Reading group / Racism and Class / 11th of July 2019

Angry Workers of the World

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At the next meeting of our class struggle reading group we want to get our heads around the current debate on racism and class.

Unsurprisingly the debate is the most advanced in the US – but despite differences in conditions over here we might still get a clearer view on things by engaging with what comrades in the US have to say.

There are many texts to read, we chose a few – if you manage to read the first two of the texts below you be fine. We will try to summarise the other texts at the meeting. If you want to help us with that, please drop us a line:

angryworkersworld@gmail.com

We meet:
Thursday, 11th of July 2019, 6:30pm
MDR, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH

Reading list:

Cedric Johnson
https://catalyst-journal.com/vol1/no1/panthers-cant-save-us-cedric-johnson

Reply by Kim Moody

Cedric Johnson and the Other Sixties’ Nostalgia

Cedric Johnson
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/04/racism-black-lives-matter-inequality

Critical view from ‘Black…

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Transphobia and the Bookfair – a clarification.

Anarchy in the Sticks!

It should be blindingly obvious to everyone by now that we are a trans-inclusive event. The collective has many transgender and non-binary comrades and they are welcome at the Bookfair.

We are mostly class-struggle anarchists and libertarian socialists, therefore anyone campaigning for the state to constrain transgender – or any other – people against their will, or to coerce them into prescribed paths and patterns of behaviour, would not be welcome.

We don’t see any need of exclusive facilities for cis-people, precisely because cis-people are the hegemonic group. For the same reason we don’t need white history month, straight pride month, international men’s day or exclusive clubs for gentiles. If attendees advocated for such things you would expect us to show them the door.

We should all beware of imposing our pet theories on other people’s lived experiences. You’re welcome to your ‘nuances’ (whatever that means) but don’t come around telling anyone they’re deluded or faking it. Please do not bring ‘gender-critical’ or ‘sex-essentialist’ propaganda to the Bookfair.

Enjoy the Bookfair, we’re going to!

Universal Credit as a gateway to drug dealing

scottish unemployed workers' network

valium-addiction-overdose-signs

In addition to this week’s stall, we had a discussion with Davy in central Scotland that underlines the true extent of the damage that Universal Credit is causing. Davy had recently emerged from jail to find nothing waiting for him on the outside. As a result, he was forced to sign up to Universal Credit, and the interminable 5-plus week wait for his payments to come through, meaning that he was also forced to accept an advance payment loan. When he eventually received his first UC payment, he was shocked to find that he was now being forced to survive on £50 per week until his advance payment is paid back in full, which will take months. He admitted that he couldn’t possibly survive on such short rations, and contrasted the way he has been treated on the outside with his experience of prison, where he received three meals a…

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Review: Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW

Anarchist Communist Group.

Cole, P. Struthers D., Zimmer, K.(eds).Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW. Pluto Press (2018)

The Industrial Workers of the World was founded in the United States in Chicago in 1905 and was informally known as the Wobblies. It was a revolutionary union that sought to unite the working class (those in paid work) in One Big Union and its preamble contained the following: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.” As such it in many ways replicated the ideas of the First International, the first international organisation of the working class, founded in the previous century, a fact not often remarked upon.

This fiercely anti-capitalist and militant stance attracted both members of the American Socialist Party, anarchist and unaffiliated class-conscious workers. The IWW was and is certainly not an anarchist union but attracted many anarchists into its ranks from the start.

This book deals with the international scope of the IWW, how it spread to other countries, often through the idea of the One Big Union being carried overseas by seafarers. The editors have assembled a number of essays on the IWW in other countries and this includes on indirect influence on other workers’ organisation. So we have articles on the IWW in Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa, their influence on the ideas of Jim Larkin and James Connolly in Ireland and on radicals in Sweden and South Asia. Also included is the influence of the IWW on immigrants to the USA, Finnish, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Russian and Spanish workers, as well as among African-American workers.

Unfortunately left out of this history are accounts of The IWW in England and Scotland, Chile (briefly touched upon) and Germany, where IWW sailors were active in the ports of Bremen and Hamburg. Perhaps a second volume could address itself to these gaps in international IWW history.

As the IWW saw itself as a union organising all of the working class, it attempted to do this across racial and ethnic lines, as in the Deep South, where it rallied both black and white workers, and in California where it organised among Anglo, Mexican, Greek and Italian workers. There were difficulties in doing this, and the relationship of the IWW to black workers could have perhaps given more details of the problems faced. William Covington Hall (not mentioned in this book) came from the Southern aristocracy and he strove to organise all workers in the South, discarding the racist sentiments of his class. However, Covington Hall’s concepts of race and class are often expressed in class reductionist terms as with his slogan: “There are no niggers, greasers, or white trash in the union, only men!” which doesn’t really address the specific concerns of any of these three groups.

The role of Italian anarchists in the Paterson silk workers strike organised by the IWW is highlighted as is the work of Slovene anarchist Andrew Klemencic and anarchists among the Western Federation of Miners and American Labor Union who affiliated to the IWW at the founding conference. In 1913 the sociologist Louis Levine wrote about the “numerous anarchists who have joined the organisation in the past few years. In the Far West and in the East many of the IWW locals are dominated by anarchistic elements, who have come to regard the IWW as the most promising agency for revolutionary propaganda and action”. The activities Scandinavian anarchists involved in the IWW like John Sandgren, William Risto, Carl Paivio and Gust Alonen are also described as also those of the Bulgarian George Andreytchine. The Union of Russian Workers composed of Russian immigrants had adopted an anarchist programme and encouraged joint membership of the IWW.

On the West Coast, anarchists in the Japanese Workers Union affiliated to the IWW. Nowhere was support stronger though than among Spanish speaking workers, both immigrants from Spain and Mexicans influenced by the ideas of the anarchist Ricardo Flores Magon. As Kenyon Zimmer notes:” … Quite often it was through these anarchist intermediaries that the IWW and its influence spread outside the United States”.

Also examined in detail is the relationship of the Ghadr movement of India and its diaspora which fought against British colonialism. There was some crossover of membership with the IWW among Indian workers in the USA, and two leading Ghadr militants, Pandurang Khankhoje and Har Dayal were Wobblies. Dayal even founded the Bakunin Institute in the Oakland hills.

In 2003 the late Chicago Wobbly (and anarchist and surrealist) Franklin Rosemont complained:” Amazingly, after all these years there is nothing even faintly resembling a comprehensive and reliable history of the union”. This book goes a long way in providing that history, in particular the influence of the IWW beyond the USA. This fascinating book is an important contribution to labour and revolutionary history.

Activism & Growth

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New Syndicalist

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New Syndicalist was invited to give a presentation at the Freie Arbeiter Union – Free Workers’ Union (FAU) congress in Hannover, Germany on the topic of “activism and growth” within syndicalist unions (we extend our gratitude to FAU for the opportunity and their hospitality during our visit). We took this invitation as an opportunity to reflect on our experiences as organisers and activists within the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the UK during a period of rapid membership growth following a rebirth of the union in the mid-2000s. What resulted was a very honest and productive discussion on the key challenges facing base unions, many of which were recognised by the community of organisers and militants in attendance. We discussed a wide range of issues from the best means to collect members dues to the often controversial issue of paid staff and organisers. We present here as a special episode of ‘Talking Shop’ the audio of the main presentation in the hope that it moves forward the debate on sustaining the growth and development of syndicalist unions here as well as material for debates and discussion on how best to move forward on shared challenges everywhere.

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Class, racism and women’s oppression – Critical thoughts on intersectionality theory

Angry Workers of the World

athens1AngryWorkers, June 2019

Introduction

We were recently invited by our friends and comrades from TPTG [1] and the Assembly of Workers and Unemployed from Syntagma Square to Greece where we took part in a meeting about intersectionality theory – a theoretical approach that tries to understand how class, race and gender relate to each other. Some comrades had read our book review of ‘Striking Women’, about the Grunwick and Gate Gourmet disputes [2], which included a critique of the intersectional approach that the authors had used to analyse the struggles. They told us that ‘intersectionality’ is a relatively recent topic of discussion amongst the Greek Left, although of course, discussion about gender and class has been around for much longer. But the debate these days seems to have narrowed (focusing on ‘privilege’, language and changing behaviours) and is linked to the rise of identity politics. Around 50-60 people attended the…

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