In the wake of a Tory victory, we have to rethink our logic of association.
What do I mean by a ‘logic of association’?
At its simplest, the logic of association is the underlying connection between all members of a group. For example, in an industrial union the logic of association is a shared set of work conditions.
Movements have to be built on a strong logic, otherwise the members of a group have no reason to be associated with one another. As a rule of thumb, the stronger the logic that ties them together, the tighter the organisation and the more resilient it will be. Simply thinking left wing things is not enough – we have to be materially connected to each other.
That means that when we are looking at what kinds of organisation we need to fight austerity, we need to consider our logic of association. We need to discover our connections, decide which connections have the most strategic importance, and then build a movement which uses them.
Workers connected in a union understand that their connection is that they sell their labour as part of the production process. This is the fundamental connection that makes them the working class, and it has formed the basis of action. Similarly women, ethnic minorities, colonised people and other have all leveraged a connection to build strong movements that have changed history. But we cannot assume that a static association is enough. Instead, we have to organise along ever changing lines, integrating intersectional critiques, involving with people who are not in employment, and responding to the changing conditions of capitalism.
Marxists in the Italian post-operia tradition talk about a ‘social factory‘. Their idea is that production is no longer bound up in factories and in the old working class. It is spread throughout society. There are new logics of association which bring us together as producers outside the factory, in spaces where the old left never thought to go (never thought to go, in part, because there already existed strong forms of mutual support, even if they were unrecognised). This is complemented by an understanding advanced by Marxist Feminists of this tradition that reproductive labour is also part of capitalism, and that occurs outside of the workplace also.
Yes, if you work, join a union and organise your workplace. Respect picket lines, don’t scab, stick up for your colleagues, and bargain collectively. All of these ideas and principles are vital to a strong left movement.
But as well as this we should consider organising as communities, and around the issue of social reproduction. And by communities, I mean something other than left wing people within a certain town or city. A community has as its logic of association a shared common interest in surviving the next 5 years of austerity in tact: they have a common interest in reproducing their lives.
As a community, we have more in common than left wing ideas and cultural references. But if our logic of association is a common interest in surviving, then we should no longer having as our goal a really well attended and publicised demonstrative action (“look how much we hate the cuts!“). Instead, we should be aiming at common material support. That means that we should start by supporting each other, and aim for collective strength.
Thatcher said there was no such thing as society. The kind of world that followed Thatcherism is what we call neoliberal, and it consists of a whole class of unconnected individuals, all suffering but with no connections between them. This is exactly what we have to fight against through the reassertion of community.
If someone is getting evicted, a community organisation should go and block that eviction. If someone is struggling to pay energy bills, we should have a fund for emergency support. If someone is disabled and needs additional help, we should provide it. If someone is short on food, we should redistribute the waste food supermarkets throw out. If people are homeless, we should squat empty buildings. If fascists are in our area, or if the police attack us, we should defend ourselves. In short, we should collectively develop the ability to support our own social reproduction.
The politics of any such organisation will follow from its ability to support a community, because the very act of supporting a community that is meant to be quietly resigned to its own impoverishment is a political act in itself. We will need to communicate more outside of the left bubble, but that will be much easier when we are not hiding away as a clique.
Everyone knows the cuts hurt the poorest and most oppressed. No one needs to be told that yet again. What we do need is to support one another, and build our collective strength so that we can build a political project based not on good ideas alone, but on strong connections, and a strong logic of association. This is not volunteering, this is not charity – it is solidarity and mutual aid in the face of another 5 years of pain.
The anti-austerity movement of the last five years hoped that everyone would decide to be left wing and go on a big demo. At it’s more direct end, we hoped that people would also decide to take spontaneous revolutionary action. But we never built an infrastructural project which could support a mass movement, we just hoped that it would emerge if we dreamed hard enough. This was a historic failure.
Organisations like the Radical Housing Network, however, are winning against gentrification and social cleansing. They are fighting the housing crisis on precisely this community scale, and they show us what is possible.
The left is at low ebb. It is hard to feel otherwise at the moment. But we cannot rebuild it with clever articles, daring direct action and well publicised marches alone. We have done all those things, indeed more than ‘done’ – we have put years of our life into those things. But now we have a chance to reassess, and return to older traditions, of building organisation and infrastructure which will help us survive in the tough times to come and – hopefully, win us a future.
There is a local Leamington anti-austerity meeting on Sat 23rd May, open to all. It will begin at Midday at the Coffee Box on Brunswick Street.
Over the next five years we are facing £30 billion of cuts and austerity.
We need to support each other against the impact of the cuts and organise resistance to them on a long term, local basis.
That’s why Warwick and Leamington Green party and Warwick for Free Education are coming together to call a meeting to discuss what we can do.
It will be at Midday Sat 23rd at the Coffee Box Cafe in Leamington.
If you represent an organisation and want to be formally involved in organising and mobilising for the meeting please comment or send us a message on social media.
To those who are arguing that people don’t have a right to protest against a government that was “democratically” voted in: Yes we do. This is a government which is waging war on the poor, the homeless, the disabled, immigrants, students, single mums and the unemployed, with devastating consequences. If you think that a party who was voted in by 24% of the electorate should somehow be untouchable to criticism, then you seriously need to reconsider what the hell you think democracy is. Not to mention the fact that some of society’s most vulnerable (e.g many people without citizen status) aren’t even allowed to vote. We need to abolish this ridiculous attitude that the sum total of democracy is a broken, unfair and exclusive voting system, which is headed up by an elitist group of predominantly white men. Representative democracy? Give me a fucking break.
To those who are arguing that high levels of anger are “unnecessary” and an “overreaction”: Fuck you. Do not belittle people’s genuine despair and fear at the general election result. This isn’t just people being mildly annoyed that a party they don’t like won, this is people publically and vocally saying that they cannot and will not take 5 more years of this life-destroying shit. This is people terrified at their future prospects and that of their children. Of course people are fucking angry. We’re talking about a party that has literally driven people to suicide through their brutal cuts to public services. And you want people to calm down? We live in the sixth richest country in the world, yet hundreds of thousands of people can’t even afford to feed themselves. There were 66 active foodbanks when the coalition came to power, and there are now 421. Homelessness has gone up by over 50% in the last 5 years. That’s right; one of the richest countries in the world has thousands of citizens who are starving and/or have nowhere to live. If that doesn’t make you angry, why the fuck not?
To those of you arguing that direct action and protesting “makes no difference”: This is just painfully incorrect. Pretty much no social movement in history has been successful without some form of direct action. To just focus on one relevant example, it was the hugely confrontational poll tax riots of 1990 which played a fundamental role in the demise of Thatcher and her brutal attacks on the working class. These tactics are effective, whether you like it or not. Why do you think politicians are so scared of direct action? Why do you think the new Government is looking, as quickly as possible, to implement a Snooper’s Charter which will require internet and mobile phone companies to keep records of customers’ browsing activity, social media use, emails, voice calls, online gaming and text messages for a year? This insidious idea that the only way people can legitimately strive for change is by spending the next 5 years quietly persuading others to vote differently in the next general election is the worst kind of liberal bullshit. It’s also a really fucking privileged thing to say when there are so many people whose lives will genuinely be in danger over the next 5 years. If you think that our current system of “democracy” will ever adhere to the voices of the people without being forced to by mass collective action, it’s time to wake up.
To those of you who are furious about the “Women of World War II” graffiti: Yes, one person did this, and the vast majority of protesters in no way supported it. But using this act to vilify an entire movement is ignorant and simplistic, and a dirty tactic being used by the Tory-controlled right wing media to draw attention away from the point of yesterday’s protests. Surprise fucking surprise. It’s also absolutely laughable that Tories are crawling out from all corners of social media to condemn this act in the strongest possible terms, claiming that it’s “disrespectful to the women of the past”. Such indignation coming from Tories, who support a party which is inherently anti-woman, is sickening. From a Prime Minister who openly mocks women in the House of Commons, to cuts of 30% to support services for domestic and sexual violence survivors, not to mention the fact that austerity in general disproportionately affects women and particularly single mothers. I’m pretty sure that the women of World War II would have something to say about that. So self-righteous Tories, pipe the fuck down – you don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to defending women. Furthermore, (and I can’t believe how many times I have had to reiterate this in the last few months), if you’re more angry about someone spray painting on a memorial, than people being physically brutalised by the police, you need to sort your fucking priorities out. If you think that respecting the dead is more important than respecting the living, what do you stand for?
To those who are dismissing yesterday’s protests as nothing more than a “one-off kneejerk reaction”: Sorry, but you’re wrong. Society’s most vulnerable are at breaking point, and this anger and desperation (as history has shown) is certain to manifest itself in the streets as inequality rises and the Tory cuts keep on coming. What we saw yesterday was a new-found sense of fearlessness among protesters, and the Government hadn’t even been in power for 48 hours. Protesters demonstrated what community and solidarity really looks like, as individuals were forcibly freed from arrest and lines of riot police kettling protesters were forced to retreat. The road ahead is by no means easy, and will undoubtedly be full of state violence and repression, but after yesterday, the government will be expecting resistance – let them quake in their shit. Now is not the time for mourning; it’s time for organising. No to 5 more years of austerity, inequality and oppression. Tory scum, here we come.
New research by the THE has shown that only 10% of UK Higher Education insitutions pay all staff the living wage.
Back in Febuary we revealed that the living wage is not paid to many members of Warwick staff.
“A recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed that at least 241 workers who have been employed on campus for 6 months or more are not paid the living wage. This puts us a long way into the shameful group of 39 UK universities who have more than 100 staff on less than the living wage.”
Warwick says it does not recognise the living wage as a benchmark for fair pay, and instead pays a ‘bonus’ to all staff who fall below the living wage on average. This is unacceptable, and vulnerable to deliberate confusion. And so we are repeating our demand that the univeristy immediately commit to becoming a living wage employer.
In the context of TeachHigher, the a disgraceful refusal to pay a living wage is evidently not the only way in which Warwick exploits its staff. Low pay is increasingly being combined with highly casualised employment.
This issue effects both academic and non-academic staff, and we should be clear that we have solidarity with both. It is not only seminar tutors who are under attack, but also conference staff and others, who allow our univeristy to function.
We can see two clear national trends: a widespread disregard for the living wage, and increasingly precarious employment for academics.
Sadly, Warwick is at the forefront of both.
This is a guest blog by Midlands Antifascists
Saturday was not simply a crisis for anti-fascism, but for the politics of the left. Trade unionists (i.e. old white cis men) hearkening to bygone days of pitched mass street battles with the National Front to evince their credentials and vindicate their present withered courage, hinging upon the abstract of the fabled ‘critical mass’, appealing to a reactionary media expecting them to fairly represent our motives and tactics, affecting cooperation and cordiality with cops with a privileged absence of recognition of compounding structural oppressions. This culture not only defines but stultifies left struggle in Coventry and elsewhere, constraining its direction and restricting its capacities. Our objective should not be to hark back to and seek to resurrect the (illusory) glory of long perished trade union struggle, but to recognise its limitations, to recognise the reasons for its dissolution, to commemorate its victories and the historical role it contributed but also to conceptualize why it was insufficient, and why it always would be as long as it cohered solely around the axis of class. This is a movement haunted by spectres, clinging to the same framework of struggle despite the climate of oppression fundamentally and continuously shifting, and demanding adaption, not regressive and bureaucratic iterations of defective formulas of resistance.
We must not seek resurrection, but to kindle new vitalities, ignite new formats and potentialities for rebellion, strive towards new tactics and methods of organizing, reaching for new horizons and new futures. We must be defined not by nostalgia but by anger, by yearning, by longing. We must not simply seek to echo victories, but articulate new narratives, new modes of insurgence which engage with the conditions of oppression that mould peoples’ everyday experiences and realities. The consolidation of the trade union left around industrial labour is not reflective of this, but more of an orthodox Marxism which we do not have the courage to organize, imagine, venture beyond – what is the utility of historical materialism if we do not adjust our struggle to these conditions, if we do not resist the multitude of interacting hierarchies upon which these conditions have been constructed, if our current form of organizing is analogous to those which arose decades ago?
I’m not sure it’s useful to classify this: anarchism, autonomism, libertarian communism perhaps embody and raise some of the principles I believe we should associate around, yet only because of their praxis, only because they are premised upon a materiality, intuition and anti-oppression to which the vicissitudes of lived experience would already attune us. They are useful only because they are immediately apparent without the rigours of theory whose access is restricted by the very same privilege that reproduce conditions of oppression. Theory is useful only if it equips us for struggle: I think our movements forget people are already fighting, often for their survival, against police brutality, against fuel poverty, against destitution, every day, and we are disengaged from those people. If we seek the abolition of oppression and oppressive social relations we should collectively organize around, and in contestation of, those oppressions as terrains of resistance, connecting with and devolving power to the most marginalized. We should organize not simply as ‘workers’, but as people experiencing a myriad of oppressions, and as oppressors, as participants and beneficiaries of various oppressions, whilst ultimately orienting our struggle towards the state and capital as institutionally enforcing, reproducing and structuring themselves upon these various pillars of hierarchy. It’s not simply about multiple social constructions of identity ‘dividing the working class’, subsumed under class and irrelevant to the formation of resistance (and, often, even supposedly a compromise to unity), but rather as independent and interdependent sites of disadvantage and thus struggle.
These identities not only have material consequences compounding those of capital, but ramifications beyond the conceptualization of economic relations, in the erasure and appropriation of culture through ruthless conquest, persecution and estrangement, state surveillance and control, imprisonment and police brutality, the conscious suppression of non-normative expression (and the harm inflicted upon us if we do not), afflictions and anxieties which circumscribe our flourishing and autonomy, deportation and detention, sexual assault and rape culture – these are ramifications bound up in the exertion of hegemony by an array of interlocking social hierarchies, depriving us not only of material resources but dignity and agency.
In short, we cannot conceptualize these oppressions simply as functions of capitalism, existing only within its boundaries, but rather in and of themselves functionalising, operating elaborately within and beyond, interwoven and yet weaving. It is not about forging a working class movement that is not racist, not homophobic, not sexist, but waging a pluralistic, holistic and expansive struggle against all configurations of hierarchy, forming queer liberation struggles and feminist struggles that are class conscious and not class conscious movements that nominally reject other oppressions as simply resulting from capitalism, but as dynamics exploited by capital, mutually reinforcing and consolidating one another’s power and maintaining one another’s violence. We cannot homogenize the diversity, nuance and dimensions of our collective experiences and struggles under the reference point of class. Other categories are not simply distractions to working class unity, but significant in and of themselves, integral to how capitalism functions, and fundamental in influencing and fashioning our circumstances and experiences. They are not simply ‘divide and rule’ tactics constructed by capital, but possess a distinct agency of their own, serving to reproduce and reconstitute the framework of capitalism, each facets of a ruling ideology and dominant order which seeks to concentrate power and wealth in an elite minority.
Sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism etc are not simply factors of capitalism, but independent yet interacting formulas of domination. They are not barriers to simply diffuse in the process of class struggle, but to surmount on a self-organized, autonomous basis. Anything else dismisses their gravity, misunderstands how shared hardships and sufferings are not simply premised upon our subordination to a capitalist class, erases cultural identity and distinction, and is insensitive to internal power dynamics within the working class. We must not oppose these oppressions on the basis that they divide the working class: we must oppose them because they are fundamentally unjust and because they damage us. We must challenge them not only relative to class, as appendages to it, but within and beyond economic functionalities, as sites of unity, collective affirmation, healing, empowerment and eventual deconstruction: not as competitive, conflictual categories within an ‘authentic’ overarching mode of resistance, but a network of counter points around which to rally in order to maximize the potentialities of fightback on different terrains and varying fronts, complementing and connecting with one another in a textured, multi-faceted and broad-ranging effusion of anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist solidarity.
Queerness, femininity, neuro atypicality, etc are not categories we must calibrate and resolve within the framework of class, fault lines we must tentatively tread within working class formations, differences to dismiss despite their consequences, trivial identities within a foundationally relational struggle, but sites of resistance in themselves, structural divergences from which defiance and insurrection can emerge on their own terms. The revolution is the eventual abolition of these constructs, the abolition of their designation, and the inferiority and subordination therein ascribed, but not of their difference in itself, only a transformation of the normality which stigmatizes them.
Anti-fascism cannot mean old white men assuming by appearance someone is a ‘sister’ after they issue a speech on LGBTQ issues, only to have the nuance and complexity of those issues relegated and simplified into a speech on how ‘we oppose any force which fractures the working class’, and forcing the speaker to hold up a sign stating ‘trans exclusionary: I am not a sister’. This is an erasure of who we are as queer people, as trans people, of a distinct war waged upon us every day which is contextualized and framed, of course, within class, but not encapsulated by it. It is omission of the fact that our expression and identification is policed, obstructed, and discriminated against at every opportunity – by employers, by family, by structures of power, and now by our supposed comrades? Our oppression, our hardships, our fear to be who we are will not be trivialized, will not be conceptualized as a distraction in a homogenous class war. The Palestinian struggle against the Israeli siege and occupation ought not be instrumentalized as an opportunity to sell more papers and conjure the semblance of anti-racism without any material commitment to struggle. Migrant rights should not simply be a political gambit for Left Unity to contest UKIP and conquer state power. We must not oppose other oppressions nominally, only in so far as they may impact class struggle. The left must mean more than this; it must mean a multiplicity of struggles to challenge the intricate formation of current material conditions. Anti-fascism must mean more than this. It must mean organizing beyond UAF, beyond the TUC, beyond bureaucratic organizations which replicate and reproduce many of the oppressive structures which constitute broader society, insulating themselves in spheres of white privilege which disregard outreach to Muslim communities, travellers, people of colour, as they did on Saturday. It must mean more than simply brandishing banners and performing resistance; more than nostalgic speeches about memories of confronting National Front among thousands of other communists; more than the ‘iron discipline’ of trade union voting processes in securing inaction and the predomination of privileged voices; more than centrality in the sphere of work and contesting oppression on no other front despite fundamental shifts in and social diffusions of spheres of production.
It must mean cautious alliances with trade unions, not permitting them to moderate and dictate the agenda of struggle, and a sustained commitment to dialogue, engagement and association with the community, especially those most marginalized and impacted by fascism. It must mean resisting the state and capitalist structures which collude with, enable and foster fascism – and recognizing that, even in the class struggle, trade unions and ‘parties of the left’ are not always on our side. It must mean comprehensively challenging all hierarchy. It must mean more than waiting for the ‘critical mass’ but taking direct action to stop fascists, despite the odds, and by whatever means necessary because we must, because we cannot and will not provide their venomous ideology an inch. It must mean more than throngs of white men wavering despite those odds being heavily in our favour on Saturday, nominally subscribing to the no platform tactic and yet, as always, willing only to practice theory when there is a guarantee of overwhelming numbers, whilst a women of colour with significantly more to lose audaciously steps on to the platform, and inspirationally articulates why we should be confronting the heinous racists imposing themselves on our town. It must mean a commitment to heeding and prioritising the voices of the oppressed.
Anti-fascism must mean an actualization of the relations, organizational methods and resistance we believe are necessary in defeating the socio-economic conditions from which fascism arises. It must be fundamental to radical left organizing and guide the formation of movements antithetical to the structures of fascism. The radical left and anti-fascism must draw upon one another: they are inextricably bound and integral to one another, not only theoretically but tactically. We must root ourselves and organize in communities, nurture intersectional solidarity against the plurality of oppressive structures, but – more than anything – reclaim our anger, and reclaim our courage, the type of courage the woman of colour who took to the platform expressed that day. Anti-fascism is a rallying point around which all oppressed people can cohere, an embodiment of everything we abhor, everything which menaces our existence as marginalized people, politically activated or no. But it is a beginning, not an end, to which we must expand into an array of struggles, movements and grassroots initiatives, a connection point to cultivate into robust bonds, networks and federations capable not only of community self-defence, but organizing oriented towards the abolition of state, capital and all hierarchy.
Anti-fascism and revolutionary left organizing must mean recognising our failures, adapting, and imagining beyond current formations. It must mean authentic and intimate interactions unmediated by bureaucracy. It must mean true connection, true compassion, and true solidarity, forged through struggle. It must mean solidarity as a weapon and philosophy, not simply a strategy.
It must mean appealing to no external force, but relying only upon one another to seize control of our own lives, to effect the future we envision – to not wait, but act.