Michael Schmidt’s 30th Greetings

From a longtime South African anarchist and syndicalist journalist and historian based in Johannesburg, and coauthor of “Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism”:

Congrats on the anniversary! The WSA is surprisingly long-lived for an anarcho-syndicalist organisation in a country dominated by yellow unionism, but that is a testament to the unwavering character of its militants over the years. To us here in South Africa, where the new anarchist movement got underway 22 years ago, and being very much “on the outside looking in” from the global periphery at the metropole, we had both the luxury of being able to start with a fresh slate, unencumbered by individualist, primitivist or postmodernist distortions, but also facing the challenge of realising the legitimacy of a legacy that had died out in the mid-1920s. So when we looked at sister organisations in the North Atlantic (initially) for organisational and ideological models, we were guided in part by whether such organisations were outward-looking, to the developing world in particular. So anti-imperialism was key to our choice of who to align with, but alongside that a staunch critique of the authoritarian national liberation struggles which dominated our region, plus a focus on the libertarian mass mobilisation provided by traditional syndicalism. All of this we found in the WSA; and more than that, we made friendships which we know will endure. So congratulations to the WSA and many thanks for the decades of support!

Red & Black regards

Michael Schmidt

Posted on November 24, 2014

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Remembering Sam Mbah

African Anarchism by Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariwey

African Anarchism by Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariwey

On November 17, the blog administrator for Sam Mbah’s website announced that Sam had died on November 6, 2014, “of complications arising from his heart condition. His recovery had appeared to be going well, but then a crisis arose and he was rushed to hospital. He died a short time later.”

On behalf of the Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA), we send our condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Sam’s. Some of us met Sam when, on very short notice, hastily organized his US tour some years ago. We reflect back on the key and pivotal role Sam and the Awareness League played in Enugu State, Nigeria in the struggle against the then military dictatorship of Abcha.

We remember well the WSA’s initial efforts at developing relations with the AL, a relationship which was partially successful in bring the AL into the fold of the International Workers Association. And, to help develop international relations between the AL and countless other anarchist, libertarian socialist and syndicalist individuals, groups and unions throughout the globe. Continue reading “Remembering Sam Mbah” »

Posted on November 20, 2014

India Tops World in Number Living in Slavery (14 million)

According to a report on global slavery just released by the Walk Free Foundation, there are now 35 million people living in modern slavery. The 2013 general estimate using the same methodology was 30 million, meaning 5 million new slaves added in one glorious year of our free market dystopia.

“Modern slaves are defined as individuals subject to forced labor, debt bondage, human trafficking, forced sexual exploitation, and forced marriage. This is a considerably broader understanding of slavery that addresses issues of human and labor rights beyond the conventional understanding of the term as human property. This is in part why the 2014 report estimates 35.8 million modern slaves worldwide while the International Labor Organization (ILO) counts 21 million worldwide — the ILO estimate focuses on forced labor primarily. According to the Walk Free Foundation, evidence of modern slavery in one form or another was found in all 167 countries surveyed for the 2014 report.”

The Diplomat

(m/k)

Posted on November 20, 2014

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The Final Indian War in America is About to Begin

“As an example of the national media’s apathy, the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota have turned their backs on the $1.5 billion dollars offered to them for settling the Black Hills Claim and although they are among the poorest of all Americans, the national media does not consider this news.”

“When asked if he truly thought that a handful of Indians could stop the construction of the Pipeline, Little Elk simply said, “Try us!””

RedPowerMedia

(m/k)

Posted on November 20, 2014

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What is Class Oppression? Who is the Working Class?

By Tom Wetzel

Occupy Wall Street highlighted class inequality in the USA through its talk about the concentration of income and wealth in the hands of "the 1 percent." This does put a bullseye on the ruling class in our society. But much of the talk about class in recent times has focused on income inequality. The idea is that "the 1 percent" are at the top because they have the highest incomes. But this fails to get to the heart of the matter. The existence of different income levels doesn’t explain why there are classes at all. After all, what explains why there are such huge differences in income?

When American union leaders talk about a worker struggle as a “defense of middle class jobs”, you'd think they must lead an organization of lawyers and doctors. Again, this is about income. In the past, unions in some industries were able to use their leverage to secure wage gains that would enable some workers to “lead a middle class lifestyle.”

That way of looking at things is a product of the years of the so-called “class truce” after World War 2. By the ‘40s workers had gained major concessions from the capitalist elite in North America and Western Europe.

Continue reading "What is Class Oppression? Who is the Working Class?"

Modern Slavery and the Triumph of Capitalism, (Part One)

By Mike Kolhoff

“The ideological push for the “science” of free trade has unleashed enormously destructive forces for social and cultural change that have wreaked havoc on the populations of developing countries. Rapid urbanization and restructuring of agricultural activities, upon which people have depended for centuries, has spelled disaster. In rural areas, the loss of common land, combined with the switch to the production of cash crops from subsistence farming, has in effect destroyed people’s livelihoods.”

From: The Economic Foundations of Contemporary Slavery, By Justin Guay , Topical Research Digest, 2014

The extractive power of capitalism has always existed. The ability to extract profit from people, production and resources is necessary for capitalism to function. There was a time when this was accompanied by a sort of creative power of capitalism. Capitalism once built things, even as it extracted profit from people and things. It built electrical power plants, built libraries, built universities and paved roads. These activities were in no way altruistic, they were adjustments, investments made to improve extraction of profit and to prove the superiority of capitalism over any competing system, but they still benefited non-capitalists just the same.

Any creative power capitalism may have once had began to decline in the last half of the 20th century, well after capitalism had faced its greatest crisis: the crisis of over-production and under-consumption that brought on the Great Depression. This crisis continues today, despite World War 2 and despite the invention of consumer capitalism (a wasteful system based on the production and sale of mostly useless things) and the conversion of the wartime propaganda machinery to the peacetime sales machinery. An economy based on selling people things they don’t want, and people buying things they neither want or need, on credit, is an economy treading water.

Continue reading "Modern Slavery and the Triumph of Capitalism, (Part One)"

WSA Memories

By Mike Kolhoff

Part of a series commemorating 30 years of WSA

One of my fondest memories of my early days in the WSA was eagerly waiting for the next Discussion Bulletin to arrive in the mail. The DB had reports from comrades around the country on what they were doing, introducing new members, local actions and important news, international reports and letters from the IWA secretariat and other sections. Many phone calls were generated by the DB with questions and congratulations and offers of aid. Really the DB and the phone were the communication system that kept us in touch with the organization.

I miss that, a lot. Our current electronic instantaneous communications seem less substantial sometimes. The immediacy has, for me at least, degraded both the content and tone of our interactions. We have sacrificed thoughtfulness for speed, which isn’t a fair trade.

Continue reading "WSA Memories"

Recalling WSA

By Kevsota

Part of a series commemorating 30 years of WSA

I joined the WSA in 2009 after participating in an anarchist reading group set up by two other WSAers. I was excited by what seemed like a density of good, smart people in the organization and because I was attracted to anarcho-syndicalist politics. While I learned the organization was not as clear-cut anarcho-syndicalist as I'd thought, with regard to the people I was not disappointed. I stuck around as an active member for about three years, even I'd become burned out on political organizations, primarily out of a strong sense of loyalty to the good comrades I'd gotten to know.

Continue reading "Recalling WSA"

Why Consensus Decision-making Won’t Work for Grassroots Unionism

By Tom Wetzel

Syndicalists have always supported a form of direct democracy based on majority rule. Like most American unions, the Industrial Workers of the World officially endorses Robert’s Rules of Order — although some of their smaller branches use a stripped down version called Rusty’s Rules. The point to taking a vote is that it enables an organized group to come to a decision that expresses the collective will, even when there is some disagreement.

This doesn’t mean that all decisions are made by voting. In grassroots organizations based on majority decision-making, it often happens that most decisions are made without taking any vote — especially in smaller meetings. That’s because people are often able to come to agreement just by discussing the issue or proposal.

Continue reading "Why Consensus Decision-making Won’t Work for Grassroots Unionism"