In the Spirit of the Kronstadt Rebellion 

Short presentation at the Kronstadt as Revolutionary Utopia, 1921-2021 and Beyond, Panel: “The After-Lives of Kronstadt” 

Greetings & Hello

Thank you for having me

It’s an honor to share this electronic stage with the other co-presenters. It’s been an excellent informative conference. 

In thinking about Kronstadt and all movements for social change, I believe the old libertarian socialist group, London Solidarity, put it best in their 1967 Preface to Ida Mett’s “The Kronstadt Commune”. They laid out that most histories written by radicals are those trying to score a point for their Party or leaders. 

As they wrote: 

 “The masses never appear independently on the historical stage, making their own history. At best they only ‘supply the steam’, enabling others to drive the locomotive, as Stalin so delicately put it.” 

For me and others, the main contribution of the Russian workers, citizens, peasants were being the guiding forces in both the struggle and in the constructive phase of the revolution. They alone are really the steam, the engine and the engineer rolled into one. And there is no doubt that revolutionary advances are never made without the daily toil of those directly engaged. 

It is clear to  me, a Revolution must be Constructive or it will doom itself to failure. 

Of course, there are many aspects to revolution. In this short presentation I will touch upon two aspects of the Russian Revolution, because they still retain importance: Housing and the workplace. 

1. The struggle for housing 

In Petrograd, as elsewhere, the revolutionary struggle took on all forms of injustices and sought to immediately provide relief to the citizen-worker . 

The well known Russian anarcho-syndicalist participant in the Russian Revolution, G.P Maximoff, wrote, that in the wake of October 1917, 

“Under the influence of Anarcho-Syndicalist propaganda, there began in Petrograd a spontaneous process of socialisation of housing by the house committees. This extended to entire streets, bringing into existence street committees and block committees, when entire blocks were drawn in. It spread to other cities. In Kronstadt it started even earlier than Petrograd and reached even greater intensity. If in Petrograd and other cities, dwellings were socialised only on the triumph of the October revolution, in Kronstadt similar steps were taken earlier, under the influence of [Kronstadt anarcho-syndicalist Efim] Yartchuk, who was enjoying great popularity in that town, and in face of the active resistance of the Bolsheviks. Measures of this kind were carried out in an organised way by the revolutionary workers and sailors throughout the town. The Bolshevik fraction left a session of the Kronstadt Soviet in protest against the socialisation of dwellings.” [ “Syndicalists in the Russian Revolution” ] 

According to Hubertus F. Jahn. the house committees “tasks were keeping order, defending the house, distributing ration cards, registering tenants, and caring for hygienic conditions in house and court-yard. “ 

“…… These cooperatives regulated the life of the whole building and tried to organize communal kitchens. In other dwellings, where bourgeois elements still happened to reside, the new house committees of the poor or recently moved-in soldiers or workers often held sway. Without consideration of age, sex, or former status, all inhabitants took turns keeping watch during the night, clearing away the snow, and so on.” 

The saying that “the basement is now identical to the second floor” summarizes the new social situation in the houses.” 

2. The struggle for workers self-management 

A key aspect of the revolutionary struggle is the struggle for economic freedom and workers self -management. 

From the outset the Anarcho-Syndicalists were clear about what it would take to establish libertarian socialism. 

In 1917, according to the Petrograd Union of Anarcho-syndicalist Propaganda :

“The whole expanse of Russia is now covered by an intricate network of popular organizations: soviets of peasants’, workers’ and soldiers’ deputies, industrial unions, factory committees, unions of landless peasants, etc., etc. And with each day the conviction is growing among the toiling masses that only the  people themselves, through their own non-party organizations, can accomplish the task of a fundamental social and economic reconstruction.” [June 1917 “Petrograd Union of Anarcho-Syndicalist Propaganda”] 

As Maximoff also points out: 

“The idea of “workers’ control”, carried out through the Factory Committees, an idea advocated by the Anarcho-Syndicalists from the very outset of the revolution, took root among the city workers, gaining such a strong hold on them as to force its acceptance, in a distorted form, of course, by the Socialist parties. The Social Democrats and the right Social-Revolutionists twisted this idea of workers’ control into that of State control over industry, with the participation of workers, leaving enterprises in the hands of the capitalists. As for the Bolsheviks, they were quite vague about the meaning of the term “workers’ control”, leaving it undefined, and making it a handy tool of demagogic propaganda.” [Syndicalists in the Russian Revolution] 

The Bolsheviks concept of “workers control” was, at best, weak kneed and “merely legalized gains the workers committee movement in Russia had already achieved through class fights during 1917.” 

[“Debate with the International Socialist Organization “ By Tom Wetzel, https://zcomm.org/zblogs/debate-with-the-international-socialist- organization-by-tom-wetzel/ ] 

Anotherwords, The State and The Party, not the self-governing and independent non-state organizations of citizens, peasants and workers were to rule, to be in charge, to manage and control. The very antithesis of the slogan “All power to the soviets” and libertarian and grass roots oriented aims at the start of the revolution. The end of the revolutionary and constructive phase was at its end. 

In drawing this to a close,

I thought Ida Mett, in her 1938 epic pamphlet  “The Kronstadt Commune” put her finger on the pulse of the “socialist project”. The project of yesterday and today. 

She observed that : 

“The great ideological and political discussion between ‘realists’ and ‘dreamers’ between ‘scientific socialists’ and the ‘revolutionary volnitza ‘[or ‘open conference’.] was fought out, weapons in hand. It ended, in 1921, with the political and military defeat of the ‘dreamers’. But Stalin was to prove to the whole world that this defeat was also the defeat of socialism, .…” 

The defeat of Kronstadt was the final defeat of what workers and citizen’s self-management might become. 

Indeed. 

FINALLY!

Fifty years on I continue to be inspired by the libertarian tendencies of the Russian workers, the heroic Kronstadt sailors, the Paris Commune, the Spanish collectives and other struggles, for freedom from oppression, for a socialism that is self-managed and libertarian. The creation of a new society from below.

It is in their spirit that we carry on the struggle for freedom. 

 THANK YOU (End)

Kronstadt as Revolutionary Utopia, 1921-2021: Two day Teleconference

Kronstadt as Revolutionary Utopia, 1921-2021

March 20-21, 2021: A two-day online conference to commemorate the Kronstadt Commune of March 1921

We invite you to “Kronstadt as Revolutionary Utopia: 1921-2021 and Beyond,” an international convergence to remember history’s repressed revolutionary hopes and explore the “living past” struggle of authoritarianism vs. humanism.

Conference site:

https://kronstadt2021.wordpress.com

Trumps Capital Chaos

Trumps Capital Chaos

Short Statement by the Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA)

On Wednesday, January 6th 2021, an attack organized by a far right wing mob on Capital Building of the United States took place while congress met to certify the presidential election results. They were encouraged by a deranged authoritarian and outgoing President of the United States, Donald Trump and focused heavily on his corrupt grift and inflated ego. Even though the event was anticipated and all but announced publicly, the police initially appeared to treat the mob with “kid gloves” especially when compared to how they have treated Black Lives Matter protests and others just this year, something even the mainstream media has commented on. 

The take over of the Capital building has long been in the making. The Nixon era gave a phenomenal rise to the white ultra-right authoritarian. Christian evangelicals. The rise of the Reagan right was the first “wink and nod” by elements of the political establishment to ultra-right elements. The wink and nod to so-called “patriot” groups. Many pretend they are right to bear arms groups, using them as a cover to arm, train and reach out to young men and women in the military. Running alongside the shift to the mainstream hard right, there was a slow growing pro-nazi and white nationalist current developing. The “Tea Party” within the establishment helped to inspire authoritarianism and to nudge the floodgates open. Trump, his allies, merely were the final expression of a 40 year descent into a longing for an open, racist, pro-white supremacist persona to help manifest and untrue, or at least encourage, an open acceptance, tolerance and place for an American authoritarianism

Laws used against the “right” today, are the same used against the left and workers movements yesterday. Defeat the ideas of authoritarianism daily. Because the laws you may cheer today, may be used against you tomorrow.

The battle against authoritarian ideas (religious, political, racial) within the working class is part of the class struggle. The battle against the state, right wing religious power mongers, and the petty bosses manipulating working class folks is a class struggle. The struggle against hate and bigotry as manipulated by those in power or wanting to be in power, while crossing class lines, will ultimately need to be won within the working class. Patient organizing and education of the issues, against those within the class who will sell it out at the sniff of money or power (or both) and a place to dominate is a must. In order to defeat the larger enemy, we must defeat it within our own ranks for starters. Our struggle will always be a parallel one

Trump isn’t the problem. The system is. Organize, educate, overthrow.

“The Rank and File Strategy”: A Syndicalist View

By Tom Wetzel

“Kim Moody’s writings on “the Rank and File Strategy” have gained a broad hearing within a variety of socialist groups, such as Democratic Socialists of America and smaller socialist groupings. His original pamphlet from 2000 talks about the strategy in terms of both rebuilding socialist influence in the labor movement and as a way to build a more worker-based socialist movement in the USA.”

Continued: http://ideasandaction.info/2020/12/the-rank-file-strategy-syndicalist-view/

CAN UNIONS LAY THE GROUNDWORK FOR THE NEXT UPSURGE?

Comments by long time libertarian syndicalist Tom Wetzel on Mark Meinster’s new “Labor Notes” article: “How Unions Can Lay the Ground for the Next Upsurge”
https://labornotes.org/2020/10/how-unions-can-lay-ground-next-upsurge?fbclid=IwAR2GP8vsEmIfqKjtilgUGAT0pN7b0OjNx8sRbUs8DCM4vzgMY5rwK-ZWiB8  

Tom writes: 

“Interesting piece by Matt Meinster (a staff organizer with UE). He points out that union membership surges have historically only happened in great spurts or waves, usually in periods when there are major social changes, crises, social movements that challenge the legitimacy of the system — like during the World War 1 era, or the 1930s, or the growth of public sector unionism between early 1960s and 1970s, during the period of the civil rights and other new social movements. 

He points out that the conditions for this are hard to predict. But he notes three points: (1) Major strikes, strikes coming in waves. (2) Large number of militants with the capability of developing organization and assisting struggles, this is what syndicalists called the “militant minority”, (3) A willingness to build unions independent from what he calls the “mainstream” unions, that is, as I’d say, independent of the more bureaucratized inherited unions. As he points out the paid layer of officials tend to be skittish about strikes and worry about running afoul of the law, whereas successful strike movements in the past have found ways to roll over the law.  

Some of his arguments are similar to my argument in “The Case for Building New Unions.” [ http://ideasandaction.info/2020/03/case-building-unions/]

I think the massive upsurges of strikes in the World War 1 era and the early 1930s show that in both cases large numbers of workers (1) had been radicalized, and (2) were prepared to build unions outside the inherited AFL unions.”

(Originally posted http://www.ontheline.work/2020/11/21/can-unions-lay-the-groundwork-for-the-next-upsurge/ )

What Is the Workers Solidarity Alliance?

For us, the  Workers Solidarity Alliance is an organization that believes in grassroots empowerment and strives for a future self-managed society. Which means that ourstructure and method of operation are based on the following principles:

DIRECT DEMOCRACY – We advocate workers, tenant and community organizations where the membership directly controls them, charting their direction. This means that key decisions need to be made through assemblies of the members,through direct democracy, not by hierarchies of paid officials and professional staff. Delegates, representatives or shop stewards are directlyanswerable, accountable and serve at the discretion of the membership. Theyare also subject to immediate recall by a majority of the members.

DIRECT ACTION – In our opinion, this type of action which is most effectiveand most empowers working people. Through direct action we retain control ofour own struggle and avoid surrendering that control to so-called “experts”of often questionable loyalty.

SELF-MANAGEMENT – Ultimately we wish to participate in the building of asociety where all distinctions of class and privilege are eliminated. A new,self-managed society where the wealth we produce is shared equally andfairly by all. We do not think it is possible to build such a society by surrendering authority to new political parties and new politicians. History has demonstrated that such parties, however good their stated intentions might be, often backslide and become not much better then the one they replaced. It is the concept of the ruling elite which we must oppose, and it is only by grassroots struggle that wealth and power can be fairly and equally shared by all. We therefore seek to create member-controlledorganizations within the workplace and community. These organizations are the foundation upon which a society based on direct democracy, solidarity and self-management may be built.

Metro New York / New Jersey W.S.A.

“On The Line: An Anarcho-syndicalist newsletter”

“On The Line: An Anarcho-syndicalist newsletter”. Over the years this host has been involved with several anarcho-syndicalist newsletters by the same name.  I hope to be able to carry on the tradition of publishing timely news from the workplaces, the communities and the struggles against oppression, no matter what form that oppression takes.

A look at printed issues of “On The Line” can be found on the excellent resource site Libcom: https://libcom.org/library/line-libertarian-workers-group

The reader is encouraged to send in news about your struggles, comments and links to articles of interest. We encourade “debate” and “discussion”  submissions as well. All we ask is the submissions and discussions be comradely, yet principled. Civil yet engaging.

Class struggle is the order of the day. The fight is real and the goal is freedom.

Thank you for reading and bear with me as I find my sea legs.

http://www.ontheline.work

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: https://libcom.org/history/sam-mbah-i-e-igariwey

“On The Line – An Anarcho-syndicalist Newsletter”

Something I’ve just started elsewhere.

What’s it all about?

“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!

http://www.ontheline.work

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

workersolidarity.org.