"Direct action casework" groups

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888's picture
888
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Sep 6 2010 20:03
bizcaz wrote:
Yeah. We planned an action which didn't end up happening because the workers who were owed wages (a month's worth each!) ended up getting paid the day before we had it planned. So we haven't actually had any "actions" yet.

We tried postering and leafleting heavily in our town for a while but it didn't end up producing any solid connections with people. A few people called up but they just wanted legal info.

The connections we have made have been through word of mouth - people who heard about what we're trying to do through mutual acquaintances. We're hoping that our first few "actions" will happen through these word of mouth connections, then we can use some initial victories to get the word out more broadly. We're holding off on a website and other promotions until we have something to show for ourselves so that people have a clearer idea of what we're trying to do.

888, thanks for your encouragement. And good to hear about other solidarity networks getting going.

Good luck. We had many false starts for several months from November 07 until our first real fight - Greenlake Motel - in Feb/March 08. Also several of our fights came from friends or members of the network, so that might be a good way to get started, and it's also good as it shows it's about people helping each other and themselves, not some outside group helping the helpless...

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communal_pie
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Sep 6 2010 20:36

The article about the FAU is hosted on this site: http://libcom.org/library/berlin-2006-long-road-organizing-unemployed-can-be-strenouos-trying-repel-labour-exchang

I thought it was very inspiring myself, it is exactly the right approach to target jobcentre workers themselves.

As for not knowing about LCAP, I was briefly involved with the 'roadshow' which specifically aimed at setting up local groups, I do know how it works so my criticisms do not exist in a bubble.

888's picture
888
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Sep 6 2010 21:18

By the way, multiple new videos from different sources about SeaSol here - http://www.youtube.com/user/bakunin888#p/u

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Juan Conatz
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Sep 6 2010 21:53
Dead End wrote:
We're in the process of trying to start a solidarity network here in Iowa City as well.

btw, 888, two of us in WRC will be in your city this week and we'll be definitely looking to talk to SeaSol peoples. If you're around expect inquisitions laugh out loud

klas batalo
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Sep 7 2010 04:31

this discussion took off in some nice directions. grin

posi
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Sep 7 2010 08:57
888 wrote:
posi wrote:
EDITED TO ADD: and as for more doing direct action... that's all very well, but it's not up to you, it's up to the person concerned, and if there is a viable legal route that has a chance to work in time, which there often is, they will often want to try that - quite reasonably.

If people want to take legal action we give them information about various free legal resources, and say goodbye. We will leave that kind of work to other groups.

sure, but sometimes the decision about whether to take DA itself depends on the legal situation (e.g. likelihood of winning by legal route, what stage in the procedure, hence who the decision makers are, etc.), and is not a separate process - e.g. taking a bunch of people to back up an appeal at the housing office and refuse to leave if it isn't granted. Question is whether relevant expertise can cease to be a specialist commodity, but rather the property of a self organised group. I don't know how far that's actually happened, but I'm sure that's the aim. It'd be pretty crazy for a shop steward - or any workplace activist - to refuse to touch any sort of legal or procedural advice, because it's such an important thing to people...

posi
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Sep 7 2010 10:01

Who's "us"? Why don't you engage with what I actually posted?

If you read again what I wrote, my point is that, practically, it isn't always straightforward to disentangle the legal process from the direct action process. From what I know about SeaSol actions, it's less true of what they do - which is for a number of reasons, including a different legal structure (the more developed, convoluted welfare state we have here), for example.

This isn't a defence of becoming some sort of freelance CAB volunteer as-political-activity. I'm saying that having a good understanding of formal rights and real processes, and being able to talk with people who have some sort of problem about those is often practically important.

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Sep 7 2010 15:39

I want to point out that the link in the original post is broken. Here's what it should be -
http://www.anarchistblackcat.org/index.php/topic,7319.new.html

Two other thoughts about legality and so on. One, I think "is reliance on direct action a strength?" depends on what the goals are. If the goal is simply to resolve the grievance, then it seems to me that this not a strength - if there are also legal routes to resolution then refusal of legal routes just limits the range of tactical options. If the goal is to build a culture of direct action and develop cadre through experience and training, though, then I think it's a different matter.

Two, more murky and theoretical... it sounds like often the grievances are tied to failures to live up to existing legal standards. That;s certainly my experience with similar efforts where I live - people get screwed out of what is rightfully theirs according to the current set of laws and regulations. This is a problem for people materially because they need the money etc. I think this is also extra outrageous to many people, because they're not only getting screwed out of money they need, the boss/landlord is doing so illegally and illegitimately. The Republic Windows and Doors action had a similar element to it. And in a way I suppose all union contracts have something related to this as well. They're not about retroactively enforcing the law (ie, getting restitution for when people get screwed out of what is legally their) but they are about creating legally binding agreements that improve conditions -- that is, they raise the legal floor, for a small set of the class. I'm all for improved conditions but for some reason there's something that seems weird to me in all this about the role of law/legality.

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 7 2010 16:34

Nate; i think a lot of this stuff will necessarily be about enforcing the existing laws. I mean the main case we had was someone who hadn't been paid for two months, and who was surviving on tips having moved onto a friend's sofa. I think that just reflects the balance of class forces - they're beating us so bad they don't even have to play by their own rules. Hopefully if we can build up a track record of winning things with direct action we can then argue the case to take the initiative with demands over and above the legal minimums. FAU's trajectory has been something like this, with the Babylon Cinema case where the workers drew up their desired terms and conditions following years of more individual conflicts, often around basic rights.

I mean in my last job, the worst issue was being forced to work through breaks and do unpaid overtime. That's not legal, but it was the main flashpoint i was trying to organise around. I lost my job after some minor progess, but if we'd have won that consistently maybe our next demand would be more ambitious. The IWW Starbuck Union guy who was over in London recently had a good story about demanding a fan due to the heat at work, then threatening to - and then actually - walking off the job to buy one. The next week the boss installed expensive air conditioning... so i think there is a plausible path from fighting for to enforce the notional rights we do have to demanding things over and above them (e.g. maybe SeaSol will soon be in a position to sit down with tennants and draw up some minimum standards of their own over and above the state ones, then start targetting all landlords that fall below it*).

* there are potential problems with this kind of thing, but it's just one example

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Sep 7 2010 18:43

JK, thanks for that, that's helpful. I think this is one area where an explicitly revolutionary ideology is really important, because we need to be able to say what you said -- right now the situation is such that the other side doesn't even have to play by their rules, for now smaller fights are often about getting those rules enforced, but we don't believe that their world with all the rules followed is anything like justice. In a way, this could all be said about fighting firings too -- one of the early victories in the Starbucks thing here (that guy who was in London was one of the main actors on it) was a march on the boss to reverse a firing. One of the other key organizers got fired because a boss didn't like him. They confronted the boss in a group, got the firing reversed, and in days that boss was calling in literally in tears, and she quit shortly after. That was all very cool, but it's not like all we want is for low waged workers to not get fired...

I hope you and that IWW Starbucks guy got to hang out some, he's one of my best comrades and friends.

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 7 2010 17:17

He kept doing a double-take and saying i'm like a Brit Nate, i need to grow my hair or something...

The way i think about it, i think the kind of neutral/apolitical syndicalist approach works fine when bosses are adversarial - the class struggle perspective is forced on you. The problem comes when either the bosses are smarter/'nicer'/more lefty or you have enough success to force them to change tactics. Broadly the two ways they try and neutralise us are repression and recuperation, normally in that order. Apolitical syndicalism can deal with repression (in fact it can be strengthened by it if it survives), but i think it's vulnerable to recuperation. After all, why, having fought long and hard would you spurn a place at the table in a works council, or turn down thousands in state subsidies, unless you had strong convictions against class collaboration? Why would you strike against a war, unless you were a proletarian internationalist (see the old CGT...)? I think these perspectives can and do arise from every day struggle, but there's nothing automatic about it at all - people are complex and contradictory.

I think this is what happened with the CNT after legalisation; loads of reformist workers joined and used the union democracy to do reformist things, leading to the CGT split. The CNT still maintains it's non-ideological, but then lists the 'three NOs' of works councils, union elections and state funds, which to my mind are clearly political positions (and uniquely anarchist/communist ones). I think the same applies outiside the workplace. You can imagine SeaSol say becoming such a thorn in the side of local property owners that the local state offers them a subsidy and some office space, and encourages landlords to become 'SeaSol certified' as a sort of kitemark. As SeaSol are mostly anarchists I'm sure the state would be told to shove it - but it would force the hitherto implicit politics to become explicit, as works councils did to the CNT.

Personally I think it's clearer to just be upfront about your politics from the start, not least because people are going to suspect an ulterior motive when you're willing to spend time and effort helping them out (whether they think you're religious charity nuts or whatever). But this then has organisational/recruitment implications, people may practically agree with your politics but not 'intellectually' identify with them. I think that's why the CNT tries to frame its revolutionary perspective in the most concrete way possible - specific things it (uniquely) refuses to do, rather than a more theoretical rejection of representation etc (that said, 'Qué es la CNT?' says something to the effect of 'only you can represent yourself'). Or for that matter why the first line of the pre-amble is so important in the IWW. I think there's a lot of merit in that, and I'm not entirely sure where I draw the line. I mean i don't think you should have to identify as anarchist, communist, Marxist, anarcho-syndicalist or whatever, since most people only feel comfortable with such labels several years down the road, if ever. But there does need to be some basic principled agreement imho. Anyway, kinda rambling...

klas batalo
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Sep 7 2010 21:58

yeah i generally think that for a industrial/community "network of militants" there doesn't need to be a unity of theory as much as a unity of practice (what the group will and will not do) that way people with different levels of consciousness or slight disagreements on theory would be able to find practical ways of working together. however such an commitment to a points of unity would obviously keep a political element it wouldn't be as open ended as traditional unions or community service organizations.