Irish Anarchist Review

An archive of the Irish Anarchist Review, a magazine published by the Workers Solidarity Movement from 2010-2015. The Irish Anarchist Review followed on from an earlier publication, Red and Black Revolution.

Submitted by R Totale on January 16, 2022

Comments

R Totale

2 years 1 month ago

Submitted by R Totale on April 18, 2022

Just to keep things nice and complicated, it turns out that the PDFs of issues 5 and 6 are only hosted on scribd, and so can only be downloaded if you have a scribd account. Does anyone have one? Either that, or someone could ask Andrew or another ex-WSMer if they have the missing PDFs?

Fozzie

2 years 1 month ago

Submitted by Fozzie on April 19, 2022

Hey R Totale - if you google "scribd downloader" there are a bunch of sites that will do that for you by sticking the url in a box. I can't remember which one I've used before but it was pretty straightforward.

Also works for yumpu and the other ones that are like that which I forget the names of.

R Totale

2 years 1 month ago

Submitted by R Totale on April 19, 2022

Thanks!

R Totale

2 years 1 month ago

Submitted by R Totale on April 19, 2022

(Although I would add that given I started doing this in January and it's taken me up until now to add issue 4, I hope no-one's waiting too eagerly for me to add issue 5.)

Submitted by Flava O Flav on May 10, 2022

R Totale wrote: Just to keep things nice and complicated, it turns out that the PDFs of issues 5 and 6 are only hosted on scribd, and so can only be downloaded if you have a scribd account. Does anyone have one? Either that, or someone could ask Andrew or another ex-WSMer if they have the missing PDFs?

I might have the original PDF of issue 6 somewhere. I’ll have a look tomorrow

R Totale

2 years ago

Submitted by R Totale on May 10, 2022

Thanks! We did manage to find a way of downloading from scribd, I'm just trying to find the time/motivation to get around to adding them.

Submitted by Flava O Flav on May 13, 2022

R Totale wrote: Thanks! We did manage to find a way of downloading from scribd, I'm just trying to find the time/motivation to get around to adding them.

Great to see them find a home anyway.

Irish Anarchist Review Issue 01 - Summer 2010

Issue 1 of Irish Anarchist Review magazine.

Submitted by R Totale on January 16, 2022

Welcome to the first issue of The Irish Anarchist Review, the new political magazine from the Workers Solidarity Movement. This magazine will explore ideas and practical struggles that can teach us about building a revolutionary movement today. We decided to cease printing Red & Black Revolution, and start this project, aimed at provoking debate and discussion among anarchists and the left. For this purpose, we will be pursuing a non-sectarian approach, taking ideas from various left currents, mainstream discourse, and reflections on experiences of life and struggle. We will take, print, and discuss, anything that we find useful for our needs. We hope that readers will have a similar attitude, and will use the magazine to discuss, debate and develop ideas. We will also welcome submissions and responses to articles.

This issue is shaped by the current financial crisis, and more particularly, by the reactions of the Irish political and capitalist classes, as they pursue an aggressive strategy of cutbacks. We have seen the implosion of the building sector, the foundering of the banks upon corruption and incompetence and the failure of our foreign investment based economic model. Moreover, we have seen that the government response has been to protect the banks and builders by transferring wealth from social services, public pay and increased taxation straight into bank bailouts and NAMAland. This needs to be identified for what it is: an act of outright class warfare.

We are faced with a situation where a strong and organised response to government attacks is absolutely necessary, but is constrained by the prevailing ideology and practice of partnership. The most pressing concern for Irish radicals today is to build a labour movement that rejects the corporatist mentality and service-delivery model of ICTU and poses instead workers self-organisation as the basis for struggle. With this in mind, this and future issues will look for inspiration in revitalising class-based politics.

The weakening of Irish organised labour through the ‘Celtic Tiger’ period is examined by James R’s article, and he poses some requirements for the emergence of a class movement that can deal with the threats of the present while bearing a vision of a better future. Andrew Flood looks at some of the positive elements of recent struggles, emphasising the possibilities for self-organisation and direct action made visible in the recent struggles.

We feature two articles that try to learn from the experiences of radicals internationally. Ronan McAoidh reviews the work of Swedish group, Kämpa Tillsammans!, which argues that affinity between workers, not just union organisation, is the basis of successful struggles. An interview with Alex Foti explores organising tactics that try to deal with the growing trend of flexible working conditions.

The reviews also tie into this theme, assessing the development of an American working-class counter-culture and, by looking at workplace blogging, discussing some ways in which this can be done today.

Overall, this issue attempts to learn from the current weakness of the Irish working class, and explores both the origins of this weakness and some routes towards a combative class movement, capable of disrupting the ruling class offensive on living and working conditions and posing an altogether different vision of society, and, most importantly, a way of getting there.

WORDS : DARA MCAOIDH

Articles

Reflections on the 24th November
On the 24th of November something extraordinary happened. Some 250,000 workers acted together in a day-long strike against the public sector wage cuts planned by the government. The vast majority of these workers had never gone on strike before, yet across almost all workplaces the strike involved 90% or more of those working.

Capitalist crisis and union resistance in Ireland
Late 2008 saw the Irish capitalist class wage a major ideological struggle against the Irish working class. They called for workers to bear the brunt of the capitalist crisis. Print media, TV and radio carried segment after segment where well-paid commentators argued that workers, in particular public sector workers, were earning too much, had overly generous pensions and that the public had unrealistic expectations of public services.

The usefulness of Faceless Resistance
Although Faceless Resistance as a concept has been discussed among radical circles in Sweden for several years, it has only recently begun to be noticed in the English speaking world, primarily due to delays in texts being translated. In this article I will look primarily at the work of Kämpa Tillsammans, who developed the core ideas of Faceless Resistance, but I will also situate these ideas in their historical and social context and introduce other tendencies that have been influenced by and adapted some of the theory.

Mayday had become like a funeral - interview with Alex Foti
In the middle years of this decade, Alex Foti became known across activist circles for involvement in the Euromayday Parades. In a special themed issue of Green Pepper, Foti and the Chain Workers Collective sketched a very attractive understanding of the work discipline of contemporary capitalism. In their understanding, society had found itself in a situation of profound disjuncture with our working pasts - life today was defined by contingent employment rather than the traditional job for life.

The unions after the celtic tiger
A rather strange figure is moving to centre stage in Irish politics, that of the trade unions - absent from mass struggles until recently and weakened over the decades of social partnership, they are now the only possible source of a movement that can confront attemps to transfer the cost of the recession to working people. This statement does not come with out some qualms.

Checkout: Life On The Tills
“Anna Sam”, as you might guess, is a pseud- onym, the handle of a French blogger who decided to put her years behind the till to good use on a website describing the day-to- day experience of supermarket workers in all its tedious glory. In a way it’s refreshing to discover that the psychology of the checkout girl / boy appears to be the same wherever you go - my own days at Centra and the like are well imprinted on the brain, but they could have been an atypical reflection of my general misanthropy, grumpiness and ill will towards the rest of the species.

Review: The IWW and The Making of a Revolutionary Working Class Counter culture
The book can be read in a number of ways; on one hand it rescues the IWW from Stalinist critics that fashionably flounced after Russian Bolshevism; it gives insight to the politics and personalities of the union itself and rescues Hill the man. But as suggested by the subtitle, it’s Rosemont’s treatment of how the IWW built a counter hegemonic working class culture that is the most interesting facet of this brick thick work.

Extras

We couldn't fit all the articles written for IAR1 into the printed version. Here are additional articles that were just published online:

Shifu and the possibilities for Chinese Anarchism

In July 1914, the Shanghai Association of Anarchist Communist Comrades published its statement of principles, concluding with the resolution that, "the implementation of anarchist communism depends on the strength of our party. If we wish to increase our party's strength, uniting as a whole body and advancing together is our most important task today. Wherever they are, all our comrades should unite with those who share the same purposes and establish groups in free association.” The key member of this group was a Chinese anarchist known as Shifu who was to die a mere nine months later. Although the group carried on after his death, the core concept of this paragraph was never to be implemented.

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Shifu and the possibilities for Chinese Anarchism

An article about the life and political development of Chinese anarchist Liu Shifu and his impact on the early Chinese labour movement.

Submitted by Reddebrek on September 21, 2016

In July 1914, the Shanghai Association of Anarchist Communist Comrades published its statement of principles, concluding with the resolution that, "the implementation of anarchist communism depends on the strength of our party. If we wish to increase our party's strength, uniting as a whole body and advancing together is our most important task today. Wherever they are, all our comrades should unite with those who share the same purposes and establish groups in free association.” The key member of this group was a Chinese anarchist known as Shifu who was to die a mere nine months later. Although the group carried on after his death, the core concept of this paragraph was never to be implemented.

Edward S. Kreb's 'Shifu, Soul of Chinese Anarchism' is a study of the life and politics of Liu Shaobin, the man who would later take the name Shifu. Like many of the first generations of Chinese republican revolutionaries, he was born into an elite family and began his political engagement as a radical nationalist involved in assassination politics. Following a premature explosion in Hong Kong, he was jailed in 1907, and began reading 'New Century', a journal produced by a group of Chinese anarchists in exile in Paris.

His conversion to anarchism was not immediate and on his release from prison in 1910 he returned to nationalist assassination attempts. In October 1911, his group played a key part in sparking the republican revolution when they assassinated General Fengshan with an enormous bomb on the streets of Guangzhou and within a couple of weeks Liu was riding into the city at the head of an army of 10,000 revolutionaries.

The republican revolution ended the Manchu dynasty's centuries of rule, but, like many revolutionaries, Liu rapidly became disillusioned with the regime that followed. As happened in the preceding generation to the European left republicans, this led him and others to break with republicanism and become anarchists. Assuming the name Shifu, Liu made the break with a group of comrades at a retreat at West Lake in Hangzhou, forming the 'Conscience Society.’

This organisation oriented itself towards engagement with the Socialist and Chinese Socialist Party, both mass organisations whose programs already contained many anarchist concepts, and this can be seen in the Conscience Society's program, which outlined rules that would make better revolutionaries, including proscriptions on everything from eating meat to joining a political party. This concern flowed from the experience of the corruption of the revolutionaries that made up the new regime but also because the anarchists over the past decade had put forward a critique of traditional elite Chinese culture that would culminate a few years later in the New Culture Movement. Shifu’s initial activity was taken up with polemics over the nature of socialism with the leaders of the Socialist parties, and later, with a Buddhist Monk called Taxiu, he attempted to win over one of the largest monasteries to anarchism, reform movements in Buddhism in the period suggested the possibility of winning over large numbers and resources to the anarchist movement. Taxiu was a significant figure because he was one of the few revolutionaries from that period who was from a proletarian background, most were the sons and daughters of the elite.

In the summer of 1912, Shifu organised the Cock Crow Society in the province of Guanghzou and began a phase of more widely-directed propagandism and education, publishing anthologies of anarchist writings in print runs of 5000, as well as teaching Esperanto . At that time, Guanghzou had a very radical republican government which had banned foot binding and its main figure, Chen Jiongming, was very influenced by anarchist ideas. The aftermath of the republican revolution and the huge size of China meant that for a period local government could carry out such radical experiments before the imposition of the central state and the warlord period that followed brought an end to this period. Although Jionming forbade Shifu from his distribution of anarchist anti-militarist texts among the soldiers, but his tolerance allowed the group some space to develop until he was replaced in 1913 by Long Jiguang, the personal appointee of republican ruler Yuan Shikai.

The politics of the group rapidly developed in this period and the first 'Cock Crow Record', published late in the summer of 1913, listed communism, labour unionism, opposition to militarism, religion and the family, vegetarianism, language unity and world community as its goals.(1) Parts of China were then under foreign occupation, and Shifu argued for a worldwide people's revolution to end western imperialism, insisting that the national revolution against imperialism should not have priority.

Following the arrival of Long, Shifu’s group fled to Shanghai in February 1914, where they established the Association of Anarchist Communist Comrades. Here they were visited by the US anarchist Alexander Berkman and the Japanese anarchist Yamaga Taiji. In Shanghai, the Association published ‘The Voice of the People’ setting out the goals and methods of the Anarchist-Communist Party(2), a complete anarchist communist program for a new society.

In the pages of ‘Voice of the People’ Shifu advocated the methods necessary to reach that society. He emphasised the production of propaganda to spread an understanding of anarchism alongside anarchist involvement in acts of ‘resistance’, such as strikes, and in ‘disturbances’ like riots and insurrection. These methods would build momentum towards the "the great revolution of the people", leading in turn to the "great world revolution." Shifu suggested that this revolution would start in a European county, naming Russia as one possibility, predicting that then, "Labour unions will strike, armies will mutiny, and the European governments will fall one after the other; our people in North and South America and in Asia will also rise in rapid succession." (3)

By October 1914, 'Voice of the People' was reporting on strikes in Shanghai, and although Shifu became sick and died early in the following year, his comrades carried on the struggle, and 'Voice' reported on the Shanghai foundry and textile strikes of 1916. In early 1917, members took jobs in the tobacco and shipping industries, as both an entry into the labour movement and from economic necessity.(4) Liang Bingxian went on to found the journal Labour in 1918 which declared "It should be workers themselves who organized, from the bottom upward and from locally outward. There should be no leaders, only those who take care of business; the principle of equality should be upheld. Labour organization should be for the ultimate purpose of social revolution, not to achieve political power."

Shifu was seen as one of the key influences on the New Culture Movement that erupted in the aftermath of World War One, and the ideas that he and other Chinese anarchists had advocated became the Movement's core program. Even Mao acknowledged him by name in 1919. However the aim of 1914, of uniting all the anarchists who shared a common purpose never materialized. The number of Chinese anarchists grew massively but they remained divided into tiny and more or less informal groups that were incapable of combating the rapid rise of the Communist Party from 1923 on which meant that many ended up choosing between the two main organized groups when the bloody split happened between them in 1927, the nationalist KMT and the Leninist CCP.

WORDS: Andrew Flood

Further reading
A much longer article on the Chinese Revolution by the same author appeared the North Eastern Anarchist 14. A version of that article can be read online at http://anarchism.pageabode.com/andrewnflood/anarchist-history-chinese-re...

[1] p118, Shifu: Soul of Chinese Anarchism, Edward S. Krebs, Rowman & Littlefield, 1998
[2] Voice of the people 19, p131, Shifu: Soul of Chinese Anarchism, Edward S. Krebs, Rowman & Littlefield, 1998
[3] p131, Shifu: Soul of Chinese Anarchism
[4]p154, Shifu: Soul of Chinese Anarchism

This article is reproduced from Anarchist Writers

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The Usefulness of Faceless Resistance

An article that looks primarily at the work of Kämpa Tillsammans, who developed the core ideas of Faceless Resistance, and also situates these ideas in their historical and social context and introduces other tendencies that have been influenced by and adapted some of the theory.

Submitted by R Totale on January 16, 2022

Although Faceless Resistance as a concept has been discussed among radical circles in Sweden for several years, it has only recently begun to be noticed in the English speaking world, primarily due to delays in texts being translated. In this article I will look primarily at the work of Kämpa Tillsammans, who developed the core ideas of Faceless Resistance, but I will also situate these ideas in their historical and social context and introduce other tendencies that have been influenced by and adapted some of the theory.

GENISIS - SWEDEN AFTER ANTI-GLOBALISATION
As with many other countries around the turn of the century, the radical movement in Sweden was massively re-invigorated by the anti-globalisation movement. The highpoint of this movement in Sweden was the protests during the EU summit in Gothenburg in 2001, which culminated in several protesters being shot and a convergence centre being brutally raided. Similar to developments in Ireland, America and England, the momentum and energy aroused by the anti-globalisation movement turned to a period of self questioning and internal discussion as activists began to look for the next step. In Sweden, thanks perhaps to an already existing tradition of syndicalism going back almost a hundred years, this next step took the form of a focus on workplace- based confrontation with capitalism.

At this stage, study groups based in cities around Sweden had already begun to engage with the alternative Marxist tradition, from Italian operaismo trends of the 60s and 70s, to the autonomist Marxism of Harry Cleaver, and back to intensive reading of Marx’s original works. These study groups sometimes formed the nuclei of future movement initiatives; in Stockholm for example, fare-dodging initiative Planka.nu, the Women’s Political Forum, the Rohnin publishing house, strike support group ‘Stockholm United Commuters’ and web-magazine ‘The Daily Conflict’ all developed out of a study group called Stockholm Autonomist Marxists. At the same time a tendency within SAC (the syndicalist union) called Folkmakt (People’s Power) was engaging with different theoretical tendencies and developing a critique of the bureaucracy within SAC as well as the activism of the anti-globalisation movement.

KAMPA TILLSAMMANS & THE OTHER WORKERS MOVEMENT
One group that developed in this fertile environment was a collective with members from Malmö and Gothenburg that became known as ‘Kämpa Tillsammans!’ (Struggle Together!). They started from the position that while the left wing typically sees class struggle on a formal level, consisting of union conflicts, strikes, pickets and negotiations, they ignore the daily experience of work and the struggle against it.

This position was informed both by theoretical perspectives and practical experi- ence in the workplace. After beginning their first permanent jobs in a factory, members joined the union and tried to work within it to improve conditions. However they found the union organisers completely uninterested in their grievances and unwilling to take the conflicts further. The organisers were in fact surprised that these youngsters working temporary contracts were even members at all! Gradually, the young workers decided that the real action was not happening within union structures, but within the informal organisation of workers.

The group’s practical frustration with union-based organisation developed their engagement with Marxist tradition, particularly that which stressed the importance of our daily experience of work for theory. The Italian operaist tradition argues that the composition of the working class is in flux and thus developed the practice of ‘workers’ inquiries’ to constantly renew the vitality and relevance of revolutionary theory. The orientation of such inquiries resonated with Kämpa Tillsammans’ own experiences and they concluded that the most fertile space for investigation, and intervention, lay in what the Indian group Kamunist Kranti called “constant innumerable, insidious, unpredictable activities by small groups of workers” . Such ‘unpredictable activities’ defied acceptance of a passive role in either the production process or in pursuing grievances, and so was constantly hampered by the workers’ own representatives as well as their bosses.

CLASS COMPOSITION
“No methods of struggle or organizational models can correspond to the class composition forever. Regardless, a large part of the left is not able to renew politics when society changes. They stick to their old truths and try desperately to represent an out-of-date understanding of the working class. The class struggle has inevitably left the institutionalized left behind and made old political truths obsolete. This is an important explanation to why communist parties, unions, and other leftist organizations that used to have considerable political relevance in the past, are totally out of touch today.” - Kämpa Tillsammans! No peace in the Class War!

Central to the practice of Kampa Tillsammans is the understanding that radical theory must be closely tied to the actual reality of class composition. As the organisation of the production process changes, in response to diverse factors, from market conditions and new technologies to the development of class conflict, the working class also changes, and this will be embodied in its forms of organisation and methods of struggle.

For example, the early workers’ movement in Central and Western Europe was based upon an organisation of work in which production was carried out primarily by skilled workers, concentrated in factories. These workers organised in craft unions and demanded control of production. Operaist academics argued that both this form of struggle and its goal were related to the specific conditions of work, and not to any objective theoretical ‘correctness’. They pointed out that the resulting struggles forced capitalism to alter this organisation of work, and with the implementation of both new technologies and management techniques (conveyor belt-assembly and Taylorism, respectively), re-arranged the production process, de-skilling work, lessening the skill basis of workers’ power, and thus undermining the hitherto dominant organisational form, the craft union. From this re-organisation older forms of struggle became irrelevant, and new forms developed to suit the changed context.

This analysis has a direct consequence for revolutionaries; since class consciousness and methods of struggle are constantly shifting, revolutionaries cannot simply accept the theories of past generations. We have a duty to investigate this changing composition in order to circulate the lessons from it, and derive theory to match the reality. Thus the centrality of the workers’ inquiry; in this process, militants constantly engage with the experiences of class struggle to challenge their own preconceptions and create a constantly evolving revolutionary theory.

WORKERS’ INQUIRIES OR STORIES?
While traditional workers’ inquiries tend to be quite formal, often involving questionnaires and formal interviews, the members of Kämpa Tillsammans chose instead to document their own (often humorous) work experiences, draw lessons from them and publish them on the internet. They deliberately chose the medium of story-telling because they wanted workers to engage with the stories in a way that is not possible with formal surveys. Kim Muller of Kämpa Tillsammans explains that they wanted to change the popular idea of what it was to be a worker; workers do not communicate with each other via “written pamphlets or leaflets but by talking and storytelling”, thus stories provide a far better way to develop a new workers’ discourse than dry analysis and documentation.

This practice has since become popular in the Swedish workers movement, with many militants reporting on their workplaces online on sites such as forenadevardare.se (for health workers) or Arbetsförnedringen (for job seekers). The practice of workplace blogging can easily spread work experiences, showing the political dimensions in daily conflicts as well as giving clues about the changing composition of the working class.

One such blog, ‘Postverket’ is written by Postal Service workers. They see it as a way of developing the discussions that start in the canteen or on the shopfloor and circulating them among other workers in different sections and in other parts of the country. In turn, the discussions on the blog can serve as the basis for further discussion and action within the workplace.

The writers have found that, once introduced to the blog, their co-workers start to read it and discuss it with other workmates, helping to develop their ideas and sharpen their criticism of the bosses and the work.

Thus for the Swedish movement, workplace blogging has a number of different functions. On the one hand, by publishing online, workers can transcend their individual workplace to connect their experiences and ideas with those of other workers on the other side of the country. It allows for the deepening of political arguments and critique. On the other hand, workplace blogs can create a new discourse of work, and help to form the basis of a new working class identity. For many people, the mention of ‘working class’ summons up a dozen grey clichés, none of which are relevant to their experiences. Stories and experiences from modern workplaces can help to popularise a more relevant conception of work and class, that can in turn help to propel working class mobilisations.

STRUGGLE TOGETHER
These struggles, or practices, that struck management directly and made our lives immediately easier we came to call “faceless resistance” for lack of a better name. This was during a time when the left, our political environment, to a large degree saw that it was “calm” or “peace” at the workplaces, in stark contrast to our understanding of our situations at the workplaces. I still argue that an everyday class war is occurring and no peace is possible as long as capitalism exists.

SELF ACTIVITY AND STRATEGY
What Kämpa Tillsammans found in their investigations led them to develop the term Faceless Resistance. This referred to all of the small acts of workplace resistance that go unnoticed by the traditional left, but are vital to their understand- ing of class struggle. This list is nearly endless, but can include things things such as taking extra toilet breaks, stealing cash or other things from the workplace, clocking out early or calling the boss an asshole behind his back. While these examples may seem trivial, they are important since they represent the struggle between our aspirations for a decent human life, and the constant pressure to reduce our lives to simply another input into the production process. What’s more, struggling in this way can supply their reward immediately, as, for instance, as instead of going through a protracted union negotiation for less work hours, by skipping out early one achieves this goal directly and becomes conscious of one’s own power in so doing.

Of course, this is not to imply that class struggle does, or should, consist solely in these small isolated acts of defiance; but that these small practices build collectivity between workers that can then be the basis of larger struggles. This ‘worker’s collective’ has much in common with the ‘affinity group’ style of organising that members of Kämpa Tillsammans had learnt from the anti-globalisation movement. They suggest that the collective can be built up in 3 stages: 1) work together, 2) have fun together, 3) struggle together!

In the workplace we often naturally develop a sense of solidarity, as we co-operate to solve problems and pass the time. However, there are nearly always barriers between workers that limit the development of collective action such as hierarchies based on race, sex, work roles and seniority. Management frequently exploit these divisions by, for example, assigning different jobs to men than to women, or giving foreigners the worst jobs. It is necessary to break down these hierarchies in order to develop the solidarity between workers, and open the door to collective action.
The affinity between workers can be developed by playing around and having fun, inside or outside the workplace. While many companies try to use evenings out and ‘fun events’ for building team spirit and good relations between management and employees, Kämpa Tillsammans argue that having fun together away from the bosses is vital for building a strong workers’ collective. Of course, the point of that these actions is not to be best friends with all your co-workers; this is a ‘politics of small steps’, by starting with these small actions one can build the solidarity and trust between workers that will allow progressively bigger struggles to be taken on.

STRUGGLE IN, WITH OR AGAINST THE UNIONS?
One of the unusual features of the Swedish labour market is its high level of union organisation (80% of workers in 2005) in comparison to England or Ireland. This of course raises the question of how the ideas of Faceless Resistance relate to union organisation; do they oppose it, complement it or ignore it? The presence in Sweden of the SAC, a large syndicalist union, throws this question into sharper relief. Kämpa Tillsammans tend to remain ambiguous on the question of union organisation, stating that they are neither for or against union organisation; unions are a fact of life for workers in capital, and so long as people have to sell their labour, unions will be there to handle the deal.

For Kämpa Tillsammans focusing on the question of union organisation is a mistake, the real power in a conflict comes from workplace militancy, regardless of whether this is expressed through a union or not, arguing that ”regardless of the view on the role of the trade unions, every successful struggle at workplaces came from the solidarity between workmates; a strong workers’ collective.” Thus the role of revolutionaries should be to build the workers’ collective, rather than building the union organisation. The union framework for disputes can be used by the workers when it is appropriate and discarded when it is not, but the foundation for struggle must always be the solidarity and organisation of the workers.

Despite this ambivalent attitude towards union struggle, the ideas of Faceless Resistance have proven adaptable to a union context both within SAC and the LO (the main union confederation). Kämpa Tillsammans’ ideas helped to influence the recent re-organisation of SAC, which shifted the union’s orientation away from a service model of unionism, based on the management of disputes, and towards a more combatative position, giving workers more power over their own conflicts and increasing the role of the local sections. This went hand in hand with an opposition to ‘organisational chauvinism’, i.e. a recognition that helping to win conflicts rather than members should be the primary activity of the union.

Meanwhile a network of workplace militants organised within the LO called Folkrörelselinje have incorporated ideas of Faceless Resistance into their own trade union practice, which works within the union to build strong workplace collectives. For them, Faceless Resistance can be another tool in the organisers handbook, that can be pulled out to suit certain contexts where other tools might not be appropriate.

CONCLUSION
The concept of Faceless Resistance is a very useful one for revolutionaries today. The financial crisis and the cut-backs and redundancies it has entailed has opened up again the possibility of a widespread workplace militancy that had for so long seemed dead, and many young militants now have the opportunity to engage in meaningful organising
in their workplaces. Kämpa Tillsammans’ lessons about building workplace collectives as the basis for struggle seem especially relevant when the failure of the union organised fightback has exposed the weakness of their workplace organisation. A workplace strategy that focuses on organising within the union is not obviously useful in situations where there is no union in a workplace, or where the union exists in name only. This is not to say that revolutionaries should refuse to work within unions, but that this decision should always be a pragmatic one, made on the basis of the specific conditions within the workplace and the tactics most likely to develop militancy among the workers.
The practice of workplace stories and blogging is also very relevant. In a society where discussions based around a traditional class identity have come to seem passé and out of date, the formulation of a new discourse of class is vital. This cannot be predicated on the old bases of class identity, but instead on the daily experiences of work and the often invisible struggles against it. Workplace stories can provide a way for revolutionaries to communicate directly with workers, to construct a new class identity, and help build the movement that will abolish the wage system.

WORDS: RONAN McAOIDH

Links to readings:

A Thematic History of the Swedish Radical Movement Since 2001
First English translation of Folkrörelselinje!
Hamburgers vs value - Kämpa Tillsammans

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Irish Anarchist Review Issue 02 - Autumn 2010

Issue 2 of Irish Anarchist Review magazine.

Submitted by R Totale on January 16, 2022

The Workers Solidarity Movement is very pleased to announce the second issue of The Irish Anarchist Review. This magazine is dedicated to understanding the contemporary political, economic and social situation that confronts us, and finding ways to advance alternatives.

Our first issue was released in the aftermath of major strikes across the public sector. Despite decades of partnership, a deflated union movement and an intense barrage of media bile, Irish workers showed their willingness to take to picket lines to fight the Government.

Now, however, we can see that the union leadership were not willing to fight - they quickly demobilised strike action to return to the bargaining table, squeezing out a disgraceful deal in Croke Park negotiations. Now, without opposition, the Government calmly talks of four-years of ‘hair-shirt’ budgets to restore the national finances.

As we noted in the previous issue, the weakness of the Left had much to do with the failure of opposition. It is clear that the Left will need to be much clearer in its strategy if it is to be able to achieve any positions of strength in future. It is in this spirit that we welcome a guest contribution from Alan Davis, arguing for a concerted and serious approach to union and workplace organising. We recognise the continued need for non-sectarian debate among the Left and are open to more contributions.

The surrender of the unions has left the dominant logic of ‘sharing the pain’ unchallenged. Gregor Kerr’s discussion of the housing crisis shows that even in ‘the good old days’ of the Celtic Tiger, the housing bubble was at its heart a scam, a gamble that enriched the few at the expense of the many.

As Ireland is cast to the mercy of international bond investors and other cavaliers of credit, Paul Bowman assesses the origins of the money market, and its role in contemporary capitalism. He argues against any comfortable return to soft-Keynesian dogma and stresses that the global system is a class-system, it cannot be understood, nor confronted without this analysis.

Our reviews take a more hopeful tone, looking at the continuing usefulness of the historical tradition of anarchism and the increasing evidence for its viability. Both of these will be useful as we seem to face a crisis of ideas and hope in parallel to our economic woes.

While we are confronted with an historic crisis and uncertainty about our future, we would do well to remember that another world is possible, but it will not come of its own accord. We need to understand the present, we need to understand the futures open to us, and we must find the way to the one we want.

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Irish Anarchist Review Issue 03 - Summer 2011

Issue 3 of Irish Anarchist Review magazine.

Submitted by R Totale on January 16, 2022

Welcome to Issue 3 of The Irish Anarchist Review, produced by the Workers Solidarity Movement. This magazine aims to provide a forum for the exploration and discussion of theories, thoughts and ideas about where we are and where we would like to be in terms of political struggles today.

The task of building a revolutionary movement based on principles of freedom and democracy was never going to be an easy one. As we as a society have faced into probably the greatest ever financial crisis, that challenge appears in many ways to be even bigger. The singular lack of any real fightback by the Irish working class as international capital in the guise of the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund systematically dismantles our social services and slashes our living conditions could well prove dispiriting and demoralising.

But demoralisation or discouragement cannot be options for revolutionaries. What we have to do is to continue to look for sparks of fightback and to continue to try to develop ideas and theories which might give people hope.

In this context, Dermot Sreenan’s article ‘Imagining The Future’ is an attempt to look into a post-revolutionary future and imagine what such a society might look like. It is hoped that this will be the first in a series of articles that will try to sketch out the possibilities in terms of a new world where people’s needs would be placed before the rights of financiers to continue to stockpile wealth.

It is in the context of seeking out hope for the future that Kevin Doyle analyses what has happened in the U.S. since the election of Barrack Obama. He looks at the reality behind the ‘Yes We Can’ slogan and the supposed ‘grassroots mobilisation’ that his election campaign involved and details the litany of broken promises left in its wake.

In an article re-produced from anarkismo.net, José Antonio Gutiérrez D. looks at the fight for democracy that has broken out across the Arab world and asks how these struggles can be “more than a sporadic episode” and how they can be developed into real “alternative social projects”.

Looking back as well as forward is important in terms of building for the future. In ‘Project 2013 – Re-building a Trade Union Movement from Below’ Gregor Kerr issues the challenge that “if trade unions didn’t exist we certainly wouldn’t invent SIPTU”. In asking whether trade unions as they exist are fit for purpose, the article invites us to use the forthcoming centenary of the 1913 lockout to reclaim the spirit of Larkin and seek to re-establish a trade union movement which puts its members’ interests to the fore.

The economic crisis in Ireland has presented us with many challenges, none more so than that of making real links with workers in other countries facing similar difficulties. Paul Bowman’s look at the anarchist and opposition movements across the ‘PIGS’ countries is an attempt to draw those common links.

We also publish a number of reviews which we hope will stimulate our readers to further reading, viewing and discussing.

We don’t simply want the ideas in this magazine to be consumed but would hope that they will challenge their readers to develop on them and react to them – whether positively or negatively. In that way the magazine can make a real contribution to the development of new ideas. So read, enjoy and respond. We welcome contributions to future issues of this magazine and hope that at least some of the content of this issue will stimulate thought and debate among you, the readers.

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Irish Anarchist Review Issue 04 - Winter 2011

IAR 4 cover

Issue 4 of Irish Anarchist Review magazine.

Submitted by R Totale on April 18, 2022

Welcome to issue 4 of the Irish Anarchist Review, produced by the Workers Solidarity Movement. This magazine aims to provide a forum for the exploration of theories, thoughts and ideas about political struggle, and where we would like to go and how to get there from the current situation. This magazine also seeks to be a place where people interested in revolutionary politics can read first-hand reports from people involved at the ‘coal-face’ of working-class struggles and perhaps reply to it with an article of their own. We believe there can be no revolution worthy of the name without a genuine sharing of political ideas between people.

The political state of Ireland and the wider world today presents a frustrating yet potentially promising prospect for revolutionaries. A class war is being prosecuted by the world’s richest 1% and public opposition to this in many countries including Ireland has been limited to demonstrations of mass public anger at falling living standards, by crowds of atomized individuals who for the most part remain trapped inside a narrative spoken by politicians and a mass media who are controlled by that same richest 1%. Anger is widespread among our class, but effective action by the 99% seems as remote as it was before the current crises, when the neoliberal illusion was unburst and still had a veneer of plausibility. However, active opposition to austerity and repression in countries like Greece, Chile and Egypt, and the recent protest manifestations like Occupy Wall Street/Dame Street show that resistance is indeed fertile.

Fin Dwyer writes in his essay that a key difference between people in Ireland today and their 19th-century ancestors is popular politicisation and first-person history of mass struggle. The Land War arose from a situation not entirely unlike that faced by 21st-century Irish people, but the response in the former case was shaped by political organisations like the IRB and many individuals with the reach and organising know-how to take that desire for change further than isolated and ineffectual reaction. Fin looks forward to the forthcoming anti-Household Tax campaign as a possible candidate for emulating that successful, if flawed, antecedent of the 1870s and 1880s.

This leads on to Paul Bowman’s article advocating an ‘organiser model’ for developing the emerging campaign against the Household Tax. Paul argues that only a campaign based on increasing the engagement level of members to well beyond the levels usually achieved in most left organising here to date can deliver the scale and personal commitment of membership needed to win the campaign objectives. He outlines a method based on these principles developed by the trade union movement in the United States, where struggles to organise workplaces often have been very hard-fought.

Kostas Avramidis’ piece on current conditions in Greece gives a flavour of what is going on in one of the small number of countries in Europe where there is ongoing mass public action against the austerity agenda. He draws our attention to community campaigns against unwanted capitalist projects, where the traditional political system has been bypassed. Kostas sees this as a symptom of a rising political consciousness among ordinary Greeks, but he poses his own concerns if this will be enough to transform the plight of the Greek working class in a radical way.

Donal O’Driscoll has written an anarchist critique of the Freeman Movement, which has gained some credence (and members) from among the left activist community. Donal stresses that the ‘Freemen’’s dependence on concepts like ‘natural law’ and ‘common law’ are antithetical to anarchism’s rejection of authoritarian laws and the ‘appeal to history’ that is central to Freeman thinking lends itself to social conservatism, support for private property, and political reaction.

Eric Hayes’s article on the Participatory Economics blueprint developed by Michael Albert and others follows on from the theme of ‘imagining the future’ begun in the last issue. Parecon is not universally liked in libertarian left circles, but as a fully-thought-out alternative to the current model of economic activity it is worthy of critical scrutiny by anarchists. Eric gives a description of the main features of the model, and draws the reader’s attention to what he sees are its valuable aspects.

James McBarron’s interview with labour historian and author Conor McCabe discusses the economic interests and agenda of the Irish ruling class since 1922, and how these have changed over that time, while noting that certain interests remain unaltered. They also discuss how the Irish working class has experienced the results of the out-working of these in government policy and in their living standards.

Cathal Larkin offers an anarchist’s perspective on the work of Michel Foucault, a 20th-century French sociologist and political philosopher whose opinions on oppression, crime, punishment, power, agency, and the role of the intellectual in popular struggle has made him particularly difficult to pigeon-hole for ideologues of left and right. Cathal says that while Foucault never called himself an anarchist, much of his political stance commends itself readily to the anarchist tradition.

There are also two book reviews to whet your appetite – Cathal Larkin reviews Anarchism And The City, and Eoghan Ryan does Ramor Ryan’s latest, Zapatista Spring.

We offer these ideas not solely as intellectual nourishment, but hope that these will be of use to you in your political activity and everyday life. We also intend that these writings proke others to respond with ideas of their own, and we look forward to receiving responses from you, our readers out there.

19th Century Resistance & why it ain’t happening today
Irish history has produced such large scale movements of resistance several times over the past 3 centuries but perhaps the prerequisite need of politicisation and political experience were never more obvious than in the 19th century. Twice in that century the ruling class exacted a brutal class war on the poorest in society with very different consequences. One resulted in a catastrophic defeat – The Great Famine, the other a victory of sorts known as The Land War. The difference between these two struggles may explain the lack of organised resistance in Ireland today.

Using the Organiser Model to Beat the Household Tax
The new year brings a new tax from the Irish government and a new fight in the shape of the campaign against this household tax. Although we have beaten such taxes in the past, past victories are no guarantee of future success. In the light of the current low level of organisation and self-confidence amongst our class, we need to re-assess our methods of organisation if we aim to achieve the levels of mass participation needed for a victory. The argument of this article is that the existing traditional models of building local campaigns are not sufficient to the task and that we need to look to a new model of organising - the organiser model.

Interview: Conor McCabe on Sins of the Father
Journalist and writer Conor McCabe’s book ‘Sins Of The Father’ attempts, in the author’s own words, “…to shine a light on the reasons why Ireland has the businesses it has, and why banks and speculators yield so much power and influence.” The book has been acknowledged as a significant contribution to the analysis of the political and economic decisions that have brought the Irish economy to ruin. James McBarron interviewed McCabe for Irish Anarchist Review

Greece & the crisis - Seeds of Hope
There is no doubt that the political history of Greece is full of oppression and political struggle - from dictatorships to political prosecutions, jailings, exiles, shootings, torture, civil war, and countless strikes, demonstrations, occupations and protests that are put down by extreme state violence.

Michel Foucault: An Examination of Power
Michel Foucault is a philosopher whose politics everybody seems to have a differing opinion on. He has been called a disguised Marxist, both a secret and explicit anti-Marxist, a nihilist, a new conservative, a new liberal, a neutral interpretivist, a crypto-normativist, a principled anarchist as well as a dangerous left-wing one, and even a Gaullist technocrat.

IMAGINING the FUTURE: Participatory Economics
In this article of the future society series, I will focus solely upon an anarchist vision of a future economy. This is called participatory economics, often abbreviated parecon, a classless economic system proposed primarily by activist and political theorist Michael Albert and, among others, economist Robin Hahnel.

Resisting the lure of the Freeman movement
The last few years have seen a significant growth in the Freeman of the Land movement. Increasingly, its voice is being heard at environmental and other anarchist based protests and events, from the various UK climate camps to Rossport Solidarity Camp.

Review: Anarchism and the City
The book starts with the growth of Barcelona due to its industrialisation from the 1850s onwards. As the newly formed proletariat were housed in slum-like barris without social services, an “anarchist-inspired workers’ public sphere” began to develop

Review: Zapatista Spring
While Ramor Ryan’s “Clandestines” detailed the myriad adventures of a peripatetic revolutionary, his follow up book, “Zapatista Spring”, concerns itself more with the minutiae, and frequent tedium, of weeks spent in Chiapas demonstrating “practical solidarity”. In his own words, he is “attempting to portray the Zapatistas as they are at the grassroots, beyond the mythologizing of [Subcomandante] Marcos and the public face of the rebellion.”

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Mair Waring

2 years 1 month ago

Submitted by Mair Waring on April 19, 2022

You saved a PNG rather than a PDF here? Presumably by accident? :)

Irish Anarchist Review Issue 07 - Spring 2013

IAR 7 cover

Issue 7 of Irish Anarchist Review magazine.

Submitted by R Totale on April 18, 2022

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

Editorial Committee
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.

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Irish Anarchist Review Issue 08 - Autumn 2013

Cover of IAR 8

Issue 8 of Irish Anarchist Review magazine.

Submitted by R Totale on April 18, 2022

This issue of the Irish Anarchist Review, explores the idea of solidarity, beyond the workplace, as it extends to women in struggle, travellers, migrants and others. We look at how, solidarity and mutual aid, should involve, not just supporting the exploited and oppressed, but in assisting them in their struggles, and rather than presenting ourselves as saviors, with the solution to their problems, to listen and help amplify their voices as they work towards their own solutions.

2013 has been a year of commemoration for the labour movement. In official and unofficial celebrations alike, the word solidarity has loomed large. Rather than acting as a beacon of hope, however, it hangs precariously, like a red neon lit sign on a crumbling building. It may feel good as we shout and whoop, “Solidarity!”, it may give us a giddy little thrill, but when the banners are packed away, when we’re back home, with our feet up watching television, do we think about it anymore? Do we concern ourselves with the fact that the solidarity our movement has celebrated has been solidarity for the few. Do we think about those left behind?

The idea of solidarity, for the trade union movement, revolved around the idea that “an injury to one, is an injury to (or the concern of) all”, and the tactic of the sympathetic strike. This notion of solidarity however, while helping to lift the standard of living of a small Irish industrial working class, never extended beyond the workplace. The idea that unions could not be political and could only fight on economic issues took hold.

Those left behind included the thousands of women, including one hundred and fifty five, found in unmarked graves in Dublin, who had suffered sexual, psychological and physical abuse in the Magdalene Asylums, right up until the 1990’s. Though, only then, did the true horrors of what had happened in the “laundries” come out in the open, that these places existed, had been a thinly veiled secret. Women who became pregnant outside of marriage, the sex workers of the Monto, or any other woman who did not confirm to the idea of faith, family and nation, could have their lives snatched away from them as the labour movement cowered in the shadow of the bishops cloak.

In the 1930’s, when workers in Spain fought fascism, died, were imprisoned and tortured in their thousands, the Irish labour movement forgot about any notion of solidarity, as again, they feared the power of the Irish church. If an “injury to one”, was “the concern of all”, then surely, the annihilation of the the working class of the Iberian peninsula at the hands of the reactionary, ultra-catholic fascist regime, should have seen the mobilisation of Irish workers, by those who were best placed to do so.

Today, as the professional union bureaucrats, wax lyrical about the struggles of one hundred years ago, as they laud their ability to protect the interests of their members against the worst aspects of austerity, a suspect claim in it’s own right, they are willing to leave behind asylum seekers who languish in direct provision centers. They refuse to recognise sex work as work, and support the moralistic crusade of an organisation with links to the religious orders who ran the Magdalene Asylums, that would see the standard of living of these workers drastically decline; and still, when around four thousand women a year are traveling to Britain for abortions, the gentlemen of ICTU, refuse to support the fight for abortion rights.

This issue of the Irish Anarchist Review, explores the idea of solidarity, beyond the workplace, as it extends to women in struggle, travellers, migrants and others. We look at how, solidarity and mutual aid, should involve, not just supporting the exploited and oppressed, but in assisting them in their struggles, and rather than presenting ourselves as saviors, with the solution to their problems, to listen and help amplify their voices as they work towards their own solutions.

We hope the articles here, provide some food for thought and we encourage our readers to reply with articles of their own.

IAR team:
Editorial Committee: Paul Bowman, Farah Azadi, Mark Hoskins, Brian Fagan, Dermot Sreenan, Leticia Ortega. Thanks to all members of the WSM for contributions, discussion & feedback.
Authors: Paul Bowman, Mark Hoskins, Farah Azadi, Tom Murray, Leticia Ortega, T.J., Vanessa Gauthier Vela, Nepele, D. Sreenan, Andrew Flood.
Layout: Brian Fagan.

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

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Irish Anarchist Review Issue 09 - Summer 2014

The cover of Irish Anarchist Review 9, with a green and red image asking "communism or capitalism, life or death?"

Issue 9 of Irish Anarchist Review magazine.

Submitted by R Totale on August 10, 2022

EDITORIAL:

We've been hearing scare stories about the damage being done to the environment by co2 emissions for decades now. Terms like “climate change”, “greenhouse effect”, “the ozone layer” (more importantly, the holes in the ozone layer) and “global warming”, are part of everyday language. We know that the polar ice caps are melting, causing sea levels to rise and we know that the weather is doing crazy things in parts of the world that are usually temperate. And, we know that all this is being caused by the stuff we produce and how we produce it. What has our response been?

By and large, we've done nothing. In fact we've done the opposite. We've continued to create stuff. More and more stuff. We produce enough food to feed the world at least twice over and a third of it is wasted. We produce gadgets we don't really need, war machines to subjugate people, we plan obsolescence so that we have to keep producing things to replace other things so that the wheels of the global economy keep turning and profit keeps accumulating. Billions of humans, across the planet, spend a large chunk of every day, doing things they'd prefer not to to produce things they don't need in a process that is making the planet unfit for their habitation.

That sounds crazy, doesn't it? Yet that is life on planet Earth in the year 2014. It's not some dystopian science fiction yarn, it's real life. Why is it so? We are so distracted by reproducing ourselves at an individual level and at the level of the family unit, that we put these things in the back of our minds. We hope that someone else will fix things, or believe that somewhere, something is being done that will turn things around in the future. We laughed when Homer Simpson, responding to Lisa's warning about the planet destroying comet said "Lisa, the whole reason we have elected officials is so we don't have to think all the time. Just like that rain forest scare a few years back. Our officials saw there was a problem and they fixed it, didn't they?", but the reality is that we were laughing at ourselves and our feeling of overwhelming helplessness in the face of power and forces that are greater than our individual selves.

The response of the left has, on the whole, been no better. The desperate call for growth, sometimes preceded with the word “green”, is as good as throwing our hands up in the air and hoping a saviour will come. The worst thing about it, is that the left should know better. The radical left knows that the problem is capitalism, claims the solution is a socialist society based upon the maxim “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”, yet continues to parrot the slogans of the last century. The philosophy of a time when we did need to increase production to meet the needs of all are no longer relevant, when the means to create a post-scarcity society are at our fingertips, and have been for decades.

The environmental lobby on the other hand has largely attempted to shame capitalism into greening itself, into being less destructive. It is akin to trying to convince a shark not to be a predator. The logic of capitalism is that profit is the motor force of history, that growth creates profit, therefore profit is good. We clearly need a new politics. We need a politics that can speak to billions of people whose lives are being turned upside down by changes in the global climate, in the way that the politics of the left was able to speak to billions one hundred years ago. We need to think about organising to not just to radically restructure society from the bottom up, but also to prepare to materially face these changes.

This issue of the Irish Anarchist Review attempts to deal with some of these issues. We don't claim to have all the answers, but we hope that the articles we present can contribute to a discussion about the type of politics, the type of organising that we need to do. We hope you enjoy reading this issue, but we also hope you will be inspired to agitate, educate and organise for change. Without our resistance, the future will be very bleak.

CONTENTS:

- Disaster Communism.
- An End to Growth?
- Fracking and Community Resistance.
- ICTU and Sex Work.
- An Anarchist Critique of Horizontalism.
- The Church's role in the Irish education system.
- Britain's secret dirty war in Ireland.
- Review: David Graebers ‘The Democracy Project’.
- Review: Iain M. Banks' The Culture series.
- Review: 100 Years Later: The Legacy of the 1913 Lockout.

IAR team:

Editorial Committee: Mark Hoskins, Brian A., Aidan Rowe
Thanks to all members of the WSM for contributions, discussion & feedback.

Layout: Brian A.

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.

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Irish Anarchist Review Issue 10 - Winter 2014

The cover of Irish Anarchist Review issue 10, with a pink and brown pattern.

Issue 10 of Irish Anarchist Review magazine.

Submitted by R Totale on May 16, 2023

Welcome to the tenth instalment of the Irish Anarchist Review, published for the 2014 London Anarchist Bookfair.

Five years ago, the Irish Anarchist Review replaced Red and Black Revolution as the magazine of the Workers Solidarity Movement. It’s mission was to fill a vacuum in Irish radical circles, to be a publication that raised questions and provoked debate, rather than laying out blueprints for success, as had been the norm in the more theoretical work of the left. It was established at a time where a fightback was believed to be imminent, when the expectation was that as the (economic) beatings continued, morale would improve.

The intervening years produced a series of false starts. The big ICTU demonstrations in the infancy of the crisis proved to be safety valves for the expulsion of steam from the rank and file, and were tightly controlled by the bureaucracy. The Occupy phenomenon was a reaction against that type of protest, and it did release a wave of creative energy, but it’s structurelessness ultimately had the same effect, and that energy escaped into the ether. There have also been strikes and occupations, the Unlock Nama campaign, the campaign against household and water taxes (CAHWT) and a massive resurgence in the campaign for abortion access.

The articles in the pages of this publication, have been the result of theorising our experiences as participants in these struggles, of trying to find a better way to resist all forms of authoritarian rule, be it that of capital, the church or the state. Now in our tenth issue, we can’t say that we have found all the answers, but we can say that we have contributed to a larger debate about revolutionary praxis. The IAR has always had two symbiotic elements, ideas and action; We act on our ideas and form ideas about our actions.

Right now a fightback against the water charges is developing. On Saturday 11th October, between sixty and one hundred thousand marched in Dublin in opposition to this draconian measure. This, at the moment is a very different type of movement to the CAHWT. Some unions are involved, and many of the actions carried out against meter installation have been spontaneous and community based, following the “networked protester” model of drawing inspiration from actions seen on social media. We will of course be following these developments and trying to draw conclusions, at the same time warning against allowing any campaign to be used as a platform for electoral opportunism, as was the case with CAHWT.

In addition to celebrating five years and ten issues of the IAR, we are also marking the thirtieth anniversary of the WSM. Over that time, the world has changed more than it had since the second world war, which has presented gargantuan challenges for the left in general and anarchism in particular. To try to meet these challenges, the WSM, not for the first time, is evolving. We remain committed to our libertarian socialist principles, to the fight for freedom and equality but we realise that our tactics can not remain the same, when facing an enemy that has shown the ability to recuperate left demands, to shift the goal posts when it looks like left wing ideas are gaining traction.

For that reason, even in the age of the “networked individual”, when the political terrain we stand on can alter many times over in the space of hours, we feel publications like this, that take a step back and coolly analyse the campaigns we have been involved in, our tactics and actions and those of the other side. We hope that you have enjoyed reading our output to date and that if you are involved in activism and have a left libertarian perspective, you would consider contributing to this project in the future, with articles of your own. From all of us on the editorial committee, thanks for reading.

Contents:

Hope, Friendship and Surprise in the Zombie Time of Capitalism: An interview with Gustavo Esteva - Tom Murray

Turnips, Hammers and the Square; Why workplace occupations have faded - Andrew Flood

Futurism or the Future: A review of the Accelerationist Manifesto - Aidan Rowe

History: The first three years of the Workers Solidarity Movement

Fighting Back: Paris Bakery and EF Language School Workers Speak Out - Gregor Kerr

If you Hoist the Green Flag - Middlement and Market Rule in Ireland: An interview with Conor McCabe - Paul Bowman

A Prison by any Other Name: Fighting direct provision - Paul McAndrew

Review: Caliban and the Witch - Maria C

IAR team:

Editorial Committee: Mark Hoskins, Brian Fagan, Aidan Rowe, Aileen O' Carroll
Thanks to all members of the WSM for contributions, discussion & feedback.

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Irish Anarchist Review Issue 11 - Summer 2015

The cover of Irish Anarchist Review 11, with an abstract red and yellow pattern.

Issue 11 of Irish Anarchist Review magazine.

Submitted by R Totale on May 16, 2023

The eleventh issue of the Irish Anarchist Review goes to press in the middle of the biggest battle in the war against austerity in Ireland to date. Tens of thousands of people have taken part in mass demonstrations against the water charges, up and down the country thousands have taken part in acts of physical resistance against water meter installation and hundreds of thousands, at the very least, are getting ready to participate in a mass boycott of the charge. Furthermore, the level of political consciousness of the population has risen considerably over the last year, with a distinct anti-establishment atmosphere, and in some cases an anti-state atmosphere, developing.

Methods of organising have more or less followed community syndicalist lines that are highly compatible with anarchist practice, with local committees using direct democracy and the tactics of direct action. At the moment there is no unified national campaign, but a number of different umbrella groups representing different outlooks and tactics. Somewhat counterintuitively, this has been one of the strengths of the campaign so far, with sections retaining the ability to use the tactics of their choice and a movement that is not beset by infighting, as was the case in the latter days of the Campaign against Home and Water Taxes. At the same time, anarchists should argue against attempts to divert the movement into the cul de sac of electoralism, as is the wish of both unashamed reformists and self described revolutionaries alike.

Across Europe the dilemma is the same. Seven years of resistance to austerity has seemingly produced limited success. In Spain, the arrests of anarchists and Basque activists this year, along with the gag law threatens to stifle dissent. Some will look to the electoral sphere, through Podemos, to get out of jail, in a manner of speaking, but with anarchists and migrants still incarcerated under Greece’s left wing SYRIZA government, is this really a solution? It certainly seems that SYRIZA’s progressive programme has hit a brick wall and that they are beginning to withdraw some of their more radical policies.

While the turn to electoralism could make some of us despair, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. There's a theory in evolutionary biology known as 'punctuated equilibrium' which claims that most species show little evolutionary change over the course of their collective life span. Instead, they remain in an extended state known as stasis until, over a short space of time, geologically speaking, rapid evolutionary change occurs. There is a case for saying that the fight back against austerity in Ireland has unfolded in punctuated equilibria, over three phases, beginning with the public sector strike in 2009 and the left and trade union led marches of 2010, rekindling in 2011 with the occupy movement and the campaign against home taxes, and finally, evolving into the spontaneous revolt that has unfolded against the water charge with periods of stasis in between. Each stage has been more developed and right now, it is not set in stone that the electoralists will be able to co-opt the campaign.

As Andrew Flood writes in his article on Rojava, “Revolutions are seldom made in favourable circumstances”, and we can take inspiration from those, like the people of Western Kurdistan and in Chiapas, Mexico, who are conducting revolutions in circumstances far less favourable than ours. Their revolutions may lack the ideological purity that many anarchists would desire, but they exist in the real world and not in the dusty pages of the manual for revolution. Political engagement with movements that are actively engaged in revolutionary transformation can only enrich our tradition and in turn, our ideas could help influence those revolutions. But before we can influence anyone, it is important that we have a unity of ideas and a method of articulating those ideas in a coherent fashion. Too often in recent years, anarchism has suffered from being all things to all individuals, a smorgasbord of ideas you could pick and choose from. Maybe it’s time for anarchism to grow up; And by that we don’t mean we think it should dispense of it’s utopian yearnings and make peace with “pragmatic solutions”, rather that it should “come of age”, and articulate a vision for a new society that begins with the conditions of the early 21st century, not the 20th.

To achieve this goal, we reiterate the necessity for anarchist organisation. Most of our competitors who articulate an alternative to the current society, and indeed, all of those who are trying to convince us that this one is just fine, are highly organised and have the means to set the political agenda of the coming years. But while those organisations can have the appearances of monoliths with one voice, ours should be a diverse movement of many voices that can nonetheless act with effective unity. We hope that you find the articles in this publication stimulating and that the ideas expressed will encourage you respond with ideas of your own, and maybe you will join us in the pursuit of radically transforming society. It is long overdue.

CONTENTS:

Creating the Commons: On the Meaning of Bolivia's Water Wars - Tom Murray

Rojava - Revolution Between a Rock and a Hard Place - Andrew Flood

Murray Bookchin: The Next Revolution (Review) - Eoin O'Connor

Brigadistas in Paradise - The Green Brigade and Left Wing Fan Culture - Eoin O'Ceallaigh

Island of no Consent - Maternity Care and Bodily Autonomy in Ireland - Sinead Redmond

The Twisted Road to Partnership - Can the Trade Unions be Saved from the Bureaucracy? - Gregor Kerr

All the Evil in the World - Pandora, the One Percent and the new European Reaction - Mark Hoskins

Thinking About Anarchism - Anarchism and the State - Cormac Caulfield and Ferdia O'Brien

The Water Revolt in Ireland - Ferdia O'Brien

IAR Editorial Committee - Mark Hoskins, Brian Fagan, Ferdia O'Brien

Special thanks to Paul Bowman and Liam Hough for feedback and editing help

Layout - Brian Fagan

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IAR 11 cover.PNG (764.63 KB)

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Brigadistas in Paradise - The Green Brigade and left wing football fan culture

A Celtic fan holds up a flare, surrounded by Palestinian flags.

The following is an abridged summary of a qualitative study undertaken as part of the Masters in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. The thesis drew upon theories of culture, subculture, social movements, radical pedagogy, ethnographies and studies of ultras, gender and football research, as well as studies of the Irish immigrant experience in Scotland, and specifically the role of Celtic FC as an expression of Irish identity. This article was first published in Irish Anarchist Review 11.

Submitted by R Totale on May 16, 2023

The Green Brigade of Glasgow Celtic Football Club were founded in 2006 as an explicitly anti-sectarian, anti-racist and anti-fascist group of ultras, who would celebrate Irish Republicanism, oppose the commercialisation of football, and act as an alternative to apolitical fans groups who were perceived as being too close to the management of the club.

Football has long provided a space for dissident politics to be expressed, and the link between football and radical politics is well established (Kuhn, 2011). In Scotland, football is an important forum where issues of ethnic, religious and political identity are played out, with Celtic being an important conduit for expressions of Irish immigrant identities, particularly support for Irish Republicanism, anti-imperialist struggles, and broadly left-wing politics.

As ultras, the Green Brigade support their team in a passionate, colourful, loud and coordinated way, making use of banners, pyrotechnics, songs and chants, and other expressions of die-hard support. The term 'ultra', for many, has become synonymous with right-wing football groups, particularly in Italy, where fascist ultras groups are extremely prevalent. While it is true that right-wing, fascist ultra groups are extremely prominent throughout Europe, ultra is a subcultural scene which has been adopted by both right and left-wing football fans and activists. Comparable examples of subcultures being spaces of direct contestation between fascist and anti-fascist activists would be the skinhead and punk scenes, where the venues and identities of the scenes are often literal battlegrounds between ideologically opposed sides who recognise the political importance of predominantly youth subcultures (Vysotsky, 2013).

In recent insurrections in Egypt and Turkey, ultras groups have played extremely prominent roles, experienced as they are in resisting the police, bringing large, organised groups of people onto the streets, and drawing upon a culture of open hostility and opposition to the state. In Turkey, ultras from Istanbul clubs Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray, usually bitter rivals, united in clashes against police, bringing to the barricades their invaluable experience of street fighting with the police, and a willingness to engage in direct and violent clashes with the state (Istanbul Uprising, 2014). While such insurrectionary moments are rare in Scotland, it is valuable to explore how the Green Brigade maintain, and recreate, a sense of 'rebel' politics within the particular community of Celtic Football Club and the immigrant Irish in Scotland.

Though there are members from other parts of Scotland and Ireland, and several women members, the majority of members are young men from the west of Scotland, in particular Glasgow. Members are predominantly of Irish descent, but there are also members from Arab, African and Muslim backgrounds. Aside from the 'core' of around 70 members, the group draws several hundred to section 111, their home in Celtic Park. Alongside face to face meetings, either on match days or other events, much of the discussion and decision making occurs on the group's online forum, greenbrigade.proboards.com. Alongside practical organising, the forum provides a space for the discussion of football, politics, books and culture. While decisions are generally taken by consensus, votes are sometimes taken. Although there is no formal hierarchy within the group, like other ultras groups there is a core of people who are more influential, usually due to being founding members, particularly active, or more politically involved than others.

Visible activities

The most visible aspects of the Green Brigade's activities occur within or immediately around the football match. The group have become famous for their spectacular, highly coordinated tifos, displays of banners, ticker tape, flares etc. The most contentious of these have been displays which have addressed anti-Irish racism in Scotland, British imperialism, solidarity with Palestine, and Scottish Government legislation which has criminalised expressions of a politicised Irish immigrant

Outside of the football stadia, the group organise around a number of issues within their communities, most noticeably in the historically Irish, and impoverished, east end of Glasgow. The highlight of the Green Brigade's calendar is a free anti-discrimination football tournament, which has featured teams from the Basque, Nigerian, Cameroonian, Pakistani, Irish, refugee and asylum seeker, and LGBTQ communities, as well as teams from Celtic Supporters Clubs (CSCs), and even the odd Rangers supporters side. As one member explains, the task of challenging discrimination is not taken lightly, though there has been an overwhelmingly positive response from participants, in a city where ethnic and religious groups do not often mix socially.

[...] this is our sixth year now doing the tournament, if you’re only hitting one person a year, it's still changing someone in Glasgow, and the East End of Glasgow isn't somewhere you're going to change a lot of people's opinions.

Aside from football, the group regularly organises food drives for food banks in Glasgow as a response to the effects of austerity, collecting essential food items at games and social events and fundraisers. The most recent food drive, conducted with other Celtic supporters groups, raised close to £9,000 and over 7.5 tons of food, which is claimed as the largest single collection of food for a food bank in the UK.

The political culture of the Green Brigade

The political culture of the Green Brigade is too complicated to sum up succinctly, though I will attempt to give a taste of how political activism and discussion are approached. There is no set ideological or political manifesto of the group, but instead a broad umbrella of principles, namely support for Celtic, a love of the ultra way of life, and a general 'soundness' of left-wing, progressive politics. Irish Republican politics have been a formative part of the politicisation of most members, with the influence of Republican politics being seen as an important foundation for the discussion of other political struggles and ideas, amongst group members but also in terms of outreach. Members spoke of varying influences in their own processes of politicisation, in particular the invasion and occupation of Iraq, experiences of loyalist violence, immigrant family histories, the South African anti-apartheid movement, the Palestinian struggle, and exposure to anarchism, amongst other movements.

In terms of shades of green, red and black, individual members' politics can vary greatly, from supporters of Sinn Féin, éirígí, republican socialists, members of the Scottish Socialist Party, communists, trade unionists, anarchists, to members who prioritise support for Celtic above politics. Debate is lively, on and offline, with the forum providing a glimpse of the breadth and tone of discussion. Individual activities and initiatives, such as support for a particular campaign, are often 'pushed' by individual members based on their own personal interests and politics. The groups increasingly active support and solidarity with the Palestinian struggle is a clear example of the evolution not only of members' politics, but of the collective focus and politics of the group. It is now unthinkable that Celtic could ever play an Israeli team in Glasgow without significant pro-Palestinian and pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) action from the Green Brigade and other Celtic fans. Support for the Palestinian struggle has even extended to a blog being written by a group member while they were volunteering in Palestine.

There are international links and friendships with other anti-fascist ultras groups throughout Europe, such as Toulon, Marseilles, Standard Liege, Athletic Bilbao, Livorno, and the red and black Bohemians (Bohs) of Dublin's Northside. A central feature of the Green Brigade, like other ultras groups, is the importance of friendship, with members considering the group as a family which provides emotional support and care.

Many members have spoken of the way in which involvement with the Green Brigade deepened and expanded their political education, taking an often superficial awareness of 'rebel' politics, and in particular Irish Republicanism, and drawing links and comparisons with anti-fascism, anti-homophobia and anti-sexism, and struggles in the Basque Country, Chiapas and Palestine to name but a few. The scope of themes discussed, in person and online, is impressive, as the online forum indicates. The Politics page of the forum alone contains more than 200 pages, over 8,000 separate threads. Examples of themes covered are racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-fascism, Palestine, Irish Republicanism, asylum seeker and refugee solidarity; music; films; Policing; Austerity; and literally thousands of others. There is also a 12 page thread with reading suggestions covering similar topics, as well as fiction. It is considered a 'working document', and there is a lengthy discussion and suggestions of books which members and forum users have found influential.

Perhaps the most formalised way that learning functions within the group is through political education nights, covering a wide range of topics including anti-fascism, women in the Irish struggle, miscarriages of justice, legal rights, Irish Republican prisoners, refugee and asylum seeker rights, and Palestine. Members who organised political education nights spoke of the importance of making politics accessible, of not having people 'dwarfed by big words', and of creating 'a laid back environment to discuss politics'.

Repression and resistance

In 2012 the Scottish Government introduced the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communication Act, ostensibly to tackle 'sectarianism' in Scotland in the wake of of the attempted posting of a bomb and bullets, to then Celtic manager Neil Lennon, a Catholic from Lurgan in County Armagh, as well as several physical attacks and death threats. However, rather than addressing the pervasiveness of anti-Irish racism in Scotland, the legislation has primarily targeted politicised expressions of Irish identity in Scotland, and in particular any banners, songs, chants or other expressions of opposition to British imperialism in Ireland. The Green Brigade have borne the brunt of the legislation, with regular harassment and repression which would be considered scandalous by polite society, were it not meted out to working class football fans, and proudly anti-establishment ones at that.

Examples of police attempts to disrupt the group's activities have included: constant and overt surveillance of the group at, and travelling to and from football matches; stop and searches; dawn raids on members' homes for controversial banners; police blocking of taxi applications; attempts by Special Branch to recruit informers; covert surveillance of members, in Scotland and abroad, down to detailing specific meals eaten; use of Anti-Terrorism legislation to detain and question members travelling between Scotland and the north of Ireland; dozens of arrests; imprisonment on remand; the completely ironic deployment of police horses, riot vans and baton charges on members protesting police harassment; and a dedicated unit tasked with monitoring the group.

Such repression has taken its toll on the Green Brigade, with members citing it as the single biggest difficulty faced by the group. As well as the psychological, financial and social cost of arrests, intimidation and harassment, the state's tactics have also forced the group into a more defensive role. Activities both inside the stadium and outside in the community have to varying degrees suffered or been forced to adapt to counter the effects of police repression. Banners that otherwise would celebrate Celtic and radical struggles have often focussed on highlighting repressive government legislation and police actions; education nights which could discuss radical history have had to adapt by discussing the legal rights of young fans who are stopped and searched by police, whether on match days or not.

This is not the vanguard you’re looking for

While there is much to celebrate in the vibrancy of the Green Brigade, and the very real successes they have had in creating and developing spaces to celebrate and act out progressive, radical politics, all members I spoke with were insistent on the need to view the group in a down to earth and unglamorous way, to the point of at times downplaying the more political nature of the group. Without Celtic, the Green Brigade would have no reason to exist, so support of Celtic is the focus of the group. However, Celtic has provided a space for left-wing and Irish Republican politics from the moment the Fenian Michael Davitt laid the first sod of turf (imported from Donegal) at Celtic Park in 1892, and so it is not a surprise that an ultra group within Celtic has an explicitly left-wing identity.

“I think it's always important to understand the context of where the group's coming ... what the group is, you know. It's not a political revolutionary front, you know what I mean. We're not the vanguard of the working class. I've had good, activist pals of mine who did talk about how 'the Green Brigade are going to be the vanguard of the revolution', be at the forefront of the storming of the Scottish Parliament, and yer like that, 'mate, shut the fuck up.” (Participant 1: 28)

Such reference to 'the vanguard of the working class' is a thinly veiled dig at elements of the Scottish left. There is a perception among many in the Green Brigade of sections of the Scottish left as patronising, middle class, out of touch with the realities of the lives of many members, and also deeply uncomfortable with notions of Irishness which celebrate armed struggle against Britain. Members of the group have at times been mistaken for fascists by 'black bloc' anti-fascists, with the suggestion once being made that they should swap their Adidas trainers for Converse, and that they should not dress in smart casual clothing. Relations with non-member activists is often done on the basis of friendships and informal relations, and most large organisations are viewed with suspicion at best. Alongside this wariness of the 'middle class' left, there are obvious contradictions and tensions within the group, but much of this is the nature of a group which has no formal policies, which has a broad membership, and which is located within the overwhelmingly masculine environment of Scottish football. The most obvious tension is the fact that, although explicitly committed to challenging all forms of discrimination, the group is still overwhelmingly male, and attempts to more proactively challenge sexism and hegemonic masculinity did not seem central to the members I spoke with. Although members were conscious of the need address issues of gender, some spoke of a fear of appearing 'tokenistic', of issues of gender and anti-sexism being put on the back burner due to police repression and its challenges, and also the difficulty of challenging ingrained patriarchal attitudes within the wider Celtic support.

In deindustrialised societies football stadia are one of the few places where large groups of people regularly gather and socialise, and many football clubs are far more than just sporting organisations. Celtic in particular provides a way for the Irish immigrant community in Scotland to express a contested, marginalised and often silenced sense of identity which celebrates struggles against colonialism and imperialism and the fight for a better world. Overwhelmingly working class, young and male, and most contentiously in a Scotland where anti-Irish racism is deeply ingrained, the Green Brigade are clearly viewed by the establishment as a threat to the status quo and a challenge to a notion of Scotland as being a progressive country. To paraphrase a friend, there is a big green elephant in the room, and it is doing shit on the tartan carpet.

This has been far too brief a glimpse into the Green Brigade, their activities, politics and the context they are situated in, but I hope it has gone someway to demystifying an often demonised group, and has highlighted the importance that football can have as a space for the expression of contentious identities. The success of the Green Brigade is in large part due to their position within an already politicised parent culture of Celtic and left-wing elements of the Irish community in Scotland, and it is not for the left to try to 'colonise' or co-opt such spaces in an attempt to grow organisations.

The experiences of left-wing ultras groups, whether in Cairo, Istanbul, Livorno or Glasgow, offer important lessons on the importance of sport, and in particular football, to the maintenance and development of wider cultures of resistance, which not only resist neoliberalism within football stadia, but seek to challenge other forms of oppression in communities.

WORDS: Eoin O’Ceallaigh

Eoin is an activist, writer and support worker currently based in Scotland, though has lived and worked in Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Mexico and Ireland.

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The Twisted Road to Partnership: Can the trade union movement be saved from the bureaucracy?

The headquarters of Irish trade union SIPTU

As the trade union leadership does its best to drag us back into a new round of ‘social partnership’, Gregor Kerr – an activist in the Irish National Teachers Organisation – compares the best and worst of recent developments in the trade unions and poses a challenge – Can we save the movement by ridding it of the stultifying bureaucracy that seems set to strangle the life out of it?

Author
Submitted by R Totale on May 16, 2023

The past number of months have witnessed the best and the worst of the trade union movement and its leadership. On the one hand, the presence of 5 trade unions – Unite, Mandate, CPSU, CWU and OPATSI – in the leadership of the Right2Water Campaign has certainly contributed to its being able to mobilise some of the biggest street mobilisations in the history of the state. But on the other hand the paucity of ambition and their perspective on how change in society is brought about, sees those unions and their leaderships doing their best to drag what has been largely a community-led campaign down the well-trodden and unlikely-to-succeed electoral path.

Instead of recognising that the only way in which the successful abolition of water charges can be guaranteed is through a mass refusal to pay, the R2W leadership is pinning its ambitions on putting together a “coalition of candidates” who will be asked to sign up to a list of “alternative” national policies. This document or manifesto will be agreed at a closed meeting in early May and “a public statement will be made asking any candidate or sitting TD from any party who opposes water charges to agree to fight for the policies if they win a Dáil seat”.

Even in the bid to pin the campaign’s hopes on electoral gain, however, the foolishness of depending on electoral gains to bring about change is acknowledged, with Brendan Ogle, Unite official and R2W spokesperson, agreeing in the same interview that the campaign will have no way of ensuring politicians will implement the policies after an election. “If we can find the secret to making politicians do what they say they will, we’ll share it”, he is quoted as saying.

Collective muscle

But of course there is really nothing secret or mysterious about making politicians do what they say they will. It’s called using our collective muscle. It’s called standing together and imposing our will on those who would govern us. It’s about using the very basis on which the trade union movement was founded – strength in unity and mutual solidarity.

It’s not that surprising that the union officials at the helm of R2W don’t appear to realise where our strength lies. For an entire lifetime, these basic principles of trade unionism have been forgotten and fallen into disrepair. Instead of a movement based on the strength of the picket line, the trade union movement in Ireland has effectively become a policeman for the state. Decades of so-called ‘social partnership’ have left us with a layer of trade union leaders many of whom see their role as being to compromise, to find common ground, to negotiate between workers and their bosses. The idea that they as leaders of a movement are actually supposed to represent their members and are supposed to use the full might of our movement and our muscle to impose the will of our members on government or on employers has been lost.

In the Greyhound dispute last summer, for example, the workers were effectively abandoned on the picket line by their trade union leadership (notwithstanding some sterling work by the union organisers most directly involved). In the face of High Court injunctions and the threats inherent in the 1990 Industrial Relations Act, the senior SIPTU leadership proved itself to be craven and spineless. Locked out workers were told that they had no option but to mount ‘legal’ pickets which effectively left them helplessly standing by the gates waving their placards at scab-operated trucks as they drove past them for 10 weeks. It was only when the workers themselves and their supporters basically bypassed the official union position and mounted effective blockades of the plant that some movement was achieved.

Ironically, on some of those unofficial blockades, workers were joined by senior officials of other unions, including on a couple of occasions the current president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, John Douglas. Yet the only way in which the senior leadership of the workers’ own union, SIPTU, saw the dispute being resolved was if the government could be persuaded to introduce a Registered Employment Agreement which would “guarantee” wage rates in the waste industry. The contrasts between two visions of how trade unions should operate were probably never so stark – Workers on the picket line, taking collective direct action to defend their jobs and realising that the only way to win was to mount effective pickets which actually shut the operation down versus trade union officials in suits believing that all that was necessary to win was the right word in the right ear, and that clever negotiation skills are more important than industrial muscle.

Weakest Ebb

That belief in clever negotiators and an almost disdain for ‘old school’ union tactics of pickets and flexing of industrial muscle was responsible for the trade union movement being at its lowest and weakest ebb when the economic crash happened, and completely unable to respond in a way of painting an alternative vision for members to the government’s policies of wage cuts, cuts to public services and austerity. Worse than not painting an alternative, the union leadership fulfilled a very useful (from the government’s perspective) role in aiding and abetting government policies. The two major demonstrations organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions under the banner of ‘There is a Better Way’ were more about opening the safety valve and allowing us all to let off some steam than actually organising workers behind an alternative platform or programme.

For workers in both the public and private sectors, union leaders became very much the facilitators of the imposition of austerity. In the public sector they busily and almost enthusiastically sold first the Croke Park Agreement and subsequently the Haddington Road Agreement – both of which slashed wages and gave away terms and conditions that had been hard fought for over the last number of decades. ‘Social partnership’ had supposedly collapsed but the mindset that had underpinned it still lived on.

Density

Trade union density - especially in the private sector - has plummeted over the 28 years since the first ‘social partnership’ agreement, the Programme For National Recovery, was signed in 1987. Official OECD figures show that the percentage of the workforce who are members of trade unions has fallen from 46% in 1994 down to less than 30% in 2013 . There are, of course, many factors at play in terms of why the trade union movement has haemorrhaged members not just in Ireland but internationally. But it would be foolish to deny that the fact that Irish trade unions, through their involvement in social partnership, effectively hitching their fortunes to that of the government was a crucial factor.

Ironically while many unions remained affiliated to the Labour Party it was Fianna Fáil led governments for the most part with which unions entered ‘social partnership’ agreements. Successive governments managed to do through ‘talk’ what Thatcher’s government in Britain had done through ‘war’ – effectively defeat the trade union movement as a force for positive social change.

Bureaucratic Nightmare

Throughout the years of social partnership, the bigger unions such as SIPTU in particular have become bureaucratic nightmares. New structures mean that it is almost impossible for ordinary members to raise issues or to find a way to have democratic input into the formulation of union policy. These same structures mean that groups of workers in struggle, such as the Greyhound workers last year, often find that the resources of the union are used in the first instance to attempt to dissuade them from taking action. The union bureaucracy is positioned as an impediment to furthering struggle, and union structures are no longer used as a means by which workers in struggle can mobilise the support of fellow workers.

At the same time, within SIPTU as in other unions, a layer of union organisers beaver away at doing what union organisers should do – talking to workers, discussing their grievances, encouraging them to combine with their fellow workers to take on those grievances… but at the same time having to find their way around the bureaucratic minefield that the upper echelons of the union have become.

Many of these organisers are doing sterling work, and see a return to grassroots organising as being the key to re-vitalising our movement. It is from this same perspective and focus of organising workers and encouraging them to tackle their grievances that some of the more hopeful signs of union life have come in recent times. In early April, staff at one of the most anti-union employers in the state – Dunnes Stores – took strike action for a day in a dispute over union recognition and zero-hour contracts. The strike action came as part of a long and innovative and ongoing campaign using social media and other campaigning methods, “Decency For Dunnes Workers” .

Reaction

As this article is written a week after the one-day strike by Dunnes’ workers, reports are emerging that some of those who participated in the strike have been summarily dismissed, others have had their shifts changed and/or their shift patterns altered. As a strongly anti-union company this reaction from the Dunnes’ management should have been anticipated. Yet the initial reaction from the workers’ union, Mandate, as enunciated by Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light, was “The only resolution I can see to this, other than further escalation of our industrial action, is when the government’s collective bargaining legislation goes live in July…That will give the workers more teeth and may make Dunnes sit up and take notice.” Echoes here of the stance taken by SIPTU’s leadership last year in the Greyhound dispute, a hope that government will come to our aid through legislation.

But a trade union movement that was truly built on grassroots organising and on the concept of an injury to one being the concern of all would have had only one response to this bullying by the Dunnes’ management - The stores where this disciplinary action took place should have been shut down by mass pickets straight away. The wider trade union movement should have called for a complete boycott of all Dunnes Stores until the punishment of workers was reversed. The union movement should have established a solidarity fund to which all union members could contribute a few euro a week to support those dismissed or taking action.

Responding in this fashion would have shown that we know that together we are far stronger than the company. But we are only stronger if we choose to use our muscle. Instead we find the union leadership relying on the possibility of government legislation to put manners on Dunnes management. Yet another stark example of the fact that the hard work of organising being done by many on the ground and by many union organisers meets its first obstacle in the failure of the movement as a whole to see itself as a campaigning movement, one which can mobilise large numbers in defence of vulnerable groups.

Outside of the official union movement, the last couple of years have also seen much innovative work by groups such as Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) in terms of organising groups of workers that are in some of the most precarious employment. The Domestic Workers Action Group has been inventive and original in terms of its strategies and tactics, and has been hugely successful in terms of bringing people together and winning victories through collective actions.

Two souls of Trade Unionism

The on-the-ground organising within the official union movement and the work of groups like MRCI are two examples of one soul of the union movement - the one that gives hope for the future. But unfortunately, as referred to earlier, much of the movement is being smothered and stultified by a bureaucracy that is the polar opposite of the organiser model of trade unionism. And that bureaucracy appears to want to drag the movement away from organising and back into a new round of ‘social partnership’ and deals with government.

Following the general election of 2011, with the Labour Party in government and many unions still affiliated to that party, the unwillingness of large sections of the trade union leadership to oppose government policy in any real way became even more pronounced. Indeed sections of the union leadership, most notably SIPTU’s general president Jack O’Connor chose on a number of occasions to use public speeches to attack not the government that was imposing austerity policies on his members but ‘the left’ which was attempting to organise people to oppose those austerity policies. Speaking at a commemoration for Alicia Brady, who was killed during the 1913 Lockout, in January 2014 O’Connor described ‘the left’ as having “a poverty of ambition” going on to say that “we have an obligation to offer more than protest and caustic commentary…” He criticised the left for “indulging in relentless political cannibalism on remote points of dogma”, saying that “We must be sufficiently pragmatic to avoid condemning those with whom we disagree on questions of strategy and tactics,… [and] be sufficiently flexible to recognise that until we command a majority it is entirely legitimate, indeed essential, for parties and individuals to participate in government with those on the centre right either in Dublin or in Belfast .”

As defences of Labour’s role in government go, this speech by O’Connor was perhaps more upfront than most. It was certainly one that outlined in stark terms the other soul of trade unionism, the one that would keep us wedded to the ‘jaw jaw’ version of trade unionism, and undermine and blunt the grassroots organising taking place on the ground.

‘Social Partnership’ renewed?

That is clearly the ambition of the trade union bureaucracy – to get us back into some form of ‘social partnership’. In recent months, we have seen O’Connor cosying up to Sinn Fein. At a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in February, he advocated a ‘left-led’ government and effectively tied the fortunes of the trade union movement to a new ‘social partnership’ type deal with whatever government is elected after the next election.

The period leading up to and following the next general election will see the battle for the soul of the trade union movement intensify. We will be faced with a stark choice – are we going to continue to build the ‘organiser’ model of trade unionism which has been so successful in recent years? And in order to do so, are we going to rid ourselves of the stultifying bureaucracy that is preventing this move from organising to fighting? Or are we going to allow ourselves to be brought back into a new round of ‘social partnership’? If we allow the latter to happen, it is likely to sign the death knell of the movement that has been so painstakingly built over the past 100 years. If we want the former – which I imagine most of the readers of this paper and article do – the question is how?

That’s an urgent discussion, time for it to begin.

WORDS: Gregor Kerr

This article is from issue 11 of the Irish Anarchist Review

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The Water Revolt: Ireland 2015

A picture from an Irish water tax protest.

An analysis of the 2015 revolt against the water tax in Ireland, from Irish Anarchist Review 11.

Submitted by R Totale on May 16, 2023

The campaign against the water charges is the most widespread and powerful grassroots movement in recent Irish history. With hundreds of local campaign groups, daily direct actions, and 4 national demonstrations on the order of 50,000-100,000, the cynical refrain that 'the Irish don't protest' has rapidly been replaced by a sense of ubiquitous rebellion. Irish Water is a depraved neoliberal world in effigy, embodying many of the worst problems of our society including the rule of international finance (and private greed in general) at the cost of the vast majority's well being, and the chronic disconnection of the populace from decision making. As such the movement has become a platform for opposition to austerity, the bank bailout, privatisation, the government, party politics, the EU, and more. Thousands of people have experienced a political (re-)awakening. But while it is possible that we will win this battle, and abolish Irish Water, this struggle represents a precious opportunity to make a grassroots offensive after so many years of being beaten down.

Movement Background

It certainly wasn't always obvious that the fight against the water charges would be so enormous. The sheer turnout of the 11th October Right2Water demonstration - not to mention that protesters came from all over the country - came as a surprise to most people, including much of the activist left. That day definitively established in people's minds that not only was a serious nationwide fightback possible, but that we could probably win. The mood was of defiance, confidence, and the joy of revolting together.

But people didn't throng Dublin's city centre out of nowhere. After the collapse of the CAHWT (Campaign Against Home and Water Taxes) around January 2014, crucially, a small number of people decided to stay active and stop the installation of water meters, for instance in Ballyphehane and Togher in Cork and then a few areas of north east Dublin. On this, Gregor Kerr, who was the secretary of the Federation of Dublin Anti-Water Charge Campaigns (FDAWCC) in the 1990s, opined 'I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that the huge protest on 11th October wouldn’t have been anything like the size it was without the slow burn for the previous months of blockades and protests against meter installations spreading from community to community. And it was no coincidence either that many of the people involved in water meter blockades had also participated earlier in the summer in blockades of scab-operated bin trucks in their communities in support of the locked out Greyhound workers.' The initiative and hard work of these early campaigners was the germ of the huge movement which has burgeoned since.

This is a large part of the reason the fight against the water charges has been far more successful than the fight against the household and property tax was. As Mr. Kerr added 'the fact that [the latter] was so fresh in people’s memories was undoubtedly important. But maybe for many people it was important from the point of view of people saying ‘We’re not going to allow the same mistakes to be made again’. There is a huge contrast between the way the two campaigns developed. The CAHWT (the principal campaign against the property/household tax) was initiated by political organisations and was effectively strangled by some of those same parties/organisations as they jockeyed for control and positioned themselves to be the anti-property tax candidates in the local elections. The campaign involved huge numbers of working class people but never developed a grassroots structure, and the steering committee meetings eventually became turgid affairs mired in wanna be leaders lecturing everybody else. In contrast the anti-water charges campaign has emerged from communities and the political parties and organisations have been running after it trying to ‘lead’ it. Indeed there isn’t an anti-water charge campaign, there are a plethora of groups organising in an ad hoc manner, some co-ordinated, some not. That’s a huge strength. It does of course also present difficulties or challenges but they are outweighed by the fact that this campaign won’t be as easily derailed because of the diversity and divergence of people and communities involved.'

Irish Water's Mission to Conserve Profit

The attempt to impose domestic water charges in Ireland is not new. In 1977 domestic rates were scrapped (raising VAT and income tax), but in 1983 domestic 'service charges' were introduced in most counties, being fought off elsewhere (e.g. Dublin, Limerick, and Waterford). From 1994-1997 a grassroots campaign in Dublin (FDAWCC), somewhat similar to the present one, repelled the water charge (which was flat, no meters were used). This involved a strong boycott of the bills, mass demonstrations and court protests, a solidarity fund for legal costs, and reversing and preventing water cut-offs. The water charge was then scrapped for the 26 counties. The implementation of domestic water charges was in the previous Fianna Fáil – Green government's Programme for Government in 2009. Then in 2010 it was a condition of the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund) bailout.

The purpose of Irish Water is certainly not 'safeguarding your water for your future'. Only the most naive would believe that the same kind of career politicians who decided to critically under-fund our water infrastructure over decades – so that 40-50% of supply is leaked and whole areas are on boil notices - are suddenly driven to make long-term 'tough decisions' for the good of humanity. Furthermore, these are the same politicians who are committed to ignoring the very present catastrophe of climate change, which not only threatens the volume and quality of usable water nationally, but globally. While Michael Noonan sermonises about leaving the tap on all night, he wouldn't dare mention that animal agriculture – a large component of the Irish economy – is the single most ecologically destructive activity on Earth, particularly because of its high methane gas emissions and intense water usage. That would not please the rancher farmers. Nor would Alan Kelly stridently denounce hydraulic fracturing, or Phil Hogan valiantly question the need to devour water in the production of pointless commodities for economic growth.

Indeed, Irish Water has been established to transform our water into a commodity - an economic object bought and sold in a market according to the direct use of a consumer – that will be owned and controlled by private interests. Even former Fine Gael junior minister Fergus O'Dowd, not quite an anarcho-communist, spoke of being 'deeply concerned at other agendas, they may be European' and '[not knowing] where they are coming from' when he was involved in the foundation of Irish Water. But this is not peculiar to Ireland. The global pattern is that 'familiar mega-banks and investing powerhouses such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse ... are consolidating their control over water.' The UN has predicted that there will be a 40% shortfall in global water supply by 2030. In 2008, Goldman Sachs called water 'the petroleum for the next century'. Such corporations have been slurping up water utilities, reserves, and anything else related. For example, in 2012 Goldman Sachs bought Veolia Water which is the largest water services corporation on the planet and already has operations in Ireland. There are a handful of multinational corporations which dominate the global water market. If you can't trust supposedly accountable politicians to manage water services for the common good, you definitely can't trust an entirely unaccountable corporation to do so.

But further still, this issue is part of a political trajectory which is even older and goes far beyond the shores of Ireland – that is, 'neoliberalism'. Neoliberalism, in theory, is the idea that in order to maximise the liberty of the individual, the state should interfere with the personal affairs and economic transactions as little as possible, merely ensuring the conditions for private property to exist through 'law and order', and the conditions of trade by prosecuting fraud. Everything should be a commodity and have a price tag so that it is used in an 'efficient' manner, and all companies should be privately owned and operated for the same reason. Hence neoliberal capitalist policies include privatisation, de-regulation, removing tariffs, and austerity. However, in practice, neoliberalism is far messier, and really involves removing state interference in ways that suit the elite the most, and applying state force in ways that suit the elite the most (see Augusto Pinochet's neoliberal dictatorship in Chile 1973-1990).

As such, neoliberalism is radically opposed to the commons - the idea that, for instance, water is a human right, not a commodity, and should be available to all according to need. Or that land, or indeed accommodation, vehicles, clothing, and food, are held in common. Pleas from professional compromisers in politics and media to 'ensure' that Irish Water remains in public ownership are a diversion from the fact that Irish Water exists to be privatised. A referendum on state ownership (different to public, communal, etc, ownership) would merely leave the utility in the hands of the same shower who are currently ramming the water charges through. The time-tested method of defunding the infrastructure and wailing for the private sector to save us from state inefficiency would be applied. Not only that but EU law on commercial monopolies would require that the 'water market' be 'opened to competition', not to mention the impending Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Irish Water must be abolished.

The Struggle

Resistance to the Irish Water plan has been relentless. The movement has not withered away as the establishment hoped or expected, even in the face of Garda repression and mainstream media denunciation. There is the sense that there is always some action going on somewhere, and that protest or dissent in general has become a sort of national pastime. I remember visiting a pub, after a meeting which included discussion on the water charges, only to see a man watching videos of water charges protests on a small wall-mounted screen. 'Now that's a sign of the times', I thought.

Another sign of the times is the record distrust of politicians, the judiciary, the Gardaí, the mainstream media, and big business. The Irish Water story has provided ample opportunity for various parts of the system to expose their true nature. This is especially true in the case of the Gardaí, who have enjoyed a reputation of being 'peacekeepers' among much of the population. But people who have blocked water meters from being installed have discovered another reality. To many, the Gardaí are like an occupying army. There is no lesson quite like being arrested, and thanks to social media this lesson has been shared the length and breadth of the country. A ludicrously excessive Garda presence is a familiar sight to anyone following the anti-water charges movement, with packs of Gardaí crowding around a few meter holes as if protecting someone from murder. One of my favourite scenes was a meter protest in South Dublin where not only had about a dozen Garda cars and vans had been deployed, but also a helicopter. The Jobstown dawn raids, the pepper spraying of protesters in Coolock, and the jailing of the 4 injuncted protesters only made it harder to swallow the idea that the Gardaí and judiciary exist to serve the people rather than the interests of an elite.

Within the anti-water charges movement the mainstream media have come to be seen as couriers for government propaganda. Attendance at protests is persistently under-reported and the movement has been hounded by the 'has protest gone too far?' narrative (sometimes using outright fabrication). We have been able to subvert this by forming our own counter-media which has played an important role. A sprawling network of Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and a host of blogs and other websites provide a means to communicate quickly among ourselves. With this we keep up to date on activity around the country, digest and react to establishment spin, discuss tactics, and more. This grassroots media network has given staying power to the movement, allowing protesters who would be otherwise isolated and forgotten to link with and inspire others.

At the heart of this movement is direct action, both in the prevention of meter installations and the boycott of bills. Dedication to the former has been impressive, with people regularly waking at 5, 6, and 7 in the morning to protest for hours on end, often in quite stressful circumstances. These protests can have almost military precision, scouting for meter contractors each day, communicating their movements via text trees. This is typified by, for example, Dublin's 'Flying Column' who respond rapidly to alerts and drive to different parts of the city, and the Cobh, Co. Cork group who even have a makeshift 'command and control' centre. If anything, this movement is a testament to the ability of so-called 'ordinary' people to figure things out themselves and organise effectively.

What Next?

But despite the spontaneity, ingenuity, and grassroots nature of this movement, most of the left are still hell bent on the tired strategy of electoralism. There is much talk of left alliances, broad platforms, and progressive coalitions, in other words another attempt at social democracy. Along with the economic crisis we have a crisis of imagination. Instead of advancing in the natural direction of this movement by renouncing parliamentary democracy as the un-democratic charade that it is, and spurring people on to take further power over their lives, Right2Water is encouraging us to entrust our fates in 'progressive politicians' and is drafting its own electoral program. Considering that Right2Water won't back the boycott, its mobilisations are effectively election rallies, and that the closer the elections draw the more it will focus on them to the exclusion of all else, it is worth asking if Right2Water – now a sort of meta-political party - has outlived its purpose.

Elections are where movements go to die, demobilising people and fostering divisions. Why bother taking action yourself when some politicians are going to solve the problem for us? And who are going to do the campaigning for these anti-water charges candidates? Well, water protesters of course. Postering, leafleting, canvassing, organising meetings – all of this time, effort, and money, and hope, will be poured into what is ultimately an act of ritual mass delusion, rather than critical grassroots activity. We desperately require a fundamental transformation of society, and that cannot come from the buildings of parliament, it can only come from the great mass of people taking charge of their destinies and organising direct democratically.

There has been much talk of SYRIZA as a model for change, but far fewer know of Greece's network of grassroots organisations which has grown out of the movement of the squares in 2011 and comprises hundreds of diverse projects including free medical clinics, alternative currencies and exchange economies, self-managed education, alternative media, and eco-villages. Surely this is more inspiring than a left party being elected to government? Clearly we are far from achieving this in Ireland, but this is the sort of politics we should be aspiring to. This is actually a 'new politics'. The Says No groups are promising in that they go beyond the single issue campaigning of strictly anti-water charges groups, linking up issues such as homelessness, evictions, austerity, and corruption. They could be the embryos of powerful community unions through which people can participate in a real form of democracy and organise local issues and services.

Conclusion

Even if the fight against the water charges were to end tomorrow, this struggle has caused significant change in this country which will have long-term effects. There are so many people who have become politicised and have risen up, and will not be content to go home and be quiet. The distrust in establishment institutions won’t suddenly evaporate. We have gotten a taste of what real democracy involves, felt our own power, and we like it. What is necessary now is to press on, try to get more people involved, and get more organised. For instance, Alan Kelly has said that non-payers will be bundled into court, and we need to ensure the National Defense Fund is large enough to cover that possibility. Most of all we need to cling to what we have already seen to be true: this is our movement and our world, not a politician’s, and if we want to make change we will have to take responsibility ourselves rather than rely on somebody else.

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