Add new comment

Submitted by Cautiously Pes… on Wed, 31/08/2016 - 23:43

In reply to by AWL

OK, so I finally finished writing up a full response to this article. Also if you ever get a chance, I really would recommend reading the Angry Workers' comments on the social strike idea - they're quite critical of it from a more classical Marxist/focused on the point of production standpoint, but their criticisms point in very different directions to yours.

Anyway, to respond to your specific points here - I don't think there's much to be gained from another round of "it's important to organise in places where the TUC unions don't already have a strong presence" "yes, but it's important to have a strategy for those sectors where the TUC unions exist" "yes, but it's important to organise in places where the TUC unions don't already have a strong presence", etc.

There is also an interesting parallel here between how you're uncomfortable with the idea of non-strikers intervening in other people's disputes from the outside, whereas I have the exact same instinctive discomfort with the idea that building organisation among unorganised workers has to be led by workers in the existing unions, rather than being primarily the act of workers in those unorganised industries themselves. (As an aside: are you equally uncomfortable with the way that AUEW members in Birmingham took it upon themselves to "socialise" the Saltley Gates dispute, even though they were definitely "outside" the coal industry?)

I think the really crucial point you make is when you point out that we're talking about how a small group of revolutionary workers within that movement can most effectively dispose of its necessarily limited resources. You raise the idea of "fuck the unions, let's just start again in ones and twos in unorganised workplaces" as a kind of joke, but I'd say that the revolutionary workers we're talking about are inevitably going to be starting off in ones or twos in unorganised workplaces in many cases, and it doesn't matter whether your attitude is "fuck the unions" or "I love the unions, I think the unions are great", those people are still going to be faced with trying to organise in places where there's not the protection of an existing union structure.

I don't think there's any getting around this - like it or not, we don't have a revolutionary HR department that can assign people to one place or another, and we can hardly ask a supermarket cashier or bar worker who develops an interest in anti-capitalist ideas to quit their job and retrain as a bus driver overnight, any more than we can blame people for failing to live up to their radical potential if they go for an interview with the council, don't get it and then have to settle for a horrible small employer's call centre instead. Given that this is the case, given that for the foreseeable future not all revolutionary workers are going to be working in the industries we view as being most strategic, even if that was desirable (not to mention the existence of benefits claimants, pensioners, students, fulltime caregivers and so on), I think any conversation about "what can the scattered forces of revolutionary workers do?" needs to include something along the lines of "how do we respond to disputes in industries we're not involved in?" I think the social strike idea has value as a way of posing that question, and beginning to suggest some answers; equally, I think a critique of the social strike that boils down to "hey, you're talking like you don't work in that sector, don't you realise it would be better if you did work in that sector?" doesn't help to resolve things much.

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.