Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Aiding communism via free and rare punk downloads...

Just stumbled upon Nation on Fire, an amazing site which hosts free, downloadable punk from the UK 80's, anarcho and hardcore period (ie the best stuff). I just downloaded the 1985-90 discography of REVULSION! Hundreds more on there too. Check it out!

Images courtesy of New Humorist.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Quote of the Week

"Knowledge is power — but knowledge is useless without the social and economic power to acquire and apply it."

— Charles Weigl in the 2007 introduction to Kropotkin's Conquest of Bread.

Type rest of the post here

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism

Black Flame is now available online as a PDF! Download it here.

Anarchism, as a body of thought, has been misinterpreted, misused and mystified by both those who agree or disagree with it, yet according to the authors of the recently published book Black Flame, despite the wide berth of anarchist ideas some important definitions and distinctions can be made. Using a fresh and thoughtful framework, Black Flame analyses the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism, producing a coherent and cohesive overview of tactics, strategies and praxis to both illustrate an anarchist history of struggle and revolution, and to push the current movement forward.

"A good definition is one that highlights the distinguishing features of a given category, does so in a coherent fashion, and is able to differentiate that category from others, thereby organising knowledge as well as enabling effective analysis and research. The usual definition of anarchism fails on all these grounds."

For Schmidt and van der Walt, the usual definition of anarchism, or at least one that is held up by some, is its antistatism. The 'seven sages' of anarchism — Godwin, Stirner, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tucker and Tolstoy — are generally accepted as developing or influencing anarchist thought. Yet as Black Flame illustrates, while antistatism is a necessary component of anarchist thought, the grouping of these loose figures and their ideas are "simply too vague to really distinguish anarchism from other bodies of thought and action, resulting in anarchism being defined so loosely that it is not clear what should be included and what should not, and why some things are included and others are not".

Instead, Black Flame uses a framework identifying anarchism as a result of specific socialist and working class praxis developed in the 1860's and the realm of the First International, and firmly placed in the tradition of revolutionary class struggle: "It is our view that the term anarchism should be reserved for a particular rationalist and revolutionary form of libertarian socialism that emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century". The argument that anarchism can be traced back into antiquity or is a natural or universal aspect of society or the psyche is disputed and convincingly disproved: "not only is it the case that anarchism did not exist in the premodern world, it is also the case that it could not have, for it is rooted in the social and intellectual revolutions of the modern world."

"Anarchism was against social and economic hierarchy as well as inequality — and specifically, capitalism, landlordism, and the state — and in favour of international class struggle and revolution from below by a self-organised working class and peasantry in order to create a self-managed, socialist, stateless social order. In this new order, individual freedom would be harmonsised with communal obligations through co-operation, democratic decision making, and social and economic equality, and economic coordination would take place through federal forms."

Having established their framework, named in the book as the 'broad anarchist tradition,' Black Flame goes on to re-examine anarchist ideas, its relationship with technology, classical Marxism, syndicalist struggles and tactics, organisation, unions, the IWW, and race and gender — and portrays an internationalism refreshingly void of the narrow focus on Western sources. This 'broad anarchist tradition' enables the authors to critique past definitions:

"it follows that commonly used categories such as 'philosophical anarchism', 'individualist anarchism', 'spiritual anarchism', or 'lifestyle anarchism' fall away. Because the ideas designated by these names are not part of the anarchist tradition, their categorisation of variants of anarchism is misleading and arises from a misunderstanding of anarchism. Likewise, adding the rider 'class struggle' or 'social' to the word anarchist implies that there are anarchist who do not favour class struggle or who are individualists, neither of which is an accurate usage."

Many agree with the framework and resulting definitions used in the book (myself included). Black Flame has sparked some very positive discussion since it was published earlier this year (see any anarchist forum or Wayne Price's review), and of course, disagreement from the 'post-left anarchists' and 'anarcho-primitivists', who, as a result of the book's framework, fall into the traditions of Stirner, individualists, or other thinkers outside of the 'broad anarchist tradition'.

Definitions aside, Black Flame is a truely valuable and practical book, with something to offer both the newbie to anarchist thought, or those looking to further their own previous understandings.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Salt of the Earth: film screening

You are warmly invited to the screening of...

Come and see the only film ever blacklisted by the US government!

Join us for a film on feminism, class struggle and community way ahead of its time! Based on a 1950 strike by zinc miners in Silver City, New Mexico and against the backdrop of McCarthyism, Salt of the Earth uses the real protagonists of the strike to re-tell their own story. During the course of the strike, the unionists and their wives find their roles reversed — an injunction against the male strikers moves the women to take over the picket line — confronting the company and their own husbands in the process, and evolving from male subordinates into their allies and equals.

Salt of the Earth is a powerful and emotionally charged feature length film. It was banned by the US government and is remarkable, not just because of the fact that the producers used only five cast members who were professional actors — the rest were locals from Grant County, New Mexico, or members of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, Local 890 (many of whom were part of an actual strike that inspired the story) — but because of its pro-feminist and anti-patriarchy themes years before the civil rights movement and 60's wave of feminism.

Food, drinks and childcare will be provided on the night, so come down and join your local anarchists for a night of film and fun!

Thursday 30 July, 6.30pm.
WEA (59 Gloucester Street), Otautahi/Christchurch.
Entry by Koha/donation.

Film length:
1 hour 30 minutes.

For more information contact:

See you then!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

RIVET 4 — The 'Art' Issue

Garage Collective presents the fourth and final installment of RIVET, with a special focus on ideas around 'art'. Filled with the usual graphics, quotes and opinion you'd expect from someone with complete control of the production process... download here.

There has been a lot of great debate around concepts of artistic practice and consumption over the last couple of months, and while the original concept for RIVET 4 was to validate the use of artistic praxis in struggle, it's turned into a sort of reader of anti-art ideas. While some have thought these ideas were purely mine, RIVET 4 shows that there is a wide tradition of thought that I merely plundered (often to my detriment).

So I hope you enjoy the readings and ideas put forward within. The publishing of RIVET 4 marks the laying to rest of these topics on my behalf as I look to put the ideas herein into practice.

THE SCREAM — Edvard Munch.
THE TERM ART — Stewart Home.
THE WHOLE ART THING — Clifford Harper.
MAIL ART — Stewart Home.
ART AS DIALOUGE: MORE DIALOGUE ON ART — Rivet Rhetoric and Replies.
SMILE/NEOISM — Art Press Review. ART STRIKE 1990-1993 — Scott Macleod/Karen Elliot.
YAWN #7/JERRY DREVA — Jared Davidson.

RIVET, 2007 - 2009. RIP.

Monty Python and Anarcho-Syndicalism

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Grassroots Unionism in the Workplace

From Notes on the Swedish Workers' Movement

Finally got the translation of this text finished – there remains some idiosyncracies in structure that we have left from the Swedish text, but we have altered some of the terms to make it understandable to an Anglo audience. I’m really pleased we got it done, it’s a really good text. The author is describing how she applies a grassroots unionism style to organising within a mainstream trade union and brings up some really interesting points – I particularly liked the criticism of ‘the union world’ (something that I think applies to mainstream and syndicalist unions alike), and the discussion of voting and organising with the whole workforce rather than just the ‘most advanced’ workers.

Working conditions are getting worse and attacks on workers similar to what we on Bagarn (the Baker) had to go through in 1995 are nothing unique, on the contrary. And surely there are others fighting against it. But what is heard most of all is that nothing can be done, that such are the times. But it is that kind of spirit which creates such times!

How come we took the struggle and won the way we did?
I think the answer lays in the form of unionism that our club uses. Maybe we would have reacted and risen up against the harsh attacks, even without organizing in that way. But would we have been able to resist the threats for such a long time? Would we who negotiated trust the members to keep going? Would the members have confidence in us struggling on? I honestly don’t think so. We needed all the experience and all the methods we had gotten during several years.

The most important experience we have is that you have to dare to trust in the members.
We at Bagarn are just as fuzzy, slow, bickering and impossible as all workers are – and together we have the same enormous strength that all other workers have. When we who lead the local union have had confidence in that strength, we have succeeded. When we have missed out on it, forgotten or not had courage to address the members, we’ve fucked up. We had enough experiences of both success and failures to handle a stretched-out struggle.

We gained those experiences during the years we have tried to develop a struggling, independent union ruled by the members.
Our method and our goal is that people should be active, in movement – that is grassroots unionism! The people should take the decisions and the people should act. The ideas we develop should come out of this movement. The organisation should be set in movement, going from experience to experience, from worker to worker, from members to the elected representatives and back again.

Inform the members about everything – speak clearly
We do this, amongst other channels of communication, through our info-paper Livstecken (Life-sign). It’s a simple A4-paper handed out to all members where we try to inform everyone about what’s going on.

Ask, don’t guess, what the members think that the club should be doing.
We use members-referendums, surveys and meetings where we discuss a single issue. When we develop our demands and suggestions, we often run them through a cycle of meeting, survey, meeting and referendum. If the company makes a move or comes with a suggestion, then we have to reach our members to the same extent, and ask them what they think about the company’s latest move and how the club should act. Each time we have thought that we could skip this step, we have overlooked something important – and let our members down. Not another referendum! Our colleagues sigh sometimes. But it’s better that they complain about us nagging on them, than us not asking them. We would rather ask to often than to seldom. And it is right to put demand on the members, to show them that everything depends on them. That it is a strength for the club to have a members-decision to back it up, and to vote about the deals with the company, probably doesn’t need to be explained.

We don’t just ask what demands and suggestions our members have, but also how important the different demands are. If you ask – what do you want?, you easily get a bunch of tough suggestions. But you also have to ask – are you prepared to fight for it? What does this mean for the company, what will their countermove be? And then what, how far are we willing to go?
Questions like that can make the members soften up their demands – but we make people aware of the fact that we aren’t getting anything else than what we are prepared to fight for!

Don’t underestimate the members!
It’s absolutely fundamental to speak with everyone, to build from the grassroots, and to avoid building a group out of likeminded people or the ones with ‘the highest revolutionary awareness’. If you only focus on those forming ‘the front’ and race away with them, you’ll be stretching the workers-collective out like a rubberband. It will break or lash back.
But if you succeed in getting those who are at ‘the back’ of the workers-collective to get moving, they will push everyone else in front of them! We assume that all members can take responsibility for their colleagues and the club after their own conditions/prerequisites. During some years, we tried that idea out by appointing each and every member to the role of contact-person (contact agent, contact proxy, contact-ombudsman?). They took turns of one month each to be representative for a group of 12 members. Everyone took on the task, even those who said they would never take on a union assignment – when the assignment was something that everyone took turns doing, their attitude changed.
But getting the time to gather and discuss with the ‘contact-person of the month’ turned out to be too hard, because of all our different working-hours.

That meant that what they were able to do as contact persons was quite limited, and they ended up mostly just distributing Livstecken (the union paper mentioned above). We gave up on our trial. But it wasn’t because of the members, but because we failed to adapt the organisation to the members real capacity!

When in negotiations – bring the people whom it concerns
When we negotiate we are much better off bringing people who know all the details of the issue from their own experiences. Then, we add experienced negotiators from the board of the local union and that gives us the best results. We also show that the union is the members organisation. And being a part of the negotiations is the best school for future elected representatives – which is all of our members!

Return to the members when things go badly
In union education we are taught how to go to the ombudsman and to central negotiations. And yes, it does happen that we take things to a central level, and we have taken up conflicts in the labor court a couple of times, but that’s not what’s important. When we say that we go to higher court, we mean the members. Thats what we’re supposed to do in any situation where we’re in doubt on how to act – if negotiations grind to a halt, we’re supposed to report back to our members and ask – Are we gonna back off? Or stand our ground? What are you prepared for?

Use all proposals and initiatives, including criticism.
This should be obvious. But you have to remember this when you’re all busy with what’s already going on, and the members propose something. But you have to remember that there’s always a reason for criticism, so be glad that you get to hear it – if you don’t it’s still there, but growing without any dialogue.

Encourage opposition and discussion in the club
Unity makes us strong. Try to decide what you want and fight for it together. That’s something we tell our members a lot. But to get a solid unity, it’s essential to have a free discussion where nothing is taken for granted. We almost always use anonymous voting regarding both big and small question. Sometimes members say that they think it unnecessary to write ballots, since we already know what we think. But using anonymous votes is a way of telling each and every member that we want to know what they think. In anonymous voting you can’t listen half-heartedly to the discussions and vote like your buddy or the chairman. You have to think for yourself.

When we count votes, we often find that one or some have voted differently than the majority – even if we have seemed to agree in the discussions. That’s an important reminder that there are many different opinions, and that we should always bring that to the surface and into the debate. Imagine a meeting where a member argues for an opinion that is deviant from the opinion of the majority. The member is talked and voted down. Maybe he feels stupid after this, and won’t have the courage to say something unpopular again. We try to fight that effect. When we make a discussion, we applause – for the minority. We underline that everyone who comes with proposals and participate in our discussions and debates are coming with very important input for the club.

A lot of times, we reach new conclusions and decisions, because of the discussions we’ve had. With time,we might be shown that the minority was right.

Avoid being sucked into the ‘union-world’
We sometimes talk about ‘pacifying union-courses’. That might sound provocative – knowledge is power, the saying goes. So can education really be pacifying? Yes, if you go to a bunch of union-courses where you aren’t taught to trust your members and use grassroots unionism, then you are learning something else. This something else might be the union-world that exists in it self and for it self – courses, tools, socializing with other representatives, the party.

‘The union’ becomes something you take a trip to, not the slow work back at your home-club with your grumpy colleagues. If that happens,you’re fucked! The union-world must never be confused with union-struggle. Union-struggle is something you do with your colleagues, nothing else. Everything else is just frills. And those frills might grow into an air-castle if you haven’t built a basis at work.

To sum it up – we’re trying to make the union into an organisation for struggle
This doesn’t mean struggles and strikes every day, but fighting together for our interests. We don’t ask our colleagues about their political opinions. We take it for granted that since we work together and share the same conditions, we have common interests and will fight together. And when we have faith in peoples common interests and common sense, that’s almost always the way it ends up. It’s with that faith and trust for each other you win struggles. That is what you could proudly call unity on the basis of class-struggle! It might sound as if we’re sitting on high horses, but this is really simple things – it’s bread and solidarty!

— Frances Tuuloskorpi 1996

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reading the Maps to a place stuck on replay...

Scott Hamilton over at the acclaimed 'Reading The Maps' blog has indulged in another swipe at opinion not suited to his own — in this case, mine. Now that's fine, dialogue on ideas is welcomed. But to include a two line attack on an old debate in every second post, without any kind of recourse to meaningful dialogue, is getting tiresome. Obviously Scott feels challenged by my position, if so, that's fine. It's hard to deconstruct one's privilege.

I feel like I've moved on from those discussions, but obviously the knee jerks are still lingering in the Hamilton household. Scott, I'm sincerely apologetic that my humble opinion may have dented your authority on all things cultural. I will abstain from having any kind of radical perspective on the current consumer culture we live in, and leave art to those in the know.

I re-post below a link to what (I thought) were final thoughts from about two months ago, for the sake of Scott.

I also post my comment from his blog:

Scott, you really need to let it go my friend... not only do you still not understand the perspective I was putting forward at the time (ie not simply to give up art, but to open art up to everyone and to everyday intent) but your diggs at me personally are no better than the rhetoric you so deplore.

Again, I've repeatedly given you my email to have a chat, and I will do so again (you may find I'm not the raving 'activist' you make me out to be).

garage.collective (at) gmail.com

Enough on art. And enough with the cheap shots.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Pierre Besnard: Anarcho-Syndicalism and Anarchism

Great historical document on the relationship between anarchist communist groups and anarcho-syndicalism. Apart from the super patriarchal language, the messages of this text are still relevant today.

Pierre Besnard: Anarcho-Syndicalism and Anarchism

I. What is Revolutionary Anarchism?

Revolutionary Anarchism is a movement whose doctrine is designed to institute an individual and collective existence from which the State, Government and Authority will be barred.

Incontrovertibly, the foundation of that society will be man.

So Anarchism is the affirmation of an ongoing social demand in the here-and-now and into the infinite future, into the indefinite future.

It implies an economic, administrative and social project and has to begin right now…

Historically, Revolutionary Anarchism is the third branch of traditional socialism.

By contrast with the other two branches, Socialism and Communism — both of them political, authoritarian and statist — it is a-political, anti-parliamentary and anti-statist.

Its essential feature is freedom in a context of accountability, individual and collective alike.

Its chief tasks at present are: propaganda, popularization and social education of the labouring masses today and, tomorrow, the administration of society.

II. What is Anarcho-Syndicalism?

Anarcho-Syndicalism is an organizational and organized movement. It draws its doctrine form Anarchism and its organizational format from Revolutionary Syndicalism.

It is the contemporary expression of the anarchist doctrine as regards matters economic and social.

In terms of the revolution, it is also, as the Spanish experience itself has demonstrated, the essential agent of realization.

At the world level, it is represented by the IWA and its National Centres.

Its doctrine has been defined by the founding Congress of the 2nd IWA (25-31 December 1922 [Anarchism, Volume 1, Selection 114]), by succeeding congresses, and by the works and writings of its militants.

In Spain, the CNT stands for the Anarcho-Syndicalism of the IWA.

Practically and no less historically, Anarcho-Syndicalism is the organizational format assumed by Anarchy for the purposes of the fight against capitalism. It is fundamentally at odds with political and reformist trade unionism.

Anarcho-Syndicalism’s substitution of the idea of Class for the notion of Party makes it an essential tool for workers obliged to defend their living conditions in their preparation for economic and social liberation.

The Anarcho-Syndicalist movement makes possible a yoking together of action in pursuit of day-to-day demands and the loftiest aspirations of the workers.

It achieves an amalgamation of the two in terms of material, moral, short-term and future interests.

Out of a commonality of interests, it brings forth an identity of aims and, as a logical and natural consequence, a reconciliation of doctrines.

Anarcho-Syndicalism: a movement of trial and error

Like any truly social doctrine, Anarcho-Syndicalism is essentially a matter of trial and error.

Proof of this is the fact that, today, in Spain, its doctrine, having been consecrated and confirmed by the facts, is achievable in the short-term.

Based on trial and error? Just like every social movement and all the sciences.

In sociology as in physics or chemistry or mechanics, the idea springs from the act and returns to it.

The fact always predates the idea and conjures up the doctrine, the philosophy from which the realization is to sprout.

The doctrine, the idea, the yearning for further experiment as a means to the end, follow from the phenomena recorded which give rise to laws acknowledged by all and authenticated by experience.

Historical Comments

Down through the ages, what has social experience in every country and in the modern world in particular taught us?

1. That within their own class, individuals are more and more sure to band together on the firm ground of their interests.

2. That antagonistic classes seek, through elimination of their own contradictions, to realize their common interest; capitalistsby means of the establishment of state capitalism, of which fascism is the most distinct expression; the workers, throughexpropriation of capital, abolition of wage slavery, abolition of the state and establishment of libertarian communism.

3. That, like their adversaries — and unfortunately, after them — workers try to achieve unity and a pooling of all their resources, because they have come to realize, at last, that the crucial battles taking place require methodical organization, coordination and massive, orderly deployment of these forces; because they have learnt the lesson taught by facts and experience, which plainly indicates that action should be well-prepared, direct, widespread and synchronized.

4. That the age of political revolutions is over; that everywhere the social revolution has come into its own; that no specially class-based, proletarian party or group can, by opposing the disparate interests of its heterogeneous membership, serve as a revolutionary spearhead, a class organization; that, whereas an employer might profess to be a socialist, communist or anarchist — they exist – and while he might see eye to eye withhis worker ideologically within the group, he in fact has no class interest in common with him, once they both return to the factory, yard, workshop, office, etc. In real life, they are and remain: in the case of one, an employer, and, in the case of the other, a worker, with all of the antagonisms that their circumstances imply.

5. That the only genuinely class group with the potential, by virtue of its name, power and the resources at its disposal — which it alone can set in motion — simultaneously to destroy capitalism and make a reality of libertarian communism, is theTrade Union. Even now it brings manual, technical and scientific operatives together organizationally — and this is something it will take further tomorrow — ensuring that the life of society is sustained throughout. The Trade Union is also the typical grouping, the free and concrete model of association that can furnish libertarian communist society with the sound economic foundations vital to the new order that will spring from the revolution.

Revolutionary Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism Share a Common Objective

The IWA Charter has extracted from all these historical considerations that which is common to all of the world’s anarcho-syndicalists. In concert with the FAI, the CNT is even now striving to put this into effect.

This notion does not at all imply that anarcho-syndicalism — which is, remember, against the State and federalist — means and aims to be everything and that nothing else should exist alongside it.

Instead, anarcho-syndicalism is of the view that men, while they cannot refrain from producing in order to survive, ought not to have production as their sole aim. It very candidly admits and has no hesitation in announcing that man has and rightly should have other aspirations — the highest ones at that — toward the good, the beautiful, the better, and this in every realm to which his faculties afford him access; that administrative and social agencies are called for equal to all the demands of a full, rounded, complete life, operating with the enlightened assistance and under the watchful, constant and unrelenting supervision of all.

It accepts without question that individuals are entitled — or rather, have a duty — to administer themselves. It formally invites them to do just that, right here and now.

Likewise, it fervently wants communes to federate on a regional basis, confederate with one another nationwide and for the confederations to link arms internationally, after the pattern of the unions and the CGT [Confédération Générale du Travail].

It is even convinced that this is crucial and it stands ready to add its efforts and the efforts of its trade unions to the efforts of individuals operating as such and to the efforts of the federated, confederated and combined communes in making a reality of that genuine libertarian communism which cannot but be anarchism’s handiwork…

Of necessity, agreement between anarcho-syndicalists and anarcho-communists on libertarian communism as the objective is complete, permanent and absolute.

So it is clear and self-evident that the place of the workers, the exploited of whatever sort, whose ideal is anarcho-communism, cannot be other than in the anarcho-syndicalist unions and nowhere else.

Their doctrine makes this an imperious, specific and ineluctable duty.

Moreover, it is their best practical means of actually achieving that unity of action so necessary for the modern revolutionary anarchist movement.

It is only in action and through action that anarchists will discover their real unity of thought; that the anarcho-syndicalist movement, out of kilter for the past 30 years, will also rediscover its equilibrium and its vigour; that all anarchists will at last come to look upon the social revolution as an imminent event and a feasible proposition.

The Role of the Anarchist Groups and the Unions

All of the above leads naturally and logically to consideration of the role of the anarchist groups and the trade unions.

Anarcho-syndicalists have no difficulty in agreeing that anarcho-communist groups, being more mobile than the trade union organizations, should go prospecting among the labouring masses; that they should seek out recruits and temper militants; that they should carry out active propaganda and intensive pioneering work with an eye to winning the greatest possible number of workers hitherto deceived and gulled by all the political parties, without exception, over to their side and thus to the anarcho-syndicalist trade unions.

This wholly ideological undertaking, this psychological-typepropaganda drive falls, without question, within the purview of the anarcho-communist groups, on the express condition that they identify with the work of the anarcho-syndicalist trade unions which they complement and reinforce, for the greater good of libertarian communism.

But let me state bluntly that the decision-making responsibility, action and supervision of the latter should reside in the here-and-now with the trade unions as the executive agents and operatives carrying out revolutionary tasks.

I am also of the opinion that it is incumbent upon these unions to prepare all such undertakings of an economic, defensive or offensive order.

Finally, in my view, the economic, administrative and social system ought to be homogeneous, harmonious, etc., and the basis of that system, if it is to be real, sound and lasting, cannot but be economic.

On behalf of the trade unions, I claim the right to handle revolutionary and post-revolutionary economic tasks becausethe organization of production is the true calling of the workers.

On the other hand, logic dictates that the communes, administrative agencies and their technical and social services, should handle distribution of goods: interpreting the wishes of men in social terms, organizing life in all its manifestations.Starting right now, the anarchist groups have a duty to lay the groundwork for these revolutionary accomplishments.

The task of every one of these bodies is therefore extremely clear-cut and perfectly defined. Broadly speaking, it will be enough to welcome everyone‘s acting and making an effort in every sphere of activity, depending on the individual’s actual abilities.

At no time, and let me offer you the most formal guarantees here, at no point will the anarcho-syndicalist trade unions be able to constitute an obstacle to the onward march of revolutionary communism.

And at no point, either, will they be able to turn reformist, because they are and will remain revolutionary, federalist and anti-statist, because, like the anarcho-communist groups, their purpose is to establish libertarian communism.

To conclude this part of my address, let me affirm:

1. The anarcho-syndicalist movement cannot deviate, because of the close and unrelenting supervision exercised over its organizations and militants.

2. That, in current terms, in the realm of revolution, the anarcho-syndicalist movement represents the means whereby libertarian communism can be achieved. That it is up to the anarcho-communist groups, operating exclusively on ideological terrain, to take propaganda as far as it will go.

3. That the anarcho-communist movement should concern itself primarily with propaganda and education tasks: the study of society and the popularization thereof.

4. That the best ongoing contact achievable will be achieved, as in Spain, through the unrestricted recruitment into the anarcho-syndicalist trade unions charged with preparing for and carrying out action (they being the only ones capable of bringing this to a successful conclusion, having the requisite membership and resources) of all anarcho-communists in every country; that anarcho-syndicalism’s trial-and-error doctrine, which is the doctrine of anarchism itself, is sound and solid enough not to incur the risk of any infringement, attenuation or deviation.

5. That anarcho-communism, the real face of socialism, was spawned by the utter inadequacy of all the political parties; that anarcho-syndicalism, that movement’s modern, active form, deriving from anarchism, currently caters to all of the positive tasks of anarcho-communism and paves the way for libertarian communism, of which it will be the chief midwife; that anarcho-communism’s tasks — like anarcho-syndicalism’s tasks — will be accomplished in the post-revolutionary period when men, due to the evolution and development of their capacity for understanding, will be capable of acceding to free communism, anarchy’s goal.

In short, anarcho-syndicalism is the force required for the struggle under the existing regime and the agent of the economic construction of libertarian communism in the post-revolutionary period.

Anarchism assists the anarcho-syndicalist movement, without supplanting it.

The activities of its militants blend in with those of anarcho-syndicalist militants within the trade unions.

The two movements therefore owe each other ongoing mutual aid.

And later, come the peace, harmony and concord, anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism, amalgamating into a single movement, will pursue the achievement of libertarian communism, anarchy’s ultimate aim.

Anarcho-syndicalism’s most pressing task today is to organize the workers under its aegis with an eye to the decisive battle against capitalism; to make technical preparations for that battle, to bind the forces of production together for the revolutionary construction of the libertarian communist order; and, tomorrow, to organize the economy until such time as free communism is established; and finally, to defend the revolution.

That of revolutionary anarchism consists of deploying all of the resources at its disposal to help bring this about.

Relationship between Anarchism and Anarcho-syndicalism

Self-evidently, there must be a relationship between anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism, nationally as well as at the international level. Moreover, the IWA, at its founding congress, anticipated just such an eventuality.

Relations between them should be founded upon each movement’s independence and autonomy of the other and they must remain on a footing of the completest equality.

Besides the cross-fertilization of the two movements through the actions of their militants, it is to be wished that in every locality, region and country, contacts may be established between anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist organizations.

If these relations are to be fruitful and lasting, they will have to rest on the groundwork of mutual toleration, facilitated by doctrinal common ground in every realm and a precise understanding of the tasks incumbent upon the two movements…

But those relations can only be established on two conditions:

1. Anarchists in each country be of one mind, doctrinally.

2. The unification of the anarchist groupings within each country on the basis of a single doctrine of revolutionary anarchism.

General Conclusions

Whatever the wishes of Congress and of the IWA may be with regard to practical realization of these relations, they can only achieve this, as circumstances require that they do, if those two conditions are met beforehand by the anarchist movements in each country.

It would have been infinitely preferable, as well as consistent with our known principles, namely, federalist principles, had that doctrinal unity and unification of anarchist forces taken place prior to the meeting of the Congress that is due to give birth to the Anarchist International.

On behalf of the anarcho-syndicalists who achieved that double objective through the launching of the present IWA back in 1922, I call upon all our revolutionary anarchist comrades to follow suit.

If they all agree, the International that emerges from this Congress will deserve the title with which they will surely endow it and which cannot be other than: The Revolutionary Anarchist International — and I say again — they will accomplish this without a hitch.

It is sufficient but it is necessary that they all agree to break once and for all with the so-called forces of democracy, be they political or trade unionist; that they affirm that revolutionary anarchism, by dint of its goals, its methodology and its doctrine,has nothing and can have nothing in common with these so-called “democratic” forces which are, in every country, capitalism’s finest servants.

If, taking this to its limits, the revolutionary anarchist movement also breaks with all of the dissenters from the authoritarian political parties who, like their parties of origin, have but one ambition — to seize or to seize back power – the revolutionary anarchist movement and the anarcho-syndicalist movement will be able to stride fearlessly and in step toward their common goal: revolutionary social change through the establishment of libertarian communism, a necessary step along the road to free communism.

Pierre Besnard, IWA General Secretary
May 30, 1937

Police State grows: the new Search and Surveillance law

From indymedia.org.nz

Many of you may have heard discussion of the Search and Surveillance bill before parliament now. The text below is an overview of the bill that appeared in the October 15th Solidarity newsletter late last year.

The Search and Surveillance Powers Bill bill is the result of a report by the law commission who spent 5 years on the subject. It includes a number of changes to police powers that affect our lives, although few of them are really new. When Police Minister Annette King tabled the bill she said: “The law has failed to keep pace with technology”, referring to things like tracking and surveillance devices. She’s right in that so far the law didn’t always specify in how far bugging was subject to warrants, or it was inconsistent - the result is a law that streamlines this, giving the police blanket powers to install bugging devices. Everything else would obviously be too difficult for the police to handle. On the other hand, the inconsistencies in the old law haven’t stopped the police from mounting over 120 electronic monitoring operations during the past four years.

Similar streamlining will happen with electronic documents. For written documents, a search warrant would be issued for one particular type of document, e.g. financial records, and the police would only be allowed to seize those. In the case of electronic documents, however, the whole disk or computer can be seized, including completely unrelated documents.

What Annette King really means is that the law has failed to keep pace with police practice. For example, the new law gives police the power to enter premises and vehicles for the purposes of installing, maintaining or removing surveillance devices. During Operation 8 (and I’m sure for a lot of other past and present operations), a number of vehicles and homes were entered and bugged - regardless of police powers. Police will now need “reasonable grounds to believe that the evidence sought is in the place to be searched”. This doesn’t sound any different from the way thousands of homes have been searched in the past.

One of the things that is actually new - and worrying - is the fact that police no longer require a warrant to install surveillance equipment in public areas, including public parts of buildings. This means if the police are interested in seeing who enters the local post office they can install cameras there without having to worry about getting a warrant.

Not that obtaining a warrant has ever been a problem for the police, and it will be even less of a problem now. In the past warrants could only be issued by judges, JPs or registrars. Now they can also be issued by “other appropriate qualified and experienced people” - including police officers. And warrants can now be obtained electronically, i.e. no signature will be required.

New are also “plain view” seizures. This refers to things that the cops can confiscate while they are officially searching for something else. This gives the police power to go on fishing expeditions, where they enter someone’s house on the grounds of looking for one thing and then seize any number of totally unrelated items, just because they look interesting to them.

In addition to all this, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is being wound up and its tasks transferred to the newly created Organised and Financial Crime Agency of the police. This is relevant with regards to examination powers. As it is now, only the SFO (and the courts) can force people to make a statement. The police currently do not have that power (although they like to act as if they do). With the police taking over from the SFO, these examination powers are also transferred to them, albeit subject to special conditions.

The new Search and Surveillance Powers Bill will also effect other legislation - over 50 acts in total will be amended as a result, including the Boxing and Wrestling Act 1981, the International War Crimes Tribunals Act 1995 and the Wine Act 2003, just to pick a few examples.

The text of the Bill can be found here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

50,000 workers on the streets and 50 factories burning in Bangladesh

From www.libcom.org.

The mass unrest in the garment industry continued on Monday (29 June) for a third day...

Savar, central Bangladesh (a center of textiles and agriculture); for several days last week 1800 workers at a sweater factory in Ashulia had been striking in demand of a pay increase and settlement of outstanding wages. Management finally agreed to the demands on Thursday. But on returning to work on Saturday (27 June) three workers who had taken leading roles in the agitation and negotiations were told they were sacked "on charges of leading the demonstrations". On learning this the workforce immediately left the factory to demonstrate and to demand the reinstatement of their three fellow workers. This led to fierce arguments and then scuffles with the factory bosses, two of whom were reported to be beaten up.

Soon after police and Ansars (a civilian volunteer defence group, an auxiliary to the professional security forces) arrived; police began firing tear gas shells to try to disperse the demonstration, which now blocked a main highway - workers responded with hails of stones and bricks. Then the Ansars opened fire with live rounds of bullets into the crowd. Two workers were shot - one, Al-Amin, 26, died later at 12.30pm in hospital.

On the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital city, in the industrial zone; workers' rioting and demonstrations yesterday escalated to new heights. As thousands of workers gathered in the morning, at 10am a group set off towards the nearby Dhaka Export Processing Zone where many garment factories are located. Police blocked their way and fierce fighting began - in the pitched battle police teargas and rubber bullets left 100 workers injured.

Other workers soon joined the protesters and informed them that work was continuing as normal at the Hamim Group factory complex. Twenty thousand workers began to march towards the complex. As the numbers of protesters in the area swelled to 50,000 the security forces were simply overwhelmed; the Dhaka District Superintendent of Police said; "An additional 400 policemen stood guard in front of the major factories. We tried our best to disperse the crowd, but they were too many and too fierce.”

There are reports that some workers at the Hamim complex tried to defend the factory and clashed with the demonstrators as they approached (presumably reluctant to sacrifice their workplace to the greater cause - though whether these workers were garment workers or factory security and/or management personnel is unknown). The approaching protesters were said to be angry that these workers had failed to join the weekend protests over the killing of two garment workers shot by cops - and that the factory owners had, unlike other bosses, continued operating since the shootings.

The workers split into smaller groups and stormed the complex at around 10.15am. They sprinkled the buildings with petrol; a sweater factory, three garment factories, two washing factories, two fabric storehouses ... over 8,000 machines, a huge quantity of readymade garments, fabrics, three buses, two pickup vans, two microbuses and one motorbike were all reduced to ashes.

The crowd was thinking strategically. Once the buildings were ablaze some workers returned to the highway and blockaded the road; consequently, the fire services were unable to reach the blaze for several hours until 3.30pm - by which time the buildings were burnt to the ground.

Meanwhile, groups drawn from some of the other 50,000 workers and participants (undoubtably other sympathetic non-garment workers and slum dwellers would have been drawn in) roamed the area and attacked and vandalised another 50 factories and 20 vehicles. Thick black smoke could be seen across the city.

Though in public statements the garment bosses have been attempting to maintain international confidence by playing up the continued economic health of the industry it seems that some companies are beginning to feel the pinch of the economic crisis. One report suggests that

The current global meltdown had a background part to play in the whole thing as scores of factories turned sick due to reduced orders. Low and delayed wage payments following the recession also helped trigger the unrest... Many factory owners had truncated their workforce to be more competitive against their international competitors, industry insiders said. (Daily Star - 30 June 09)

The factory in Ashulia's S. Suhi Industrial Park, where the dispute that sparked this unrest began(1), laid off most of its workers and sold to a new owner in February due to a decline in orders from international buyers. Laid off workers had apparently been regularly agitating for re-employment at the unused factory at a higher wage rate;

The closure of the units of S Suhi Industrial Park Ltd was mainly responsible for the latest labour unrest in garment factories in Ashulia and Savar areas, a number of garment workers claimed.
Pretty Group in March started production only with the sweater-manufacturing unit and kept the five other units of the former S Suhi Industrial Park closed. Around 1,000 out-of-work workers of the five units were mounting pressure on the new management to restart those units soon, said garment workers.
The workers of the closed units along with other ill-paid workers of some nearby factories, which are not doing so well, started a movement to reopen the units and raise salary of workers, they said.
Failing to get their jobs back, they started to unite and threaten to halt production in other factories unless the former S Suhi units are reopened, a worker of Ha-Meem Group said requesting anonymity.(Daily Star - 30 June 09)

But the new owners denied this, none too convincingly;

Manjur Rahman, manager and company secretary of Pretty Group, claimed that this labour unrest had neither anything to do with his factory nor was it triggered from his factory.

In fact, the truth is probably a little more subtle - the Pretty Group dispute was the spark that set off an explosion waiting to happen. The global economic crisis increases already pressured working conditions, decline in real wages/purchasing power due to inflation and actual or threatened unemployment; in Bangladesh a decline in income is a short step away from hunger and starvation; many garment workers are already permanently malnourished (as described here; http://libcom.org/news/bangladesh-militarized-factory-visions-devouring-demons-capital-15092008).

Where this workers' movement goes from here is anybody's guess. But the ruling class is worried it may spread to the south-eastern port city of Chittagong, another smaller center of the garment industry, with 700 factories.

Security has been beefed up with special surveillance over the Chittagong city’s apparel sectors as tension brewed here against the backdrop of violence in the garment factories in Dhaka, police officials and garments association leaders said on Monday.

Nothing is resolved. Watch this space...

1) See earlier articles here;