Issue 7 of Irish Anarchist Review magazine.
Welcome to issue seven of the Irish Anarchist Review, published by the Workers Solidarity Movement. One hundred years on from the great Dublin lockout, the labour movement in Ireland stands at a crossroads. In this issue, we look at some of the struggles of the past that lead us to this moment in history and consider ways that we can progress the reconstruction of working class organisation. We don’t think there is a magic formula for success; rather we hope this magazine can be a forum for debate for activists who are involved in the struggles that are going on in 2013.
In January, the general president of SIPTU, Jack O’Connor, gave an oration at Glasnevin cemetery to commemorate the sixty sixth anniversary of Jim Larkin’s death. He used the occasion to attack those to the left of him and to try to draw a link between the union bureaucracy’s negotiations with the government on behalf of public sector workers and Larkin’s role in the lockout. “It was precisely because we believed the economy would not grow that we advocated the Croke Park agreement. We were not prepared to lead tens of thousands of workers into an enormous confrontation.” Linking his strategy to that of Jim Larkin and the ITGWU of 1913, he said, “(Larkin) no less than any leader, would not choose to lead vulnerable men and women, and their families into a head-on collision with overwhelmingly superior forces.” If cynicism is your cup of tea, O’Connor’s speech was the whole pot. When Larkin’s union entered a dispute, they organised to win. The current union bureaucracy on the other hand, entered the battlefield waving the white flag. It is clear; we need to rebuild our movement from below.
In ‘Locked Out: Dublin 1913’, Donal Ó Fallúin looks briefly at the politics, ideas and misconceptions around the Dublin Lockout of 1913, and shows that the event is much more complex than it has been allowed to be, by those who would narrow it down to a small event within the nationalist narrative of the period. Putting the lockout in context, he considers the role of syndicalism in the dispute and gives an account of media attacks on the union. He notes that, contrary to the approach of the union leaderships of today, “central to the radical political philosophy of Larkin was the sympathetic strike, something James Connolly would describe as “the recognition of the working class of their essential unity.”
Jumping forward one hundred years, in ‘General Strike: Protest or Process?’ Mark Hoskins looks at the workers’ movement and the left in Ireland today. Taking into consideration the demand for a general strike, he poses the question; what would a general strike mean today, under the leadership of the current union bureaucracy or even under an alternative left leadership? Contrasting the situation elsewhere in Europe with that of Ireland, he notes that “Here, in Ireland, it seems like we’re on a different planet to Greece and Spain. Despite being subjected to five years of austerity budgets, there has been little fight back from the unions… It seems ridiculous to argue for the generalisation of struggle when there is virtually no struggle to generalise.” He argues that we need to popularise the idea of industrial direct action, while building a movement based on the principles of solidarity, democracy and autonomy to be able to engage in a general strike worthy of the name.
When we speak of rebuilding a movement from below, it is important that we do not exclude the voices of the marginalised. In “The Politics of Voices: Notes on Gender, Race & Class”, Aidan Rowe looks at some of the pitfalls we face as class struggle anarchists attempting to build a society without hierarchy. He rejects vulgar Marxist ideas “of the base-superstructure model (that) holds that the base determines the superstructure absolutely and the superstructure is unable to affect the base” and the implication that if we end class exploitation, all other forms of oppression will disappear. At the same time he also rejects “a stultifying and inward-looking liberal-idealist identity politics, concerned with the identification of privilege and the self- regulation of individual oppressive behavior, an approach that excludes organised struggle, which, while amplifying the voices of the marginalised, consigns them to an echo chamber where they can resonate harmlessly” and argues for “bringing together a diversity of experiences and struggles in a spirit of solidarity and mutual recognition”.
Even speaking of the tasks that face us can be mentally challenging. When as activists we devote lots of time and energy to struggle we can get burned out. This can lead to people dropping out of politics altogether, yet it is a problem we rarely face up to. Amber O’Sullivan tackles this issue in “Avoiding Burn out – Self Care and Support in activism” and asks “How can we protest differently? How can we organise ourselves so group cohesion, fun, positivity and self/collective care can be part of our practice?”
With the escalating neo-liberalisation of urban space, the right to the city has re-emerged as a demand among activists. Tom Murray looks back at the struggle of working class people in Dublin in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s for decent, affordable housing against the onslaught of property speculation. He describes how “The Dublin Housing Action Committee, combined building voluntary networks of the homeless with holding prominent, public demonstrations aimed at publicising demands for social housing.” Drawing some lessons for the struggle today, he concludes that “If such a politics were to take organisational form, the Dublin Housing Action Committee would approximate a good working model of direct action and co-operative practice that communities, left political parties and non-aligned activists could aspire to.
Over all the forms of oppression and exploitation we face today, debt is cast like a shadow. In “Capital’s Shadow”, Paul Bowman analyses left wing theorisations of debt and concludes that there is a lack in their understanding of “the real nature of money” and poses the need for a “new research project that analyses not only value, but value at risk over time, and through that the role of credit, risk and the world market in the current global regime of accumulation.”
In a wide ranging interview on anarchism in Brazil Paul Bowman talked to Felipe Corrêa (FC) a Brazilian anarchist who is member of Organização Anarquista Socialismo Libertário [Libertarian Socialist Anarchist Organization] (OASL) about anarchist orgainising in Brasil, just how global the crisis really is and the forthcoming World Cup.
RAG is a diverse group of anarcha-feminist women in Dublin. They produce a magazine, The Rag, organise film screenings and fundraisers, host public discussions, conduct workshops and zine distro. 'On the RAG' is a conversation between Clare Butler and Angela Coraccio of the Revolutionary Anarcha- Feminist Group (RAG) and Leticia Ortega of RAG and the Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM).
We hope the ideas expressed here can help open up a debate on the kind of movement that is fit for the twenty first century. We would like those who read the magazine to develop on them and perhaps respond with ideas of their own.
Words: Mark Hoskins
Paul Bowman, Farah Azadi, Mark Hoskins, Brian Fagan, Dermot Sreenan, Leticia Ortega. Thanks to all members of the WSM for contributions, discussion & feedback.
Big thanks to Brian Fagan for layout.
Cover Artwork: Libcom.org
About the WSM:
The Workers Solidarity Movement was founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1984 following discussions by a number of local anarchist groups on the need for a national anarchist organisation. At that time with unemployment and inequality on the rise, there seemed every reason to argue for anarchism and for a revolutionary change in Irish society. This has not changed.
Like most socialists we share a fundamental belief that capitalism is the problem. We believe that as a system it must be ended, that the wealth of society should be commonly owned and that its resources should be used to serve the needs of humanity as a whole and not those of a small greedy minority. But, just as importantly, we see this struggle against capitalism as also being a struggle for freedom. We believe that socialism and freedom must go together, that we cannot have one without the other.
Anarchism has always stood for individual freedom. But it also stands for democracy. We believe in democratising the workplace and in workers taking control of all industry. We believe that this is the only real alternative to capitalism with its ongoing reliance on hierarchy and oppression and its depletion of the world’s resources.