Over recent weeks Croydon Solidarity 1, AngryWorkers and other comrades have started a debate about how to intensify our collaboration and make it open for others. 2 This debate was compounded by the Covid-19 crisis around us and encouraged us to pronounce more clearly our need for a new form of working class organisation. This article is written in the spirit of this organisation. It is not a pompous programatic proclamation, but a work schedule, a discussion paper for the next strategic steps.
Our efforts have to be based on a broadly shared understanding of how capitalism works and how to overcome it. We will discuss these general questions, but our organisation will primarily distinguish and thereby open itself to others by concrete work, mutual committment and research. The general spirit is not to grow the organisation for the sake of it. Instead we want to help to grow the ability of the working class to self-organise internationally and to demonstrate the potential for communism in the actual movements of the class and the crisis of capital. For the moment our common platform is summarised here:
The focus of our activities will be the setting up of local solidarity networks in strategically important working class areas, activities in and around bigger workplaces, and the circulation of a regular local working class publication. We want to discuss openly and self-critically the experiences of setting up such minimal structures and support each other. We invite existing local initiatives to join in and potentially expand their activities. We are aware that not everyone is able to participate on this level for various reasons, but encourage those comrades to help the effort, e.g. through their research work or by help running the organisational infrastructure. We see the last six years of AngryWorkers activities in west London not as a template, but as something that has to be critically reviewed, also according to specific local conditions:
We need more than just a federal structure of local collectives. We need a common discussion and decisions that can shape local practice. The second focus is therefore to meet regularly to discuss the local experiences against the background of both the UK and international developments of class struggle. We feel responsible to help international comrades understand the situation in the UK and to establish contacts to local workers if needed.
We are in the process of preparing for a constituting and planning conference for the end of 2020. In order to make all this more concrete we write down some preliminary ideas for a 1-year plan, based on the assumption that 20 to 30 people and 4 to 5 local collectives take part, who are willing and able to meet quarterly.
- Initially we will have to focus on establishing a basic infrastructure, e.g. an online platform, to discuss our local experiences and to create a productive feedback loop: local experiences will inform our general discussions and out of our discussions we can provide valuable information for the local working class.
- This is where the concept of ‘getting rooted’ comes in. Rather than trying to squeeze the class into some organisational shape, we want to have our ears to the ground in working class industries and neighbourhoods in all their complexity – and base our organisational proposals on these concrete conditions. This also means making and then strengthening connections with militant workers, so that our research can be diffused and debated in key sectors.
- As part of the wider collaboration we should discuss bi-monthly ‘editorial articles’ that we can circulate in our local publications. Currently the most pressing subject would be an assessment of the global Covid-19 regime and the responses of the working class so far.
- Another basic step would be the develop of a self-schooling program for new comrades and working class militants: a series of texts and discussions which help to generalise the theoretical and practical knowledge amongst us and encourage critical thinking.
- Based on this organisational fundament we have to develop knowledge and infrastructures that have use value for the working class. At the upcoming constituting meeting we should decide on certain questions that seem the most pressing to answer in order to understand the current developments within our class. This could be the impact of automation as we experience it on the shop-floor or migration or the crisis of working class families. Another strategic research question would be the current division of labour between ‘science and technical staff’ and ‘manual workers’ in the essential industries. We can then develop a research and interview schedule in order to structure a collective work process. Results of the research should be fed back into local publications and the wider debate.
- Most importantly we have to create in-depth reports about strikes and struggles in the UK. Unfortunately most of the current left and union formations don’t see the importance of such in-depth reports or see a critical reflection of strong and weak points of struggles as a threat to their organisational reputation. The working class can only learn out of failures. For these reports we need a sharp view, which comes out of collective debates – and the will to visit strikes and to engage in longer open conversations with those involved. We have to find ways to feed this information back into the local class and make an extra effort to bring it to workers who have a strategic interest, e.g. because they go through a similar situation or work in the same sector. We appreciate the efforts that comrades of groups have undertaken in that regard, but feel that their efforts so far have lacked working class roots for the feedback.
- Over the course of a year, through local work and these struggle visits, we should be able to invite interested working class militants to an independent ‘struggle conference’. Currently we don’t see an independent forum for workers’ to discuss their experiences. The National Shop Steward Network is dominated by the official trade union apparatus and party politics. The World Transformed is geared towards the Labour Party and not a space for reflection. Initially these meetings won’t have a mass character, but a conference of 100 people in 2021 seems a realistic goal.
- On the upcoming constituting meeting we should also agree on steps to take part and contribute to the international debate. The most basic task is to write bi-annual reports about the general development of the crisis and class struggle in the UK. Here we see the internationalist summer-camp structure with comrades from, amongst others, Grupao in Brazil, Bad Kids and Asap Revolution in France, Wildcat in Germany, TPTG and Assembly of Workers and Unemployed in Greece, as our primary reference point. Depending on the general developments we should also systematise our participation in the internationalist website feverstruggle.net, on struggles against the Covid-19 regime.
These are just the bare bones of organisation. We hope that a mutual focus and commitment towards the wider working class will mean that relations within the organisation will be supportive and constructive, without having to spend too much time on discussing ‘how we discuss’ or organise ‘how we organise ourselves’. The focus is outwards and patience is required. We know that class struggle is not gradual and we want to bear that in mind in our day-to-day organising. We want to prepare ourselves for the leaps of struggle that will inevitably come. These leaps will be contradictory, like the Yellow Vests in France or the recent protests and strikes in Bolivia. We want to prepare ourselves not in order to ‘capture the flag’ of these movements, but in order to detect and support the emancipatory tendencies within them theoretically and practically.
If you are interested in taking part in the preparatory process of the constituting meeting, please drop us an email.
To reiterate, this meeting will not be an exciting happening (although it might be exciting, too), it will perhaps not feel like a hip and historical moment, but a moment of commitment to work together.
Comrades from Croydon Solidarity Network, AngryWorkers and others