Friday, 29 November 2013
Learning from the school of struggle
As I’ve travelled through political ideas and seen struggles come about develop and fade and paying particular interest to how workers learn as they struggle is fascinating in my opinion. For me there are no set modes of struggles we must take. Experience and lessons from all different forms of struggles. We must be flexible and open to new and different ideas on the ground not be fed from the top down what is neceesary to win. What may win for one strike and struggle may not for another. During times of austerity there is lots of ways to fight back whether it is through our unions or outside community campaigns or simply organising ourselves. To find ways to encourage and support workplace militants find space for them to flourish and develop is key. Learning as we go is not just simply making it up as we go along that is missing the point but what I am trying to say is we do simply learn as we go and that there is no blueprint that is predefined that will see us win every time. During a time of labour history where we are seeing defeat after defeat on the whole finding new ways to struggle and involving new methods and new ideas should not be feared. Everything starts small and organising very small campaigns can lead to small victories and can build confidence. Confidence is very important in labour struggles and must be encouraged at all times I feel. Building links with workers in the same workplace is vital to knocking down barriers of sectors. Building links with users of a service and the workers and focusing on a strong media campaign including a social media presence can really mobilise many people if they are fully engaged and drawn into a democratic campaign. There is no blueprint as I said to win and to struggle but we should be open to all ideas working in and outside of the traditional union structures. If a union bureaucracy will not budge or actively support a struggle then we should not waste our time in trying to use vital energy and resources to reform them but why not go around them and organise outside the grips of the union bureaucracy. We can win and have we have won. It’s important we promote and celebrate our past victories but also learn from them and how we can improve our ways and means of struggle over vital things that are all under threat today. Things are constantly changing and this is no different for unions and labour organising. Of course we cannot put the horse before the cart we must not try and skip stages and avoid the solid hard work that is built up over time its important to engage with all on the ground. Things will change on the ground very quickly so we must be open and fluid to change and to change our own tactics to adapt to the new situations. Trying new things and them not working is not something to shout down but it is important to learn from our mistakes find out what works and what doesn’t so well. By learning as we struggle we can learn to struggle to win. This is not an easy thing to do and will take time to develop links with unions and union militants. A crucial lesson is that we do not have to rely on our leaders who are often self appointed we can start to organise today from where we are. We cannot be held hostage by the past we must look forward and learn from the past. The future is there for the taking if we are open minded and confidence in our own power as workers taking action to win and to improve our lot. With trade unions today they may seem useless and in many ways they are today but are still huge organisations I would suggest that we don’t trust our unions but use them for our own ends. Unions have huge resources and should be working for us. But we must remember their role within capitalism of managing struggles and managing defeats to their memberships. Strike action is not the be all and end all but is the workers most powerful weapon available and can’t be ignored for its importance. Building militancy is possible and workplace wide meetings is one way I would suggest this with a democratic non hierarchical structure in place where no leads are able to co opt the movement. By keeping all involved at all times and not allowing any particular individual or party to take control of a struggle is very important for me where there is huge dis trust of hierocracy then a need for democracy and rank and file control at all times is vital. We must be aware of the conflict between rank-and-file workers and the union leadership who have separate interests in fact the leadership and the officials have a interest to maintain the right to negotiate with the boss’s this is not the same interest the rank-and-file workers do. Remembering this is important t recognise that unions are not one big body of people al seeing things the same way as it’s a traditional hierocracy mans that there are different interests at different levels within the union itself different layers of workers and officials all fighting for their own ends. Lastly I’d just like to say well done to the 3 cosas campaign at ULU in London who have organised fantastically this week in 48 hour strike action and with over 120 workers out on strike more on the 2nd day than the first and over £5000 raised for their hardship fund all away from the traditional unions such as Unison the union many who are now with the independent union IWGB have already started to win and will win again as their material states they are hugely determined to win and I think they will personally. Solidarity to them and all involved in the campaign this week and going forward.