Remembering Sam Mbah

Was thinking about Sam’s trip to NYC the other day. Thinking about how, for a short glimpse in time, there was a libertarian socialist, pro-anarchs-syndicalist organization in the most populous African country of Nigeria.
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.

It was delightful and pleasing to read the (then) new AL declaration, proclaiming themselves “a social libertarian organisation inspired by and committed to the ideals, principles, objectives, goals, ends and purposes of revolutionary socialism and anarcho-syndicalism, characterised as the anti-theses of statism as well as their manifestations and institutions thereof.”

Perhaps, just perhaps, the efforts of former members of the US Revolutionary Socialist League, Bob McGlynn (of Neither East Nor West) and the WSA have helped our Nigerian comrades move from your typical marxian socialist views to that of anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism.

The relationship deepened and develop. Many of us worked especially hard to make sure our pre-internet and pre-cell phone campaigns to aid AL prisoners, try and purchase a computer and other supportive and solidarity oriented activities gained as much support as could be garnered. In some aspects, we were successful, in others not. Certainly the campaigns that we helped to initiate and push were some of the best that some of us can recall.

Additionally, during this time period, Chaz from See Sharp Press worked hard to publish the landmark book “African Anarchism”.

Sam’s tour to the US was less then stellar. We had two weeks to arrange a national tour. Again, this was done pre-internet and pre-cell phone. It was tough, it was uneven, very last minute and it was clear to this writer Sam was terribly disappointed and let down. His hopes that a big, effective and well financed and oiled movement existing in the US were dashed. When dropping him off at the airport, I sensed his disappointment. Communications thereafter dropped off precipitously.

After a number of years of not hearing from the AL, in reply to one of our letters, WSA get a communication which started off in the most pleasing and satisfying manner: “It has indeed been a long time since the Awareness League last communicated with the WSA. Suffice it to say that the AL holds the WSA in special esteem and will continue to. We continue to look forward to improved relations and a deepening of our ties through future co-operation/collaboration.” (May 2001) I believe that was the last communication we had with the AL.

WSA tried to keep up with the AL even after we were no longer part of the IWA. Apparently the AL was dissipating in membership and activities due to a number of factors, most of all the downfall of the military dictatorship.

As Sam explained in his 2001 letter:

“With the advent of civil rule, many in our ranks have tended to lower their guards. The philosophical and ideological underpinning of the struggle for a truly free society remains at best, underdeveloped in these parts. And this coupled with the fact that life here is an everyday struggle, to be able to eke out a living or survive.

Yet those who were left in the AL continued to have “high hopes and expectations of transition to civil rule give way to frustration, cynicism, despair and discontent threatening to boil over. We are gradually and steadily returning to the trenches once again.” Whether or not significant numbers returned to the trenches to keep the AL alive is unclear. It seems like they were not able to hold the necessary numbers together.

In his last interview in 2012, Sam was clear and sober in making this point, a point
that many in countries that have developed or historical libertarian socialist, syndicalist and anarchist traditions oft times never seem to get or understand:

“ I want to say a few words to our anarchist friends and groups that in the past associated with us, supported us, in one way or another, especially from Europe and North America. I say to them that anarchism is not dead in Africa. But it is important for them to appreciate that anarchism as a movement, as a political movement, as an ideological platform, is still going to take some time to crystallize here.”

The take away being, that anarchism, as many of us in the West know it, will take its own path. Perhaps not even a straight one. But we should not sit in judgment, but offer the type of solidarity required to help keep comrades connected, even broadly, to the global movements.

There are no perfect souls, only those who try their best.

Sam tried his best at helping to build, develop, nurture and organize an effective libertarian socialist and syndicalist movement in the heart of Africa. With no real resources, under the iron heel of a military dictatorship he did his best. And the WSA is glad that we were able to do our small part aid their efforts.

Sam, comrade, as the slogan of the AL was “Holding aloft the banner of the struggle”, in our memory, you will always be holding that banner aloft. Farewell comrade, farewell.

“African Anarchism” can be found on Libcom:

“On The Line – An Anarcho-syndicalist Newsletter”

Something I’ve just started elsewhere.

What’s it all about?


Whether we are on the picket line, the bread line, the school line  or any other lines, ON THE LINE believes:

That it is not enough to try to reform society. The boss-workers relationship, protected as it is by all of the governments and churches the world over, must be done away with. The capitalist system, in which one person works for another and the lives only to work in the framework, is full of contradictions and shortcomings. The decision on what will be produced and distributed, on how housing and community problems will be solved and on how natural resources will be allocated must be made by the working class on a local level through democratic organizations controlled by the rank-and-file. Education must be available to all and must be combined with technical skills useful in the modern world. Racial and sexual barriers must be abolished. In short, the working class must emancipate itself. We think it can only do so by building democratic organizations in which all workers can participate and from which all workers will benefit. The center of these organizations must be the workplace and the community. The tactics we think are most useful – are the social and general strike – mass civil disobedience by working people – for rank-and-file control and for necessary immediate gains. Revolutionary unions, workers action committees and other forms of direct shop floor organization must be created to fight for decentralized economic planning and real workers and community self-management. Anarcho-syndicalism is the sum total of these objectives and offers the means by which to obtain them.

ON THE LINE will post news articles by various authors and organizations.  Sometimes they may hold views we may not embrace. On The Line  embraces the concept of workers solidarity. This solidarity transcends the hosts personal and guiding views.  And there will be times when someone might get offended by the author or organization. While we walk a fine line in what we will publish, we believe information and solidarity should, when required, transcend our differences.

It is hoped that this small effort will help to inform the reader of struggles as they happen. And to share news and views of the day. And our revolutionary history. As this developer, I hope to have more original writings. Think of this as a work in progress.

Reader participation is welcome. Original stories, shorts and comments invited.”

Check it out!

WSA In Solidarity with IWA “International week against unpaid wages”

From restaurants to factories to hotels and construction sites, bosses have long tried to cheat workers of their paid labor.  Be the worker an immigrant,  born in the US,of any gender, a person of color or a young person just entering the workforce, bosses will find ways to cheat you– some more than others. Working off the clock, stealing tips, not paying overtime, or misclassifying workers are just a few ways bosses tend to steal wages.

Wage theft is just one symptom of the real problem at hand– a society based on exploitation is at the core of this is the wage system and how the boss uses it to extract your labor for their benefit. And if wage cheating is to their benefit, they will do that as well. We understand that the root of this exploitation is based on the endless accumulation of capital. Wage theft is part of this process. 

At the core of capitalism is the extraction of surplus value from workers, including incarcerated labor. Thus the boss aims to save on labor by keeping wages as low as possible, thus shifting the costs of the workers’ survival more and more on to the workers themselves. This is what the bosses are doing when they fail to pay what a worker has earned. 

Workers here in the US and globally have been battling wage theft for ages. Currently, the International Workers Association’s member sections have been fighting this method of exploitation all over the world. In Poland, Serbia, and the UK, the Anarcho-syndicalists of the IWA have used direct protest to force the bosses to pay the wages they promised workers, but then attempted to withhold. As a working class, Anarcho-syndicalist organization, Workers’ Solidarity Alliance has stood in solidarity with striking incarcerated labor and joins with the IWA in it’s week-long campaign against wage theft. Like the IWA, WSA is working for a world where nobody will rely on wages from their employer to survive; for a life after capitalism where wealth and resources are collectively controlled and each individual is free to pursue their passions. 

Against wage theft! Against capitalism! For Workers Solidarity and Libertarian Socialism!

Join us!

Workers Solidarity Alliance


This talk by Tom Wetzel was presented at a small conference initiated by the Workers Solidarity Alliance in New York City in October 2002: “Anarcho-Syndicalism Into the 21st Century”.

The opinions expressed are Tom’s alone. Although many of the basic premises and ideas are shared by others.

I’m going to talk a bit about the theoretical presuppositions of anarchosyndicalism, and I’m going to make some comparisons with Marxism since both political perspectives claim to base themselves on the class struggle.

Actually they aren’t exactly comparable because Marxism purports to be a complete worldview whereas I would argue that anarchosyndicalism is best understood as merely a revolutionary strategy, or strategic orientation.

The basic idea of anarchosyndicalism is that by developing mass organizations that are self-managed by their participants, particularly organizations rooted in the struggle at the point of production, the working class develops the self-activity, self-confidence, unity, and self-organization that would enable it to emancipate itself from subjugation to an exploiting class. The self-management of the movement itself foreshadows and prefigures self-management of production by the workforce, which is the movement’s revolutionary aim. I think that is sort of a nutshell summary of anarcho-syndicalism.

1. Minimal Materialism
There is one commonality between Marxism and anarchosyndicalism that I want to take a look at. This is what I call “minimal materialism”.

“Minimal materialism” is the idea that class structure, based on power relations between groups of people in social production, is the most fundamental or basic structuring in society. The class structure is the basic structure of control over social production, the basic economic structure, according to minimal materialism. This structure is supposed to be the background against which everything else about society is to be explained or understood.

Two arguments for it being fundamental:

i. Production is necessary to human life.

But this argument doesn’t work. There other other things that are equally essential to human life — for example, sexual reproduction and consumption.

ii. People spend a huge amount of their waking time at work, and their prospects in life are very much dependent on their relationship to social production.

I think this is a better argument.

To explain what I mean by “structure” I’m going to use an analogy. Let’s say I pull out a match and strike it on the sole of my shoe and the match bursts into flame. The end result is a burning match. The stimulus event was me striking the match. But the stimulus by itself isn’t sufficient to explain what happened. What if the match head was wet? What if it was a fake plastic match? What if the match stick was so rubbery I couldn’t get any traction? So, to explain why the match burst into flame we need to bring in these more stable factors that we take for granted — the chemical composition of the match, its dryness, the rigidity of the matchstick, and so on.

Okay, those are what I’d call “structural” factors in the explanation. They are part of the more or less stable background in which the causal process of getting the match to light happened. Well, the idea of “minimal materialism” is that the class division in capitalism is a background “structure” like this, it is something you have to look at if you want to get a complete and accurate picture of why things happen the way they do.

The idea is that the class structure is like a causal force field that shapes everything that happens in society.

2. The Doctrine of the Class Struggle
One thing that follows from minimal materialism is the doctrine of the class struggle, that this is how society changes over time. The idea is that class struggle is the central factor in the evolution of human social formations.

Marx said that one of his most important ideas was the distinction between labor and labor-power. Within capitalism the ability to work is what the proletarian sells to the employer.

She sells her ability to work to a firm to use for a certain period. She can’t tell her labor power to go to work and stay at home in bed; she has to drag herself into work with her labor power. There is then inevitably a fight between the employer and the worker over exactly how the worker’s ability to do work is going to be used. Advanced capitalism developed a very elaborate hierarchy of bosses and their professional advisory groups precisely to try to control workers, to protect the interests of the owners in maximizing profit over the long run.

So, this generates an ongoing class struggle, the fight against the power that the bosses have over us in social production.

Minimal materialism by itself does not entail any commitment to economic determinism or any idea of there being any inevitable direction to history. It just says that the class structure, and the conflict it generates, is very central to understanding what happens in society.

Historically the anti-authoritarian left has rejected the idea of an inevitable collapse of capitalism, and has been sceptical about Marx’s crisis theory. The anti-authoritarian left — both councilist Marxists and anarchists — have emphasized the positive role of worker self-activity, personal development, solidarity and self-organization in the process of self-emancipation.

3. Is Minimal Materialism Class Reductionist?
As minimal as it is, minimal materialism has been subject to a certain criticism in recent decades, namely, that it is “class reductionist.” The complaint goes something like the following. Because the materialist says that class is the only fundamental structural element of contemporary American society, it can’t do justice to the oppression and conflict on lines of gender and race and political authoritianism. That is, we can’t reduce the struggle against gender oppression, against racism, against political authoritarianism to just the class struggle. This criticism became increasingly salient over the past half century, with the struggles of the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay and lesbian movement having a big impact on how people perceive faultlines in society.

To activists of color, racism seems just as fundamental a faultline; feminists are likely to see things in terms of the struggle around gender inequality.

For example, some feminists will argue that the “family wage” system in the USA in the 19th century, which helped to cement the subordination of women as a gender caste, was a kind of deal between workers and capitalists, to control the labor of women, with male workers gaining control over women in the home. Thus for some feminists, gender is the most basic structure and the conflict between male workers and male bosses was just a conflict internal to the ruling group.

Now, I think one possible line of reply would be to acknowledge that racism and patriarchy and authoritarian hierarchies can each generate its own dynamic, that affects other things, including the class struggle itself. For example, the authoritarian hierarchy in AFL-CIO unions creates its own problem for the class struggle.

4. The Four-Forces Theory
Some people will take this to the conclusion that the underlying structure of contemporary American society really has four distint facets or structures — patriarchy, racism, class, and political authoritarianism. Each is equally fundamental, they will say, with each acting as a distinct influence on everything else. This is what I call the “Four Forces Theory.” For example, you’ll find this theory worked out in the book “Unorthodox Marxism” by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel.

Since socialist-feminists in the ’70s had convinced me that gender was equally basic as class, I’m not going to try to defend “minimal materialism” nor am I going to try to answer the question of whether the Four Forces Theory is the best way to understand contemporary American society. I’m going to leave that as an exercise for you to figure out.

I do want to make one point however. What I want to claim is that anarchosyndicalism is just as compatible with the Four Forces Theory as it was with Minimal Materialism or the views of the socialist-feminists.

The reason is simple. All of these theories acknowledge that class is basic. They are all thus implicitly committed to the inevitability and importance of the class struggle. They are all consistent with the idea that it is through a movement developed directly by workers that class oppression can be overthrown and workers control over production created.

5. Critique of the Marxist Theory of Class
I’ve talked about class structure, but What is class?

What I want to argue is that Marxism has a mistaken theory about class. Marxism historically has assumed that there are only two major classes in capitalism, namely, labor and capital. Marxism assumes that it is ownership that is the key relation that defines class. The investor class, who own the means of production, are thereby the ruling class. Everyone else must seek work as hired labor.

The problem with this theory is that it leaves out a class. There are in fact three major classes in advanced capitalism, not just two.

Ownership may be the most important basis for power over social production in advanced capitalism but it is not the only such basis. There is also another class of people, who I call the techno-managerial class. Their role is that of controlling the labor of the working class. This is the class that includes the management hierarchy and the professional consultants and advisors central to their system of control — as lawyers, key engineers and accountants, and so on.

The point is that it is *power* relations in social production that creates a class stratification, and there are different ways that people can have power over others in production; ownership of productive assets is just one such basis.

Historically the techno-managerial class developed as capitalism reorganized the nature of work, diminishing the dependence of employers on the skill and intellectual ability of workers to coordinate their own work, and vesting this increasingly in a layer of expert intellectual cadre. The redesign of work processes, to break up work into pieces and minimize the reliance on skills in the workforce aimed at changing the balance of power against the workers and making the whole process more dependent on management coordination.

The members of the techno-managerial class may have some small capital holdings, either via things like stock options or small investments or ownership of their houses or other small property. But that is not what their livelihood and way of life is based on. Rather, they have their class position because of their relative monopolization over knowledge, sklls, and connections. This what enables them to gain access to the positions they have in the corporate and goverment hierarchies. They share in common with the working class that they are hired labor.

It’s true that there are relative differences in power and privilege within this class, but this is true of all classes — there are huge differences in the wealth and power of different capitalists, and among different groups of workers there are big differences in wage rates and conditions of work or autonomy in work.

Another thing to note about the techno-managerial class is that it is capable of being a ruling class. This is in fact the true historical meaning of the Soviet Union and the other socalled Communist countries. They are in fact systems that empower the techno-managerial class.

What is interesting is that the failure to see or appreciate the significance of this class is a central blindspot in Marxism. This is one of the things that enables Marxists to fail to see aspects of Marxism that programmatically lead to techno-managerial class dominance.

6. Partyism versus Syndicalism
One of the techno-managerial aspects of Marxism is its partyism. By partyism I mean the following idea. Marxists will often argue that struggles of this or that union or this or that group of the population are partial struggles. A particular union or other group will focus their attention on demands or aims that are partial, not a complete class-wide program. A key tenet of Marxism is that the development of a class-wide program, a program that can represent and advance the interests of the working class as a whole, is developed by coalescing forces behind a labor or socialist political party. Marxism is strategically partyist, that is, its strategy for change is that of a political party leadership gaining control of a state.

The traditional anti-authoritarian critique of partyism is that it is substitutionist, it substitutes the party for the class. The anarchosyndicalist or councilist alternative is that it is the class as a whole, through mass organizations like workers councils, that is to gain power, not a party leadership through a state.

Partyism will tend to elevate to leadership and control those who have the most education, who are the most articulate, the best speakers, the intellectuals and policy wonks of the movement. Bakunin pointed out that Marx’s partyism is a strategy for the empowerment of the intelligentsia, the people who monopolize scientific knowledge.

Nonetheless, anarchists have never really developed that insight. Despite the fact that anarchists often say that class is based on top-down hierarchy in production, anarchists have never really developed fully a theory of the techno-managerial class, as a distinct economic class in virtue of its position in a hierarchy in social production. Nonetheless, the theory of the techno-managerial class is consistent with anarchist insights.

It’s true that often worker struggles are partial, are over demands or goals limited to a particular sector. How do we answer the Marxist argument that the coalescing of the movement into a party is the solution to this? I think we can say that there is an alternative way of envisioning how unity and class-wide program might emerge, in a more grassroots, horizontal way. I think we could conceive of a movement developing where self-managed unions are getting together horizontally for mutual support and develop a program that addresses a worker’s whole life, issues that affect us all like housing and health care and so on, and that they involve other grassroots mass organizations in the community as part of this process, such as tenant groups, community organizations of various kinds. I call this idea a “people’s alliance.” Some people have talked about the idea of “alternative central labor councils” as a way of developing a more militant horizontal solidarity. This is another example of how a horizontal development of a class-wide program could emerge.

So, I would counter this idea of a horizontal, grassroots people’s alliance to the partyist strategy. That is, we can conceive of this being the way that power of numbers and solidarity is developed, independently of the state and political parties.

7. Critique of Spontaneist Theory of Organization
Lastly, I want to address a key problem that faces us in developing a movement that is genuinely self-managing, and does not contain within it the seeds of new hierarchies emerging.

The IWW has an old slogan, that “We Are All Leaders.” As an ideal, as what we aim for, I think that is right. But the question is, How do we make sure our practice approximates to that ideal?

The existing society is divided by all kinds of inequalities, inequalties of access to education and knowledge and opportunities to develop skills. Inequalities along lines of class, education, gender and race will be reflected in these differences in people in these ways.

Some people have more knowledge about how things work, a more “theoretical” understanding, some have more formal education than others, some are more self-confident that others, some have had opportunities that have enabled them to develop skills at public speaking or articulating ideas. Others may have the latent ability to develop such skills but they’ve just not had the opportunity to develop them through practice.

This tells us that any movement that organizes itself in a purely “spontaneous” way will “spontaneously” tend to replicate within itself these inequalities that have been shaped by the larger capitalist society.

This means a genuinely egalitarian movement cannot be created in a purely spontaneous fashion. We need to consciously be aware of differences in skill development and consciously work to bring out in people their latent abilities, to play a positive role in the movement. There are a variety of things that can be done in this direction. Things like encouraging people to speak, to participate in debates, study groups and activist schools to develop knowledge and the ability to “theorize” one’s experience, and to develop critical thinking skills so that people can think for themselves.

Through a conscious and collective practice of developing skills in people, we can ensure that people are better able to play an active role in the movement.


By Rudolph Rocker

“The Anarcho-Syndicalists know that wars are only waged in the interest of the ruling classes; they believe, therefore, that any means is justifiable that can prevent the organised murder of peoples.”

Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice

“Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are, rather, forced upon parliaments from without.”

By Rudolph Rocker

Always one of my favorite Rocker quotes:

“Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are, rather, forced upon parliaments from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long time been no guarantee of their security. Just as the employers always try to nullify every concession they had made to labor as soon as opportunity offered, as soon as any signs of weakness were observable in the workers’ organizations, so governments also are always inclined to restrict or to abrogate completely rights and freedoms that have been achieved if they imagine that the people will put up no resistance. Even in those countries where such things as freedom of the press, right of assembly, right of combination, and the like have long existed, governments are constantly trying to restrict those rights or to reinterpret them by juridical hair-splitting. Political rights do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the populace. Where this is not the case, there is no help in any parliamentary Opposition or any Platonic appeals to the constitution.”― Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice

An Anarcho-syndicalist view

Many years ago, some of us disused what would be the basis for an American specifically anarchs-syndicalist organization? While dated in some ways, we fleshed out these key components, which I have lifted and posted here in a modified form.

iAnarcho-syndicalists believe t is not enough to try to reform society. The boss-workers relationship, protected as it is by all of the governments and churches the world over, must be done away with. The capitalist system, in which one person works for another and the lives only to work in the framework, is full of contradictions and shortcomings. The decision on what will be produced and distributed, on how housing and community problems will be solved and on how natural resources will be allocated must be made by the working class on a local level through democratic organizations controlled by the rank-and-file. Education must be available to all and must be combined with technical skills useful in the modern world. Racial and sexual barriers must be abolished. In short, the working class must emancipate itself. We think it can only do so by building democratic organizations in which all workers can participate and from which all workers will benefit. The center of these organizations must be the workplace and the community. The tactics we think are most useful – are the social and general strike – mass civil disobedience by working people – for rank-and-file control and for necessary immediate gains. Revolutionary unions, workers action committees and other forms of direct shopfloor organization must be created to fight for decentralized economic planning and real industrial democracy. Anarchist-syndicalism is the sum total of these objectives and offers the means by which to obtain them.

General principles:

  • Support for all independent rank and file labor struggles, both inside and outside of the trade union movement
  • Support for independent unionist and workers initiatives with emphasis on direct actionist workers organizations.
  • Support for certain immediate gains by labor in the struggle for economic survival and social justice
  • For an intersectional movement that seeks to abolish all forms of oppressions and hiearchies.
  • Socialization and collectivization of all the means of production and distribution by the working class. In other words, for a society run and controlled by those who produce the world’s wealth.
  • For the use of the Social and General Strike and other forms of direct action to abolish capitalism and the state.
  • For the abolition of the wage system
  • For working class internationalism.
  • For working class education in the principles and functions of anarcho-syndicalist economics, theory, mutual aid and organization.
  • For the free development of individuals and the extension of freedom into every area of life.

““Newsletters and Action Committees In the years 1979-80”

Excerpt from:

“Discussion: Anarchist Shop Experiences”

By Mike Harris, Libertarian Workers Group“ideas & action” Summer, 1982

“In the years 1979-80 the LWG saw an

opening for group activity in the printing and publishing trades.

Two members of the LWG were working in

this area (I was working in a book warehouse) and had a number of

contacts and were seriously discussing the idea of issuing a

newsletter called “Hot Type”. As a group, we viewed activities in the

printing and publishing trades as a way of making contact with other

working class militants. It would have been through the medium of “Hot

Type” that the LWG would raise political issues and relate them to our

respective unions and workplaces, as well as a means to developing

autonomous organizations within our respective unions. We saw the

creation of such a newsletter as an extension effort to present a

class analysis and propagate anarcho-syndicalist ideas.                                                  

“Although the project was still-born, it’s important to note that the

LWG has always viewed individual shop activities as connected to a

broader picture. We hope to develop decentralized and autonomous

organizations, which would be forums for debate, discussion and action

within the working class. It is through these organizations and

newsletters that we hope to reach workers where we have an organic

link. It’s important for us to always broaden our contacts with others

in the same industry, craft or profession and thus develop networks of

militants.“I was ultimately fired from the book warehouse-on a trumped up

excuse. … Immediately after being fired from ERS I went to work in a

65 shop across the highway (The details of shop life and the problems

we faced with the union are described i the September 1981 issue of “On

The Line”). In this new job I was able to play a valuable role in

pulling together the seething anger that some of the workers had

against the boss and the class collaboration of the [shop]steward. …                

“Unfortunately, I was too open and too militant too fast and was fired

before making sonority. Thus a lesson learned – we have to be patient

and view shop work as a long process, not just posturing as a super

militant.“Presently I’m employed in a textile warehouse. My shop is not a

typical shop in District 65’s New York Textile Local. The shop has a

long history of rank-and-file militancy and there is a high proportion

of active union members. …“A number of issues have provided an opening 

for discussing politics from an anarcho-syndicalist perspective-the plight of 

Haitian refugees in the U.S., my support for the Haitian revolutionary struggle, the

events in El Salvador and Poland, and the PATCO [air traffic

controllers] strike. In turn, I am well liked by my Haitian

co-workers, who are my strongest supporters for shop-steward. My

involvement in this situation can only help the LWG’s work with the

Haitian Workers’ Association.“I might note that I distribute

“On The Line” , “Strike!” and LWG leaflets

to some of my co-workers (as well as to some workers in other shops in

the building). In this regard, it is important to develop a more

frequent press and for the movement in general to develop more shop

oriented newsletters. … What will be needed in the months ahead is a

rank-and-file industry-wide newsletter that will develop the kind of

contacts Textile Local (and for that matter, all 65 needle trades

locals) membership will need in upcoming contract negotiations and the

period beyond.[In the 21st century, some will think that the below question

shouldn’t be a question at all. At the time that this article was

written, it was a serious question. One that was hotly debated by

anarchists. Often times shop stewards were not elected positions, they

were appointed. The stewards represented the political power structure

of the union, often times a corrupt local union hack. Unelected

stewards many times represented an older group of (mainly) white

workers, not in tune with the needs of their people of color

co-workers. I suspect this could also be a question today where

there’s no direct election of shop stewards.]”

WSA 2020 Labor Day Statement ——  The Time is Now

WSA 2020 Labor Day Statement ——  The Time is Now

Over a hundred years ago a frightened President Grover Cleveland pushed congress to recognize Labor Day as a federal holiday in 1894 the September holiday was first observed in 1882 by the Central Labor Union of New York). In the wake of the Pullman railcar strike that saw workers’ murdered at the hands of U.S. Marshals and Soldiers, Cleveland moved to throw the masses a crumb, Labor Day. In what was perhaps a wise move, he made sure that the holiday did not land on, or even near the already existing International Workers’ Day. On the First of May workers worldwide commemorate an event that took place in the very heart of the United States (Haymarket, May 3,1886 and adopted internationally in 1889 by an international congress of socialists, anarchists and radical workers ) and often call for radical change and even revolution. As sure as water flows downhill, the crumb of Labor Day only teased the empty bellies of workers demanding a better life. On through today, an entire history of struggle has been written with its newest chapters happening before our eyes.

Throughout this history workers have wielded the weapons of Solidarity and Direct Action in order to protect and advance their own interests. With strikes, sabotage, sit-ins and sit-downs and other actions workers’ have stood up for each other ever since the bosses started exploiting them in the first place. Often during these struggles, the workers would be abandoned and condemned, oftentimes by their own Union leaders and left demoralized and forced to either carry on the fight by themselves, or capitulate to the boss.

2020 has been a particularly hard year for workers. The Corona virus has hit service workers. food service, meat processing, agricultural, retail, manufacturing and transportation hard. Low wage workers especially hard.  Whole segments of the economy, such as hospitality, have been put on hold or gutted. Healthcare workers, be they lower paid home health attendants,housekeeping, nurses and even doctors have been stressed to the limits and placed in harm’s way. Unemployment has skyrocketed, with millions still unemployed and many soon to run out of unemployment insurance. Parents, especially mothers, are seeing the precarious state of childcare as daycare centers and preschools closed or decreased their availability. Older children have been staying home as well. Parents, especially mothers, must balance childcare with work or decrease their working hours in order to care for their children of all ages. The invisible nature of childcare is perhaps becoming more visible during this pandemic. But the unpaid and underpaid care-work is still overlooked and in danger of becoming future collateral damage because the problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic. “All across the world, women, especially working class women, women of colour, migrant women and women living in rural communities perform the largest share of underpaid, or completely unpaid, social reproductive labour.” (Varsity, Cambridge, UK September 2020)

Over the past six months, workers, be they in the meatpacking plants or hospitals have oftentimes self-organized struggles for safe working conditions, personal protective equipment. Workers’ direct action and mini-strikes have largely, though not exclusively, spontaneously broken out across the country.  Even in the wholly unorganized Amazon chain, there were a number of struggles and small actions against the behemoth’s drive for productivity and output.  While not massive, not strikes per se, the workers even the 8:30 minute strike called to join in the Black Lives Matter’s struggles, while limited, was strong in message.  For those of us who are sports fans, much respect to those basketball players who essentially organized a wild cat strike against the heightened racism and racist deaths happening across this land.

The workers crisis is not just limited to the workplace. The many tens of millions of unemployed workers are also struggling with rent, mortgages and their inability to pay, either in whole or in part, their rents and mortgages. With each week, landlords are getting ready to squeeze them out of their apartments and homes. Pressure of lack of work, pressure in meeting rent or mortgage payments will ultimately lead to a major crisis. Temporary rent or mortgage holds will last forever. And when the dam breaks, the human costs of homelessness will be immense.

2020 has been a particularly brutal and racist year. Men and women of color gunned  or suffocated at the hands of the men in blue across this land. Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, slain in bed by mad dog cops on a hunting expedition. Stoked on by the Klansman in Chief aggressively trying to show who’s in power and control, turning the streets into war zones with his unidentified federal military shock forces. Furthermore, the Klansman in Chief has been giving more than a more than a wink and a nod to racist and fascist vigilantes and militias,

If ever there was a time for the creation of new movements, from below, for workers and community control, the time is now. The time is now to help develop anti-racist social movements from below that capture the best of spirit of direct action and mass action.

The time is now to rekindle the spirit of working class combativeness. We seek to organize and build an independent, militant self-managed and self-organized workers movement. One which is directly democratic, free and non-bureaucratic and promotes anti-discriminatory, pro-ecological and anti-capitalist goals. As the threat of climate change looms, the need has increased for a militant workers movement that can demand a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards more ecologically friendly employment. Along with this the need has increased for the eventual replacement of markets with an economy self-managed by everyone, since market cost-shifting and negative externalities are not ecologically sustainable. We believe this can eventually be fulfilled via a libertarian socialism where everyone has a voice in economic decisions to the general extent they are affected by them.

This kind of movement cannot be instituted from the top-down, and cannot have bosses. The movement will only defend the interests of the rank and file workers for as long as the rank and file control it from the bottom-up, democratically. In order to grow strong roots it will need room to include not just current wage workers, but all those that where, those that will be, and those that labor without pay. Simply put, all those folks who find themselves powerless in this chaotic society must work together to forge a new one. It must mirror in its structure the kind of society we wish to build, one empty of hierarchy and full of democracy.

Perhaps you’ve found the crumbs, however frequently dropped from marble tables, never seem to fill your empty stomach. Let it be known that others have tired of the crumbs as well, and wish to get the whole cake instead.

Feel free to contact us to learn more about how to fight your boss at work, to find out more about libertarian socialism and working class struggle, or just to discuss the situation further.

The time is Now!

Workers Solidarity Alliance

“Electoral Road to Socialism?” By Tom Wetzel

Tom Wetzel on the syndicalist alternative to electoral socialism.

“We can say that an approach to action and organization for change is non-reformist to the extent that it encourages a reliance on direct struggle (such as strikes and occupations), creates rank-and-file controlled mass organizations, and builds self-confidence, self-reliance, organizing skills, more active participation, and wider solidarity within the working class. Non-reformist forms of organization are self-managed by the members — rooted in direct participation and forms of accountable representation (such as elected shop delegates who still work the job). Non-reformist forms of action are disruptive forms of collective action based on direct participation — such as strikes, occupations, militant mass marches. . . .

Syndicalism is a strategy that is based on non-reformist forms of action and organization. The idea is to build self-managed forms of mass organization, such as worker-controlled unions and other grassroots mass organizations. By “organizing the unorganized,” syndicalists help to build a movement that working people can use to fight the employers, landlords and powers-that-be. It is a form of power that builds up the capacity of working people to organize and run their own movement; it encourages the self-reliance, confidence and links of solidarity needed for advancing the struggle against the capitalist system.”

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