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An Interview with New Syndicalist

Infoshop News - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 19:22

via Anarchist Studies blog

by Shane Little

New Syndicalist is a source of worker-led, anti-capitalist theory and strategy founded by members of the Industrial Workers of the World in the UK. The New Syndicalist Editorial Team visited Loughborough University to give a talk titled “New Media for a New Workers’ Movement: Syndicalism for the 21st Century” [listen in here]. Shane Little took the opportunity to find out more about the project.


Shane Little: What is the New Syndicalist and what is the aim of the project?

New Syndicalist: New Syndicalist is a media project for trade union activists and organisers. We aim to publish content that allows trade unionists to think about the activity they are engaged in and learn lessons from others. We hope that the media we produce plays a transformative role in making organising more accessible, practical and effective for our audience.

SL: You mention that New Syndicalist is “unashamedly inspired by Recomposition, Life-Long Wobbly and Kämpa tillsammans!” What is it about these projects that you found important and why did you feel such a project was needed in the UK?

NS: Recomposition was a really important resource to many of us when we were starting to organise campaigns with the Industrial Workers of the World in the UK. Many of us had never really had any trade union experience before and we were recruiting in workplaces that often had no union presence. Articles and reflective pieces from organisers of the Starbucks Workers Union, as well as other campaigns in the US around this period, were incredibly influential. It felt like these writers were just like us – in a hostile environment, finding their feet and trying to work out the practical steps that brought us closer to the lofty goals of our union. Accordingly, as we began to step up our organising here, we felt we needed our own space, focused on the UK experience, that would allow us to think through our choices, successes and failures, and hopefully help others, just like Recomposition had helped us.

SL: How would you map contemporary syndicalism in the UK, and would you say there has been a growth in its importance? If so, why?

NS: Syndicalism or base unionism is still a very small, informal organisational presence compared with the wider trade union movement in the UK, and also compared with other European countries. However, its influence is growing. You can see this increasingly within many TUC unions who are seeking to replicate the efficiency and impact of syndicalist courier organising and campaigns in fast food – both of which punched significantly above their weight when looking comparatively at the resources of the mainstream unions. There has also been a growth in the influence of lay or volunteer-led models of organising (as opposed to just service models of trade unions) within the TUC, something which is a central feature of all syndicalist/base unions.

IWW, IWGB and UVW all have young, healthy and growing memberships which contrasts with the wider pattern of declining and aging membership of mainstream unions. This probably has to be situated in wider political trends emerging from the financial crisis of 2008, however on a simple and practical basis I’d say the key driving force behind the health of these movements is that they are picking fights and winning them. That drive, energy and enthusiasm is inspiring and, hopefully, is serving as a good example to workers everywhere of what fighting unions can achieve.

SL: What is your editorial process like? How do you organise content on your website and what is your approach to adding new content?

NS: Our editorial process is both collective and democratic – qualities we’d like to see replicated in the wider trade union movement. Typically, writers will approach us with an idea as a first stage and we will advise them whether it’s suitable for the blog. We don’t publish sectarian attacks on individuals or groups, news and bulletin style pieces or overly academic pieces that don’t serve to inform practical concerns within organising. We have several existing series that we sometimes recommend writers to use. Like, for example, “What does a Union Mean to You?” which challenges contributors, from a diverse range of jobs, to think through examples of solidarity and support existing in their workplaces. We’ve had several interesting contributions under this title, including a sex worker who shared the challenges of dealing with the time spent waiting for, or finding work (something I’m sure many other types of workers can sympathise with), and the networks that they and their fellow sex workers use to keep safe.

When pieces are submitted, we discuss them as a collective. Most are pretty uncontroversial but on occasion we have had to take a vote on a submission, and we have rejected some content on the basis of it not fully meeting the broader goals of the project.

SL: Regarding strategy and organisation, do you think contemporary syndicalism has any unique characteristics that differentiates it from past expressions of syndicalism?

NS: Syndicalism has historically been very adaptable to changes in working life. The organisations we tend to refer to as the “historic” syndicalist unions – the Industrial Workers of the World, CNT, FAU, CGT etc. (although in reality none really disappeared and, therefore, shouldn’t just be seen as organisations of the past) – were at the forefront of changes to capitalism in the early twentieth century. As capitalism became more technologically advanced, more reliant on assembly lines of “mass workers” and as its workforce became increasingly global, it was these unions who argued for a holistic, industrial model of unionism with the aim of capturing these great new productive powers within industry for the benefit of all. This was while many of the craft unions saw these changes as only a threat to be fought against and were excluding these new types of workers as competition to the skilled labourers that were their traditional constituency. When I look at the way modern base unions have stepped up to organise fast food chains, the service sector and new work in the gig economy I just see a repetition of the same sort of patterns and the same forward-thinking attitude.

SL: Do you see a link between the growth of syndicalist style unions and a change in class composition in the UK?

NS: A lot of the syndicalist unions within London are organised around migrant labourers within the city. However migrant labour is nothing particularly new, in the UK or in the trade union movement, so I don’t think it makes sense to make too much of these compositional qualities. I think certainly a “space” has been opened for syndicalist unions to thrive and grow for workers who have been abandoned, ignored or betrayed by the mainstream trade unions. Likewise, there are many workplaces that are simply seen as too high cost – in terms of time, resources and money – for TUC organisers. Yet these are the workplaces, like bars and restaurants, social care, call centres, agency work, gig economy, etc. where an increasingly large number of precarious and poorly paid workers find themselves.

SL: What is your relationship with similar projects and unions in the UK, and do you see much collaboration between the different syndicalist projects?

NS: We like to encourage a supportive and friendly relationship with all similarly minded projects and unions in the UK. We are a relatively small and young movement and we ultimately will do better working to help and amplify each other.

SL: What do you think syndicalism’s potential is in the UK and what role do you hope New Syndicalist will have going forward?

NS: That’s a tricky question to answer. We would, of course, like our project to play a transformative role in the activity of workers, trade union activists and organisers. Anecdotally we have been told that members have been brought into syndicalist projects based on the content of our blog and have read and referred to our content in trainings and campaigns. That’s nice to hear! However, it’s important to practice some caution when getting out the crystal ball and speculating on our future as a project and what influence we might have. An early IWW organiser, “Big Bill” Haywood, preached a more modest understanding of union activity that its maybe useful to refer to here. He used to sign off every letter with the phrase, “help the work along”. I think that’s a beautiful sentiment. Every member doing their little bit, in their own way, in the service of a much greater cause. So perhaps we shall just say that. If New Syndicalist can simply “help the work along” we will be happy.

The post An Interview with New Syndicalist appeared first on Infoshop News.

A “Green New Deal”?: The Eco-syndicalist Alternative

Infoshop News - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 19:17

via Ideas & Action

By Tom Wetzel

Capitalist dynamics are at the very heart of the current crisis that humanity faces over global warming.

When we talk of “global warming,” we’re talking about the rapid — and on-going — rise in the average world-wide surface and ocean temperature. Thus far a rise of 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880. According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, two-thirds of this temperature increase has occurred since 1975. A one-degree rise in temperature might seem like no big deal. As the NASA scientists point out, however, “A one-degree global change is significant because it takes a vast amount of heat to warm all the oceans, atmosphere, and land by that much.”

We know that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels is at the heart of the problem. For many centuries the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ranged between 200 and 300 parts per million. By the 1950s the growth of industrial capitalism since the 1800s had pushed this to the top of this range — 310 parts per million. Since then the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen very rapidly — to more than 410 parts per million by 2018. This is the result of the vast rise in the burning of fossil fuels in the era since World War 2 — coal, petroleum, natural gas.

The problem is rooted in the very structure of capitalism itself. Cost-shifting is an essential feature of the capitalist mode of production. An electric power company burns coal to generate electricity because the price per kilowatt hour from coal-fired electricity has long been cheaper than alternatives. But the emissions from burning coal travel downwind and cause damage to the respiratory systems of thousands of people — including preventable deaths to people with respiratory ailments. This is in addition to the powerful contribution to global warming from the carbon dioxide emissions. But the power firm doesn’t have to pay money for these human costs. If the firm had to pay fees that would be equivalent to the human cost in death, respiratory damage and contribution to global warming and its effects, burning coal would not be profitable for the power company.

Firms also externalize costs onto workers, such as the health effects of stress or chemical exposures. The “free market” pundit or hack economist might deny that companies externalize costs onto workers. They might say that wages and benefits paid to workers for each hour of work measure the cost of labor. But the human cost of work can be increased without an increase in the compensation paid to workers. If a company speeds up the pace of work, if people are working harder, if they are more tightly controlled by supervisors, paced by machines or software, this increases the cost in human terms.

Toxic chemicals used in manufacturing, in agriculture and other industries pose a threat to both the workers and to people who live in nearby areas. Usually working class people live in neighborhoods near polluting industries, and often these are communities of color. This is another form of capitalist cost-shifting.

State regulation of pesticides or air pollution often ends up acting as a “cover” for the profit-making firms. Despite the existence of pollutants generated by leaky oil refineries and pollutants emitted by other industries in industrial areas in California — such as the “cancer alley” of oil refineries in the Contra Costa County area  or the similar refinery zone in Wilmington — the government agencies set up to deal with air pollution in the Bay Area and Los Angeles County protected polluters for years by focusing almost exclusively on pollution generated  by vehicle exhaust. In this way the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District have been an example of “regulatory capture” by corporate capital.

Power firms that generate vast amounts of carbon dioxide emissions — and firms that make profits from building fossil-fuel burning cars and trucks or from the sale of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel — have not had to pay any fees or penalties for the growing build up of the carbon dioxide layer in the atmosphere. The global warming crisis thus has its explanation in cost shifting and the search for short-term profits and ever growing markets — features that are at the heart of the capitalist system.

If global capitalism continues with “business as usual”, the warming will have major impacts — killer heat waves, more ocean heat pumping energy into hurricanes and cyclones, rising ocean levels from melting of ice in the polar regions and melting of glaciers, destruction of corals in the oceans, and a greater danger to the survival of many species of living things.

Previous attempts to get global agreement to cut back burning of fossil fuels have been ineffective. The Paris accords merely proposed voluntary targets. NASA scientist James Hansen described it as a “fraud”: “There is no action, just promises.” According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the dire situation calls for “rapid and far-reaching transitions…unprecedented in terms of scale.” The IPCC warns that there needs to be a 45 percent world-wide reduction in the production of heat-trapping gases (mainly carbon dioxide) by 2030 if humanity is to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.

Clearly a global change is needed. But how to bring this about?

The concept of a Green New Deal has been proposed by Green Party activists, climate justice groups and various radicals for some time. The slogan is based on a comparison with the statist planning used by President Roosevelt to respond to the economic crisis of the 1930s as well as the vast and rapid transition of American industry to war production at the beginning of World War 2. The idea is that the crisis of global warming should be treated with equal urgency as the mass unemployment of 1933 or the fascist military threat of the early 1940s.

After the election to Congress of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — a member of Democratic Socialists of America — the Green New Deal resolution was introduced into the US Congress by Ocasio-Cortez  and Senator Ed Markey. This lays out a set of ambitious goals, such as 100 percent electric power generation in the USA from “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.”

Other goals include “removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing…as much as is technologically feasible” and “overhauling” the transport sector “to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions” from transport “through investment in zero-emission vehicles, accessible public  transportation and high speed rail.” Along with this resolution, a letter was sent to the US Congress from 626 environmental organizations backing the Green New Deal proposal. These environmental groups made it quite clear they oppose any market-based tinkering — reforms that we know won’t work — such as “cap and trade” (trading in pollution “rights”).

Many have proposed “public-private partnerships” and public subsidies to private corporations. Robert Pollin, writing in New Left Review, talks about “preferential tax treatment for clean-energy investments” and “market arrangements through government procurement contracts.” All part of a so-called “green industrial policy.” A green capitalism, in other words.

But workers are often skeptical of these promises. Companies will simply lay people off, under-pay them, or engage in speed-up and dangerous work practices — if they can profit by doing so. For example, low pay, work intensification and injuries have been a problem at the Tesla electric car factory which has received 5 billion dollars in government subsidies. Tesla recently laid off 7 percent of its workforce (over three thousand workers) in pursuit of profitability.

An alternative approach that looks to statist central planning has been proposed by Richard Smith — an eco-socialist who is also a member of Democratic Socialists of America. Smith characterizes the proposal by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez this way:

Ocasio-Cortez…is a bold,  feminist, anti-racist and socialist-inspired successor to FDR…She’s taking the global warming discussion to a new level…She’s not calling for cap and trade or carbon taxes or divestment or other “market” solutions. She’s issuing a full-throated call for de-carbonization — in effect throwing the gauntlet down to capitalism and challenging the system…[1]1

Smith believes the goals of the Green New Deal can’t be realized through things like “incentives” — and he’s right about that. He points out that the Green New Deal resolution “lacks specifics” about how the goals will be reached. To realize the goal of “de-carbonizing” the economy, he proposes a three-part program:

  • Declare a state of emergency to suppress fossil fuel use. Ban all new extraction. Nationalize the fossil fuel industry to phase it out.
  • Create a federal program in the style of the 1930s Works Progress Administration to shift the workforce of the shut-down industries to “useful but low emissions” areas of the economy “at equivalent pay and benefits.”
  • Launch a “state-directed” crash program to phase in renewable electric power production, electric transport vehicles and other methods of transport not based on burning fossil fuels. Develop programs to shift from petro-chemical intensive industrial agriculture to organic farming.

Even though “AOC explicitly makes a powerful case for state planning,” Smith says, a weakness of the Green New Deal resolution, from his perspective, is the failure to “call for a National Planning Board to reorganize, reprioritize and restructure the economy.” When he talks about nationalization, he notes “We do not call for expropriation.” He’s talking about buying out the shareholders at “fair market value.” This is essentially a proposal for a largely state-directed form of capitalist economy — a form of state capitalism.

Smith’s proposal is wildly unrealistic. Are we to believe that the corporate-media influenced American electoral scheme can be used to elect politicians — through the business-controlled Democratic Party — to enact a multi-trillion dollar program of seizures of the fossil fuel industry, auto manufacturers, and chemical firms and set up a planning board to direct the economy?

The American working class did make important gains in the Thirties — such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (minimum wage, unemployment insurance) and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. These concessions were only won due to an uprising of the American working class in a context of vast struggles around the world — a working class revolution in Spain, plant occupations in France, a communist insurgency in China, the Communists holding on in Russia. In that moment capitalism faced a threat to its very existence.

The USA saw a huge working class rebellion between 1933 and 1937 — millions of workers on strike, hundreds of thousands of workers creating new unions from scratch,  rising influence for revolutionary organizations, a thousand workplace seizures (sit-down strikes), challenges to Jim Crow in the south. And in 1936 this angry and militant mood also pushed very close to the formation of a national Farmer-Labor Party that would have been a major threat to the Democrats. Many formerly intransigent corporations were forced to negotiate agreements with unions. The Democrats chose to “move left” in that moment.

It’s also a mistake to romanticize the New Deal. People talk of the 1930s WPA as the model for “job guarantees” — that is, government as employer of last resort. But there was still 17 percent unemployment in USA as late as 1940. Workers in the WPA often had beefs such as low pay. Communists, socialists and syndicalists organized unions and strikes among WPA workers. The gains that working class people were able to win in the Thirties did not simply come about through electoral politics. Nor were the conservative, bureaucratic “international unions” of the American Federal of Labor the vehicle either. They were more of a road block — exactly why several hundred thousand workers had created new grassroots unions from scratch by late 1934.

Smith is not alone in pushing statist central planning as a solution. This concept is being talked up lately by various state socialists, including people associated with Jacobin magazine and DSA. These advocates often assume the state is simply a class-neutral institution that could be taken hold of by the working class and wielded for its purposes.

In reality the state is not class-neutral but has class oppression built into its very structure. For example, public sector workers are subordinate to managerialist bureaucracies just as workers are in the private corporations. The day-to-day workings of state institutions are controlled by the cadres of the bureaucratic control class — state managers, high end professionals employed as experts, prosecutors and judges, military and police brass. This is in addition to the “professionals of representation” — the politicians — who are typically drawn from either the business or bureaucratic control classes, that is, classes to which working class people are subordinate.

As a top-down approach to planning, statist central planning has no way to gain accurate information about either public preferences for public goods and services or individual consumer preferences. Statist central planning is also inherently authoritarian. This is because it is based on a denial of self-management to people who would be primarily affected by its decisions — consumers and residents of communities, on the one hand, and workers in the various industries who would continue to be subject to managerialist autocracy.

Self-management means that people who are affected by decisions have control over those decisions to the extent they are affected. There are many decisions in the running of workplaces where the group who are primarily affected are the workers whose activity makes up the production process. Taking self-management seriously would require a form of distributed control in planning, where groups who are primarily affected over certain decisions — such as residents of local communities or workers in industries— have an independent sphere of decision-making control. This is the basis of the syndicalist alternative of distributed planning, discussed below.

State socialists will sometimes make noises about “worker control” as an element of central planning, but real collective power of workers over the production process is inconsistent with the concept of central planning. If planning is to be the activity of an elite group at a center, they will want to have their own managers on site in workplaces to make sure their plans are carried out.  Any talk of “worker control” always loses out to this logic.

Statist central planning can’t overcome either the exploitative or cost-shifting logic of capitalism, which lies at the heart of the ecological crisis. Various populations are directly impacted by pollution in various forms — such as the impact of pesticide pollution on farm workers and rural communities or the impact on air and water in local communities. The only way to overcome the cost-shifting logic is for the affected populations — workers and communities — to gain direct power to prevent being polluted on. For global warming, this means the population in general needs a direct form of popular power that would enable the people to directly control the allowable emissions into the atmosphere.

As difficult as it may be, we need a transition to a self-managed, worker-controlled socialist political economy if we’re going to have a solution to the ecological crisis of the present era. But this transition can only really come out of the building up of a powerful, participatory movement of the oppressed majority in the course of struggles against the present regime.

The Syndicalist Alternative for an Eco-socialist Future

The problem is not that people struggle for immediate changes that are within our power to currently push for. Rather, the issue is how we pursue change. Changes can be fought for in different ways.

The basic problem with the electoral socialist (“democratic socialist”) strategy is its reliance on methods that ask working class people to look to “professionals of representation” to do things for us. This approach tends to build up — and crucially rely upon — bureaucratic layers that are apart from — and not effectively controllable by — rank-and-file working class people. These are approaches that build up layers of professional politicians in office, paid political party machines, lobbyists, or negotiations on our behalf by the paid apparatus of the unions — paid officials and staff, or the paid staff in the big non-profits.

Syndicalists refer to these as reformist methods (for lack of a better term). Not because we’re opposed to the fight for reforms. Any fight for a less-than-total change (such as more money for schools or more nurse staffing) is a “reform.” The methods favored by the electoral socialists are “reformist” because they undermine the building of a movement for more far-reaching change. The history of the past century shows that these bureaucratic layers end up as a barrier to building the struggle for a transition to a worker-controlled socialist mode of production.

We can say that an approach to action and organization for change is non-reformist to the extent that it builds rank-and-file controlled mass organizations, relies on and builds participation in militant collective actions such as strikes, and builds self-confidence, self-reliance, organizing skills, wider active participation, and wider solidarity between different groups among the oppressed and exploited majority.

Syndicalism is a strategy for change based on non-reformist forms of action and organization. Non-reformist forms of organization of struggle are based on control by the members through participatory democracy and elected delegates, such as elected shop delegates and elected negotiating committees in workplaces.  And the use of similar grassroots democracy in other organizations that working class people can build such as tenant unions. Non-reformist forms of action are disruptive of “business as usual” and are built on collective participation, such as strikes, occupations, and militant marches.

A key way the electoral socialist and syndicalist approaches differ is their effect on the process that Marxists sometimes call class formation. This is the more or less protracted process through which the working class overcomes fatalism and internal divisions (as on lines of race or gender), acquires knowledge about the system, and builds the confidence, organizational capacity and the aspiration for social change. Through this process the working class “forms” itself into a force that can effectively challenge the dominating classes for control of society.

If people see effective collective action spreading in the society around them, this may change the way people see their situation. Once they perceive that this kind of collective power is available to them as a real solution for their own issues, this can change their perception of the kinds of change that is possible. The actual experience of collective power can suggest a much deeper possibility of change.

When rank-and-file working class people participate directly in building worker unions, participating in carrying out a strike with co-workers, or in building a tenant union and organizing direct struggle against rent hikes or poor building conditions, rank-and-file people are directly engaged — and this helps people to learn how to organize, builds more of a sense that “We can make change,” and people also learn directly about the system. More people are likely to come to the conclusion “We have the power to change the society” if they see actual power of people like themselves being used effectively in strikes,  building takeovers, and other kinds of mass actions. In other words, a movement of direct participation and grassroots democracy builds in more people this sense of the possibility of change from below.

On the other hand, concentrating the decision-making power in the fight for social change into bureaucratic layers of professional politicians and an entrenched union bureaucracy tends to undermine this process because it doesn’t build confidence and organizing skills among working class people. It fails to build the sense that “We have the power in our hands to change things.” Thus a basic problem with electoral socialism (“democratic socialism”) is that it undermines the process of class formation.

The electoral venue is also not favorable terrain for the working class struggle for changes because the voting population tends to be skewed to the more affluent part of the population. A large part of the working class do not see why they should vote. They don’t see the politicians as looking out for their interests. The non-voting population tends to be poorer — more working class — than the voting population. This means the working class can’t bring the full force of its numbers to bear.

A strategy for change focused on elections and political parties tends to lead to a focus on electing leaders to gain power in the state, to make changes for us. This type of focus leads us away from a more independent form of working class politics that is rooted in forms of collective action that ordinary people can build directly and directly participate in — such as strikes, building direct solidarity between different working class groups in the population, mass protest campaigns around issues that we select, and the like.

To be clear, I’m not here arguing that people shouldn’t vote, or that it makes no difference to us who is elected. Often in fact it does, and independent worker and community organizations can also direct their pressure on what politicians do. But here I’m talking about our strategy for change. I’m arguing against a strategy for change that relies upon — focuses on — the role of elected officials, a political party, or the full-time paid union apparatus.

An electoralist strategy leads to the development of political machines in which mass organizations look to professional politicians and party operatives. This type of practice tends to create a bureaucratic layer of professional politicians, media, think-tanks and party operatives that develops its own interests.

When the strategy is focused on electing people to office in the state, college-educated professionals and people with “executive experience” will tend to be favored as candidates to “look good” in the media.  And this means people of the professional and administrative layers will tend to gain leadership positions in an electorally oriented party. This will tend to diminish the ability of rank and file working class people to control the party’s direction. This is part of the process of the development of the party as a separate bureaucratic layer with its own interests. Because they are concerned with winning elections and keeping their hold on positions in the state, this can lead them to oppose disruptive direct action by workers such as strikes or workplace takeovers. There is a long history of electoral socialist leaders taking this kind of stance.

To the extent electoral socialist politics comes to dominate in the labor movement — as it did in Europe  after World War 2 — declining militancy and struggle also undermined the commitment to socialism. The electoral socialist parties in Europe competed in elections through the advocacy of various immediate reforms. This became the focus of the parties. Sometimes they won elections. At the head of a national government they found that they had to “manage” capitalism — keep the capitalist regime running. If they moved in too radical a direction they found they would lose middle class votes — or the investor elite might panic and start moving their capital to safe havens abroad.In some cases elements of the “deep state” — such as the military and police forces — moved to overthrow them. Most of these parties eventually changed their concept of what their purpose was. They gave up on the goal of replacing capitalism with socialism.


Eco-syndicalism is based on the recognition that workers — and direct worker and community alliances — can be a force against the environmentally destructive actions of capitalist firms. Toxic substances are transported by workers, ground-water-destroying solvents are used in electronics assembly and damage the health of workers, and pesticides poison farm workers. Industrial poisons affect workers on the job first and pollute nearby working class neighborhoods. Nurses have to deal with the effects of pollution on people’s bodies. Various explosive derailments have shown how oil trains can be a danger to both railroad workers and communities. The struggle of railroad workers for adequate staffing on trains is part of the struggle against this danger.

Workers are a potential force for resistance to decisions of employers that pollute or contribute to global warming. Workers can also be a force for support of alternatives on global warming, such as expanded public transit. An example of working class resistance to environmental pollution were the various “green bans” enacted by the Australian Building Laborer’s Federation back in the ‘70s — such as a ban on transport or handling of uranium.

A recognition of this relationship led to the development of an environmentalist tendency among syndicalists in the ‘80s and ‘90s — eco-syndicalism (also called “green syndicalism”). An example in the ‘80s was the organizing work of Judi Bari — a member of the IWW and Earth First!. Working in the forested region of northwest California, she attempted to develop an alliance of workers in the wood products industry (and their unions) with environmentalists who were trying to protect old growth forests against clear-cutting.

Worker and community organizations can be a direct force against fiossil fuel capitalism in a variety of ways — such as the various actions against coal or oil terminals on the Pacific Coast, or labor and community support for struggles of indigenous people and other rural communities against polluting fossil fuel projects, such as happened with the Standing Rock blockade in the Dakotas. Unions can also be organized in workplaces of the “green” capitalist firms to fight against low pay and other conditions I described earlier.

The different strategies of syndicalists and electoral socialists tends to lead to different conceptions of what “socialism” and “democracy” mean. Because politicians tend to compete on the basis of what policies they will pursue through the state, this encourages a state socialist view that socialism is a set of reforms enacted top down through the managerialist bureaucracies of the state. Certainly state socialists are an influential element in Democratic Socialists of America.

I think a top down form of power, controlled by the bureaucratic control class in state management, is not going to work as a solution for the ecological challenges of the present. The history of the “communist camp” countries of the mid-20th century showed that they were also quite capable of pollution and ecological destruction rooted in cost-shifting behavior.

On the other hand, the syndicalist vision of self-managed socialism provides a plausible basis for a solution for the environmental crisis because a federative, distributed form of democratic planning places power in local communities and workers in industries, and thus they have power to prevent ecologically destructive decisions. For syndicalists, socialism is about human liberation — and a central part is the liberation of the working class from subordination and exploitation in a regime where there are dominating classes on top. Thus for syndicalism the transition to socialism means workers taking over and collectively managing all the industries — including the public services. This is socialism created from  below — created by the working class itself.

Syndicalist movements historically advocated a planned economy based on a distributed model of democratic planning, rooted in assemblies in neighborhoods and workplaces. With both residents of communities and worker production organizations each having the power to make decisions in developing plans for its own area, a distributed, federative system of grassroots planning uses delegate congresses or councils and systems of negotiation to “adjust” the proposals and aims of the various groups to each other. Examples of libertarian socialist distributed planning models include the negotiated coordination proposals of the World War 1 era guild socialists, the 1930s Spanish anarcho-syndicalist program of neighborhood assemblies (“free municipalities”) and worker congresses, and the more recent participatory planning model of Robin Hahnel and Michael Albert.

A 21st century form of self-managed socialism would be a horizontally federated system of production that can implement planning and coordination throughout industries and over a wide region. This would enable workers to:

  • Gain control over technological development,
  • Re-organize jobs and education to eliminate the bureaucratic concentration of power in the hands of managers and high-end professionals, develop worker skills, and work to integrate decision-making and conceptualization with the doing of the physical work,
  • Reduce the workweek and share work responsibilities among all who can work, and
  • Create a new logic of development for technology that is friendly to workers and the environment.

A purely localistic focus and purely fragmented control of separate workplaces (such as worker cooperatives in a market economy) is not enough. Overall coordination is needed to move social production away from subordination to market pressures and the “grow or die” imperative of capitalism and build solidarity between regions. There also needs to be direct, communal accountability for what is produced and for effects on the community and environment.

The protection of the ecological commons requires a directly communal form of social governance and control over the aims of production. This means direct empowerment of the masses who would be directly polluted on or directly affected by environmental degradation. This is necessary to end the ecologically destructive cost-shifting behavior that is a structural feature of both capitalism and bureaucratic statism. Direct communal democracy and direct worker management of industry provide the two essential elements for a libertarian eco-socialist program.

  1. “An Ecosocialist Path  to Limiting Global Temperature Rise to 1.5°C” (https://systemchangenotclimatechange.org/article/ecosocialist-path-limiting-global-temperature-rise-15%C2%B0c) []

The post A “Green New Deal”?: The Eco-syndicalist Alternative appeared first on Infoshop News.

A ZACF Anarchist in the Landless People’s Movement, South Africa: Interview with Lekhetho Mtetwa

Infoshop News - Mon, 04/15/2019 - 04:14

via zabalaza.net

Lekhetho Mtetwa, a member of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) discusses his role in the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), formed in South Africa in 2001. While the
LPM was affiliated to Via Campesina, and linked to the Landless Workers Movement
(Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra: MST), its activities centred on urban squatter
communities, rather than farm occupations or organising alternative agrarian systems.
Then-living in a squatter camp in Protea South, Soweto, Mtetwa served as the local
secretary; by 2013, this was the key LPM branch. Several attempts were made by political
parties to capture Protea South LPM, using patronage and promises, leading to the eventual
implosion of the branch. Mtetwa provides an essential analysis of the rise and fall of the
LPM, and the role that anarchists can play in such social movements.

A ZACF Anarchist in the Landless People’s Movement, South Africa: Interview with Lekhetho


The Landless People’s Movement (LPM) was formed in 2001, much of the initial impetus
coming from an NGO body called the National Land Committee (NLC). Although affiliated to
Via Campesina, and linked to the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil, its activity
has centred on the struggles of urban squatter communities, rather than on agrarian
issues, farm occupations or organising alternative production systems. In 2004, LPM
supporters protested the national elections declaring “No Land! No Vote!” In 2008, the
Gauteng province-based LPM sections (now the main LPM affiliates) formed the Poor People’s
Alliance with the squatters’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Rural Network /
Abahlali basePlasini (both in KwaZulu-Natal), and the Anti-Eviction Campaign (in the
Western Cape). The Poor People’s Alliance also took an anti-electoral position.

In the texts provided below, Lekhetho Mtetwa, an activist in the LPM in Protea South in
Soweto, and a member of the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF), discusses the
struggles of the LPM. Mtetwa was, at the time, LPM secretary in Protea South. It is
important to note that by 2013 the LPM in Protea South in Soweto was the main LPM
affiliate. Since Mtetwa’s comments were made, this section has faced notable challenges.
In 2010, a founder member and office-bearer sought to use the LPM to support her running
for municipal office on a Democratic Alliance (DA)-linked ticket. This was defeated by
Mtetwa and others, but a long- term schism resulted. From 2014, many in LPM-Protea South
were (successfully) wooed by the new Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party: Mtetwa
resigned in protest. Despite some subsequent disillusion in EFF, following the 2014
national elections, the section has not fully revived. It seems likely that it will be
replaced by a branch of Abahlali baseMjondolo.

The texts

Two texts are provided below. The first is a lightly edited transcript of an introduction
to the LPM that Mtetwa gave on the 29 September 2013, at the “Politics at a Distance from
the State” conference at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. The second text is
an interview with Mtetwa, at the same event, by Lucien van der Walt, on 30 September.

Part 1: Lekhetho Mtetwa: The Landless People’s Movement fights for the people’s rights
“I am from the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), a movement that engages the people on
land issues. People have been protesting for their right to land, while the state is
trying to privatise and control land, and also push shack-dwellers away from the cities.
The eviction of people is ongoing, so we fight for the “right to the city,” and for the
right to land and housing.

“Another issue we address is unemployment: land is not enough. The workers and the
unemployed should occupy factories and workplaces, so that we can have jobs and meet our

“What does the word ‘state’ mean? The state rests on violence against the working class.

“At election times, politicians make empty promises, but after the elections they deploy
violence against us, the working class. Our structures have been attacked by police and by
vigilantes. In 2004, we had comrades who were arrested and tortured when they campaigned
at election time, saying “No Land! No Vote!” In 2007, on the 3rd September, we were
barricading roads, and we lost one comrade: he was knocked over by a van that rode away.
The police attacked us, although we were exercising and demanding our rights.

“I am involved in the LPM in Protea South, Soweto, where we are shack-dwellers. The state
wants to remove all the shack dwellers, and to then use the land for houses for other
people. This is a major issue that we are fighting. Forced removals are what we are
facing. Housing is what we want: to be housed properly.

“We also face a lack of consultation from our so-called elected municipal councillors:
they do things, without consulting the community. The politicians rely on the votes of our
grandparents: they use them to get elected, promising this and that to get at the end of
the day more votes.

“These are the problems that we are facing. To organise and fight for the things I have
mentioned, we as LPM Protea South usually have a protest march or barricade the streets,
so we can be seen by the state as fighting for our demands. Normally we make it a point
that no-one from our community goes to work during the protests. There are shops in our
area: we make it a point that no-one opens on that day also.

“If each and every person joins the struggle, we can make changes. We need to fight the
struggle together: even fighting for our rights in Protea South is not only a fight for
LPM members only, but for everyone who lives in in this community and in this world. We
are fighting for everyone who needs land and freedom.

“All social movements should organise all the ordinary people to take direct action to
defeat the state and the capitalists. If we always talk and talk without action, we are
like an empty vessel. We need to be creative, and I push the idea of a poor people’s
summit, to build for big day of action and to allow struggles to be linked up.”

Part 2: Lekhetho Mtetwa: Rebuilding the Landless People’s Movement from below

Lucien van der Walt (LvdW): Thanks very much for agreeing to be interviewed. Can you tell
me a bit about yourself and about the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) and its work?

Lekhetho Mtetwa (LM): I am Lekhetho Mtetwa, secretary of the LPM in Protea South, from
Chiawelo, in Soweto.

The LPM was set up in Protea South in 2001, and the person who introduced it was Maureen
Mnisi. She became its chairperson for plus-minus 11 years, and was also Gauteng LPM chair.

How did I join? I raised issues in a public meeting, around land, and people said, “You
know what, come and join us.” And I was given light on how the LPM movement works, by word
of mouth. Later I was given the documents of the movement. Eventually I was selected as a
secretary, because I was politically strong. Initially I was co-opted onto the committee,
later I was elected.

The LPM fights for the rights of the people, for housing, land, and jobs and against
evictions. It fights so that the people may be able to support their families.

It doesn’t support elections to the state, including to town councils. LPM focuses on the
needs of the youth, and the community. We take the demands, and go to the local
councillor, and present the demands. If nothing happens then, we take our demands to the
top. And if nobody listens, then we march on government offices, and present a memorandum,
and we barricade the roads, and stay-away from work.

LVDW: Can you can you tell me more about the current situation of the LPM? How is it doing
these days?

LM: We are trying our best to rebuild the movement, and most of the support we have, we
are getting from our community – and also from other social movements, which support us.

The LPM was, at one stage, claiming to be a country-wide organisation. Today, though, the
main branch is in Protea South, Soweto. One of the issues is that there is not a structure
linking different branches, even if they did exist. But as far as I know, the only other
existing branch involves comrades in Durban. But there is nothing which I heard from that
side for some time, about what they are maybe doing. We have contacts with them, but there
is nothing we have planned together.

Understanding the problems, let us remember our branch of the LPM and other branches also,
have faced repression. In our case has included arrests and assaults, and also attacks
from vigilantes from nearby better-off areas in Soweto.

But there are also internal challenges. Recently there was a change in the leadership of
the LPM branch in Protea South: I am the secretary of the new leadership. This change was
linked to a fight against people who were using the movement for their own benefit,
including trying to push it to join political parties, and provide votes. This is part of
a bigger problem of nepotism, favouritism and opportunism that we see in some movements,
and that we fight.

The earlier leadership tended to be top-down, not always even elected. We have changed
that. What we are doing now is involving each and every person in our community, so that
they can be part of us. What I am trying to say is that, as “leadership,” we are not
saying that, because we are the leaders or office-bearers, we will control and do
everything. Instead, before we take things forward, we call a mass meeting wherein the
community brings up suggestions and issues. Then we sit down as a committee, look at these
matters, and then work out a way ahead. Then after that, we go back to the community: if
they agree with everything, then we go further with everything; that is what we do;
otherwise we again take the points and again change the plan, and again go back to the

Our focus is our branch’s work, where we try our best to make the LPM movement go back to
what it was before, but better. At this present moment we are trying to rebuild the
movement within our community, and from there, we are planning to start other branches in
other places.

LVDW: In the past, the LPM used the slogans “No Land! No Vote!” and then “No Land! No
House! No Vote!” once it helped form the Poor People’s Alliance along with Abahlali
baseMjondolo and others in 2008. Do these slogans still get used?

LM: Yes, it doesn’t end. It doesn’t end as long as we are living under the circumstances
under which we are living.

LVDW: And in the long-run what would be your vision of a new, a better South Africa? And
what would be required to make this into reality?

LM: For me, I want to see everyone owning land and resources together, in common; everyone
having a house, people living equal lifestyles and having useful jobs.

We should introduce the anarchist principles: all movements should come together and fight
the system and in that way, build for revolution. We will then be able to defeat the state
and the capitalists and thereafter the working class and poor people will be the ones
controlling everything – everything which the bosses and politicians are owning and
controlling at this present moment.

LVDW: How do you think we can create, solve the job problem in South Africa?

LM: By kicking out the bosses and taking over the factories and workplaces. That is the
only way.

LVDW: Thanks very much for your time.

LM: Thanks a lot, com.

SOURCE: Lekhetho Mtetwa, 2018, “Interview: The Landless People’s Movement Fights for the
People’s Rights,” 29-30 September 2013, in Kirk Helliker and Lucien van der Walt (eds.),
Politics at a Distance from the State: Radical and African Perspectives, Routledge:
London, New York, pp. 149-152.

A ZACF Anarchist in the Landless People’s Movement, South Africa: Interview with Lekhetho Mtetwa


The post A ZACF Anarchist in the Landless People’s Movement, South Africa: Interview with Lekhetho Mtetwa appeared first on Infoshop News.

On the Outside Looking in: a Critique of Inside/outside Strategy

Infoshop News - Mon, 04/15/2019 - 04:04

via Black Rose Federation

by Alex Isa

“Yes, I would consider my inside/outside strategy toward corporations somewhat of a Robin
Hood effect … I use their money, which becomes my money, to produce stickers, posters,
stencils, etc. This strategy was, however, the result of my acceptance of the reality of
things. One of the most jarring realizations this project has brought about for me is the
complete inevitability of supply and demand economics in a capitalist society. ” —-
-Shepard Fairey

How to (and whether to) engage with existing political institutions
is a perennial topic hotly contested by groups and individuals in left organizing spaces.
By performing well above expectations in the Democratic Party presidential primaries,
Bernie Sanders revived the national outlook for left electoralism. However, electoral
politics are simply one facet of what we refer to as the institutional left – “unions,
non-profits, and those with institutional interests to protect and preserve.”

This brings us to the phenomenon of ‘inside-outside strategy’ (IOS). You’ve definitely
heard this phrase used at political meetings and events, perhaps by people who have
varying and contradictory understandings of the term.

Years before Trump’s win in the 2016 presidential election, a growing segment of the
anti-capitalist left represented by groups like Democratic Socialists of America
proclaimed in favor of an “inside/outside strategy.” According to one popular definition,
inside/outside strategy might be defined as:

the creation of mass movements and alternative activities outside the centers of power
that work in conjunction with clusters of interest – organized or individual supporters
inside or along the periphery of the power structure. IOS is a strategic orientation that
social movements and dissenters have historically used to influence society.

In the past two years, various segments of the anti-capitalist left have dusted off
inside-outside strategy and repurposed it into a theory of revolutionary transformation.
Starting with a brief history of the term and its historical uses, we will see why
inside-outside strategy is flawed both in theory and practice.

The History of Inside/Outside Strategy as a Term

To understand the flaws of inside-outside strategy as a proposal for social transformation
and struggle, we have to understand how it entered the lexicon of social movements. The
basic idea is not necessarily new-something attested to by a long history of debates
around electoralism and political participation, even during the peak of labor radicalism
in the U.S. during the 20th century.

While it’s difficult to say with complete accuracy, one of the earliest works explicitly
theorizing the relationship between an “inside” and “outside” strategy comes from a
chapter in the 1991 book Mobilizing Interest Groups in America: Patrons, Professions, and
Social Movements. The authors define “inside” strategy as lobbying activities and
“outside” strategy as “[shaping]and mobilizing public opinion.” (103)

In this telling, the scope of change is nothing more than influencing public policy on
individual issues. The protagonists of this process are simply “interest groups” led by
political entrepreneurs who successfully find “patrons” in existing institutional
structures. (196) For much of the 90s and early 2000s, appearances of this phrase
unequivocally reflected and reified the typical elements of liberal political engagement:

  • Single-issue groups
  • Disconnected from any pretense of mass or class organizing
  • Make a few friends in government
  • Get some legislation passed

The system works and everyone goes home happy (emphasis on “going home”).
This inside-outside dyad was adopted by progressives as part of a long period of
self-reflection on Jesse Jackson’s failed presidential bids as a Democrat in 1984 and
1988, paralleled by the growth of his Rainbow Coalition. For many years thereafter,
progressives continued to express disappointment that Jackson demobilized the Rainbow
Coalition and folded it into the Democratic Party campaigning apparatus. This July 2004
piece in The Nation looks back at Jesse Jackson’s presidential candidacy and the Rainbow

To speak with Rainbow warriors now is to confront a persistent, deep disappointment that
in the spring of 1989 Jackson decided against institutionalizing the Rainbow as a
mass-based, democratic, independent membership organization that could pursue the
inside-outside strategy he’d articulated vis-à-vis the Democrats and build strength
locally and nationally to leverage power for progressive aims.

For all of the disappointment expressed by progressives, their ideal inside-outside
strategy boiled down to a way to steer the Democratic Party and win elections. The promise
represented by the Rainbow Coalition historically represented a vampiric transfer of
social movement potential to renewed liberal hegemony in the form of a resurgent
neoliberal Democratic Party in the 90s.

“When it comes to the inside-outside dyad, “inside logic” continuously and inexorably
seeks to subsume and colonize those of us who live and struggle outside of the halls of
power-always to the benefit of a few, albeit a different few from the ones who are
currently in power.”

In From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor expertly captures
how figures like Jackson presided over the institutionalization and neutralization of the
revolutionary potential of the civil rights movement at a time when the carceral state
reached ever greater heights under a nominally liberal administration.

Nonetheless, opposition to the neoconservative Bush presidency kept this idea alive,
resulting in the formation of the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) in 2004. One of
their stated goals was to act as a progressive pressure group operating within the
Democratic Party:

As a grassroots PAC operating inside the Democratic Party, and outside in movements for
peace and justice, PDA played a key role in the stunning electoral victories of November
2006 and 2008. Our inside/outside strategy is guided by the belief that a lasting majority
will require a revitalized Democratic Party built on firm progressive principles.[emphasis

This meant tailoring their actions to the contours of the existing political structure –
fielding candidates in mostly unsuccessful bids for office, spending time and resources on
procedural fights within the Democratic Party structure, and various lobbying schemes such
as holding mid-day “brown bag lunch vigils” outside of the district offices of various
members of Congress in the hopes of delivering a letter or flyer to the member of Congress
or their staff. PDA also took credit for convincing Bernie Sanders to compete in the
Democratic presidential primaries in 2015. In essence, groups like PDA condition their
members to speak to “electeds” rather than the masses.

The other notable example of this strategy was the Working Families Party (WFP), a
“fusion” political party that maintains a separate ballot line in elections due to unique
New York state ballot laws, but often endorses the same candidate as the Democratic Party.
This variety of inside-outside strategy is meant to gradually pull candidates in a more
progressive direction, but in places like New York WFP will endorse unabashedly
reactionary candidates like Governor Andrew Cuomo in order to reach the 50,000 vote
threshold needed to maintain their ballot line. In order to keep the candle burning for
the faintest glimmer of even mildly progressive change, organizations like WFP must
deliver their supporters unto the altar of neoliberal capitalism in the here and now.

Until fairly recently, inside-outside strategy has meant working with and/or within the
system to accomplish limited goals. That this strategy doesn’t conflict with the power
structures of capitalism is highlighted in embarrassing fashion by a blog featured on the
website of the World Bank. Yes, THAT World Bank!

In a post entitled “The Inside-Outside Strategy,” a World Bank employee makes a case for
working with officials in the name of “pro-poor” reform:

The logic of the inside-outside strategy is unanswerable. If you start a reform within the
government, it is wise to build wider support; and if you push for change from the outside
you need to transform public opinion all right, but you also need to find allies within
the state. In the real world, that is how things get done.

We can assume that, being a World Bank publication, this refers to the process of
streamlining Structural Adjustment Programs.

In any case, it seems fairly clear that inside-outside strategy was conceived and executed
as a program of liberal reform, one where politics is devoid of any understanding of class
struggle and where working-class people have only the barest form of leverage via social
and political “entrepreneurs” of the institutional left. These figures and institutions
have a symbiotic relationship with the State and reinforce its hegemony while using left

More than their progressive forebears, DSA did the most to bridge the gap between
liberal-progressive politics and the anti-capitalist left, more or less giving us the
current incarnation of inside-outside strategy. In 2014, for example, a statement by the
organization put inside-outside strategy in the following terms:

DSA also understands that unless the labor movement and the Left build the independent
political capacity to challenge the mainstream leadership of the Democratic Party, from
the inside and the outside, its embrace of pro-corporate, pro-austerity neoliberal
economic and social policies will continue as well.

The current political moment has seen inside-outside strategy become an incoherent jumble
of expectations, socialist in words but liberal in practice, aiming for Fully Automated
Luxury Gay Space Communism but trying to get there in a hot air balloon.

Take the Momentum Caucus of DSA, whose platform purports to critique inside/outside
strategy while simultaneously arguing that “we should attempt to use the major parties’
ballot lines without confronting the major parties’ infrastructure.” Since then,
ironically but to the surprise of few, it was discovered that Momentum developed
organizing projects within DSA (like Medicare for All) with the intention of “folding”
such projects into a Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign infrastructure.

Though advocates of this approach favor building a “mass left-wing formation” down the
line, candidates who have racked up endorsements by DSA-whether they be “soft”
endorsements where members significantly assist and boost campaigns or explicit
endorsements-have hewed closely to Democratic Party leadership, boosted fundraising
prospects for the Democratic Party as a whole, and have gladly accepted endorsements from
politicians who unequivocally represent the capitalist class.

The failure of inside-outside strategy is that movement activists and supporters have
failed to maintain accountability. We can see this rather prominently in the response of
certain DSA members to critiques of Ocasio-Cortez when she expressed support for a
“two-state solution” to resolve the continued civil and military oppression faced by
Palestinians and offered to sit down with “leaders on both” sides. One op-ed defending
Ocasio-Cortez’s upsetting blunder threw the premise of inside-outside strategy out the
window entirely:

it would still be wrong to insist that DSA members are under an organizational discipline
to adhere to them. The right to dissent and to express views different from those of the
majority and the organizational center is a fundamental part of DSA’s democratic and
socialist-feminist decision-making. DSA has taken a position to be actively involved in
electoral politics, for example, but those who have a different view – including many
signers of the petition against Ocasio-Cortez – are still free to express that
perspective. We would have it no other way.

In practice, this seems like a cynical manipulation of “democratic” practices to keep
those outside of power in a position of impotence, even when politicians claiming to
represent them contradict movement ideals entirely.

Other attempts to defend this triangulation on Ocasio-Cortez’s part indicate that “inside”
and “outside” are not at all equal partners in spite of claims to the contrary:

Because the value of an elected official, of an activist in the Advocate role, is to get
things done close or in the halls of power. A senator or congressmember embracing BDS,
would probably be doing so at the expense of their effectiveness in most other areas. It’s
pretty clear that the lobbying power of those who support Palestinian rights is not very
high, and in most of the country if you only want to vote for someone who agrees with that
position, you won’t have anyone to vote for.

The fact that there was a perceived need to defend Ocasio from the “maximalists” and
“Rebels” to her left, including dedicated DSA members, suggests that so-called Advocates
and influencers (like Ocasio-Cortez) have an overriding role in shaping the agenda and
defining priorities. Members of social movements, on the other hand, are expected to keep
the candle burning and play a support role rather than develop forms of self-governance
that might create anything beyond the State.

The idea that the current mix of democratic socialist candidates, including patricians
like Cynthia Nixon and CEOs like Zak Ringelstein, could create the nucleus of a separate
“mass party,” or that a mass party of these same political figures could offer an
alternative vision to capitalism, does not conform to what we are seeing in real time.
Thus, 4 years and a few electoral victories later, progressives and even democratic
socialists have signaled hesitation in challenging the “mainstream leadership” of the
Democratic Party as was promised in 2014.

No amount of premeditation seems to be successful in overcoming the gravity of State
power. “We’ll do it right next time” becomes a perpetually unfulfilled rallying cry.

At any rate, DSA national has leaned into the press coverage, membership surges, and
increased national profile brought along by major electoral victories and endorsements. In
an e-mail dated June 28, National Director Maria Svart writes: “In the first 24 hours
since the election results were announced, over 1000 people joined DSA. That’s bigger than
the first day of the Trump bump – it turns out that in dark times, people want reasons to
hope. Let’s keep these victories coming!”

Whatever the inconsistencies of the candidates they support, national leadership is happy
to boast of new members and dues. It is almost certain that many of these members entered
the organization with a very general and incomplete conception of socialism, heavily
shaped by the measured statements offered on the electoral front. In this way, the
“inside” part of this strategy wields tremendous influence and puts limits on the
“outside” part where these are assumed to work in tandem.

There are more earnest attempts to conceive of inside-outside strategy as a way to build
dual power, where the “outside” might consist of more radical, working-class, and
horizontally-organized social movements, only seems to highlight the woeful inadequacy of
these strategies in relation to the task at hand. Even when inside-outside strategy fails,
the impression that it is succeeding creates a powerful perception that drives dues and
membership, reflecting the agendas and assumptions of campaigns rather than movements.
Beyond this, however, there is also a failure to theoretically recognize the nature of how
power operates at various levels of society.

The Problems of Inside-Outside Strategy: Some Theoretical Considerations

Nascent ideas of inside-outside strategy explained how single-issue interest groups of no
particularly radical persuasion and a highly-professionalized structure could influence
policy outcomes. Later, it became a way for outgunned progressives to “take back” the
Democratic Party in the name of a more humane capitalism. Currently, we are at a stage
where inside-outside strategy functions in the same way but in the service of purportedly
revolutionary outcomes ranging from a social democratic welfare state to a breakaway left
workers’ party.

Even as inside-outside strategy was repackaged and painted red for a newer generation of
radicals, various interpretations of this idea reflect an unclear sense of the
relationship between existing political structures and social movements. What’s more, they
don’t even demonstrate a good understanding of the distinct manifestations of power and
how they operate.

The definition of inside-outside strategy quoted earlier comes from a series of 2016 posts
on the blog Be Freedom, some of which was reprinted in other outlets like Counterpunch.
The author advocates creating mass movements whose aim is to bring about change by working
in conjunction with “clusters of interest” within and on the periphery of power
structures, then gives a disparate array of examples from mainstream politics to labor
unions. From this point of view, these are all seemingly valid arenas of struggle. While
many people who identify as progressive see no contradiction here, a bit of digging
reveals a huge conceptual problem therein.

If we start from the standpoint that all legislative bodies, courts, labor unions,
political parties, and UNICEF are equally valid entry points for transformative mass
movements to exercise power, what are the exceptions? One of the problems with the
advocacy of IOS on the left is the lack of proscribed limits.

What has been jarring these last two years is that some socialists have internalized this
as a system of belief to the point where they can enthusiastically root for District
Attorneys and Judges in their electoral efforts. In the case of Larry Krasner, some viewed
his victory as a step forward and a platform for further movement building based on
reforms such as ending cash bail and civil asset forfeiture. In the interim, however, this
means supporting someone who oversees mass incarceration and prosecutions that plainly
violate freedom of expression.

The power of belief being what it is, supporters can’t necessarily be moved to critically
interrogate these deficiencies or offer any broad vision other than improving things in a
piecemeal fashion, punching left and managing expectations.

This was made abundantly clear during the debate on House Joint Resolution 1, the bill
passed by House Democrats-including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna
Pressley- during the government shutdown to restore funding to the Department of Homeland
Security and, by extension, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Surprisingly, supporters of AOC and even leftists representing more critical tendencies
pushed back against left criticism of the vote and stressed the need for the newly-elected
representatives to build their political clout and momentarily put aside their promises to
“abolish ICE.”

When it comes to the inside-outside dyad, “inside logic” continuously and inexorably seeks
to subsume and colonize those of us who live and struggle outside of the halls of
power-always to the benefit of a few, albeit a different few from the ones who are
currently in power. This means that the socialist or democratic socialist label can be
rather easily used to exploit people’s expectations in the most cynical way possible to
gain and hold power.

If the revolution suddenly demands that we give our votes and support to Representatives,
Senators, Sheriffs, District Attorneys, and Presidents, should we ask socialists to sign
up for the U.S. Army? ICE? Get a “democratic socialist” nominated as Secretary of Defense?
We’ve only seen the beginnings of such developments, such as progressive candidates
offering to “abolish ICE” by replacing itwith a similar organization controlled by the
Justice Department. Naturally, supporters of such politicians might downplay these
positions or defend them after the fact, much in the same way liberals (and oddly enough,
some leftists) defended Obama and the “long game” of his presidency: A long game that
inevitably concluded to the benefit of the ruling class and the demoralization of the
working class.

We can even take this idea to its most absurd limit: why not start a business and use that
a way to make the world a better place? Of course, most of us recognize this as a joke.
The functioning of capitalist economic institutions guarantees the highest allowable
degree of exploitation. What exempts the State from this logic, reflection of capitalist
economic development and class conflict that it is? If building socialism means occupying
State power-administering prisons, defending borders, and nationalizing the
bourgeoisie-then it is not any form of socialism with strategic or ethical value.

Advocates of inside-outside strategy misunderstand the nature of power, and consequently
make fatal errors of judgement that will limit our collective political imagination and
reduce the most vibrant movements in our workplaces and communities to servants of their
supposed representatives in the machinery of government.

From an anarchist perspective, our approach to social change is to build popular power –
a process where we use our time and resources to create “independent institutions and
organizations of the working class to fight white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism.”
This means looking to our neighbors and coworkers in our political struggles and not
politicians who promise to enact change from on high. All of the press releases and bully
pulpits available to left politicians and bureaucrats are absolutely inconsequential
compared to the popular power we can build.

Alex Isa is an educator, scholar, and member of Black Rose/Rosa Negra in Miami.


The post On the Outside Looking in: a Critique of Inside/outside Strategy appeared first on Infoshop News.

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Infoshop News - Mon, 04/15/2019 - 03:28

via The Baffler

by Kate Wagner

The first time I can remember logging on to the net was around 1998, when I was five years old. My father was with me; I remember him working his magic, getting the modem to hum its infamous atonal tune. The purpose of this journey was to see if the internet had any answers to my persistent questions about how railroad crossings worked. We opened a search engine, probably AltaVista, and quickly found a Geocities webpage devoted to railroad crossings from around the world. I still remember the site’s black textured background, its grainy, white serif typeface, and the blinking gifs of railroad crossings positioned on either side of a slightly off-center text header.

I’m a digital native, older than most. Because my father worked for the federal government, our household was an early adopter of the internet. As I grew up, so did it. When I was a child, for example, the internet was still indexable; you generally found websites through directories and webrings. Favorites meant something, because finding what you were looking for often took quite a bit of time. When search engines became the norm, around the time I was in elementary school, this analog directory hunting was replaced with the ubiquitous Google search. Which is to say I witnessed it all, and as a particularly lonely child, I witnessed it rather closely: Neopets in elementary school, the birth of Myspace in middle school, the rise of Facebook in early high school, Instagram in late high school, the internet culture wars of infamy as a freshman in college, Donald Trump and Cambridge Analytica in graduate school.

Writing in 2008, the new media scholar Geert Lovink separated internet culture into three periods:

First, the scientific, precommercial, text-only period before the World Wide Web. Second, the euphoric, speculative period in which the Internet opened up for the general audience, culminating in the late 1990s dotcom mania. Third, the post-dot-com crash/post-9/11 period, which is now coming to a close with the Web 2.0 mini-bubble.

For those my age, this tripartite history of the net begins at number two, with the anarchic, sprawling, ’90s net, followed by the post-9/11, pre-iPhone variety (including the blogosphere and the fulcrum moment that was Myspace), and ending with today’s app-driven, hyper-conglomerate social media net.

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Vermont Union President Challenged Lawmakers

Infoshop News - Sat, 04/06/2019 - 04:33



-Submitted By David Van Deusen, District Vice President VT AFL-CIO-

Montpelier, Vermont 4/3/19 – Vermont AFL-CIO Unions including AFSCME, AFT, IBEW, USW, & PFFV, have been fighting all winter to get legislators to advance H.428 & S.36, card check recognition for public sector workers.  The bills were introduced in the House by Progressive Brian Cina, and in the Senate by Democrat/Progressive Phillip Baruth.  If passed, card check would establish that whenever a majority of workers sign a Union card in any given public sector shop, their Union would be immediately recognized.  Despite Labor’s united front on this issue, the Vermont Senate and House (which is overwhelmingly composed of Democrats) has yet to hold hearings on the bills, let alone move them out of committee.

 Today [4/4/19] AFSCME Local 1343 President, Damion Gilbert, spoke at a Statehouse press conference regarding card check.  The press conference was organized by Rights & Democracy in support of a $15 an hour livable wage, paid family medical leave, free college tuition, and card check.  Also speaking at the event were Lt Governor David Zuckerman (Progressive), Representative Emily Kornheiser (Democrat), Representative Kevin “Coach” Christie (Democrat), as well as a number of community leaders.

 What follows is the full text of the speech, delivered by AFSCME 1343 President, Damion Gilbert, in support of the card check bills:

 “Hello, I am Damion Gilbert, President of AFSCME Local 1343 & Executive Board Member for AFSCME Council 93.  I work for the City of Burlington’s Department of Public Works.  It is an honor to be here today to speak for my 1800 members and the 7000 Vermont Home Healthcare Providers that our Union represents.  It is also an honor to stand alongside fellow Labor Unions and community allies to demand that ALL working class Vermonters have access to livable wages, paid family medical leave, and especially a fair & democratic recognition process when working people choose to form a Union. 

 “It is a travesty that many tens of thousands of Vermonters do not presently get paid a livable wage.  I sympathize with this and support the effort to rapidly move to a $15 an hour floor for all laboring people.  I say this even though almost all of our AFSCME Union members already have won at least $15 an hour.  In fact this past year we celebrated our Unionized St Mikes Custodians winning a living wage for the first time in their new contract. Even as recently as this past fall, most Custodians were paid slightly more than $12 an hour, with some Custodians making as little as $11 and change. Here they were able to achieve a $15 an hour livable wage (now, and not four years from now) by standing united and engaging in the collective bargaining process which is afforded to them as a Unionized workforce.  

 “I say this to highlight that economic and social justice is within the immediate reach of working class people when they stand in solidarity with each other through a Labor Union which is theirs.

 “But Labor is under attack.  It was no mistake that the Supreme Court recently struck down the right of public sector Unions to collect mandatory dues.  It is also no coincidence that the Executive Branch of Government in DC is actively seeking a rule change to outlaw even VOLUNTARY dues-payroll deductions for Home Healthcare Providers.  And of course new appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have worn their anti-Union animus on their sleeve.  In brief, the powerful elite of this country, the wealthy ownership class, are actively trying to break the back of Organized Labor.  But we shall not be broken. As was said in the Spanish Civil War ¡No Pasarán!

 “If future historians are not to write that Vermont was party to this betrayal of Labor, political figures in Montpelier cannot remain silent.  And given the scope of the existential attacks we are now facing, non-action or the politics of the status quo are no different than collaboration. 

 “Therefore, AFSCME Vermont is here today to say loud and clear that H.428 & S.36, bills that would establish official Union recognition for any public sector shop wherein a majority of the workers have signed a Union card, is the means to demonstrate that Montpelier, unlike DC, stands with Labor!

 “These bills, known as the “card check bills”, circumvent the lengthy, legalistic, and  bureaucratic Labor Board process for recognition that exists today for public employees; and to be clear, the present VLRB process for recognition is weighted to favor anti-Union employers.  When implemented, card check would instead allow working people to more easily and more fairly come together and begin a collective bargaining process when such a Unionization effort is supported by a majority of workers. And here, by making the Unionization process more democratic and fair, it is our expectation that more Vermonters will choose to organize into a Union and will thereby be able to bargain for the social and economic justice that too many of our working families are yet to enjoy.

 “H.428 & S.36, card check, is the politically defining issue for AFSCME in 2019.  Those politicians that stand with us (and I see many of them here today!) shall be afforded our respect and appreciation.  Those that stand against us, or those that stand aloof shall rightly be viewed by AFSCME as complicit with the attacks presently emanating out of Washington.  One’s party label will have no bearing on who we gage as being with us or against us when it comes time to report back to our members. What will matter is if they supported card check, and if their support was active.

 “So again, we invite the leadership of the Vermont House & Senate, all persons elected to this General Assembly, and working Vermonters in general to support H.428 & S.36, card check, and see that these bills move out of committee and put on the desk of the Governor.  The time is now.  Thank You & Solidarity!”

-Damion Gilbert, President of AFSCME Local 1343

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Freelancers Want to Join Unions but Labor Laws Won’t Let Them

Infoshop News - Sat, 04/06/2019 - 04:20

via Teen Vogue

by Kim Kelly

Unions are more popular than they’ve been in almost two decades, thanks to successful organizing efforts in new sectors like digital media and fast food, revitalized labor action in more traditional industries like education and manufacturing, and the threat of a general strike helping end a painful government shutdown. The labor movement is behind the greatest advances for working people in this country’s history — from the eight-hour workday to the minimum wage and the end of child labor — and built the United States middle class as we know it.

However, due to a flaw in a major labor law passed back during the New Deal era, not everyone is able to join a union.

Following the passage of the 1926 Railway Labor Act, which oversaw labor relations in the railroad and airline industries, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, which has remained the bedrock of federal labor law in the U.S. The NLRA guarantees the majority of private sector workers the right to organize and join unions, engage in collective bargaining with their employers, and take collective action, like striking, when deemed necessary. Under this law, no employer can fire or threaten to fire a worker for organizing or joining a union or being pro-union, something that many bosses neglect to tell said workers during efforts at union-busting.

Because of the NLRA, thousands of workers across the country have been able to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions, but, because of the way the law was written, thousands of others have been left without a legal option to do either.

Government employees, agricultural laborers, independent contractors, and supervisors (with limited exceptions), as well as domestic workers and those covered by the Railway Labor Act are excluded from the NLRA. Some of these workers are also not covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (which oversees workplace safety) or the Fair Labor Standards Act (which regulates wages and hours); in addition, those classified as independent contractors are responsible for paying their own federal and state income taxes (which, as anyone who has to do this can tell you, adds up quickly). These excluded worker categories also often represent some of the most vulnerable people. For example, an overwhelming number of agricultural workers are subject to low wages and dangerous working conditions, and while they do have some specific protections, those efforts still fall short.

It’s also important to note the racist history behind the exclusion of certain worker categories. Today, most U.S. farm workers come from Latin American countries like Mexico and Guatemala, and about half of those workers are undocumented. But at the time of the NLRA’s signing, the majority of agricultural workers were black, and some scholars believe it’s no coincidence that these workers were excluded from the NLRA.

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The insanity of global trade

Infoshop News - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 00:14

via ROAR magazine

by Local Futures

The way trade works in the global economy is often absurd. Food routinely gets shipped halfway across the world to be processed, then shipped back to be sold right where it started. Mexican calves — fed imported American corn — are exported to the United States to be butchered, and then the meat is exported back to Mexico for sale. More than half of the seafood caught in Alaska gets processed in China, and much of it is sent right back to American grocery store shelves.

Compounding the insanity of this “re-importation” is the equally head-scratching phenomenon of “redundant trade”. This is a common practice whereby countries both import and export identical quantities of identical products in a given year. For instance, in 2007, Britain imported 15,000 tons of chocolate-covered waffles, while exporting 14,000 tons. In 2017, the US both imported and exported nearly 1.5 million tons of beef and nearly half a million tons of potatoes.

On the face of it, this kind of trade makes no economic sense. Why would it be worth the immense cost — in money as well as fuel — of sending perfectly good food abroad only to bring it right back again?

The answer lies in the way the global economy is structured. Direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuels, on the order of $5 trillion per year worldwide, allow the costs of shipping to be largely borne by taxpayers and the environment instead of the businesses that actually engage in it. This allows transnational corporations to take advantage of differences in labor and environmental laws between countries, not to mention tax loopholes, in service of making a bigger profit.

The consequences of this bad behavior are already severe, and set to become worse in the coming decades. Small farmers, particularly in the Global South, have seen their livelihoods undermined by influxes of cheap food from abroad. Trade agreements have made it impossible for companies to compete in the global economy unless they base their operations in places with the weakest protections for workers and the environment. And all the while, the share of global carbon emissions produced by commercial shipping is set to rise to 17 percent by 2050, if action isn’t taken to curb our addiction to trade.  But policymakers currently have little incentive to reduce unnecessary trade: bizarrely, emissions from global trade do not appear in any nation’s carbon accounting.

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Presentación del Archivo del Anarquismo en Colombia

Anarkismo - Thu, 03/28/2019 - 02:54
Presentación del Archivo del Anarquismo en Colombia
Charla: Síntesis histórica del Anarquismo en Colombia en 1920

Some Reflections on the Ōtautahi/ Christchurch Tragedy

Anarkismo - Mon, 03/25/2019 - 11:24
To really understand the nature of the occurrence of racism and white supremacy then the present system we live under, capitalism has to be examined, and how it has used racism and continues to use it, to its own benefit for controlling and dividing workers.

Con la memoria de lxs 30000… ¡Enfrentamos la avanzada reaccionaria en la región!

Anarkismo - Sat, 03/23/2019 - 14:28
Son 43 años de aquel funesto golpe que dejó como saldo la desaparición de 30.000 compañeros/as, el robo de bebés, torturas y demás atrocidades, y que impactó fuertemente en el tejido social dando comienzo a la instauración del modelo neoliberal en el país.
Recuperar la memoria histórica de aquel acontecimiento, a los/las compañeros/as caídos/as, hace a nuestra tarea militante no solo por la reivindicación de nuestro pasado, sino por las disputas y luchas que se están dando en el presente.

Nota de Solidariedade do XIII ELAOPA ao Povo Ka’apor da Amazônia Oriental

Anarkismo - Sat, 03/23/2019 - 14:19
Março de 2019 – Viamão-RS-Brasil
O Encontro Latino Americano de Organizações Populares Autônomas (ELAOPA) propõe solidariedade
aos Povos Indígenas Ka'apor da Amazônia Oriental do Noroeste Maranhense do Brasil na luta pela
recuperação e defesa do seu território contra a intensa ação ofensiva de madeireiras extrativistas e
diante da repressão do Estado Policial de Ajuste sobre as lideranças desse povo.

Declaración del XIII ELAOPA

Anarkismo - Sat, 03/23/2019 - 14:14
2 y 3 de marzo del 2019 – Viamão-RS-Brasil
Nosotros y nosotras, de las organizaciones reunidas en los días 2 y 3 de marzo del 2019 en el XIII Encuentro Latino Americano de Organizaciones Populares Autónomas, reafirmamos nuestro compromiso con las luchas de las y los de abajo, con independencia y solidaridad de clase, democracia de base y acción directa popular. Frente una realidad cada vez más dura para los y las oprimidas, de saqueo de derechos, precariedad de nuestra vida, avance conservador, criminalización y exterminio de los pobres, de los negros e indígenas, del feminicídio y de la lgbtttfobia, nos toca el ENFRENTAMIENTO y la RESISTENCIA


Declaração do XIII ELAOPA

Anarkismo - Sat, 03/23/2019 - 14:08
2 e 3 de março de 2019 – Viamaõ-RS-Brasil
Nós das organizações reunidas nos dias 02 e 03 de março de 2019 no XIII Encontro Latino Americano de Organizações Populares e Autônomas, reafirmamos nosso compromisso com as lutas dos de baixo, com independência e solidariedade de classe, democracia de base e ação direta popular. Frente a uma realidade cada vez mais dura para os e as oprimidas, de retirada de direitos, precarização de nossa vida, avanço conservador, criminalização e extermínio dos pobres, do povo negro e dos povos indígenas, do feminicídio e da lgbtttfobia, nos cabe o ENFRENTAMENTO e a RESISTÊNCIA.


Balance concentración en defensa de la JEP y los acuerdos de paz. 2019/03/13

Anarkismo - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 23:41
En la tarde del pasado miércoles 13 de marzo se realizó una concentración en defensa de la Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (JEP), ante las objeciones que el gobierno de Iván Duque del Centro Democrático, presento a puntos sustanciales de esta legislación, surgida en marco del proceso de paz entre el gobierno de Juan Manuel Santos con la antigua insurgencia de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), proceso al que Duque y su partido se opusieron de forma sistemática y hoy en el poder se han propuesta “hacer trizas” de forma progresiva.

Balance de la movilización del 8 de marzo de 2019

Anarkismo - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 23:37
El pasado viernes 8 de marzo, se realizó una nueva jornada de protesta feminista por el día internacional de las mujeres trabajadoras y la convocatoria del paro internacional de mujeres. En la ciudad de Bogotá, aunque se sucedieron diversos actos en universidades públicas y sindicatos, la principal actividad del día giro en torno a la movilización nocturna de entre 3.000 y 5.000 personas, mayoritariamente mujeres, por el centro de la ciudad, en la que ya es de hecho la movilización feminista más grande de la historia reciente en la capital.

[Solidaridad con la Minga Social por la Defensa de la Vida, el Territorio, la Justicia, la Democracia y la Paz]

Anarkismo - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 13:11
Oigan bien señores y señoras, de por allá en las esferas del poder: Que sus miradas se vuelquen al Suroccidente colombiano; que sus miedos aparezcan donde se creía que no había dignidad; que sus pesadillas comiencen en donde se creía no existían sueños, allá, donde se creía que no había corazones ni manos ni pies para andar, para caminar y para dignificar. Allá, en el Suroccidente colombiano, que tantas veces ha sido atacado, estigmatizado y condenado, hoy vuelve a renacer, florecer y a arder, porque las comunidades y los pueblos de aquella Colombia profunda han vuelto a levantarse después de 1500 acuerdos firmados con Gobiernos de hace más de 20 años.

New Zealand Suspect’s Actions Are Logical Conclusion of Calling Immigrants “Invaders”

Anarkismo - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 09:17
BRENTON TARRANT, WHO stands accused of killing 50 adults and children at two mosques in New Zealand last week, wants us to know what inspired his actions. Before livestreaming his massacre of Muslim worshipers, he composed a lengthy document that proudly advocates the murder of innocent people in the name of racial purity. The manifesto is predictably disturbing. It is the work of a nihilist who sees a world so bleak and hopeless that it could be improved through acts of mass murder. There is one word in the 74-page document, however, that stood out to me: “invader.”

The Reality Behind Trump’s Coalition for Regime Change in Venezuela

Anarkismo - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 09:02
Some of the governments supporting Trump's plan to starve Venezuela into submission are none too savory, themselves.

Un Nuevo 8 de Marzo: Por un Feminismo de Clase y de Abajo

Anarkismo - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 11:39
Carta Opinión fAu 8 de Marzo 2019
No es lo mismo una trabajadora o desocupada que una milica que reprime en los barrios a las hijas e hijos de las trabajadoras. Este es el día de la mujer de abajo, muchas veces sostén económico del hogar, que se encarga de la crianza de sus hijos e hijas, de las tareas de la casa, entre otras cosas, sin valorización de todo ese trabajo. Hay una cuestión de clase que marca una línea divisoria. No es el día de todas las mujeres, es el día de la mujer que marcha junto a los oprimidos con sus sueños de un mundo distinto y mejor.


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