Friday, 31 December 2010

No War but Class War - 2010 in review

So, what has 2010 been all about? This year saw the ruling class put the recession behind them and the "recovery" - clawing back and shoring up the power structures of capitalism. It gave the working class austerity, to pay for that recovery. And it has ended with the explosive escalation of the class war.

In January, an article for the Commune had this message;
The last decade saw the working class sidelined. Those claiming to stand for workers’ rights failed because they started by insisting that they knew the answers and the workers had to follow. The new decade must be one of focusing on building communism from below.
As the year ends, we can say that this message has been heeded. There is mass resistance without formal hierarchies. People are building from below. But it didn't look that way as the year began.

In Britain, the General Election campaign kicked off with all of the main parties promising to attack the working class. But the only consistent struggle against the cuts was that being fought by PCS, largely isolated by the fact that most other unions are affiliated to the then-incumbent Labour government.

It took the Liberal Democrats entering a coalition government with the Conservatives, and a slew of broken pledges, for people to come around to the idea that politics is bunk. In the wake of innumerable attacks on the worse off, disillusionment became anger. Despite an extremely tepid response from trade union leaders, rank-and-file workers, students, and activists forced militancy.

And it was Demo 2010 which really kicked things off;
It could be argued that an occupation of Tory HQ was only ever going to be a set piece for battle with the police. Whilst it might deliver a short, sharp shock to the establishment, it simply takes more activists out the picture thanks to legal action and writes the corporate media's PR for them.

But the action's merit lies in what it symbolises rather than in any tactical gain. As it was happening, others were making the case for direct action to the students themselves by giving out leaflets (PDF) and talking to people on the march may have provided a base to build for something more substantial. Simply smashing in the windows and having a fight would have scared many of them off, on the basis of propaganda and spin, but being more than just blind hooliganism it has the weight to draw many more in.

Hence the words of those on the roof of the building;
We stand against the cuts, in solidarity with all the poor, elderly, disabled and working people affected. We are against all cuts and the marketisation of education. We are occupying the roof of Tory HQ to show we are against the Tory system of attacking the poor and helping the rich. This is only the beginning.
And that has to be the important point at this stage. Successful direct action requires mass support and mass participation, and that doesn't come whilst people are still following Aaron Porter and believing that a march from A to B will do the trick. It won't. All it does is serve as a pressure release for anger which we should be channelling as a weapon. Porter and his co-thinkers have no reason to be smug, unless they are willingly defusing the potential for effective student resistance.
And the final Day X which truly crystallised the spirit of resistance at present;
Although the government won today's vote, the sheer force of anger alone has seen 30 Lib Dem and Conservative MPs vote against their parties. A continuing campaign of occupations and other forms of direct action could see universities refusing to implement the rise, simply because it is impossible to do so in the face of student action. And if this anger truly has radicalised a generation, it will hopefully feed into a struggle against austerity that could yet see today's decision reversed.

What is important now is that the momentum is maintained. This vote should not be seen as the end of the student revolts. They, as the rest of the working class, face a lot more attacks ahead. But, if we build on the momentum of the last few weeks, it need not look that daunting a struggle.
In America, Barack Obama escalated the illegal war in Afghanistan, and initiated aggression against Yemen. He also built upon Bush-ear civil liberties violations, by keeping Guantanamo Bay open and setting a precedent of killing US citizens without due process. And yet, he was met with a lamentable silence from the anti-war movement.

But the fact that he wasn't the radical change everyone had hoped for hadn't gone unnoticed. Although the main response to Obama's presidency has been a reactionary one in the Tea Party, there have been the grumblings of a class war in the USA.

Indeed, I have reported in previous No War but Class War updates on a variety of worker's struggles in the country. The prisoners' strike in Georgia and various successful solidarity actions by SeaSol also prove that class antagonism is alive and well in the community, too. It is too easy to write America off as eternally in the grip of capitalism. But Howard Zinn, who died in January, recognised the potential of the American working class and so should we.

In Canada, there was the G8 and G20;
The mainstream media were keen to report riots, confrontations, and arrests as demonstrations "turn violent" and police cars are set ablaze. Toronto's media cooperative, meanwhile, were more concerned with the police's illegal searches, the often spurious detention of activists, and the house raids conducted without warrants.
RNC '08 reported on repressive border controls against journalists. Obstruction of the press culminated today in the assault and arrest of a Guardian journalist.

The biggest overlooked story in this, however, has been the mobilisation of Canada's indigenous peoples. Toronto Community Mobilisation dedicated Thursday's events to indigenous sovereignty, which drew attention to the government "extinguishing Aboriginal and Treaty rights," and how the Tar Sands was "a violation of Aboriginal and Treaty rights, and the most destructive industrial project on earth."
But most of these issues are not reported or discussed in the mainstream media, except sparingly. In particular, the potential of actions by indigenous people to effect real change lacks incisive attention.

An exception to the rule, Jon Elmer of Al Jazeera offers an in-depth analysis;
But with Canadian soldiers, snipers, commandos and police tactical units representing the sharp end of a security budget that is poised to top $1bn, the most significant threat to business as usual for the summit may turn out to be far-flung rural blockades enacted by Canada's long suffering native communities.

"It's a very dangerous situation," said Douglas Bland, a retired Canadian forces lieutenant-colonel who is now the chair of defence management studies at Queen's University.

In recent years in particular, Canada's indigenous communities have shown the will and potential to grind the country's economic lifelines to a halt through strategically placed blockades on the major highways and rail lines that run through native reserves well outside of Canada's urban landscape.

"The Canadian economy is very vulnerable," said Bland.

"More than 25 per cent of our GDP comes from exports of raw materials, but especially oil, natural gas and electricity to the United States."

"It's undefended and undefendable infrastructure, the pipelines and power lines and so on, and it runs through great spaces of open countryside and they run through aboriginal territories.

"It would take a very small number of people very little time to bring [it] down," said Bland, who is the author of a "barely fictionalised" account of native insurgency in Canada, entitled Uprising.
The G8 and G20 are now over, but the issues facing the indigenous do not end with a single summit. They are ongoing.
As I have noted previously, Tar Sands is the most pressing, one of several areas worldwide where companies are "reaping huge profits by ravaging the environment, stealing and destroying the land of indigenous peoples, and even driving up the prices for the working class people who serve as essentially captive markets for their products in the west."

If the aim is to stop it, then militancy must take precedence where reformism inevitably fails.
Elsewhere, we have seen migrants fighting repression in Italy. The emergence of clandestine workers' councils in Iran. Bloodshed in Mexican mining disputes.And victory against legal suppression for anarcho-syndicalists in Belgrade and Berlin.

In Warsaw, a rent strike during October had significant effect, demonstrating the potential of grassroots community organisation. In China, a spate of suicides which drew attention to the plight of workers there was followed by an upsurge in militancy. General strikes shut down Portugal, Spain, and Greece. A general strike was also the pinnacle of a wave of unrest in South Africa.

In 2011, there is no doubt that such scenes of global unrest will continue. All that remains to be seen is the path they take.

Whilst many people, and not just anarchists, are fighting to instigate or maintain an organic, rank-and-file movement, others are working against this in the name of party building. The question is who will win out - the libertarians and the radical workers, or the democratic centralists.