppl about anarchy is the kind of thing we should be getting away from. If you want a non-ghettoised anarchist movement, it's going to come from the sort of stuff MH mentioned above. That's the green shoots of a worthwhile movement, not a big anarchy block on a TUC demo
I mean, if people want to get along, I don't think writing a series of increasingly snide articles about how everyone else is in a subcultural ghetto is the way to go about it?
I've no particular interest in beefing w the ACG, but if they're going to slag everyone else, they can hardly complain.
Steven. wrote: Mike seems to
I mean this is the paragraph from the original piece, it looks to me like it's talking about a decline since 2011, or at least, a much shorter time period than 28 years.
We can argue that things are at a lower ebb than the poll tax campaign, that might even be a useful discussion (i.e. whether the organising model of the poll tax campaign is feasible now and similar), but I wasn't even in secondary school when that happened. R Totale's suggestion of comparing RTS and etc. (so I guess 1996-2002) is good too, but again I don't think this is the comparison being made. Since the authors of the piece are in this thread, they could just clarify, then we wouldn't need to keep guessing.
If you're going to claim that the anarchist movement is 'increasing marginalised and ghettoised', and the only alternative to that process offered is leafletting a TUC demo, then I think it's fair to bring up other things that are going on. It's great that the ACG is writing about this stuff elsewhere, but literally a link from the last paragraph to some kind of positive counter-example would have significantly improved the article.
Not sure a relatively small
Not sure a relatively small TUC march (by the standard of a long organised national demo) counts as breaking out of the activist ghetto. More like swapping one activist ghetto for some other, albeit larger, ones. Not even a great number of the usual union crowd I know in Bristol went, mostly only the folks that are also activists.
If (bit of an assumption, but I think a reasonable one given that the turn out was, what, 95% lower than something like M26 in 2011?) that was true elsewhere, then most people on the march were either union activists, members of momentum/labour, members of one of the many socialist/communist parties, or maybe even already anarchists. The anarchists I know who went chose to march with their union blocs (and some often do even when presented with an exciting alternative), conversations with folks in the same union/industry can often be more productive than marching in a political bloc or taking a scatter gun approach to talking to as many people as possible.
Not that it's not worthwhile reaching out at these things. Those other activists subsets may contain potential new anarchist comrades, at the very least they are likely to contain people we'll work on campaigns with at some point. Those campaigns tend to go a bit more smoothly when they have an idea what anarchists are about. A visible preference at these kind of demos does at least help back up the idea that joining an anarchist group is a viable alternative than SP/SWP/ETC. Though how many would've been receptive to any politics that wasn't at least a little favourable to Corbyn I'm not sure. That cult seems to have really captured the imagination (as I increasingly lament whilst at Tolpuddle Festival). In fact Tolpuddle festival and the parade on Sunday is probably a fairly comparable event. Just a bit more spread out, and with more music and BBQ food. If I lived in London I'd have probably gone out with some anarchist propaganda, or a few friends with red/black flags, but it really didn't seem worth travelling down for. There's always a chance of meeting some relatively freshfaced folks, but I imagine not a greatly higher one than if dozens/hundreds of anarchists stayed in their home towns and just flyered their local high street.
There have always been, and continue to be, problems with the anarchist movement but I'm not sure visible blocs on small TUC marches is a good berometer, or something to berate others for not attending.
The Bristol Bookfair on the same day had me talking to more people new to anarchism than I ever do during an afternoon on a London A2B, and felt pretty outward facing during the day. Likewise the Bristol Radical History Festival the week before attracted a fair few folks I don't usually see around. Upcoming activity includes a campaign to reopen public toilets and a further work on housing issues. It doesn't *feel* very inward looking. Also worth noting the IWW, which is not only the largest Base/Revolutionary union, but the UK group with the highest numbers of anarchists in it, weren't going to rock up in any numbers as it clashed with their conference.
If anything I think it's a failure of the TUC to capture anyone's imagination. Even many active members of their own unions, and others (not just anarchists) active in politics. In 2011 (and maybe once since) they were closer to the mark, got numbers, started conversations even amongst those who didn't turn up on the day, and generated a huge buzz for what it was hoped was the beginning of a militant campaign against austerity.
The point of the march seemed so vague, was this demo launching a campaign? It didn't seem like it, no coordinated strikes on the horizon, not even a plan for further demos. Was it about an issue they intended to apply pressure on? Not really, it was about nothing and everything. In fact this article has put the demands of the TUC more clearly than they did in any of the press stuff or call outs I saw. I just saw calls for a growth in the economy (always at the forefront of my desires!) 'great jobs', 'brilliant public services', and an opposition to sexism, racism and discrimination. So kind of a 'good things are good, bad ones are bad' march? The only specific call I saw was for a £10 minimum wage, something that was in the last labour manifesto (with in the tories promising £8.75 in the next two years). I guess that's it really, they're just in a holding pattern waiting for JC to come and toss them a bone. Like this article says the TUC top brass just want to get in good with Labour, make themselves more relevant not by appealing to the working masses, but by appealing to the political classes. Not something I really wanna lend my support to!
Thanks to the Aotearoa
Thanks to the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement for posting up the article on their site:
OK I will put my pennyworth
OK I will put my pennyworth in on this. Firstly if I was part of an anarchist communist group in London I would certainly not have missed a relatively easy opportunity to leaflet even this smaller than past TUC demo and can't see that this would have been in any serious conflict with other possible activities, but maybe similar to dark_ether's comment above I wouldn't be bothering to get up at 5pm and get on a coach to London with a bunch of lefties to get there. By contrast I have attended some of the earlier similar demo's in Manchester which coinciding with other political/economic developments that had the potential, and did, attract a wider spectrum of my fellow angry workers and at which I have previously distributed relevant CWO. 'Angry Worker' or SolFed material. Apart from my joining a LGBT contingent on one I have generally preferred to hang out with others I know from work or home and have avoided the hard-left union banner carriers claiming to represent the other thousands who weren't there.
For my part I think there are some real problems with the impact and direction of 'identity politics' whether they are based around 'gender', 'ethnicity', 'nationalism' or 'work' not restricted to anarchism, but that hasn't been helpfully addressed in this falsely polarised argument between Mike Harman and ACG members.
Spikymike wrote: For my part
Genuinely not sure what you mean by "identity politics based around work" - do you mean like "precarious gig economy workers are The New Class Vanguard" stuff or what? Will try and do a more detailed reply to other things when I get time.
R Totale, Identities around
R Totale, Identities around 'work' might include sectional identities around particular types of work eg 'professional' 'white collar' 'blue collar' 'miner' 'teacher' etc or maybe more simply the role of 'worker' as a class. It's not that 'identities' don't exist or may have some classification uses in analysis but peoples attachment to those identities as a means of their separation, preservation or prioritisation from a communist perspective. That's a bit 'off the cuff' as an explanation but maybe gives you something to think about.
Honestly tho, trying to posit
Honestly tho, trying to posit this as "is it worth going on a TUC demo to leaflet it" is a total mischaracterisation of anyone's argument.
What is in dispute is whether intervening in such events is acting in an outward manner, or whether ignoring such an event is indicative of being insular.
It's not even that everything orientated to the anarchist scene is a total no go. Meetings on anarchist history, fund raisers in social centers, and yes, even blocks on wider demos can all have a place. That's not in question - but being mad that ppl aren't leafleting the left as proof they are in the anarcho ghetto is at best hypocritical.
Cheers for that, interesting
Cheers for that, interesting point and not totally offtopic considering that one of the (many) points under discussion was who you do and don't get turning up to things like TUC marches.
Fall Back, Yes I realise that
Fall Back, Yes I realise that is your gripe with the ACG text but doesn't it still say something about the current size, and possibly orientation, of the wider London anarchist milieu that it couldn't muster the resources to cover this demo and a full range of it's other commitments for half a day?
Spikymike wrote: Fall Back,
And therein lies the
And therein lies the problem... an anarchist scene that must not be criticised.
Your criticism being bad
Your criticism being bad isn't the same as no criticism allowed. A somewhat bizarre accusation in a thread where you've had a series of tantrums about your micro anarchy sect being criticised.
Altho being accused of not being critical enough of the anarcho mileau is quite the novelty.
Hey kids! Today we're here to
Hey kids! Today we're here to talk about praxis. There are two kinds of praxis. The first is doing something a bit pointless and then shouting at everyone else for not doing it because they are inward looking idpol types who wouldn't know real class struggle if it came up and slapped them with it's big, beefy proletarian hands. This is high quality praxis.
The second is splitting from an org because everyone was pissed off you wanted to defend your transphobic, grassing, conspiracy theorist mate and you couldn't actually defend your ridiculous, dog whistling, bigoted arguments - despite spending four thousand terrible, terrible words on them - so you start playing the victim and saying the anarchist movement is in crisis instead. This is the best praxis. If you can later double down and mutter darkly about identity politics but never actually clarify what this means, you have the very best praxis of all!
Like seriously guys, if you want to go full Spiked, at least find a way to get paid first.
Mike Harman wrote: So when
Yeah, "what tf do Momentum actually do" is another of those ones that'd be worth a thread in its own right - I guess ACORN maybe seems like a crossover point between Momentum/Labour folks and activisty/organising stuff? I suppose this is where we're missing out by not having more Plan C, or at least the excitable/starry-eyed wing of Plan C, folks posting here to explain how Labour is where there's proper mass movement stuff going on. That sounds sarky, but I do kind of feel that the conversation would be more interesting with someone who actually believes in it making the case for Momentum and giving a view on what the @ movement/ghetto looks like from the outside, instead of us just trying to imagine what Momentum/Labour people think and get up to.
How come some libcommers,
How come some libcommers, including Mike Harman, constantly use good organizing on important issues as examples of identity politics just because they deal with race, gender issues etc.
This has happened on plenty of threads recently. Thing is I haven't seen that definition of identity politics used by anyone critical of idpol (on libcom) Where does this 'new' expanded definition of idpol come from?
Is it from mainstream/right wing media (where I've seen it) or has there been afk things that suggest libcommers hold these views and reject organising on these topics? It looks to me like there has been a huge shift in how some people use the term where the people using the old meaning seem to be critical of it and people using the 'new' meaning support it but they aren't talking about the same thing.
We should do a poll.
Do you support id pol
yes [ ]
no [ ]
Cooked wrote: How come some
I wrote this blog about it. I'd also recommend Robin Kelley from 1997.
I am personally trying not to use the term 'identity politics' at all these days, except as a response to people doing so without defining what the fuck they're talking about, which is unfortunately very often.
If we take the Combahee River Collective statement statement as the origination of the term, it's the original definition. Similarly, concepts like 'privilege' or 'whiteness' comes from W.E.B. Du Bois, Ignatiev etc., not American college students.
Well there is meerov, on the forums.
Or for pieces on the site, Adolph Reed argues against anti-racism as a political praxis (because he's an economistic social democrat at least in terms of his programmatic politics), and he in turn gets cited by a lot of communists. Hence the blog I wrote focusing on him.
I'd also add, if someone is talking about anarchists retreating into identity politics, then you would expect even those anarchists being accused of the retreat to acknowledge class struggle and not hiring more women border guards or celebrating having women prime ministers and CEOs.
Sometimes people (i.e. meerov at least) are arguing against autonomous organising (black caucuses, women's caucuses) but in a previous thread Serge at least said he was fine with those.
You could argue that something like Repeal the 8th in Ireland is reformist (it's literally a campaign for a legal reform), but no-one is making arguments against that afaik.
So this brings up the question if we are not talking about those things, either the very worst 'Margaret Thatcher had a womb' or 'put a woman on a banknote', or conversely the positive stuff, what is that we're talking about? I regularly give examples of people organising around race or gender issues, because I think that is useful when terms are abstract and mis-used to go back to concrete examples and then work back to the abstract from there. But whenever I do that, I get accused of being like the RCP (ironic given what Furedi et al get up to these days).
Cooked wrote: How come some
Maybe the onus should be on the people claiming that the anarchist movement is being ruined by “identity politics” to provide some concrete examples of what that actually means instead of losing their shit when people try to guess what they’re getting at.
Edit: I mean it’s actually about exactly what ticking_fool said earlier, tbf, but if we’re going to pretend it isn’t then it’d help to know what we’re pretending it is about.
The discussion did get a bit
The discussion did get a bit 'snarky' for sure, but really ticking_fool has taken it to a new lower level and certainly doesn't need support here from other protagonists in the earlier AF split!
Maybe just me, but I'd take
Maybe just me, but I'd take ticking fool's passionate exposure of the background of ACG politics over empty pleas that everyone be friends or hold dispassionate cold discussion on the astral plane any day of the week.
Sorry lads, nothing exists in a vacuum.
@cooked so quick addendum.
@cooked so quick addendum. Apologies for walking back through the thread, but really this is as good an example as anywhere of the kind of 'identity politics is bad', 'no I don't mean that I mean something else' evasiveness that is endemic in these discussions.
If we look at Sisters Uncut's feministo, it has this line:
So classism listed amongst other identity-based oppressions. I forgot about that specific sentence when responding, so didn't quote it (probably would have been better if I'd remembered then and not now), but did ask this:
And the response from Serge:
And from BattleScarred:
So apparently Sisters Uncut aren't an example of this 'pick and mix' approach to oppressions, even though their feministo has a sentence that could be characterised as putting class as one of many oppressions among others. But if you'd written that sentence (and it's very possible that Sisters Uncut members are reading this discussion or might come across it later), you might think it's talking about your group. Serge and Battlescarred might not have read Sisters Uncut's feministo, and they haven't offered a straightforward opinion of the group here, but I just re-read it again and might as well talk about it while we're here:
If we read that sentence sympathetically and in context, then while the word 'classism' is not great (I see it most often from public school headmasters writing op-eds saying there's discrimination against posh people), it is probably referring to something like "someone with no savings, who is unemployed or low waged, can experience domestic violence differently to someone earning £45k/year who owns their own flat" or "someone perceived as working class or lumpen can be treated very differently by the state than someone with a professional job and masters degree". Which definitely income and social class do affect people's support networks, access to services, ability to leave abusive partners, treatment by police, and all kinds of other things.
So maybe when people list stuff like that, they're trying to talk about class composition (something which would go back to SpikeyMike's point about 'class identity' around occupation/status and similar), rather than mixing up the commodity form/wage labour and patriarchy.
But then out of context, you could see that being used in something like university admissions i.e. the 'get more working class and BME kids into Cambridge PPE courses by building new grammar schools' sort of thing, where class composition is not what's being discussed, but instead social mobility. Or when people talk about getting more 'working class MPs'.
If that line was in the AF's A&Ps I might criticise it quite sharply, because it would be shorn of its context of experience of domestic violence, and I'd expect a communist organisation to be clear about the difference between class composition (which might include things like income and social class alongside race and gender) and class in terms of exploitation via wage labour/commodity form (and better expressed than the sentence I've just written too, but that sort of thing). But I'd also probably see that as a symptom of 1. it being quite difficult to express all these concepts clearly and consistently since we all tend to slip between communist vs. colloquial uses of them 2. people's political education not always being as good as it should be 3. it being easy to talk at cross-purposes. So even then, it would make sense to try to clarify all those things, rather than angry shrugging about it.