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What is working?
November 15, 2014 @ 10:30 am - 4:30 pm
What is the connection between day-to-day workplace organising and wider anti-capitalist struggle?
What is our role as ‘revolutionaries’ in our own workplaces?
What kinds of workplace struggles open up possibilities for wider and more fundamental social and political change, and what kinds simply reproduce existing hierarchies and end up containing class struggle?
This discussion event is for anyone involved in, or interested in having an open debate about, our varied experiences of workplace organising. There have been a number of high profile struggles recently: the Tres Cosas campaign by cleaners at the University of London, the Brighton hospitality workers, the Tube strikes organised by RMT, big one-day public sector strikes.
But they leave many open questions:
– If the union cannot struggle for different sections of workers e.g those on temporary contracts, even within the same workplace, what good is the union? And what forms of struggle that bring different types of workers together can, or are, emerging in its place?
– What actions, apart from largely symbolic one-day strikes, actually put pressure on the bosses and the state?
– How can our political activity help to build worker’s collective self-organisation?
– How does a particular workplace affect the type of struggle and form of organisation? For example, the University of London (Tres Cosas) cleaners have been helped in their success by a number of factors including things like: they work in a high-profile university campus with a ready supply of left-wing student activists to support them, they have strategic and translation support from the IWGB, and the majority of workers speak Spanish as a first language and share a common cultural/national identity. With these particular circumstances, what can other workers in different situations then learn from their experience?
– If an organisation proclaims victories to recruit members to its organisation, how can we have an honest discussion about what didn’t work and more open and collective reflections on strategy and conclusions?
– And crucially, why is this important? Why do we bother with workplace organising? Obviously it is an integral part of our politics within the left/communist milieu, perhaps for different reasons. But at the very least, the processes and content of our organising efforts should somehow connect to our particular analyses of how capitalism is working and how we move beyond it. But in practice, does it?
This event is an attempt to explore these questions. We think that we urgently need to review our struggles so that we can critically reflect on what worked, what didn’t and why. While individual organisations might have these discussions behind closed doors, we invite people across the revolutionary left with different political analyses and experiences in workers’ organisation to come together to share experiences, critically reflect on our role as militants in our workplaces and crucially, to think about how our decisions connect to our wider vision of political transformation. We hope to start a fruitful exchange that will bring us closer to the question of what (new) forms of organisation are emerging that can bring workers together and build a strong, international working class movement.
As part of the discussion we’ll be hearing from a few different people about their experiences of organising:
Someone from an anarcho-syndicalist organisation will talk about their experiences of organising with precarious workers and organising strikes in FE colleges in London. She also has years of experience of working within more traditional union structures. There will also be someone to talk about organising Brighton hospitality workers.
We will have someone talking about their experiences of organising as precarious teaching assistants at SOAS without the support of the union who refused to back them because they were already in a dispute about the pay of permanent lecturers. We will also have someone talking about organising HPLs in universities.
AngryWorkers and Workers Initiative in Poland will talk about their experiences of organising within the warehouse sector in West London.
We will have someone from the Tres Cosas cleaners campaign.
We will have someone to talk about the recent tube strikes as militant union representatives within the RMT union and about the ‘Tubeworker’ workplace bulletin as members of Workers’ Liberty.
We hope, that by bringing different peoples’ experiences and political perspectives together, we can debate the possibilities and feel encouraged to try different approaches.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
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See you there!