At the end of this messy heap of muffled days, we thought of looking back so as to look forward in anger. This is not a political assessment of the wider social situation, but a summary of stuff we did and circulated during 2020. And the year had started out all good, with some tasty kebabs and Cobras at our favourite Punjabi Kitchen in Greenford, all happy and mask-free together, celebrating a £7,000 victory of our west London solidarity network! Those were the days…
Then the bat hit the fan. Like everyone else, we tried to understand what was happening to us and the world under the Covid-19 regime. After going shopping for our feisty, elderly neighbour Linda, we first thought of how to discuss the pandemic from a revolutionary perspective. Facing the early panic of fellow supermarket workers and customers, then we thought it would be good to write about the crisis of the food supply chain from a working class viewpoint. In order to make things a little more visual, we circulated a photo diary of a Tesco delivery driver. Another comrade wrote about what was happening, or rather not happening, at her food factory, refusing the jobs vs. health trap.
As Covid-19 started spreading in Europe and the US, we were confused about the praise that many people on the left had for the ‘efficiency’ of the Chinese regime when dealing with Covid-19. So we published a letter from a comrade in China to help put things in perspective. Instead of marvelling at the dictatorial, but equally disorganised power of the state in China, we preferred to look at what was happening on the ground and wrote a summary of working class struggles during the early lockdown period. We also translated a detailed analysis of the meat sector, where workers were hit hard. In hindsight we think that our text on deepening divisions and potentials for working class unification under the Corona regime is still a good basis for discussion. During autumn, rent strikes amongst students picked up, so we published an interview about the Manchester university occupation. Last, but surely not least, we translated a text on the question of vaccines, looking at immunity and the fetters of production.
‘Class Power on Zero-Hours’
In early 2020 we wrote and published our book ‘Class Power on Zero-Hours’, reflecting of six years of working and political intervention in west London’s industrial areas. We had arranged a nice tour plan to discuss the book in various towns in the UK and abroad, but Corona screwed us for real. So in the end we relied on podcasts, videos and online discussions. Some of the book reviews gave us a change to clarify our positions on syndicalism and the relation between economic and political struggle. Other comrades who read our book invited us to elaborate more on our own strategy. At this point we want to give another shout out to our comrades from Insurgent Notes in the US who organised a discussion forum about our book. If you have read the book – or still plan on reading it – we are always up for chatting about it. Hopefully we can organise some local meetings soon again!
AngryWorkers UK network and local activities
For us, the most important effort in 2020 was to get together with like-minded comrades in other parts of the UK. For this purpose we set up a temporary blog around the ‘Let’s get rooted’ network and announced a conference for later during the year. This of course never happened, thanks to the second wave of the pandemic. Still, we managed to gather in a smaller circle and had a decent meeting – you can read a summary of the minutes. The main aim of ‘Let’s get rooted’ is to help setting up local groups who are active within the working class. Here the comrades from Croydon have been most active, publishing two local workers’ newsletters and numerous leaflets for Royal Mail, Tesco and Amazon workers. Their outstanding experiences were their support of local Pizza Hut workers and with local mutual aid groups. The groups at Heathrow, in Bristol, in East London and the north of England (Manchester, Leeds) are still finding their feet. During the last year we had the chance to get more practically involved in two strikes: the dispute of council workers in Tower Hamlets and the strike of airport workers at Heathrow. A more concerted and ongoing effort is an interview series about the changing power relations between workers and bosses during the lockdown. You can find over a dozen interviews with tube drivers, hospital workers, Amazon and university workers on the blog. They will form part of a political pamphlet for intervention that we will distribute on the picket lines of 2021.
The AngryWorkers process is not merely about local groups, but about a collective debate about working class revolutionary politics and communism as a emancipatory and pragmantic social alternative. In reference to the strikes and uprising in the US after the George Floyd murder, we wrote a short piece about a communist transitional program for today. We are well aware of the fact that concepts like ‘communism’, ‘party’, and ‘program’ have been used in the past in order to suppress and exploit workers. We therefore looked critically at our own history in pretty awful ‘revolutionary organisations’ and asked ourselves if we are part of the left at all, given the current revival of anti-emancipatory tendencies, such as Maoism. We put forward some alternative ideas on class consciousness and organisation and on the relation between crisis and workers’ debates and the question of the specific nature of capitalist development. All of this is work-in-progress and we invite you to discuss 21st century working class strategy together with us. As part of the debate, we organised various public Zoom meetings with comrades from Canada, Italy and Brazil. We discussed strike experiences from the past, e.g. the Wapping strike 1986 and current struggles at universities in the UK, the US and India.
Given the heavy attacks from the bosses and the general day-to-day struggle, it is easy to get bogged down in localism. We therefore try to make a conscious effort to help rebuild working class internationalism. We started an internationalism series documenting personal experiences of international working class activity, for example in Turkey, India, Bosnia and South America. During the course of 2020, we wrote or translated articles on the class struggle situation in China, Bangladesh, Italy, Serbia and other regions. Part of this effort is to take on the responsibility of reporting about the situation in the UK for comrades abroad. We wrote a short text after Johnson’s election victory and its aftermath. We then wrote about the conditions under the first lockdown regime. In autumn we wrote a report about the pre-Brexit squeeze of the UK, analysing the global integration and dependency of various economic sectors. We discussed a shorter version at our meeting in November.
Angry review of books
In 2020 we’d surely spent enough time reading on the sofa. This resulted in a few book reviews. We start with Vasily Grossman’s ‘Everything Flows’, followed by thoughts on Endnotes no.5. Did you know that you get 100 times more views if you write about Endnotes compared to reports on week-long violent occupations of multinational automobile factories in India?! Anyway. We then ironed our ‘Tracksuits, Traumas and Class Traitors’ and crossed the border into ‘Revolutionary Yiddishland’. We closed the year with a bit of a masochistic read on ‘War and the International – A history of the Trotskyist movement in Britain 1937 -1949’ and a review of a comrade’s book on ‘Workers’ Inquiry and Global Class Struggle – Strategies, Tactics, Objectives’.
Famous last words…
We swear, 2020 is the last year that we try and be funny. It went completely wrong, no one understood why we question if the subaltern can write!
On a more serious note, we want to invite you to unmute yourself together with us in 2021! Get in touch if you want to get involved…
In solidarity and anger, yours forever