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The Struggle for Kobane: an Example of Selective Solidarity

By Leila Al Shami - LeilaShrooms, October 20, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The heroic resistance of the people of Kobane in fighting the onslaught of the Daesh (ISIS) fascists since mid-September, has led to a surge of international solidarity. A multitude of articles and statements have been written and protests have been held in cities across the world. Kurds have flooded across the Turkish border to help their compatriots in the fight despite being brutally pushed back by Turkish forces, and others including Turkish comrades from DAF (Revolutionary Anarchist Action) have gone to the border to support in keeping it open to help the flood of refugees escaping to Turkey. There have been calls to arm Kurdish forces and calls to support DAF and send aid for refugees.  Yet this solidarity with Syria’s Kurds has not been extended to non-Kurdish groups in the country that have been fighting, and dying, to rid themselves of fascism and violent repression and for freedom and self-determination. It’s often said incorrectly, that sectarianism lies at the heart of the Syrian conflict. It’s necessary to understand to what extent sectarianism plays a role in our response too.

The protest movement that erupted against Bashar Al Assad in 2011 united people across Syria’s diverse ethnic and religious spectrum in a common struggle for freedom.  Kobane was no exception. The Kurds who are the majority in the town had long suffered under the Arabization policies of the Baathist regime, and were amongst the first to rise up when the Syrian revolution began. In this protest from mid-2012 Kurds and Arabs in Kobane jointly call for the downfall of the regime and chant in support of the Free Syrian Army, raising the Kurdish flag at a time when this was a dangerous act of defiance. But from its earliest days the Syrian protest movement in Kobane and elsewhere failed to gain international support. Had it done so the country would not have been destroyed to such a degree that ISIS could have taken control of large areas.

Over the past three years, relations between Syria’s Arabs and Kurds have been fragile and changeable, subject to both the Assad regime’s manipulation of ethnic divisions, and to the misguided political machinations of opposition politicians from both groups who have put their own interests and agendas above the people’s vision of freedom. Yet, in spite of this activists on the ground have continued to stress the importance of Kurdish-Arab popular unity and to resist ethnic and sectarian divisions. Few international solidarity statements have mirrored these calls.

Syndicalism: An International and Historical Perspective (Dek Keenan)

By Dek Keenan - Zabalaza Books, October 12, 2014

This paper will introduce syndicalism both as an historical international phenomenon and as a contemporary international model and movement. It presupposes very little knowledge of, but hopefully some substantial interest in, the subject on the part of the reader.

What does Syndicalism mean to us as labour movement activists? It may mean the million workers in the Spanish CNT fighting with a new world in their hearts during the Spanish Civil War. It may mean the legendary Industrial Workers of the World organising the One Big Union across craft and trade, race and gender lines. It may mean a vast movement of workers across Latin America during the first half of the 20th Century. It may mean Starbucks baristas fighting today to build unions in coffee houses in New York and Santiago. But it very possibly means none of these things.

Because syndicalism constitutes one of the least understood currents in the workers movement. And yet syndicalism was the driving force of immense and powerful labour movements across the globe in the first decades of the 20th Century; from Argentina to Japan and from Australia to Portugal workers gathered under its flag. And today it represents a small, but growing, part of the international labour movement; albeit one that remains unduly obscure and marginal.

Of course, for speakers of a Romance language syndicalism will be recognised as simply the word for ‘unionism’. So, when we talk of syndicalism in the context of this paper we are actually talking about revolutionary syndicalism and, later on, anarcho-syndicalism. Revolutionary syndicalism or revolutionary unionism (I will for brevity use the term syndicalism to indicate revolutionary syndicalism throughout this paper) emerged in the latter part of the 19th century as an alternative vision to the dominant unionism which had developed and which were aligned with social democratic political parties or which simply followed a class collaborationist line. Syndicalists, aware of the failure of this form of unionism to defend the interests of workers and generally informed by socialist ideas, of both anarchist and Marxist origin (Darlington, 2013), looked to establishing workers’ organisations that would provide both day to day resistance to the bosses and a structure able to establish a new society based on a collectivised system of worker-managed production and distribution. In the United States and Canada this vision tended to be described as Revolutionary Industrial Unionism rather than syndicalism, but this can be understood as a ‘local’ variant of syndicalism re-named to reflect a notion of advanced industrial development (Dubofsky, 1969).

Syndicalists took diverse routes in building such organisations, sometimes based upon federations of small trade and even craft unions, sometimes upon national industry-wide unions and sometimes co-ordinated in one big union (e.g. Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the United States and globally). What they shared, however, were the following common characteristics.

Wall Street is Fertile Ground for a Movement

By Dave Lindorf - CounterPunch, September 24, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

There were many extraordinary moments during both Sunday’s huge climate march through mid-Manhattan and Monday’s more militant protest in Lower Manhattan’s financial district, from the little boy marching with a tambourine that had “This Machine Kills Fascists” written around its edge to the bored policeman along the march route blowing a huge bubble from the gum he was chewing, but perhaps the most telling occurred in the early afternoon on Monday, when, as several thousand climate action protesters sat or milled around, penned into several blocks of Broadway by hundreds of linked-together metal police barricades, (MH) astride a pair of telephone booths began an impromptu IWW rant.

The day before, during the big march down Central Park West, Sixth Avenue and across 42nd Street, those phone booths had been favored vantage points for photographers, dancing young women and people just trying to get a better view of the march. Bored cops standing along the parade route would chat and joke with those perched above. But this time (MH), dressed in black and standing in sight of the big bronze Wall Street Bull sculpture, and just several blocks down Broadway from Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange building, was shouting out a call for workers to unite, rise up and overthrow the capitalist system. It was just too much for the police who were guarding the barricades to segregate people so those on the street couldn’t leave and so supporters on the sidewalk couldn’t join the protest.

A dozen of the cops came over to the nine-foot-tall phone booths, surrounding them, and demanded that the (MH) come down. He ignored them, realizing that they couldn’t reach him, and went on to finish his speech, which was relayed phrase by phrase via the “human mic” technique perfected three years earlier by the Occupy Wall Street movement. When he was done, he paced around on his perch like a rooster, looking down at the surrounding cops, and then suddenly made his break.

Leaping over the cops and some of the surrounding protest supporters, he managed to land on his feet on the sidewalk and started running. Protesters closed ranks behind him, slowing down the cops who all began chasing after him.

At that point, all the police guarding the metal barriers took off after the young man too. Eventually this police horde caught up with (MH), and leapt on him like a rugby scrum. I don’t know what happened to him in the end. He was probably arrested and charged tautologically with resisting arrest, but for what violation I don’t know since, as the events of the day before proved that just standing on a phone booth was not illegal or cause for arrest; apparently only making a leftist speech from one is a “crime.”

But this anonymous orator’s escape attempt turned out to be an unintended act of liberation. As soon as the majority of police lit out after him, abandoning their posts for the opportunity to finally pummel someone, people on the sidewalk and in the street spontaneously, with no organized encouragement, began unhooking the gates separating them. On the west side of Broadway, people carried the gate segments around a corner and down a side street out of sight. On the east side of the street, the sections were piled in a heap on top of each other, after which protesters scaled them and sat down. The gates were never replaced by police, and the attempt to fence in the protest collapsed.

A Sea of Black Flags

By Max Perkins - Boston IWW, September 28, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Truly the most amazing thing I have ever been a part of, the Peoples’ Climate March in New York City was beyond the biggest mass of activists I have ever seen. Have you ever seen 200-300 Anarchists before? WOW! From every part of the country and from all over the world. The day started with meeting up with our wonderful comrades from NY Black Rose / Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation, who did an amazing job organizing our Anti-Capitalist contingent. At 11:30 we started masking up, assembling our banners, unraveling our flags and meeting each other, then marched to meet 2-3 other groups that had been assembling between 90th St. and 87th St. by Central Park West. A beautiful day was in store. Never have I seen so many diverse groups: 350.org, Indigenous Rights activists, Vets for Peace, just to name a few. We assembled near the contingent from the Revolutionary Communist Party (Bob Avakian’s followers). This was at first very tense. A fight almost started when one of our comrades was explaining that a cult of personality is counter-revolutionary. However the issue was resolved peacefully.

Looking around me was stunning: A sea of black flags, red and black flags, also hundreds of folks of all ages and backgrounds — simply the most comrades I have ever seen in the US or in once place. Chanting, and singing a beautiful version of “Solidarity Forever,” the march began around 1-2 pm. It took hours for the first contingents to reach the end of the march, and even longer for us. The highlights included screaming up at the Banks, and most especially at Fake Fox News. So many people were asking, “Who are you?” And the reply was “We are Anarchists! Oh we need more of you! Yes we do!” The march was amazing and peaceful with much support for us, many people taking pictures and cheering us on. At one point a huge group of young POC on bikes saw us and there was a massive show of anti-police solidarity. Wonderful!

The march continued to Times Square, with wave upon wave of dedicated activists and no loss of energy. The changes never stopped and my voice was really gone. The follow up to this is that we made a huge statement, but received no press (not that we were seeking it, but to have so many of us (Anarchists) together, you would think that maybe someone would say something, but alas NO!). Coverage seemed, as is common, to focus on the “big” groups. Even Democracy Now did not mention the Anarchist involvement in the march. I feel that it means we have to work harder to bring the message to the people that this should not be a one-time thing, but a regular occurrence, for people forget all too quickly, and carry on with their lives as if nothing happened. Today I have been corresponding with Fellow Workers, including FW Maria, from the IWW’s Washington DC Branch, who like me wants to see better communication and solidarity actions that include many branches. Our struggle continues, and until we reach our goal of a world free from the shackles of Capitalist oppression we must carry on. For an Injury to One (planet) is truly an Injury to All! Solidarity Forever, and special thanks to Maria, DC IWW, NY Black Rose and Polish Anarchists, and any others who helped make this happen.

Indigenous Anarchist Critique of Bolivia’s ‘Indigenous State': Interview with Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui

By Bill Weinberg - Upside Down World, September 7, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Originally published on June 7, 2014 at World War 4 Report, with a shorter version on May 26, 2014 at Indian Country Today Media Network.

Bolivian historian and social theorist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui is author of the classic work Oppressed But Not Defeated: Peasant Struggles Among the Aymara and Quechua in Bolivia, and has recently emerged as one of the country’s foremost critics of President Evo Morales from an indigenous perspective. Indian Country Today Media Network spoke with her in New York City, where she recently served as guest chair of Latin American studies at New York University’s King Juan Carlos Center. The complete text of the interview appears for the first time on World War 4 Report.

What are you doing here in New York City?

I have been invited as chair of Latin American studies by the King Juan Carlos Center, which is sort of funny, it sounds like a horrible place for me. But Spain should give us back a little bit of what they took! And my salary is like a millionth part of what they owe us.

And what are you doing now in Bolivia?

I used to teach at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, which is the biggest public university in Bolivia. And I was very much involved in university politics, because I was trying to fight corruption in the university. In 2005, I had a 15-day-long hunger strike, and we managed to kick the dean out. But he left a lot of corruptos were still there, and I was forced to retire.

Since then, I have been doing community things, trying to network and create micro-politics… Since I wrote my study on anarchism, I discovered the importance of community to politics, as opposed to the individualist liberal conception…

What was the title?

Los Artesanos Libertarios y la Ética de Trabajo (Libertarian Artisans and the Work Ethic), based on oral history.

What kind of artisans?

Shoe-makers, carpenters, masons. In La Paz. They founded the Local Workers Federation. The foundation date is uncertain. We more or less think it was 1926 or ’27. ..

An anarcho-syndicalist federation?

Yes. It actually started with discussion circles as early as 1908—purely workers, without any intellectuals. Only intellectuals that were workers at the same time. I discovered that my great-uncle, from an estranged part of the family—because he was a worker, a mechanic, so my mother wanted nothing to do with him—was an ideologue of this movement.

This federation still exists?

No, no, no. It was destroyed by the MNR [National Revolutionary Movement, which took power in 1952]. Because under the Marxist view of the labor movement at the time, the artisans are not workers, and therefore they deserve to be erased from history! Only “proletarians” count, only the slaves of the machine count.

The final blow was in 1964, with the dictatorship. Only one union remained from the Federation, it was all-female union of flower vendors, in the Mercado de Floristas. We managed to find them still alive and conduct these interviews in 1985, ’86. And that archive, which is 100 cassettes, I have been working full-time digitizing here in New York…

And this relates to your current community work?

Yes, I am still working with artisans, with urban self-reliance groups in La Paz, ecological and feminist groups, working in the qhatu, or traditional peasant fair or market. This is a very ancient tradition form colonial times, in which indigenous communities used the market to prevent being used by the market. There is always a barter section, negotiation of prices, at the local level. It is a market that is not depersonalized; it is a conscious market, where people are there, not just prices and commodities. It is against the supermarket, against the mall. It is against the corporations and brands and selling things that are pre-packaged. You harvest lentils from your own garden, and you never put it in a plastic package. So the qhatu is a form of resistance to the world market. It is resisting the market with market—it is almost like a vaccination!

I am part of a collective that produced hand-made books and hand-woven bags frmo recycled plastic, as well as lettuce and potatoes and fava beans and sweet peas and medicinal herbs. Grown in community gardens in La Paz. And we sell them at the traditional markets in La Paz.

And we have made campaigns—a campaign against plastic bags, a campaign to promote walking instead of taking trucks or buses or cars. Walking is very difficult in La Paz if it’s uphill, because of the altitude. So we have a slogan, Camina La Paz, aun que sea la bajada—Walk through La Paz, even if it’s only downhill! At least just get a bus ticket one way!

So we try to link every public issue where human rights, indigenous rights, and the rights of the Pachamama are involved. So we joined with TIPNIS, we joined CONAMAQ, we joined the support network for the human rights office that was almost taken over by the government. We are defending the CONAMAQ people who were kicked out of their office… We are just there for them, if they need shelter for the night or a good breakfast, we go and do that. We are not many, but we do whatever we can.

We call ourselves Colectivo Ch’ixi—from the Aymara word meaning “stain.” We are mestizos, but we have a strong Indian stain in our souls. We are “impure.” We are not “pure” people. And we have to recognize also that there is a European stain in our bodies and in our subjectivities. And the good part of that stain is the idea of freedom and individual rights. From the Indian part we get the idea of community and of cycle, intimacy with the cycles of nature. But we do recognize the value of individual freedoms and rights—sexual rights, the right to have a sexual identity that is different from the rest, or of abortion. All this comes from the best contributions of European civilization and the Enlightenment.

Why Strikes are Important to Anarchists

By Rob Ray - Anarchist News, July 20, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The anarchist movement, particularly its class struggle element, tends to hold up strike action as a symbol of the working classes’ potential collective strength – and not without reason.

Work is where we’ve historically had the most leverage, the greatest ability to increase our freedoms and power as a class. The ruling class says it owns our homes, our factories, our utilities and offices, but we are needed to make these things work and when we refuse to, mortar crumbles out of capitalist palaces.

The London matchgirls in 1888, the general strike of 1926, Saltley Gate in 1972, Grunwick in 1976, the miners’ strike of 1984 – there’s endless romance and grandeur to be found in these stories of working people who gave everything for their class in the face of greedy tormentors. Elation in victory. Heroism in defeat.

And for many there’s a sense of living solidarity in striking which is absent from direct actions such as sabotage, boycott calls, or events which revolve around what is sometimes termed “professional activism” – relying on small groups of dedicated long-term activists rather than the mass of people acting collectively in their own interests.

The picket line is one of the few places where solidarity can be offered practically and publicly, both by people within the workplace, and by groups and individuals outside who normally wouldn’t get the chance.

Five Reasons Why “IF MODERN ANARCHISTS FOUGHT IN SPAIN” Isn't Funny or Clever

From the Blogger Self Certified - June 24, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A lot of my friends on social media have been sharing, and apparantly chuckling at a webcomic called “If Modern Anarchists fought in Spain” (IMAFS), which lampoons the modern anarchist movement by contrasting it with the “serious anarchists” of yore. Far from being an amusing satirical comment on the state of anarchism today, it’s neither funny, nor clever and it sides with power over the oppressed.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking, those anarchists need to lighten up; it’s just a playful dig; It’s just like ‘Great Moments in Leftism’ (GMIL); and hey, it’s kind of true, right? But here lies the problem with the strip, it doesn’t actually tick any of those boxes.

Turnips, Hammers and the Square - Why Workplace Occupations Have Faded

By Andrew Flood - Anarchist Writers, May 7, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

What if we build it and they don’t come? That was the experience of the left during the crisis - decades had been spent building organisations and a model of how crisis would create revolution but when the crisis arrived the left discovered that the masses weren’t convinced. The expected pattern of crisis leading to small strikes and protests, then to mass strikes and riot and then perhaps to general strike and revolution didn’t flow as expected. Under that theory the radical left would at first be marginal but then as conditions drove class militancy to new heights the workers disappointed by reformist politicians and unions leaders would move quickly to swell its ranks.

In 2008 and 2009 that was the expectation of the revolutionary left organisations across Europe and North America. But that cycle of growth never materialised. In 2011 revolts did break out, but not in the manner expected and so the left could only spectate and criticise. Beyond that the period of struggle from 2008-2014 suggests that there is less strength in building struggles around broad ‘bread & butter’ issues that we imagined and a suggestion that diversity proved more useful in sustaining progressive struggle.

Capital Blight - The Ghosts of Ayn Rand

By x344534, May 25, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

My path to green syndicalism was anything but a straight line. I was initially ignorant of anarchism and libertarian socialism, because what gets labeled "libertarian" in the United States of America is actually anything but anarchist or libertarian, but instead is the most extreme and dogmatic brand of capitalism.

Let's be absolutely clear here. Capitalism cannot survive without the state. It takes a massive, centralized, armed-to-the-teeth, authoritarian government to enforce business contracts, "private property" rights, virtual "intellectual property" rights (the idea that ideas can be owned and controlled), rent, usury, and the notion that corporations are individual people. Nobody in their right mind would voluntarily consent to a system of institutionalized inequality which results in starvation, homelessness, disease, squalor, wage slavery, sexism, racism, and ecological degradation if they had the freedom (yes, you heard me correctly, I said "FREEDOM!" that ever ubiquitous buzzword that capitalist ideologues cast so effortlessly about in defense of their way of life which is anything but free to those forced into subservience under its dictates) to choose.

What initially blocked my path to real libertarianism, meaning libertarian socialism was the twisted demented pretzel logic of the so called "libertarian" capitalists in their polysyllabic but ultimately empty peonage to their Laissez-faire capitalist religion.

One individual in particular, Bryan Caplan--who lived in the dorm room next to mine at the (state-funded) University of California at Berkeley--even tried to "convert" me to his faith by handing me a reading list if his holy prophets: Ludwig Von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, F. A. Hayak, Robert Nozick, and--of course--Ayn Rand.

Naturally, I didn't bite. I had a good deal of exposure to the demented nonsense of Rand already, and any philosophy or economic theory that supported this crazy dingbat's contention that there's any "virtue" in selfishness or that big corporate business is "a persecuted minority" couldn't have anything useful to say to me.

Thanks to a combination of my intelligence, inquisitiveness, stubbornness, and some plain good luck, I found thinkers and philosophers who offered clues to real libertarian ideas. These included Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, Vandana Shiva, Rudolf Rocker, Christipher Alexander, bell hooks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Neil Peart (yes, that's correct, the drummer and lyricist of Rush), Chuck D (of Public Enemy), Graham Purchase, John Bellamy Foster, Carl Sagan, William Least Heat Moon, Bakunin, Marx, Engels, and Kropotkin (among others). Then, I met Judi Bari.

Judi Bari clarified matters for me greatly and showed me how one could be a radical environmentalist and an advocate for class struggle at the same time. Plus, she kept mentioning this group called, "the IWW."

I had no idea who the IWW was or what it stood for. For all I knew they were the International Socialist Organization (whom I was well acquainted with, but not at all interested in joining). Then, one day when seeking out a workers' collective to try and join as an alternative to the horribly depressing and soul killing capitalist retail job I had managed to get after graduating from that fabled weapons laboratory we call a "public university", a spokesperson from a network of such shops clued me in to what the IWW was and is.

I had heard Noam Chomsky (who would later join the IWW himself) describe himself as an "anarcho syndicalist" and a "libertarian socialist", but never fully understood what those terms meant or what an economy and political system organized around those ideas would look like. The IWW revealed to me how that would work in practice.

And, thanks to the influence of Judi Bari and Earth First!, the IWW was (and is) in many ways the first organization to promote green syndicalist ideas in practice (though the IWW is not limited to those concepts).

Over the following years, I came to realize how easy it was to prove just how flawed the thinking of so-called "libertarian" capitalists actually are, and really all I need to have done was read the following passage from the Preamble to the IWW Constitution:

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

As time passed and I gained life-experience I saw that capitalism and freedom are actually incompatible. Just to be sure, I read anarchist and socialist literature voraciously and the knowledge that I gained from doing so validated my experiences. My deepening understanding of the interconnectedness of the environment further showed me the flawed pseudoscience that the Ludwig Von Mises "Austrian" school of economics actually is, and I came to realize that ever more fully as I wrote my own book about the green syndicalist organizing efforts of Judi Bari.

As for Caplan, I assumed he'd passed into obscurity (after all, disciples of Ayn Rand are a dime a dozen. The capitalist class spares few expenses in funding ministries of propaganda to promote itself, and said ideologues serve that function all too effectively, but there's nothing particularly noteworthy about most of them). In this particular case, I was mistaken.

May Day 2014: Reviving The General Strike

By Staughton Lynd
This article originally appeared in the May 2014 Industrial Worker

On May 1, 1886, the first general strike in U.S. history brought workers into the streets on behalf of one simple demand: an eight-hour working day. Their anthem was:
“We want to feel the sunshine;
We want to smell the flowers;
We’re sure (that) God has willed it
And we mean to have eight hours.

We’re summoning our forces from
Shipyard, shop and mill;
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest,
Eight hours for what we will.”

As is the case in the movement of low-wage workers today, the movement for eight hours was characterized by skilled and less-skilled workers, and workers in different trades, making common cause.

On May 3, 1886, union members at the McCormick Reaper Works in Chicago, who had been locked out, confronted strikebreakers as they left the plant. A firefight broke out involving the police, and strikers were killed. In response a protest rally was called at a downtown open area called The Haymarket. The rally was peaceful, but as the meeting was coming to an end someone threw a bomb and seven policemen died. After a dramatic trial and unsuccessful appeals, four so-called “anarchists” were hanged.

This story became familiar to working-class movements all over the world. May 1 became international May Day. In Mexico City, it has been a tradition that every May Day translated excerpts from the last words of two of the executed men, Albert Parsons and August Spies, are read aloud to huge crowds in the central public square, or zocalo.

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