Monday, 16 July 2018

Report back on First Coordination Meeting of the Anarchist Communist Group 30th June 2018

At the first coordination meeting of the Anarchist Communist Group since its founding congress in February, comrades from Leicester, London, Surrey and Scotland met together in London to coordinate activities and propaganda.
There was an in-depth discussion on the National Health Service. At the end of the discussion it was decided to produce a pamphlet on the NHS which should be out later in the year, as well as leaflets and detailed analysis on ACG social media.
There was further discussion on bringing out a third issue of our news sheet, The Jackdaw, which would be an 8 page issue. This will appear at the beginning of September.
It was also decided to bring out other pamphlets in addition to our NHS pamphlet. These would include The Italian Factory Councils, The Friends of Durruti and the Spanish Revolution, anarchist communist perspectives on revolution, class, religion and land, and anarchist communist perspectives on organisation, a total of four.
In addition a new leaflet on Universal Credit will be produced, as well as stickers on Universal Credit,migrants, and landlords. Banners and flags bearing the ACG logo would also be produced.
There was also discussion on the content and organisation of our forthcoming Day School, Libertarian Communism 2018, in November in London.
At the end of the meeting, an observer decided to join the ACG. There was an enthusiastic atmosphere throughout the meeting, as there had been at our foundation conference.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Fifty years of resistance

There will be a speaker fromm the ACG at this tomorrow:

Rebel City Crowdfunder

Rebel City is an anarchist newspaper which aims to cover all issues of importance to working-class Londoners. We argue for a radical transformation of our city.

Originally published by London Anarchist Federation up to issue 5,
is now collectively produced by a range of groups and individuals. Besides the AF, contributors include the Anarchist Communist Group, Haringey Solidarity Group, members of Solidarity Federation, the Industrial Workers of the World and Feminist Fightback as well as unaffiliated individuals.
We print approximate 4,000 copies per edition and distribute for free at tube stations, social centres and demos. This crowdfunder will be used to cover printing costs for future issues. We are a non-profit group and all proceeds will go to fund our publishing efforts.
Get involved. Contribute articles and information. Take bundles and distribute them among yourneighbours and workmates.

Rebel City and the Threat To Public Space

Rebel City and the threat to public space
ACG members of the Rebel City Collective got first-hand confirmation of why we need to make London the ‘Rebel City’ whilst distributing the paper outside Shepherd’s Bush underground station. We met at 5 outside the station entrance and began to hand out papers. We had the usual competition of the Evening Standard. It wasn’t long before we were approached by a security guard from Westfield Shopping Mall. We were some distance from the entrance to the mall but for some reason the space outside the underground entrance is Westfield’s private property. We had not got permission from the owner to distribute our paper. The security guard was pleasant enough but nevertheless was concerned to ‘do his job’. By coincidence comrades from the Angry Workers were also there distributing leaflets for the anti-fascist mobilisation on the 14th.
We argued and then moved to the other side of the station which was public. However, we were missing quite a lot of people coming in from the other direction. Whilst 2 of us covered one exit, one of our group decided to move just into the entrance of the underground but was soon moved on by a very hostile London Underground manager. She decided to try once again onto the forecourt area owned by Westfield. Again the security guard tried to move her on but this time she decided not to. We have written often enough in the pages of Rebel Cityabout the privatisation of public space and how difficult it is to take any public political action, even something as unthreatening as distributing a political paper or leaflet.
Supported by a member of the Angry Workers she continued to hold her ground until four more security guards arrived as well as a ‘dog handler’ who we assumed was the police. They were surrounded and the ‘police’ aggressively ‘laid down the law’ about the sanctity of private property. All of this was being filmed by a small camera on the shoulder of the ‘dog handler’.
We moved on eventually but it seems that we shouldn’t be moved on from open places that are so clearly public but taken over by private companies. We need to reclaim these spaces!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Libertarian Communism 2018: Dayschool in London

Anarchist Communist Group Dayschool 3rd November
at May Day Rooms, London
Libertarian Communism 2018: Advancing the Class Struggle
Workshops on the NHS, What is effective organisation? Effective organisation: Neither Party nor Network
All those interested in the ideas of libertarian communism are welcome

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Is Class Still Relevant? An Anarchist Communist Perspective

The following was a talk given by an ACG member at a Rebel City Collective meeting at the recent AntiUniversity in London

It has become increasingly popular amongst academics and others that the working class is either tiny or no longer a key player in the struggle for a new society. They base this on the fact that in many western countries, eg the US, the industrial working class has declined as a result of deindustrialisation and the movement of factory production overseas. The implication is that ‘class struggle’ is less important and the focus should be on ‘people’ or other oppressed groups. In fact some would go so far as to argue that the white, male working class is reactionary and more of an enemy than a key component of revolutionary struggle.
Before we proceed to argue that class is indeed still very relevant, we first need to define what we mean by the working class. It is a structural relationship between two classes: those that own the means of production and distribution (the ruling class) and those that do not own the means of making their own livelihood and therefore have to sell their labour power (the working class). It does not just include those who do paid labour. It also includes the unemployed and retired workers as well as those who do unpaid labour in the home. These people do not own the means of production and have to depend on others – therefore still working class. It is not:
  • An identity: even if you do not identify as part of the working class, you still are.
  • By being part of the working class you are not asserting your identity with any particular characteristics or lifestyle. In fact, the struggle is to abolish the working class as much as it is to abolish the ruling class; no classes, only humanity.
  • Not a moral category. Being working class does not guarantee that you will be a good person or have the right politics. And, being born into the ruling class does not mean you are automatically a bastard.
There are several groups who do not fit neatly into either the working or ruling class. Within the working class there will be those who are much better off than others and/or hold positions of power over others, eg managers and foreman, doctors, lawyers. Within those who own the means of production, there will be some who own small amounts of property, eg shopkeepers, small farmers etc. These groups potentially could either support the aspirations of the working class or could side with the ruling class. Though they could be referred to as middle class, it seems more useful to keep the basic two class model, recognising that there are layers within those classes.
Evidence for the existence of class
It is obvious from wealth (land, houses, stocks and shares etc) statistics – the best indicator of owning the means of production – that there is great inequality in ownership, supporting the view that some are able to make a living by owning and controlling this wealth and others are not. 68.7% of the world’s population own 3% of the world’s wealth. The richest 10% of households own 45% of wealth. The poorest 50% own 8.7% ( Ownership of land is another key indicator. 69% of land in the UK is owned by 0.6% of the population. 70% of land is agricultural land and 150,000 people own all of it. UK housing is concentrated on 5% of the country’s land mass so people owning their own home represents a small amount of total land ownership. 1/3 of British land is still owned by aristocrats. 432 people own half the land in Scotland. Even these statistics do not give the full picture as much information about who owns what is shrouded in secrecy. And, wealth is not the means of production. Many people may own their own home or a few stocks and shares but this does not give them access to the means of production. In any case, we only have to look around us to see that the vast majority of people have to sell their labour to survive.
Class struggle is central
If we are going to create a new society based on equality, co-operation and justice then we will have to collectivise the means of production and distribution, thus abolishing the ruling class in any form. As Malatesta said:
Let there be as much class struggle as one wishes, if by class struggle one means the struggle of the exploited against the exploiters for the abolition of exploitation. That struggle is a way of moral and material elevation, and it is the main revolutionary force that can be relied on.” 
The struggle against the ruling class is a struggle against capitalism which permeates all aspects of life: it is an economic and social relationship maintained by the power of the State and supporting ideologies. Work is not just exploitation. It is alienating and mentally debilitating, affecting life outside of work. Capitalism affects our lives at home and in our ‘spare’ time. The working class is exploited through consumerism, encouraged to spend and get in debt to keep capitalism going. The State is the means by which the ruling class retains and enhances its power. It is not something that can be ‘captured’. Climate change is caused by capitalism and it is the working class that suffers the most. War is central to capitalism – for resources, markets, to maintain dominance. It is the working class that suffers from war. Capitalism uses other systems of oppression to maintain itself and to enhance exploitation and profits, eg patriarchy and racial oppression. For example, the slave trade was essential to the development of capitalism in Britain. Religion must also be challenged. It props up the ruling class as well as patriarchy and racial oppression by promoting reactionary ideas. It encourages people to submit to authority and to have illusions that they will be rewarded for their suffering in heaven. Therefore, class struggle is:
  • Fighting low wages, poor conditions and alienation at work.
  • Fighting for a decent home at fair rents – more public housing.
  • Fighting for a good quality of life: health care, healthy and cheap food, green spaces and clean air.
  • Fighting against homelessness, universal credit and other attacks on those who are most vulnerable.
  • Fighting against all States.
  • Fighting patriarchy and racial oppression.
  • Resisting the domination of consumer culture and creating our own culture of resistance.
  • Challenging reactionary ideologies such as religion.
  • Fighting against wars and climate change.
Distinction between class and oppressions: not class reductionist
The vast majority of people are working class. It is in their interest to overthrow capitalism for a number of different reasons, not just because of exploitation at work. There are other oppressions that exist in society, linked to capitalism but with their own dynamic and impacts. There are many ways that class struggle is linked to the struggle against oppressions; patriarchy and racial oppression are embedded within capitalism. Capitalism benefits from unpaid labour in the home and was based on the slave trade. Oppressed groups are often the worst affected by capitalism and State violence. The culture and ideology of capitalist society, supported by religion, encourages bigotry and conservatism towards non-conforming sexualities and genders. And, even if the oppression does not seem to directly relate to the class struggle, it is wrong and must be fought. We cannot create an anarchist communist society as long as there are any oppressions.
However, there are some distinctions. The class struggle aims to abolish all classes. The fight against patriarchy and racial oppression does not seek to abolish men or whites but to completely transform the relationships. Though the fight against oppressions may take priority for those oppressed at different times, ultimately they will only achieve full liberation as working class women or people of colour when classes are abolished. In addition, being part of an oppressed group does not mean that you are working class. Therefore, women, people of colour, LGBT+ could also be part of the ruling class and therefore the enemy.
Conclusion: Building an effective revolutionary movement based on class struggle
The working class, as the vast majority of people, is diverse and often divided. We need to unite together, show solidarity for all struggles even if they do not affect us directly, and tackle the divisions that exist within the working class. Only then will we be successful in our struggle against capitalism and for anarchist communism.

Save Our NHS?

Save Our NHS?

Healthcare in the UK is by no means ‘socialised’, as critics in the US claim. Though healthcare in the UK is undoubtedly better than healthcare in the US – just as other countries have better healthcare than the UK – it is still subject to the pressures and dynamics of capitalism, existing as it does in a capitalist society. It has also been increasingly marketised over recent decades, with attacks on both social provision and NHS workers coming under the cover of ‘privatisation’. The introduction of payment by results has introduced a market in health services. Many non-frontline services have been privatised or contracted to companies like DHL. The introduction of wholly privately owned and operated ‘NHS treatment centres’, the rollout of Private Finance Initiatives etc all represent part of the same project of ‘rationalising’ social provisions to the benefit of the overall capitalist system. Even the NHS in its classic form, as the centrepiece of the post-war welfare state, came as part of the attempt to stave off prewar-style class conflict and integrate the working class more closely into the state following the end of the war.  Its aim was to provide a healthy working class that could fight and die for the bosses in their wars (our masters struggled to find enough fit cannon fodder for their First World War) and healthy enough to slave for their profits in paid jobs and in unpaid childcare and housework. In addition, capitalism needed to stabilise itself after the turbulence of the 1920s, in a change of tactic well-known as the ‘post-war settlement’.
We need to defend health services, but critically. The NHS was never ‘ours’ and it is far from perfect.

Since the inception of the NHS, consultants were allowed to use NHS time and resources for their private gain, freeloading that the Daily Mail and their mates are happy to ignore. Drugs and equipment were left in the hands of private corporations, burdening the NHS with enormous costs as companies sought to make maximum profits from their monopoly. The Health Service treats our illnesses as individual cases, but most of our illness is due to economic and social conditions that we face collectively: unhealthy and dangerous workplaces, overlong hours and night time working, pollution from factories and cars, poor food, unhealthy housing, lack of trees and greenspaces, all exacerbated by racism and sexism for large sectors of the population. In the 1960s and 1970s women highlighted how unequally they were treated, particularly around childbirth. They won some improvements through struggle, but we are still miles from a genuine community health service.

We know that the current Tory government is making massive cuts to health services with closures of hospitals, casualty departments, rationing of services by age, cuts to services for the elderly and people with disabilities, near frozen wages of overworked staff etc. The whole idea of running healthcare as a business is contradictory (treatment based on ability to pay rather than need), and only benefits the well-off who can always pay for treatment, and the drug companies and other corporate vultures who are taking over more and more of the health service. The whole idea of ‘choice’ in this context is similarly a nonsense. We don’t want to choose which doctors or hospital service to use (the one round the corner or the one 20 miles away?). We need local services, all of which are accessible and good.

Who is to blame?

What is causing the ongoing and deepening crisis in the NHS (and) the ‘lack of money’? Is it:
·       All those old people selfishly ‘bed blocking’ hospital beds rather than going home unwell and dying quickly so that they are no longer ‘a burden’.
·       The obese smokers and drinkers: no not the rich ones, and as always, blame the consumer, not the producer (the alcohol and tobacco industries have no responsibilities).
·       Migrant workers and ‘health tourists’ (the first pay taxes too, and the second cost less than the NHS pencil budget).

None of the above!

Back in 2005 the now Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, co-wrote a pamphlet calling for the replacement of the NHS with a market insurance system, with the heavy involvement of private enterprise. A fox in charge of the hen coop! The policies pursued are obviously part of a death by a thousand cuts and a ‘privatisation by stealth’ strategy. The idea that the slow death of the NHS is just down to the Tories is delusional however. The PFI (Private Finance Initiative) was a Conservative idea they left on the shelf, with little of it being implemented.  It was Labour’s Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who activated it when in government: schools and hospitals were built with finance from the private sector (banks etc) who then leased them to back to the government, who paid for them over the long term on a mortgage basis at a much higher cost (40% more). Old hospitals were closed, so overall there were fewer beds. Labour also introduced ‘the market’ into the health service, the equivalent of putting leeches into a blood bank, and introduced Foundation Trusts. These Labour policies left the NHS with debts of £81.6 billion, and they together with massive ongoing cuts are the cause of the crisis.

What Do We Want, And How Do We Get There?

We need to stop hospitals, casualty departments etc being closed, attacks on GPs, staff cuts, freezing of the wages of health service staff (which are cuts as rents, food etc go up). We need to stop the increasing marketisation of the NHS. We need to stop the NHS being run as a business concern, with vastly overpaid administrators at the top, with at least 800 of these on six figure salaries.
We need to end the rigid hierarchies in hospitals, where decisions cannot be questioned, as witness the recent revelations about Gosport War Memorial Hospital where over 450 patients died after being prescribed dangerous painkillers and with according to a recent report: “patients and relatives powerless in their relationship with professional staff”.
We need to end the grip of drug companies on the NHS. In 2016 alone, the NHS payed these companies £1 billion for drugs for arthritis, cancer, MS, etc. The research for these drugs was funded by public money. “Big pharmaceutical companies are ripping us off by taking over drugs developed primarily with public money and selling the drugs back to the NHS at extortionate prices”.
Heidi Chow, Global Justice Now.

How we do this is crucial however. If we use the same old tired methods of petitions, relying on union bureaucrats, trusting in political parties (whoever they are) not only will we probably lose, but we will remain powerless, divided, and with an illness service that doesn’t meet our needs or tackle the causes of our ill health. We need to methods and organisation that empowers us: to organise ourselves, control our own struggles, without leaders, and to use direct action methods: occupations, work-ins, strikes, work to rule etc. We need to break down the barriers between staff and patients, carers and service-users, workers and unemployed to link our struggles.

What do we want? - A free health service controlled and run by the staff and users. An emphasis on empowering people through helping them to educating themselves in groups about their bodies and health (e.g. books and pamphlets such as ‘Our Bodies Ourselves’ and the collective work in the last wave of feminism). Communities working together to tackle the causes of ill health: dangerous and unhealthy workplaces, an unhealthy, car-based transport system, poor food, widespread pollution, lack of green spaces for relaxation, and exercise etc. Move away from processed and unhealthy food, and from the current over-reliance on drugs. Again, self-organisation and direct action are key. But surely this is pie-in-the-sky? No, we are drawing on what people have done, and are doing, both here and abroad. In Greece, massive health cuts have resulted in health workers running hospitals and clinics etc for free, with the support of their local communities.