Direct Action Movement becomes Solidarity Federation

An article from 1994 responding to the Direct Action Movement's change of name to the Solidarity Federation, published in the Workers Solidarity Movement magazine Red and Black Revolution.

Submitted by R Totale on January 17, 2022

THE BRITISH section of the International Workers Association, the Direct Action Movement, is no more. In its place stands the Solidarity Federation. This is far more than just a change of name, they see it as the second step on the road to becoming a revolutionary union.

Step one was explaining the anarcho-syndicalist idea within the anarchist movement and getting a couple of hundred people together in the DAM. Now they have set up three 'industrial networks' in transport, education and the public sector. These are seen as the precursors of revolutionary unions.

These are open to any worker who wants to join - as long as he/she is not in another political organisation. Their bulletins carry reports of grievances and struggles in their industries. There are few mentions of anarchism, and possible members don't have to agree with it, or even know anything about it.

The 'who are we' piece in each issue of the Public Sector Workers' Network bulletin sums up their basic approach.

Network is published by a group of militant public service workers to promote the idea of workers self-management and revolutionary change in society. It is also an open forum for all public service workers to share, discuss and analyse our experiences, and to develop solutions to the problems we face.

...We are also seeking to network as widely as possible with like-minded workers. We see no point in wasting time and energy in trying to reform the existing unions or trying to elect more left-wing leaders. We want to see workers' organisation which is not divided by union affiliations, bureaucracy or political parties, and which embrace all public service workers... on the basis of practical solidarity.

In an article 'Why we need political unions' in the summer 1994 issue of Transport Worker their plan is explained in a little more detail.

Transport Worker Network believes we have to build an alternative to the present trade unions. An alternative openly committed to a revolutionary transformation of society, educating workers and raising class consciousness not only through militant industrial action to gain concrete improvements in pay and conditions, but also constantly raising and debating the failure of the current system and organising ways to implement a new society.

While initially some would be attracted to such unions simply on the basis of effective action, it is our aim to convince them of the urgent need and genuine possibility of building a new society.

The new Solidarity Federation is not an 'anarchist organisation' in the sense that one must agree with anarchism before joining. It does not explain anarchism in its network bulletins or in its Direct Action paper. How are new members to learn about the ideas? Will it be left to informal approaches by other members, will it be left to a few people producing pamphlets and holding educational meetings? Will they end up with some sort of well-meaning elite running everything important lest it fall under the influence of members who don't fully understand or accept anarchist ideas?