There is a common misconception that anarcho-syndicalists aren’t remotely interested in anything unconnected with workplace struggle. This is, to put it very mildly, rubbish! Without practicing solidarity, mutual aid and organisation outside, as well as inside, our workplaces, we could never change society for the better.
One of the enduring plus points of mutual aid and voluntary cooperation is that people practice them daily in every act of kindness, unselfishness and community spirit. Looking out for one another or sharing our skills, time and resources go a long way in reversing the selfish dog-eat-dog individualism that our rulers love. This spirit is also reflected in the growing popularity of DIY politics.
The squatting movement offers but one example of people facing similar problems joining together to help each other out. When many are now finding their homes repossessed by the forces of darkness, squatting, a (legal) form of direct action and a practical solution to homelessness, will again rise in popularity. After all, there are many perfectly good properties standing empty while the government allows people to be turfed out on the street.
Many other social movements are on the rise – from those fighting climate change and globalisation to those opposing NHS privatisation, state surveillance, gender inequalities, deportations and the far right. Disability rights groups demand respect as equals, not charity. Social centres in many towns and cities, offer space to meet and socialise away from the centres of rabid commercialisation. Groups like the London and Edinburgh Coalitions Against Poverty organise against attacks on our living standards.
All these movements need to snowball and forge greater links, not least with workers in struggle. During the epic Liverpool Dockers dispute in the 1990s, the environmental group Reclaim the Streets showed the way by proactively building support and solidarity for the strikers.
The process of struggle, in our communities and workplaces, is vital in sharing ideas, raising awareness and building confidence. Winning reforms today is only a part of the longer term trajectory towards a better society. We should never underestimate the strength of solidarity, but also heed lessons of the past. Not so long ago a popular campaign of mass resistance defeated Thatcher’s hated poll tax. Since then, the state has hit us with more taxes, from congestion charges to VAT on virtually everything. Although we won the poll tax battle we haven’t won the war…yet.
In this war, we anarcho-syndicalists work towards organising mass assemblies in the workplace and community. Electoral politics, vanguard parties and corporate trade unions have failed us. Our class needs its own organisations built on direct democratic principles; organisations that offer maximum control and accountability; organisations that do not diffuse our demands or divert us up fruitless blind alleys like supporting the Labour party.
We may be on the cusp of an important time in history as governments stand impotent in the face of recession and corporations continue devouring the planet in the name of profit. The ever present spectre of global capital that hangs like a dark cloud over us all is not infallible. Sure, revolutionary change will not happen overnight, but by organising together, in our workplaces and outside, a better world can, and will, be ours.
Anarcho-syndicalists do not just focus on those in paid employment. Anarcho-syndicalists fully support and participate in many forms of community organising, arguing for the building of residents’ associations and radical community groups to build working class power in the community, using tactics such as rent strikes to gain improvement in conditions. Anarcho-syndicalists also believe in the organisation of the unemployed, domestic carers, students and other unwaged groups...
from Anarcho-Syndicalism – An Introduction, libcom.org
The Advisory Service for Squatters, set up in 1975, produces a Squatters’ Handbook (13th edition forthcoming) detailing the practicalities of squatting:
ASS, Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX tel: 0845 644 5814 www. squatter.org.uk