How should the IWA respond to austerity?

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Anonymous
Dec 23 2011 12:39
How should the IWA respond to austerity?

I'm going to write something for an internal discussion in SF but I'm interested in hearing what people outside of SF and the IWA think about this. Would it be worth us doing something like a day of action or a sustained international campaign? Maybe we could try to do with the IWW did on Madison on a much greater level? Should we be trying to co-ordinate with other libertarian communist or militant organisations? We've got the capacity and profile to try something big but at the same time I'm not convinced that we should be changing anything that we do as the crisis and austerity seem to be business as usual just at a quicker rate.

syndicalist
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Mar 22 2012 12:27

[USA] Show Power, Build Power Campaign

*1. Show power- May 1st*

- that we propose to our respective occupy/ indignado/ arab spring and
other mass movements a May 1st day of action: global general strike, mass
boycott, student walk offs, and day of action
- that we develop posters, pamplets, stickers, workshops, and other
agitational materials to promote it
- that we attempt to establish a May 1st organizing commitee within each of
our occupy groups to do canvassing outside commercial business areas,
public spaces and residential neighborhoods, flyering, etc. to discuss and
organize for the one day general strike
- that the purpose is to raise awareness and consciousness of the issues of
the 99%; to provide an opportunity for everyone within the 99% to
participate in some way; show our power to stop the economy; build
solidarity; and get our unions/ workplace organizations, community
organizations, student organizations invested and building their power and
connections with each other; as a political activity of popular class
autonomy against the crisis and towards popular power

2. *Build power- *

- we locally develop a series of workshops and articles on specific
organizing models and ways to plug in (e.g. workshop on post-foreclosure
anti-eviction, student organizing, solidarity networks, workplace
organizing in both organized and unorganized shops, etc., with
corresponding articles and flyers)
-that we use newsletters to highlight specific examples, strategies, and
tools for people on how to use their energy productively
-that we encourage occupy participants to build popular power withing their
workplace, schools, communities etc. to engage in direct action to make
gains for the 99%
-that we also integrate demands for more jobs

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 23 2011 15:30

That sounds really interested Syndicalist. Do keep us updated.

syndicalist
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Dec 25 2011 23:52

Briefly...I think the idea is to pull off of the movement and build some libertarian momentum off that. Personally, how to advance a class aspect of this....as well as the social, but trying to infuse the class struggle aspect.

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 26 2011 01:07

(EDIT: Hey, this is a little bit stream of consciousness/brainstorm so take it for what it is...)

Yeah I think this is an example of the necessity of responding to local context. Clearly, Occupy's a huge pole of attraction in the States in a way that I don't really think it has been here. In London at least, it's had heavy saturation by existent activist/squatter scene as well as lumpens/street types. That's not to say that new folk haven't been pulled in by it - and let's not forget, there are four different sites in the city alone, each with their own characteristics - but I think the student movement and the coverage it received probably played a bigger role. Maybe it's different in the rest of the country, i dunno.

That said, where the Occupy movement has been useful is in pushing the national debate beyond the rather staid terrain of anti-austerity. I mean, we haven't defeated any cuts, despite large, combative demonstrations, local anti-cuts groups, etc. It seems that the vast majority of the 'anti-cuts movement' (such as it is) are pro-revolutionaries. This is problematic cos it leads to the 'activist superhero' tendency of trying to 'save' service users and the most vulernable, who are the worst victims of austerity. And the atomising, targeted, piecemeal nature of the government cuts (which the exception of the uni fees & EMA, which i think they learnt from) has rather prevented a groundswell of service user activity.

Occupy however, definitely posits the notion of progressing towards a new world and imposing our own values upon it, rather than retrogressively looking to the past alongside Labour & the TUC.

All in all, I think we should view austerity for what it is - attacks on the wider working class - and defend them thus (so the Sparks for instance). Any coordinated day of action with a broader remit would probably work better as beign specifically pro-working class (ie revolutionary) and i'm not sure we're ready for that?

One (gloriously mental) suggestion might be to build for a general strike around the Jubilee or Olympics? (lol)

jolasmo
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Dec 26 2011 04:32
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I'm going to write something for an internal discussion in SF but I'm interested in hearing what people outside of SF and the IWA think about this. Would it be worth us doing something like a day of action or a sustained international campaign? Maybe we could try to do with the IWW did on Madison on a much greater level? Should we be trying to co-ordinate with other libertarian communist or militant organisations? We've got the capacity and profile to try something big but at the same time I'm not convinced that we should be changing anything that we do as the crisis and austerity seem to be business as usual just at a quicker rate.

I'm dubious about the idea of setting up an IWA-run anti cuts campaign or day of action, wouldn't it be easier to try and accomplish the same things by working within the existing anti cuts movement?

I definitely don't think as anarchist communists we can afford to ignore the crisis or just carry on with 'business as usual' in terms of our organising. For one thing, business as usual wasn't exactly setting the world on fire anyway; but also things have concretely changed since the global financial crisis and its aftermath. I mean sure at some level it's all capitalism, but that doesn't tell us how we should respond to this particular kind of capitalism in these particular circumstances.

~J.

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 26 2011 18:07
jolasmo wrote:
I'm dubious about the idea of setting up an IWA-run anti cuts campaign or day of action, wouldn't it be easier to try and accomplish the same things by working within the existing anti cuts movement?

ie the broader left, who will hector us into supporting the TUC/Labour, etc?

I don't really think there is much of a mass movement against the cuts. The wider working class - where already 'organised' - is coming out to resist specific attacks upon it (eg public sector pensions, Sparks), but it's not been a successful strategy thus far and it really offers very little to those - predominantly disorganised, atomised individuals - who are being hardest hit (unpaid carers, the disabled, claimants, etc).

jolasmo
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Dec 26 2011 19:00
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
jolasmo wrote:
I'm dubious about the idea of setting up an IWA-run anti cuts campaign or day of action, wouldn't it be easier to try and accomplish the same things by working within the existing anti cuts movement?

ie the broader left, who will hector us into supporting the TUC/Labour, etc?

Surely those people will be involved in any campaign or day of action you set up anyway, if it looks like it's going anywhere.

Quote:
I don't really think there is much of a mass movement against the cuts. The wider working class - where already 'organised' - is coming out to resist specific attacks upon it (eg public sector pensions, Sparks), but it's not been a successful strategy thus far and it really offers very little to those - predominantly disorganised, atomised individuals - who are being hardest hit (unpaid carers, the disabled, claimants, etc).

Isn't there? I agree that the movement against austerity has basically failed in this country (so far at least), but I don't think you can say there's been no movement. The public sector strikes this November were linked to the strikes in July, as well as to the student protests and occupations last year and on March the 26th. While this link has been strenuously denied by union leaders, it's still something many workers are conscious of.

You can write off the whole thing as leftist, which it is of course, but ultimately leftism can only co-opt struggles where there is something real to fight over. If we don't engage with these struggles in a coherent and effective way, then we've just surrendered that ground to the left and lost a massive opportunity to organise around an issue that massively effects vast numbers of working class people.

~J.

MT
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Dec 26 2011 19:23
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
We've got the capacity and profile to try something big but at the same time I'm not convinced that we should be changing anything that we do as the crisis and austerity seem to be business as usual just at a quicker rate.

I doubt we've got the capacity. For me the austerity measures are basically an attack on my social-economical situation which is mostly very closely related to a concrete workplace. The government forces new shitty conditions -> I see it in my new contract or other related company policies. And that moves us to the business as usual fightback.

Of course, the extent of the measures is larger but I certainly don't think there is a force to attack the principle they are based upon - being large scale. That is the most frustrating thing. Even if there is an "information" campaign aimed against austerity, it inevitably has to direct the forces to the workplace and community organising. Because austerity cannot be won by demonstrations or other actions that are only symbolic when confronting large scale attacks.

Am curious about the debates inside SF on the issue wink

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 26 2011 20:46

No debates inside SF, Tommy Ascaso is the central committee, chairperson, and commissar. He says it, we follow wink

MT
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Dec 26 2011 20:59

so what exactly do you follow then? cool

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Joseph Kay
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Dec 26 2011 23:41

Brighton never said economic blockades were something SF should be doing. There's like 100 of us, it would just be activists with d-locks. We were saying that in the context of rowdy street demonstrations with hundreds of people breaking away, occupying and looting stores. The idea was to popularise the notion of economic blockades within such a movement, then maybe take over a shopping centre instead of just a vodafone. The student movement died pretty dramatically after xmas, and with it the immediate possibility of such tactics imho.

Harrison
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Dec 27 2011 02:40

I think we should err on the side of communism with this one...

akai
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Dec 27 2011 18:50

Obviously I will not discuss in details questions still being voted in the IWA but wouldn't it make more sense to discuss this directly with the comrades? Contrary to what some may believe, we are not all sitting here reading Libcom. Instead, we have a referendum coming up which also reflects exactly this question and some of us are curious about what SolFed will do. And we actually expect you to discuss the international proposals that have already been submitted to the IWA (4 of them!) smile and discuss them with us and not read on Libcom that you haven't discussed international campaigns yet. Get on the ball comrades! smile

ZSP has already decided, although we do not live in a country that has any mass anti-austerity demonstrations. If anything can be done, it is only if we will make it happen so we actually have some mobilizations already planned for the spring, this is also on the international level and we expect other IWA sections to join in. Don't know what SF is waiting for in this discussion or why the discussion goes first to random people instead of others; in my opinion that is a bad coordination tactic, no?

Discussion of the details only through the proper channels. Thanks!

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 27 2011 19:45

Hi Akai

akai wrote:
Don't know what SF is waiting for in this discussion or why the discussion goes first to random people instead of others; in my opinion that is a bad coordination tactic, no?

TBF, it is Xmas so it's hard to expect any real movement on this before Locals meet again in the New Year. Our Nat Sec has performed the tasks required of him.

Also, any sort of day of action will presumably require coordination with groups outside of the IWA, so it's only fair to canvass people's thoughts first no?

Quote:
Discussion of the details only through the proper channels.

Sorry to say this, but I think you've given more away than JC here. wink

akai
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Dec 27 2011 22:36

Haven't given away much and guess it is not a crime to give away the fact that we are trying to plan ourselves smile My comments here are just that the days of actions first and foremost require coordination between groups inside the IWA. Individuals and sections are already talking about this but we haven't come across your imput yet and it would be good to have your thoughts! Don't think I want to discuss much about it on Libcom though.

I would mention the local situation, since Jim was interested in how we are trying to start a struggle.

We are not at all in the same situation as you are. But our situation is quite common in the new EU countries. We do not have a large portion of society that see social expenditures as a necessity and a right. We have an overwhelming majority of people who see it as a relic of the past economic regime and daily bombardment of ideology that tells people that other countries are in trouble because their social programs are too "generous". Austerity is seen in a different way because it is inherent in the transition. Poland has been one big austerity program since 1989. In the first years they would tell people that they needed to buckle down and work hard a little, to pick up the economy, which had failed during the PRL.
So it is a completely different mentality.

Given this, we protest and try to build resistance to all sorts of measures which are essentially austerity measures: the privatization of education and hospitals, raising rents in municipal housing and public transport. In the first two, we have no real success, although we did get some local mobilizations in support of public hospitals. In the second we had some campaigns which had some success - this is just daily work on these topics. But we do not nearly have enough strength for huge systematic changes. In housing we managed to intervene in many individual cases and even in legislation, but in the end, many people who were active in other groups were bought out, we were isolated as radicals and unfavourable legislation got introduced and we weren't able to stop it.

So... that's the reality of it. No huge mobilizations, no riots. But gotta start doing something and not give up just because there is a small scale. Otherwise there will be nothing.

Finally now we are going to push the idea of austerity more and try to get people to realize that many of the things that are happening are nothing more than budget cuts. We will probably be somewhat successful in this since the PM said that the government tends to introduce many new and stricter IMF- inspired measures and many people are critical. We think that is we manage to do some good work on this issue, we'll have some more angry people and some bigger mobilizations. But of course having some demos are not the main things for us.

What we need to do is to develop a better way of getting these people into movements that will do more day-to-day work agitating and organizing people for the purpose of at least demanding better allocation of the public budget. At the very least. A tough challenge in our local conditions. This is of course not the real long-term goal, but something we need to build up, to bridge our ideas with other people more and create more class consciousness and solidarity.

I don't think a big explanation of how we want to do this would be helpful for people in the UK, since we are on a completely different level with this than you. I mean, we are practically at "start" only. We have to begin with the very, very basics and by that I literally mean that we have to make people aware that there is a serious problem. It should be obvious, but the fact of the matter is that most people prefer to look at mass poverty as an individual problem rather than a structural or political one.

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the button
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Dec 28 2011 11:13

Generally speaking, I think 'days of action' organised around abstract themes are an utter waste of time. Overlaying this with an emphasis on 'doing something' rather than 'doing nothing' adds a frisson of activist bullshit.

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Choccy
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Dec 28 2011 13:31

Agreed, 'days of action' seem much better when they are over a very specific issue or dispute with an individual company (Office Angels, Whole Foods etc), beyond that they feel empty.

akai
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Dec 28 2011 13:48

Well, unfortunately this feeling doesn't correspond to a simple reality. People do not really participate en masse or sometimes at all in direct actions related to concrete workplace issues. More "abstract" protests draw more interest. Not that I feel they are more valuable. Honestly, wish people would pay more attention to them and do solidarity actions than go on about spectacles.

That said, part of the idea that we had about austerity issues was to actually have some visits to, mobilize people affected by cuts and focus around some institutions hit by them. This is very concrete and not abstract at all. You can't tell me if the city or other local government is shutting down facilities, such as hospitals, to save money, or throwing people out in the street, that it is something abstract.

PS: We'll have a new international workplace campaign going probably within the month and I will remember to contact you then about it.

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 28 2011 14:08

Akai thanks for a very informative post. I think Poland actually has more in common with the UK than you think!

akai wrote:
We are not at all in the same situation as you are. But our situation is quite common in the new EU countries. We do not have a large portion of society that see social expenditures as a necessity and a right. We have an overwhelming majority of people who see it as a relic of the past economic regime and daily bombardment of ideology that tells people that other countries are in trouble because their social programs are too "generous". Austerity is seen in a different way because it is inherent in the transition. Poland has been one big austerity program since 1989. In the first years they would tell people that they needed to buckle down and work hard a little, to pick up the economy, which had failed during the PRL.
So it is a completely different mentality.

I also think that we need to situate austerity within the broader context of capitalism. In the UK, despite the best efforts of the left, the political struggle against austerity has made no practical difference. It seems like you've actually been more successful than us!

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the button
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Dec 28 2011 15:22

Whatever you say, boss. tongue

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the button
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Dec 28 2011 15:25

As the rope supports a hanged man, as always.

MT
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Dec 28 2011 18:48
Quote:
at best it could turn into a lot more than that.

many things "can" happen. you know "yes you can":)
i tend to be more skeptical seeing many similar attempts that failed. i understand your enthusiasm but it feels rather like an "by doing something we only can gain, so why not trying it?" approach. and comparisons with CNT situation or things like Occupy and (rather rhetorical) IWW attempts of general strike are not helpful as they are based in specific conditions each state is in. poland is not spain, slovakia is not US etc...

but anyway, we are talking air here, the only more or less proposal for something meaningful wrote akai few posts above, but is is hard to talk about it because even comparing poland and slovakia is something of a very thin ice.

MT
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Dec 29 2011 16:58

sure, but that doesn't tell us much about "the rest" of the social-cultural-historical realities we live in, which was what akai tried to point out i guess and i can understand that it is very hard to understand for people who have never stayed (or even visited) countries like poland or slovakia. and it is at the same time hard to explain, unfortunately.

anyway, you say we have things in common, sure we have, but if you tried to say something more from the strategic or practical point of view, it would be great.

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Dec 30 2011 01:54

Tommy Ascaso wrote:

Quote:
We know that the most effective way of beating the austerity measures is a general strike, and we know that the TUC can't do it because it's illegal. We're not going to wait around for the Trots to capture the unions and we think workers should take action themselves, so trying to broaden the CNT's ongoing campaign across Europe and the world seems like it could make sense, and a couple of days of action could be a good way of kick starting such a campaign. At worst we would have potentially made a few thousand more people involved in the struggle aware of our ideas and methods, at best it could turn into a lot more than that.

I'm very excited about this. I've been very involved in the anti-cuts campaigns in Hastings; we've worked bloody hard at getting a lot of support for our rallies and marches, we got 1000 people on the N30 March and a lot of them set up camp for a one night 'Occupy Hastings'. Not bad for a town with a population of 70,000. 'Soft' anarchists from a peace/green background have discovered the class struggle and organised strikes and picket lines at their work places, other trade unionists have come to see anarchism as an important current within the fight against austerity.

As revolutionary syndicalists/anarchists/libertarian communists we inspire people with the things that only we do: international solidarity, direct action and casework amongst casual workers, for example. I suppose what I haven't got to the bottom of yet is how our days of action can actually 'demonstrate our ideas and methods', and be something I can promote to involved workers in Hastings.

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Dec 30 2011 17:35

OK, originally i was quite cynical about this (imagining a token day of action type thing), but Tommy Ascaso's enthusiasm has half won me over. I agree with MT that the conditions here aren't the same as on the continent, but a co-ordinated action could be impressive. I'd still be worried about committing time and resources and SF not having the pull to make something significant out of it as much as i'd love that occupy oakland style closure of a major port (lol). to me the ideas put forward are quite different in terms of their aims as well.