This is the page of Brighton SolFed, the local anarcho-syndicalist union based in Brighton. We also have members in Hastings and Worthing. We have ongoing campaigns in hospitality and in health&social care, but we support workers in all industries. If you want to get in touch with us, see our contact details to the right.
Brighton Solidarity Federation
Brighton SolFed is a group based on the idea that through solidarity and direct action, ordinary people have the power to improve our lives.
Our members are workers, students and others looking to build a libertarian working class movement. Our aim is to promote solidarity in our workplaces and outside them, encouraging workers to organise independently of bosses, bureaucrats and political parties to fight for our own interests as a class. Our ultimate goal is a stateless, classless society based on the principle of ‘from each according to ability, to each according to need’ – libertarian communism.
We see such a society based on our needs being created out of working class struggles to assert our needs in the here and now. Our activity is therefore aimed at promoting, assisting and developing such class struggles, which both benefit us all now and bring us closer to the society we want to create. We do this according to the following three principles:
Solidarity. As individuals we are relatively powerless in the face of bosses, bureaucrats and the state, but when we act collectively across all boundaries of race, gender, nationality the tables are turned.
Direct action. We do not make appeals to political or economic representatives to act on our behalf, but organise to get the things we want for ourselves.
Self-organisation. When we take control of our own struggles we both learn how to act without bosses or leaders and ensure we can’t be sold out or demobilised from above.
Brighton SolFed is a local group of the national organisation of the same name. The Solidarity Federation is the UK affiliate of the International Workers’ Association (IWA), with contacts and sections on five continents.
We believe in direct action solidarity. That could mean pickets or occupations, or organising with your co-workers. We also believe in collective action – that we are stronger when we stand together. Discuss your problem with us and we’ll make suggestions how we could help – but the decision what course of action to take always rests with you.
We do this in our free time and we’ll help you out for free… so why would we do this? We are not a service provider – we can’t provide professional legal advice, and we can’t solve your problems for you. We are not a trade union or political party. What we are is fellow workers who are sick of being screwed around ourselves and want to do something about it. What we can do is share experience, information, and support in methods which have proven effective previously.
This is solidarity, not charity. That means that if we help you with a problem, we may get in touch to ask you to help someone else. – supporting other peoples struggles, perhaps helping someone in a similar situation to yourself. Obviously the choice whether you do or not is up to you, but our goal is more than just helping individuals. We want to build a culture of solidarity amongst ordinary people, so that when bosses or landlords or letting agents mess with one of us, they’re messing with all of us. It’s time to stand up to Brighton’s bosses and bureaucrats, landlords and letting agents. An injury to one is an injury to all!
As a group we are also involved in a number of local campaigns including Sussex University Stop the Cuts, the Brighton Benefits Campaign and the Brighton Workers’ Solidarity Group. Only when we stand collectively and take direct action in our own interests are we able to defend ourselves. If you are interested in getting involved or have a problem you’d like to do something about, then get in touch.
Q – What’s anarcho-syndicalism then?
Anarcho-syndicalism is a tendency within the wider workers movement that organises the class-struggle from the bottom up, asserting our interests through direct action, until we’re able to overturn capitalism. We reject ‘socialist’ workers’ parties that aim to take state power – history has shown that this approach will lead to brutal dictatorship. We also reject the bureaucratic trade unions who are unable to assert workers’ interests.
Instead of representation – a union or party acting on behalf of workers – we favour self-organisation – workers acting for themselves. Applying these anarchist ideas to the workers’ movement, we want to unite those workers who believe in direct action, solidarity and rank-and-file control into a revolutionary union. By organising this way, workers learn to act for themselves, exercising their power without being led by union officials or political vanguards, calling into question the way society is organised and prefiguring the world we want to create, without bosses or rulers: libertarian communism.
Q – Is anarcho-syndicalism all about unions then? I’m not a member of a union.
A – No, we think organising outside of the workplace is also important, it’s just that we have the most power in the workplace. In both the workplace and community our goal is not to recruit every worker into the union, but to organise mass meetings of all workers which decide what course of action to take. Members of an anarcho-syndicalist union would not seek to control these meetings but simply put forward their perspective and argue for our tactics and goals. A good example of this practice in action was the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist CNT in the Puerto Real shipyard disputes in the 1980s.
Q – Why do you go on about the working class? There is no working class, we are all middle class now.
The working class has nothing to do with flat caps and overalls. Nothing to do with regional accents and poor diction. It is a condition. The condition of all those who have nothing to sell but their labour power – the so-called ‘proletarian condition’. If you work a white-collar job, read the Guardian and enjoy nothing more than Marks & Spencers organic sundried tomatoes with freshly-baked foccaccia bread then you may be an insufferable liberal bore, but you’re still a worker. The middle class is a cultural condition, the proletrarian condition is a social one. When people say ‘we’re all middle class now’ they’re talking about culture and consumption habits – flatscreen TVs and organic focaccia bread. When we talk about the working class we are taking about the proletarian condition, the fact that those of us who don’t own a business or a significant property or share portfolio have no choice but to work for a wage, claim benefits or turn to crime in order to survive.
Q – Why should I worry – as long as I’m fine, it’s alright. In fact I’ve got enough to worry about, with kids, mortgage, etc.
A – Sounds like you do have things to worry about! As an individual you can do certain things, like trying to get a good job, try to get your kids in a decent school, get a capable GP etc. But what you can’t do as an individual is to change things. It’s only when we organise collectively can we achieve social change. If your boss decides to sack a lot of workers and make you work harder to make up; or if the council decide to make your kids’ school into an academy; or the government decides to privatise the NHS bit by bit – as an individual you can do nothing to stop these, but if we organise together we can fight for the things we need.
Q – Capitalism creates wealth – I don’t want to have a living standard like in North Korea, or Amazonian tribes.
A – Wealth is created by us workers, and we don’t need bosses or the state to do so. Capitalism just gets in the way really – much of the work we are forced do is socially completely useless, but even worse, under capitalism part of the wealth we create is taken away from us as profits. As libertarian communists we want to create a society where we have the same or higher living standards, but where we all have the power to decide how the wealth is created and used.
The way we see it, North Korea is a special form of capitalism, where the state is the only capitalist and the ruling elite profits from the wealth created by North Korean workers. To make things worse they have brutal dictatorship. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what we mean by communism!
Amazonian tribes have a much better form of society than North Korea: no bosses, no cops, no prisons, they spend a couple of hours in the day hunting or growing crops then enjoy the rest of the day with their kids, or taking hallucinogenic drugs – that’s primitive communism. But you’re right, their standard of life isn’t to everybody’s taste. The internet and iPods are great, and it’s nice to be able to take medication when we get ill rather than die of diarrhea or the flu like Amazonian tribespeople.
Anarcho-syndicalism is not about returning to some primitive communism, but making many the benefits of modern society available to all without bosses, landlords and bureaucrats on our backs – libertarian communism.
Q – Revolution is violent. I don’t want my existence and the people I love to be destroyed in civil war.
None of us want civil war. The more well-supported a revolution is, the less violent it tends to be. The most successful revolutions in history have all been marked by significant mutinies with the armed forces and sometimes the police refusing to fight or even joining the revolution, and such anti-militarist agitation has long been a part of anarcho-syndicalism. The importance of wide and deep support for revolution is why we organise now for something that can seem so far away. The anarcho-syndicalist revolution in Spain in 1936 followed 70 years of organisation by anarchists and other working class militants.
We also fight to assert our needs because it’s the only way to defend our collective living standards, but we don’t kid ourselves the ruling class will concede without a fight. When picket lines are attacked by the police or bosses’ thugs, we think it is only right that workers should defend themselves appropriately. Likewise in a revolutionary situation, we think workers should defend occupied workplaces and the homes they have seized from landlords and speculators.
We should also not forget how violent the status quo is. Capitalism can only exist because the organised violence of the state that protects and extends it. The most obvious examples are the constant, pointless wars around the world where rulers send the ruled to kill one other. The ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are only the latest example, not to mention the bloody, intractable central African wars which have claimed millions of lives. But you also have to consider the millions of preventable deaths from poverty, hunger and disease, as well as the daily low-level violence of being bossed around at work or suffering the enforced poverty of unemployment.
Aren’t anarchists against organisation?
Not the sensible ones! If you want to get things done, a group can be more than the sum of its parts. If you want to to organise as equals whilst avoiding informal hierarchies based on charisma, knowledge and experience then you need formal organisation. In fact, if you’re willing to follow orders you don’t need to be organised, but anarchism – organising as equals without hierarchy – is organisation.
What is the black and red flag all about?
The flag originated in the 1930s in Spain where members of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT (our Spanish sister-section in the International Workers’ Association – IWA) combined the red flag of the workers’ movement with the black flag of anarchism, mirroring the application of anarchist politics to the workers’ movement represented by anarcho-syndicalism. After it was made famous by the CNT in the Spanish Revolution of 1936, all sorts of other anarchists also adopted the flag but those are its origins.
Sites linked to the Solidarity Federationwww.solfed.org.uk Solidarity Federation - the website of the national federation. Catalyst Freesheet of the Solidarity Federation - contact us if you want a copy, or if you want to distro where you are. Direct Action Quarterly magazine of the Solidarity Federation. Liverpool SolFed The Solidarity Federation local branch in Liverpool. Manchester SolFed The Solidarity Federation local branch in Manchester. WYSF The Solidarity Federation local branch in West Yorkshire. SLSF The Solidarity Federation local branch in South London. SelfEd Self education course on the history of the working-class movement, produced by SF. Education Worker Network An industrial network of SF members working in the education sector. International Workers Association (IWA-AIT) The Solidarity Federation is a member section of the International Workers Association (IWA-AIT)
Anarchist and other groupsAnarchist Federation Class struggle anarchists (based in Britain and Ireland) aiming to abolish Capitalism and all oppression to create a free and equal society - Anarchist Communism. Organise! Anarchist group active mainly in Belfast, publish the amazing quarterly tabloid paper The Leveller. More of their stuff is available on libcom.org. Yorkshire Anarchist Federation Collective anarchist groups based in Sheffield, Leeds and Hull affiliated to the Anarchist Federation. AF North Website run by he Manchester Group of the Anarchist Federation, also had archives of the libertarian socialist group Solidarity and the council communist groups Subversion and Wildcat. Glasgow Anarchists Umbrella group of anarchists in Glasgow, were involved in school occupations in summer 2009. South Wales Anarchists Network of autonomous collectives against all forms of exploitation and bigotry, and with a nie website. Also publish Gagged!. Haringey Solidarity Group Local group that started life as anti-poll tax group and still believes ordinary people know what's best for them, not bosses or politicians. The Commune London based group who believe that "communism can only come from below, through the organisations of the workers themselves", after several member rejected state socialist parties. The Sparrows' Nest Centre for Anarchist Culture and Education in Nottingham set up by Notts Afed and other anarchists to inform about anarchism and about working class struggles in the region.
Activism in Brighton and HoveBrighton Benefits Campaign Campaign to defend against welfare cuts, and fight for higher levels of benefits. Smash EDO The campaign to get rid of Brighton-based weapons manufacturer EDO. Brighton No Borders Support for people threatened by Britain’s immigration laws. Brighton Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) Supports anarchist and other class struggle prisoners in the UK and elsewhere. Stop the Cuts! Campaign against budget cuts at Sussex university, because the university is for education and not profit. Simon Jones Memorial Campaign Campaigning for justice for Simon Jones and against casualisation. Brighton Keep our NHS Public Campaigning against the privatisation of local health services. BrightonClimateChange.Org Aims to tackle the global problem of climate change locally. Anarchist Society Student society discussing and organising anarchism at Sussex univeristy.
Local freesheets:SchNEWS The weekly anti-capitalist newsletter published in Brighton since 1994. Rough Music Brighton’s trouble makin’, dirt diggin’ bi-monthly(ish) newsletter. Hereford Heckler Hereford's favourite muck-spreading news-digger, published by the Hereford Solidarity League. The Pork-bolter Produced by and for ordinary residents of Worthing, named after an ancient nick-name for Worthing people dating back to fishing village days. Hackney Heckler Launched in October 09, this newsletter aims to be a focal point for resistance in Hackney. The Fargate Speaker Bi-monthly local bulletin of the Anarchist Federation in Sheffi eld. The Leveller (Cambridge) Free news-sheet produced by Cambridgeshire Anarchists focusing on the local issues and news. W.A.G. Freesheet published by the Whitechapel Anarchist Group Bath Bomb Monthly(ish) news sheet keeping people in Bath informed of all the local news, scandal and rioting. Gagged! Bi-monthly freesheet published by South Wales Anarchist.
National and international campaignsNational Shop Stewards Network Rebuild the strength of the working-class movement from the bottom up by creating local, regional and national networks of elected reps and shop stewards. London Coalition Against Poverty Organisation based on the belief that through solidarity and direct action, ordinary people have the power to change our own lives. Defend Council Housing Campaign against privatisation of council housing and in favour of direct investment. Labour Start Collects and disseminates information about international trade union activism, and does online campaigning.
More about anarchosyndicalism and anarchismlibcom.org Resource for all people who wish to fight to improve their lives, their communities and their working conditions run by libertarian communists. Their library has many thousands of entries, click here for articles about anarcho-syndicalism. The Anarcho-Syndicalist Thought of Rudolf Rocker Site archiving the writings of the anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker (1873 - 1958) Anarcho-Syndicalism 101 Web archive of theoretical and historical texts, articles, image and mp3 files, cultural items and outreach material related to libertarian class struggle. An Anarchist FAQ Promotes anarchist theory and ideas by answering frequently asked questions, such as What is anarchism? and What is anarchosyndicalism?. Anarcho-syndicalism in Puerto Real From shipyard resistance to direct democracy and community control Pamphlet on an example of contempary anarcho-syndicalism in the Spanish shipyard of Puerto Real (La Presa / Solidarity Federation, 1995). A short history of British anarcho-syndicalism The history of a tendency within the workers movement in Britain since the end of the 19th century. (SF pamphlet from 2006) Strategy and Struggle: anarcho-syndicalism in the 21st century The first version of our local's 2009 pamphlet on industrial strategy. It led to stimulating exhanges within SF and with other class struggle anarchists - a new version is in the works!
Poster publicising the Brighton Hospitality Workers campaign
- getting paid below minimum wage?
- working long shifts without break?
- without a contract, written or verbal?
- not getting paid holidays?
Overall the hospitality industry is notorious for long hours, low pay and precarious conditions. Howevere there are actions that can be taken to tackle this critical situation. If you want to discuss workplace issues, come and meet us!
Brighton Solfed's campaign in the hospitality sector finishes the year with success in two further cases. In the first, a worker from an Italian restaurant took on his former bosses for their bullying and stealing part of his wages. In the second case, an agency worker had not been paid all of her holiday pay. Find out how the two workers fared with Solfed support.
Brighton Solfed are continuing pickets of a rogue employer in Hove in solidarity with a former cafe worker, Yolanda, who is owed £1,264 in holiday pay and unpaid contracted hours.
Over the past week, Brighton SolFed have proved to the pathetic boss of Caffe Bar Italia that this dispute will not disappear by pretending that nothing is happening. We have been very clear: we will not stop until Yolanda is paid the hours that she had guaranteed and her holiday entitlement.
On Saturday, the 13th of December, the first picket against Caffe Bar Italia took place. Around 11 in the morning, a group of 10 SolFed members met in George Street (Hove) and after trying unsuccessfully to reach an agreement with the owner, started the picket outside the business.
This conflict started a few weeks ago when a worker contacted SolFed's Brighton Hospitality Workers because she had not been paid the amount of £1,264. Apart from the holiday pay that she was owed, her contract stipulated a minimum number of hours which were not offered to her. A demand letter was sent with the boss requested to respond. The boss refused to pay and insisted that he didn't have to pay her for “the hours she didn't work”; nevertheless, the law says that a worker should work at least the minimum hours his contract says.
This summer, Brighton Hospitality Workers (BHW) took on one of the most uncompromising bosses we have faced. The owner (who shall henceforth be referred to as ‘V’) of a well-known local café had hired a worker with an agreement to pay her £6ph but when it came to payday, he only coughed up what amounted to £5ph and refused to pay her holiday pay. After V refused to pay her the remainder, the worker approached BHW, who agreed to support her in getting back her owed wages.
During the initial meeting with V, BHW delivered a letter outlining reasons for the conflict and the demands of the worker. The worker herself was too scared to face V. V was verbally and physically abusive, and refused to accept the letter (we left it on the premises anyway).
Poster to publicise the Health & Social Care network set up by Brighton Solfed
When management at the University of Sussex announced plans to outsource 235 jobs, workers responded by launching a 'Pop-Up Union', a new tactic in modern British industrial relations. Is this a model other workers can emulate? Solfed members involved in the Pop Up Union analyse what happened.
Touted by some union leaders as the largest co-ordinated union action in British history, July 10 sees millions of public sector workers from across the country on strike. During the one-day action – with the promise of more days to follow - local government workers will join teachers, civil servants, fire fighters and many others.
Victory in wages dispute! Following a prolonged campaign against a high-profile Brighton grocer, a former cashier worker & BHW member has received £1,250 in owed wages and unpaid holiday entitlement. The worker, who was on a zero-hours contract, was sacked without notice following 3 weeks when the bosses refused to give her any hours. She was also owed holiday pay from the previous & current holiday year for leave she was prevented from taking.
Another victory for Brighton Hospitality Workers and for direct action! In February, two members of Brighton Hospitality Workers (BHW) brought unpaid holiday entitlement issues to the group, incurred while both had worked at the Brighton premisis of a transnational hotel chain. The hotel's housekeeping staff were contracted to work there by the UK operation of an international recruitment exploiter with a reputation for withholding pay, particularly after contracts had been terminated. One worker was owed £286 in holiday pay for leave she was prevented from taking, despite repeated requests to her manager, as well as 2 days' outstanding sick pay. The second worker was owed £180 in holiday pay, also for leave she was prevented from taking, again despite repeated requests – in December her boss told her she 'had lost' her right to take paid leave.
On Saturday 22nd March members of the Brighton Hospitality Workers and Brighton Solidarity Federation picketted a prominent Brighton hotel over unpaid overtime owed to members of staff.
The hotel has since promised to ensure the overtime owed is fully paid. We are therefore not currently naming the hotel, although we intend to escalate our campaign should they fail to pay the workers involved.
After several months of organising, Brighton Hospitality Workers are beginning to deliver the goods. Three members recently approached us with issues concerning unpaid wages and holiday entitlement from former employers, all with employment agencies and on zero-hours contracts. Demand letters were sent and within 48 hours one worker had wages paid in full, amounting to £264. However, the bosses were dragging their heels over paying holiday entitlement for untaken leave and another demand letter was sent, again resulting in payment of £95. Another worker’s demand letter resulted in payment of £358 in owed wages, although this should have been £385 and we’re not giving up on this. The third worker, who was with the same scumbag agency, is still owed £176 in unpaid holiday entitlement after the demand letter was ignored.
Last Friday, the 27th December, Brighton SolFed members and Spanish migrant workers from the collective “Marea Granate”, were in Churchill Square supporting a coordinated international protest against the current wave of repression in Spain. The protest was in response to the call for solidarity by our Spanish comrades.
Last November, thirty workers were arrested because of their participation in an education strike. This is only one more step in the repression and intimidation strategy of the Spanish government. The increase of detentions and the new laws against the protests, show that they want ordinary people to keep quiet while they dismantle basic civil rights and attack their live conditions.
Brighton Solidarity Federation are calling for a day of solidarity with comrades in Spain currently suffering detention and harassment by the state. We'll be unfurling a banner and distributing propaganda about the situation which has reached critical levels for both the anarchist movement and the Spanish people. We are also calling for a communications blockade of the Spanish embassy and consulate in London (details of stall and blockade below). From our leaflet:
Encouraged by the positive response to our recent publicity campaign, Brighton Hospitality Workers are holding our first open meeting. This will be an opportunity for workers to meet, share experiences and discuss how we can collectively tackle issues in the workplace, no matter how seemingly minor. We’ll be promoting the benefits of workers’ self-organisation in a sector where lack of employment rights and exploitation are commonplace. Towards mutual support and solidarity - all welcome!
Monday 2nd December, 6-8 pm at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton BN2 4JA (near to St. Peter’s Church & opposite Co-Op supermarket).
You can get in touch with us via the contact form on this site.
Health & Social Care drop-in surgeries
The Brighton SolFed Health & Social Care network holds drop-in surgeries on the last Monday of each month.
Health and Social Care drop in surgeries
The Brighton Solfed Health and Social Care network holds monthly drop in surgeries, on the last Monday of each month. (pdf)
Operation Pandora: Stop repression in Spain!
On 16th December 11 anarchists were detained in Barcelona, in what is known as “Operation Pandora”. (pdf)
Stop Casualisation: ADECCO
This week Brighton SolFed is attending a call out for solidarity with Spanish workers of Arvato-Qualytel. This company provides the telecommunications services to Orange. (pdf)
Stop ADECCO strike-breaking
Workers at a Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) factory in Cordoba, Spain have been on indefinite strike since 28th November, camped out all day and night in front of the factory. (pdf)
Student Radicals: an incomplete history of protest at the University of Sussex 1971-75
Three generic posters for supporting strike action, available as a pdf.
Vodafone: tax dodgers AND union-busters
Also available as a pdf file.
Education workers: Stop the Cuts at Sussex uni
Leaflet we wrote after 115 redundancies were announced at Sussex university, where several of our members work or study. (pdf)
For Workers Control - Lessons of recent struggles in the UK
8-page leaflet looking at what we can learn from the 2007 postal strike, the 2008 public sector strike and the 2009 Visteon occupation. (pdf)
What is anarcho-syndicalism?
This is a leaflet we produced in August 2009, explaining some basics of anarcho-syndicalism. (pdf)
Stop the BNP, stop the real bigots
Leaflet produced for a demo against the BNP launching a local branch in December 2008.