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Brexit

Every challenge can be overcome: 6 ideas for getting started

By staff - LibCom, December 13, 2019

There is no time for hopelessness. Here are some ideas for what we can do – now – to fight back against the attacks we know are coming.

The results are in and it 's a solid majority for the most viciously right-wing Tory party in a generation. The time for a proper post-mortem will come, but right now we need to think what we – as a movement and individuals within that movement – do next.

There’s no need to go into great detail about what’s coming because we know: “points-based” migration, seizing travellers’ possessions, and a hard Brexit with their bonfire of rights and regulations are all right there in the manifesto.

And their plans for the NHS and (not) dealing with climate change are clear as day, no matter what they’ve put in the manifesto.

It’s clear, then, that as a class we will have to mobilise. Labour activists have put hundreds of thousands of activist hours – even millions, probably – into campaigning for a Corbyn government: canvassing, phone banking, travelling to marginals; not to mention the past four years of CLP meetings, arguing over deselections and reselections.

Whatever our differences over this use of time, money and energy (we were skeptical), the fact of the matter is this: we cannot spend the next five years like we’ve spent the last four.

When Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, he and his supporters promised to build a “social movement”. That has, quite plainly, not materialised. Aside from the lack of movement infrastructure (unions, community organisations, etc), the most worrying evidence of this is that 2017 saw the lowest number of workers taking strike action since records began.

We cannot spend the next five years on internal Labour Party politicking in the hopes of possibly winning an election in 2025. The stakes over the next few years are too high. No politician is coming to save us from disaster; the task, as it always has been, is ours alone.

Syndicalism for the Twenty-First Century: From Unionism to Class-Struggle Militancy

By Gabriel Kuhn and Torsten Bewernitz - CounterPunch, December 6, 2019

The capitalism we grew up in has collapsed. Its democratic mask has become transparent and its social pretensions hollow. In times of crisis, capitalism resembles a wounded predator and attacks indiscriminately. Crises also open up new possibilities for workers’ resistance, but this needs organizations that can sustain it. The last decade has painfully shown that such organizations do not exist. Capitalism’s current crisis is far from over, though. There is still a chance.

We are both active in syndicalist organizations. One of us in the German Free Workers’ Union, FAU, the other in the Central Organization of Workers in Sweden, SAC. In this text, we raise the question of where the future of syndicalist organizations lies. Our proposal might seem ironic: in order to save syndicalism’s mass orientation, the focus on unionism needs to be overcome.

Since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, the Brexit referendum, and the rise of the extreme right in various European and Latin American countries, there have been plenty of discussions about the left having lost touch with the working class. Oddly enough, syndicalists are largely absent from this debate, although the syndicalist tradition would predestine them to be an important voice in it and offer practical experience. When leftist pundits discuss what is often referred to as a “new class politics,” they regularly evoke inherent aspects of the syndicalist tradition, from direct action and self-management to horizontalism and internationalism.

Yet, syndicalists must blame themselves for their absence. “Real syndicalism” has largely become cliquish, paranoid, and self-marginalizing. The rejection and hostility that we experience from mainstream unions goes a certain way to explain this but not all of it.

One reason for the state of the syndicalist movement is that syndicalists dogmatically adhere to a particular form of organization that, with very few exceptions, hasn’t proven successful in almost a hundred years: the syndicalist mass union. Let’s be honest: if syndicalist unions that have existed for several decades struggle to have four-digit membership numbers, they have failed as aspiring mass unions. The Spanish CGT, with close to 100.000 members, is the only syndicalist union that can claim mass support today – and it is often accused of “reformism,” or even “traitorism,” by other syndicalist unions.

Syndicalist unions aren’t benefiting from the current crisis of mainstream unions, which organize no more than ten percent of the global proletariat. This although neoliberalism has given rise to a new army of “unorganizable” workers (today often called the “precariat”) who filled the ranks of the syndicalist mass unions a century ago. In short, revolutionary syndicalism as we know it might be a thing of the past. In order for it to survive, it needs to be reinvented.

Minuscule unions cannot be the answer. Militant workers’ organizations, however, might be. A union with a thousand members can only have limited impact; a class-struggle organization with a thousand members can have a huge impact if they are committed militants and organizers.

The dogmatic syndicalist attachment to the mass union is based on a false interpretation of history. Syndicalism’s ultimate goal was not to establish mass unions. Syndicalism’s ultimate goal was to establish a classless society, or, as many a syndicalist preamble declares, “libertarian socialism.” A hundred years ago, building mass unions appeared to be a viable means to reach this goal. Today, it does not. This doesn’t discredit the syndicalist idea of strengthening worker’s self-organization and solidarity in order to fight capital and the state. It only means that syndicalism has to express itself in other forms.

Manifesto for a new popular internationalism in Europe

By various - ReCommonsEurope, May 26, 2019

In the last ten years, popular anger has expressed itself without interruption against discriminatory and anti-democratic policies in favour of the rich and big companies - policies implemented by national governments and often coordinated by the European Union (EU). It has taken the form of initiatives by trade unions, but also by new movements such as ‘15M’ in Spain (also called in other countries the movement of the ‘Indignados’), the occupation of the squares in Greece and the huge demonstrations in Portugal in 2011, the movements against the “Loi Travail” (Labour law) in France and against the Water Tax in Ireland in 2016, the great demonstrations for autonomy and against political repression in Catalonia in 2017. Feminist struggles gave rise to the historic demonstrations in Poland (« Czarny Protest » against the anti-abortion law in 2017), Italy (« Non Una di Meno » movement since 2016), Spain (feminist general strike of 5 million people on the 8th March 2018), as well as a victory over the political influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland with the legalisation of abortion by referendum in May 2018, and are at last succeeding in imposing their centrality in all social struggles.

The year 2018 also saw the emergence of new social movements against the dominant economic and political order, with the movement against the « slavery law » (neoliberal reform of labour laws) in Hungary, the demonstration and development of the « Indivisible » antiracist movement in Germany, the Yellow Vests movement in France and French-speaking Belgium against unjust fiscal policies and the lack of democracy in political institutions. Nor should we forget the climate demonstrations, driven mainly by young people who have gone on strike in many countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, France and Great Britain. All these social movements, and others, have challenged the austerity measures and authoritarianism of the policies being implemented in Europe, by posing directly or indirectly the question of a radical alternative social project to capitalism, productivism, ecological devastation, racism and patriarchy. This Manifesto sees itself as an integral part these movements and shares their objectives: the struggle against all forms of domination, for universal rights, for equality and for a democracy to be invented – a democracy which would not stop at the gates of companies and the threshold of working-class areas, and which would necessarily be radically opposed to the logic of a capitalist system (whether the latter claims to be ‘protectionist’, and so against ‘foreigners’, or ‘liberal’) which is destroying social rights and the environment.

Read the report (PDF).

TUC Congress 2017: UK Unions to Vote on Public Ownership of Energy, Climate Crisis

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, August 25, 2017

The annual conference of the 5.7 million member TUC will take place on September 10-13, 2017 in Brighton.  The Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union (BAFWU) has submitted a resolution that calls on the TUC to “work with the Labour Party and others that advocate for an end to the UK’s rigged energy system to bring it back into public ownership and democratic control.”  Amendments to the resolution have been submitted by the Communication Workers Union,  Fire Brigades Union, the train drivers union ASLEF, and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association. 

Resolution 10

Congress notes the irrefutable evidence that dangerous climate change is driving unprecedented changes to our environment such as the devastating flooding witnessed in the UK in 2004.

Congress further notes the risk to meeting the challenge of climate change with the announcement of Donald Trump to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement. Similarly, Brexit negotiations and incoherent UK government policy risk undermining measures to achieve the UK carbon reduction targets.

Congress welcomes the report by the Transnational Institute Reclaiming Public Services: how cities and citizens are turning back privatization, which details the global trend to remunicipalise public services including energy.

Congress believes that to combat climate change effectively and move towards a low-carbon economy we cannot leave this to the markets and therefore need a strong role for the public sector in driving the measures needed to undertake this transition.

Globalization and the End of the Labor Aristocracy

By Jayati Ghosh - Dollars and Sense, March/April 2017

Twenty-first century imperialism has changed its form. In the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it was explicitly related to colonial control; in the second half of the 20th century it relied on a combination of geopolitical and economic control deriving also from the clear dominance of the United States as the global hegemon and leader of the capitalist world (dealing with the potential threat from the Communist world). It now relies more and more on an international legal and regulatory architecture—fortified by various multilateral and bilateral agreements—to establish the power of capital over labor. This has involved a “grand bargain,” no less potent for being implicit, between different segments of capital. Capitalist firms in the developing world gained some market access (typically intermediated by multinational capital) and, in return, large capital in highly developed countries got much greater protection and monopoly power, through tighter enforcement of intellectual property rights and greater investment protections.

These measures dramatically increased the bargaining power of capital relative to labor, globally and in every country. In the high-income countries, this eliminated the “labor aristocracy” first theorised by the German Marxist theorist Karl Kautsky in the early 20th century. The concept of the labor aristocracy derived from the idea that the developed capitalist countries, or the “core” of global capitalism, could extract superprofits from impoverished workers in the less developed “periphery.” These surpluses could be used to reward workers in the core, relative to those in the periphery, and thereby achieve greater social and political stability in the core countries. This enabled northern capitalism to look like a win-win economic system for capital and labor (in the United States, labor relations between the late 1940s and the 1970s, for example, were widely termed a “capital-labor accord”). Today, the increased bargaining power of capital and the elimination of the labor aristocracy has delegitimated the capitalist system in the rich countries of the global North.

Increasing inequality, the decline in workers’ incomes, the decline or absence of social protections, the rise of material insecurity, and a growing alienation from government have come to characterise societies in both developed and developing worlds. These sources of grievance have found political expression in a series of unexpected electoral outcomes (including the “Brexit” vote in the UK and the election of Trump in the United States). The decline of the labor aristocracy—really, its near collapse—has massive implications, as it undermines the social contract that made global capitalism so successful in the previous era. It was the very foundation of political stability and social cohesion within advanced capitalist countries, which is now breaking down, and will continue to break down without a drastic restructuring of the social and economic order. The political response to this decline has been expressed primarily in the rise of right-wing, xenophobic, sectarian, and reactionary political tendencies.

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