Now more than ever we need organising that is:
Donald Trump’s victory in the US elections, following the recent Brexit vote, creates a whole new political climate in the West.
Since the 1980s, working class people have suffered a massive attack with the loss of traditional industries, in favour of low-paid service jobs, and the destruction of the labour movement. The neoliberal model that was created was based on growth through the financial sector and it led to the 2008 economic crisis.
When the UK government bailed out the banks it forced us to shoulder the cost through austerity, cutting vital services and targetting the most vulnerable.
The left responded to post-crisis austerity first through mass protest around the world, and then the rise of several populist movements seeking parliamentary power. One by one, they have been defeated or have so far been unable to provide any real challenge.
And now things are about to get worse.
There are many uncertainties – what will Brexit mean? how will Trump govern? What we can expect in the UK is that austerity will go on, even if the aim is no longer to cut the deficit, and real wages will continue to decline.
Both Brexit and Trump’s presidency are a victory for the far right. Immigration to the UK will be curbed and border controls will become even more cruel. Racism against ethnic minorities will be reinforced by the tabloid media as the nationalist dream fails to appear.
Of course, we know that migrants don’t lower wages – bosses do.
From a capitalist perspective, immigration is essential for growth and running services like the NHS. It was never migration that caused a decline in living standards but capital’s pursuit of profit through outsourcing and financialisation.
For many in Scotland, the prospect of a second Independence referendum is seen as the chance to escape the Brexit nightmare. But we shouldn’t be complacent.
Scotland is unlikely to become independent before the UK leaves the European Union. The Scottish Government would then have to make even more cuts. And although the SNP are in favour of immigration, they want to control it with a points-based system which is likely to become more strict as times goes on.
Across Europe, including the Nordic countries which many Scots wish to emulate, we have seen the growth in popularity of anti-immigrant and far right parties.
Against the squeezing of working class living standards, and the racist divisions created among us, we should not trust in a ‘better nationalism’ whose social democratic facade is fading. We need a return of militancy and of workers’ solidarity across borders.
What can we do?
There are already important groups in Glasgow, run from the bottom up, who provide solidarity to all migrants. The Unity Centre offers practical support and advice to asylum seekers and migrants, including those detained in UK Detention Centres. They receive no funding and would really welcome your donation. You can also train to volunteer there, or support their appeals to protest deportations.
We will rise is a group of asylum seekers, migrants, and allies who campaign to end immigration detention in the UK. They have organised several protests at Dungavel Detention Centre and we can expect more in the future. The UK government’s plan to build a new detention centre at Glasgow Airport was recently rejected by councillors after protests. We need to make sure that any new attempts to build detention centres are stopped, and that resistance to detention is increased.
You can also provide accommodation for refugees, even if only for a short time, by contacting groups such as Positive Action in Housing.
We need to take seriously the growth of the far right. This covers everything from the more ‘respectable’ anti-immigration politics like UKIP to actual fascist groups. In this climate, their message will be amplified if we don’t resist them.
We must respect that a diversity of tactics will be used to counter them, including the usual marches, as well as disrupting their meetings and direct action. Left groups and workers’ organisations should work from below to co-ordinate effective actions, rather than allowing any one front organisation to dominate. We should also challenge the tabloid media who fuel a hatred of migrants, and support alternative grassroots media.
However difficult it can sometimes feel, the most important thing we can do is to organise as workers in our workplaces, and in our communities, for concrete demands. It is through militant collective action, without relying on bureaucrats or politicians, that we will bring about real change. Without regaining our power to disrupt capitalism we will be defenceless, and even ‘social democratic’ electoralism will be under no pressure to provide the reforms it promised.
But we shouldn’t wait for an election or a referendum sometime in the future for the changes we need now. Our demands should be universal: homes for all, sanctuary for all, food for all, properly funded healthcare for everyone – whether you are a ‘citizen’ or not. What’s stopping us?
Capitalism is internationalist, and so should our resistance be. The stronger our links with militant workers across Europe and around the world, with the capacity to block supply chains and spread our struggles, the more of a threat we’ll be.
What is the IWW?
We are a bottom-up, revolutionary union for all workers, with no paid officials and controlled by the membership. Get in touch if you want to come to a branch meeting or take part in our organising trainings. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | http://www.iww.org.uk
Click here for a shortened pdf version of the St Andrew’s Day leaflet.
IWW members in Scotland are excited about the presence of the union in Ireland and want to do our best to support organising there. Irish FW Morgan Brannigan wrote this report at a recent conference conference, Ireland and the Wobbly World – Irish Labour Radicals and the IWW in the early 20th Century, held at NUI Galway 11-12 November. We look forward to finding our more about our shared Wobbly heritage.
The Conference, hosted by the Irish Centre for Histories of Labour and Class, yielded some fascinating material and most /all talks will be uploaded as recordings and might be published as well. I would recommend a listen.
Proceedings opened with Labour Historian Francie Devine singing ‘Joe Hill’, and in the course of his talk he wondered how many Irish Wobs there might still be about – a FW in Liverpool having enquired. It was good to be able to clarify that there was organising going on, and it gave me a chance to plug the meeting and stall.
Overall, what came through strongly in the papers and discussions was the ingenuity and endurance of Wobs in general, with the Irish ones as the focus. I came across many figures I’d never heard of and have much follow up reading to do. It was striking how much people sacrificed in the past and we should gain strength from this: it certainly made me think about what I consider to be ‘risk’, compared with what many endured.
There was discussion about how the IWW influenced Connolly and Larkin’s thinking, and an attempt at unpicking the tides which have flowed back and forth throughout history and across the globe. So while, of necessity, the conference focussed on Irish migrants, the impact of other similarly oppressed groups on the IWW was evident throughout – underscoring the relevance of the world wide aspiration put forward by the union.
I was particularly taken with Kristin Lawlor’s analysis of Gurley Flynn’s formulation of sabotage as “conscious withdrawal of efficiency” and there was a good discussion of the role of mobile phones, internet etc. as a means of oppression today, and as a site of disruption. Interesting stuff too on South Africa. I also learned of Patrick Read who has an astounding history of activism, two points among many on him, he played a major role in the Lincoln Brigade, in the Spanish Civil War – which was written out of history – and he was the first to write a critique of Hill’s music. Which leads me to my next point…
There were papers given at an event in a Galway pub on Friday night and singing afterwards. The music of Joe Hill, songs of the Spanish Civil War, and James Connolly, among others were given an airing. Someone called for a Leonard Cohen song, as his death had been announced that day, and I did the Partisan, not sure what the French at the end was like, but the point was a few people who came over to talk at the stall the next day mentioned the singing, and we got into useful discussion on the back of it. This brought home to me the centrality of music in our union, and the wisdom of the early Wobs in putting it at the heart of our activity.
FW Steve Thornton who runs the Shoeleather History Project is doing a piece on the conference for Industrial Worker and said he will have something on our organising meeting in the article, along with a photo of Alexis Kelly’s banner, which I have to say was a major hit!
The organisers were happy to promote the IWW presence and very welcoming. The stall was visited by probably all conference attendees and a number of students throughout the two days. Leaflets and banner were left up throughout, and I did merchandise in the breaks. I’d have liked to have had a chance to talk to cleaners and other workers in NUI, but I didn’t get round to it, though perhaps they got leaflets.
The public meeting had maybe ten attending, and April Maria Sheehan Corkery came up from Cork to provide moral support which was most appreciated. I spoke about why I joined the IWW at the tender age of 53, traced a disillusionment with business unions, and a history comprising growing up in a community in the North of Ireland, with an antipathy to the state (which I’m convinced was mutual), seeing the subtler oppressions while living in Dublin, and my own developing analysis which convinces me of the bankruptcy of ‘representation’ and the need for an organised working class.
The first line of the preamble is what ‘sold’ the IWW to me, and I explored that as a theme, along with the model of industrial democracy. There were questions on this, and on recent successes like Deliveroo. I’m not sure if we gained any members in Galway but it generated the message that the IWW is organising in Ireland, and some useful contacts were made. Overall, I’m pleased to get my first public meeting over and done with, to have learned more Wobbly history, and to see a bit more clearly how similar is the struggle of 100 years ago to that of today.
For the One Big Union,
Download link (pdf):sewn_leaflet_for_web_use
The Edinburgh Branch of the IWW extends our solidarity to Scotrail workers and RMT members across Britain over the issue of Driver Only
Operated (DOO) trains . We support this strike on the principle of an
Injury to One is an Injury to All.
The move to DOO trains will mean that without conductors, drivers cannot ensure the safety of passengers(especially the disabled) and further , drivers are put in a more risky and dangerous position themselves. Clearly Scotrail and other train companies across Britain are putting profit before safety, describing this move as “competitive” and “modernisation” and looking behind the rhetoric we can see that this is an attempt to open the way to future attacks on jobs and conditions.
This attack, this putting profit before people is in essence no different from the 19th century workhouse-like conditions of Sports Direct warehouses or the recent cuts in hours and pay for retail workers with the increased Minimum Wage.All we can learn from these instances is what should be by now plainly obvious- that the working class and the employing class have nothing in common. Our interests are not just different but opposing factors within society.
Are we in the 21st century or the 18th? We do not need to tell you the importance of education for both individual development and flourishing communities. But over half of academics are on insecure contracts, nearly half of UK universities use zero hours contracts for teaching and approaching 50 years after the equal pay act women academics still earn £6100 per year less than their male colleagues.
We applaud you for taking action to end casualisation and the gender pay gap as part of your pay campaign and offer you our support and solidarity. Fighting discrimination and inequality are important to the IWW. We also recognise that your campaign on pay, casualisation and the gender pay gap is part of a wider struggle for the type of education we want, which is free to everyone, embedded in communities and encourages thinking and asking awkward questions, not privatised and opened up to short term profiteers, as encouraged by the Westminster government white paper.
Endorsed by Edinburgh IWW, Clydeside IWW and Scottish Education Workers Network (SEWN)
For more information on the strike: ‘What is this dispute about?’ (UCU)