In the dead time at work today, I imagined a movement, one that stretches across the country, a unified Social Movement in every city and every town, a movement of thousands of ordinary people, that sees all struggles as ONE single struggle, whether resisting Bedroom Tax evictions, the closure of Hospitals, protesting against ATOS, the next war or the EDL, occupying libraries, besieging town halls, joining picket lines and wildcat workers demos. A movement not divided along the lines of ideology, that makes its own way in the world, makes demands, states refusals, one that will not compromise, one that is bound by feeling rather than stale theory, one that welcomes everyone, a movement that sees no difference between the waged and unwaged, skilled or unskilled, one that decides everything democratically through its own local assemblies, councils or groups, where everyone is afforded respect as individuals, where authoritarians pushing their own agenda are not welcomed, a movement that will not tolerate the manipulation, parasitism or infiltration by the dead Left or ‘process’ experts, where real effort is made to bind people together through practical mutual aid that breaks down the physical isolation and fragmentation of urban living and the reserve that it breeds.
A movement that takes direct action, but one that takes care of people, that can have a laugh, party and eat together, a movement that is prepared to defend its communities, and to support its neighbours, a movement that shares ideas and information on resistance, everyday survival , attack and legal rights, a movement that spits on racism and challenges every form of bigotry, first through persuasion, and then if necessary, by force, a movement powered by the skills and imagination of everyone in it, a movement based on the reality of life, its possibilities, not the plastic promises of the future, a movement that has nothing to ask of the ‘representative’ political parties, a movement that makes use of social media, but knows what a phone-tree is and is also attuned to the human need for face to face communication without pointless egotistical antagonism.
A Social Movement which practices real, compassionate, solidarity and autonomy side by side. A movement that produces unapologetic, relentless, blunt propaganda that makes it plain that the rich, the politicians, the bosses, the corporations and their assorted guard dogs, are robbing us blind and are never, ever to be trusted with our well being, our future and that of our kids. When it comes to Mutual Aid, a new movement could incorporate ideas like ‘Time Banks’ where people offered and shared skills with each other, whether it was plumbing, I.T. help or doing a bit of shopping or DIY for elderly members- anything that is not just purely political, that helps people out when they’re skint, and that meetings it holds should be more like a gathering with food and drink, an alternative to the sterile tedium of the average talking shops of current political groups. None of which would detract from the actual politics naturally, just Mutual Aid and solidarity in action.
We have to build a new Social Movement from the bottom up, it’s no good thinking you can ‘convert’ people, or ‘win them over’ to a set of pre-conceived ideas offered like another manifesto or foisted on them from ‘above’. As far as I’m concerned, ideology breeds sectarianism, sectarianism breeds division, division breeds weakness, weakness breeds defeat.
With politicos it’s always the same, like that old Yiddish joke “If you have two Jews in a room, you’ll get three opinions”…
How many revolutions in the past have been made through ‘political’ methods? I’d venture to say very few, and even when they have occurred, it’s been down to social movements that preceded them. You cannot expect people to jump from protest to the complete overthrow of the political and economic system the live under and depend upon (even as it kicks them in the teeth), this is a conclusion they come to themselves- more often than not, together, and it’s the ‘together’ that counts. A new Social Movement needs to see solutions not problems, ideas people cannot fundamentally disagree on, refusing to pay for GPs appointments, keeping the local firestation open, practical stuff, stuff that makes a real difference to real lives and the simple facts of the matter- that the rich should pay for their crisis, not us our neighbours or our kids, that people should come first, not profits, that direct democracy is preferable and fairer than elitism in all its forms, that direct action is preferable to indirect, bureaucratic (mis)representation and (mis)leaders.
We need a sense of social community, locally and nationally- a community of class- where the concerns that effect those in say, Liverpool are the same as those in Portsmouth.
There’s no reason why a Social Movement could not embrace groups such as UKuncut, Boycott Workfare, the Anti-ATOS Alliance, ACA Manchester, ‘Radical London’ groups, Private tenants rights groups and rank and file union members- the possiblities are endless, on estates, in workplaces (organising perhaps like the German Shop-Stewards movement did during the First World War.) There ought to be nowhere this movement could not go- certainly not because of an ideology, in spite of one in fact. No more dour meetings filled with angry, unsmiling, po-faced politicos- we need to be able to welcome each other with open arms- the society of the bosses is all about alienation and rejection- enough of all that!
Building from the bottom up means having a Social Movement that is based first and foremost in doing what Her Majesties Loyal Opposition and the TUC cannot and will not do, what the Left, Ken Loach, ‘Owned’ Jones is incapable of doing- defending and advancing our interests as a class. A Social Movement however, ought to avoid hair-splitting, especially on the very definition of class. A better definition for those who consider themselves ‘ordinary people’ is just that, ordinary people- this is the term used by media snobs and politicians to define ‘the masses’. It doesn’t carry a load of (what’s perceived to be) Soviet communist /politico baggage, and more people would happily identify with it than you’d think.
We need to take the initiative, to get ahead of the game, because the crisis is far from over, because the bosses are raising the spectre of fascism to divide and terrorise us, and the threat of yet another war, because their single aim is to impoverish us for the rest of our lives, to exploit us and our children, by any means necessary, (even our kids education, our poor health and our infirmity in old age).
The real challenge is to actually unite ‘ordinary people’ and then to seriously contest Capital for the hearts and minds of the rest of our class, from plumbers to pole-dancers, hairdressers and Housing Office workers, bus drivers and nursing assistants -and their families…
Solidarity and flexibility, not ideological rigidity, is the key to any real unity and that means putting aside tired old ideas to work together. An idea doesn’t work, been tried and tested? – so throw it away, try a new one, move on. It’s OK to be wrong, never mind; it’s OK to change your mind. None of us have the absolute, definitive, answer in trying to ‘Make Capitalism History’, so we should drop all those pretensions that make us think that we as individuals or in organisations are ideologically, intellectually, strategically or emotionally ‘right’.
Hatred of the system is what should unite us all, as proletarians first and foremost, and from that we should be able to forge unbreakable bonds of solidarity and comradeship, which should outweigh all other considerations. to completely escape the straitjacket of the past, a totally new conception of uncompromising, militant and human revolutionary politics aimed at total democracy, total revolution and the abolition of class society.
Ideology breeds inertia, hierarchy and boredom. All ideology is counter-revolutionary, it reproduces the system and merely serves to divide proletarians, and in the context of propaganda, it is boring, boring, boring. Drop the labels and the self-defeating psychology; reject the dried-up icons of ideology and accept the living, human fluidity of theory.
People, leftists, anarchists, fundamentally disagree over nothing, you can have idealism and mutual aid and agreed-upon aims and direct action, SHOULD YOU ALL WANT IT. The first thing to do is create a social movement. One that carries a new world within it, whether it is in Sunderland, Cardiff, Truro, Leeds, Newcastle, Brum, Arbroath etc. A world that could be growing in this minute, but for pointless ideological prevarications. The priority is to have us proletarians coming together to defend and advance our interests.
…and fuck anything else, it’s not a Jamie Oliver recipe where we haggle over what percentage of idealism or street activity or mutual aid there ought to be. It doesn’t really matter what it’s called- but I’m in favour of total simplicity, a name as broad as it can possibly be without being ideologically hemmed in- ‘The Social Movement’. I think that is a fitting name, as the term ‘social’ flies in the face of Thatcherism (‘no such thing as society’), relating back to the anarchist idea of a ‘social revolution’, ‘social resistance’, and also to ‘work-socials’, signing on at the ‘social’ etc. generally ‘of the common people’. A society in movement. Wikipedia defines a Social Movement as-
‘... a type of group action. They are large informal groupings of individuals or organizations which focus on specific political or social issues. In other words, they carry out, resist or undo a social change.’ A new Social Movement can have as many ‘specific political or social issues.’ as it likes, so long as it defends and advances the interests of our class, and by ‘advances’ that can also mean ‘going all the way’ and abolishing all classes.
It’s about all of us- every single one of the thousands that reads this- we could have a social movement that the Left cannot touch or co-opt, an ‘anarchist’ or ‘socialist’ movement in all but name- living ‘anarchism’, living ‘socialism’- think of the post-war squatters movement and going beyond that. Imagine saying to people ‘we’re democratic- we don’t have leaders’, banishing the worship of Bakunin’s/Kroptokin’s/Durruti’s/Trotsky’s/ Lenin’s Holy Underpants, the clubbiness and the jargon that ordinary people find so off-putting. We have to be able to make other people in our class feel welcome to get anywhere. Ordinary people and politicos- we’re all of us sick of the fucking inertia and the attacks on our class.
If the thousands of us who read these ideas and make them a reality and act on them, then we really will be onto something-, we’ve got nothing to lose, nothing at all, and everything to gain. It’s down to all of us, me and you and everybody else.
Who shares my imagination and can improve on it?
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