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What We Believe - WSM Points of Unity Explained (Audio)

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This is a series explaining the 9 Points of Unity of the Workers Solidarity Movement - an anarchist organisation active on the island of Ireland. [Download PDF of these explanations]

The WSM regularly discusses, debates and decides on what our collective political approach is. The Points of Unity are the most basic political agreement necessary to be a WSM member or supporter. They are 9 short points which outline the anarchism the WSM stands for.

There's Not Enough Time in the Day

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There’s not enough bloody time in the day. I find the more my life goes on, the less time I have to live. I wake up around 6am to go to work, and after my commute home, cooking dinner, and attending to other errands, I have 1 hour to myself if I’m lucky. Often by the time I do these basic tasks it’s late enough that I know I’ll be shattered tomorrow and I’ll have to drag myself through the day. After five days I clamber to the shore of the weekend, but often find I’m so drained and conditioned by the work week I’m not myself. It’s a cycle which has no end in sight. Time is constantly on my mind. ‘Can’t do that, not enough time. Sorry, not enough time. Not enough time. I wish I had more time. Where does the time go?’ Checking my phone, what time is it, checking my phone, checking my phone. It does my head in and it’s not going to improve.

 

WSM Points of Unity Explained: 6 - (Other) Mass Movements

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'6. We also see it as vital to work in struggles that happen outside the unions and the workplace. These include struggles against particular oppressions, imperialism and indeed the struggles of the working class for a decent place and environment in which to live. Our general approach to these, like our approach to the unions, is to involve ourselves with mass movements and within these movements, in order to promote anarchist methods of organisation involving direct democracy and direct action.'

While the workplace is of course a critical site of political activity, there is a much broader terrain on which to strive for our liberty, to enrich our shared world. Ultimately, we want a world where all people are free and content. And, of course, we face many obstacles to that free world apart from challenges in our workplace, or that can be solved by our unions. So, everywhere that we are ripped off, suppressed, attacked, sidelined, or degraded, is a place for us to fight back and band together with others. In a social order which thrives on us keeping our heads down and being passive, resistance in its many forms is to be encouraged and supported. Whether or not that resistance is as radical or as 'pure' as we would like, we should engage, of course with our anarchist heads screwed on. While being a purist sect on the sidelines can feel satisfying to the initiated, ultimately it is a redundant way to make change.

WSM Points of Unity Explained: 7 - Oppression and Intersectionality

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'7. We actively oppose all manifestations of prejudice within the workers' movement and society in general and we work alongside those struggling against racism, sexism, [religious] sectarianism and homophobia as a priority. We see the success of a revolution and the successful elimination of these oppressions after the revolution being determined by the building of such struggles in the pre-revolutionary period. The methods of struggle that we promote are a preparation for the running of society along anarchist and communist lines after the revolution.'

Human beings are complex. We have many sides, many needs, wishes, strengths and weaknesses, many different obstacles and opportunities in life. So while acknowledging the huge harm caused by capitalism and the state, our concerns naturally do not end there. The Workers Solidarity Movement are anarchists because we want the total liberation of humankind, the full realisation of our need and wish to fed, sheltered, clothed, respected, in charge of ourselves, within a real community, to be our true selves, and the rest of the rich tapestry which makes a good life. And so we recognise that patriarchy, racism, queerphobia, ableism, religious domination and sectarianism, xenophobia, and every way that joy is sucked out of our lives, that we are stifled, attacked, are important forms of oppression and marginalisation in their own right which must be eradicated. While capitalism and the state are instrumental in spreading these oppressions, and while these oppressions are instrumental in sustaining capitalism and the state, they have their own independent existence and reasons to be replaced by healthier relations between people.

WSM Points of Unity Explained: 5 - Trade Unions

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'5. A major focus of our activity is our work within the economic organisations of the working class (labour organisations, trade unions, syndicates) where this is a possibility. We therefore reject views that dismiss activity in the unions because as members of the working class it is only natural that we should also be members of these mass organisations. Within them we fight for the democratic structures typical of anarcho-syndicalist unions like the 1930's CNT. However, the unions no matter how revolutionary cannot replace the need for anarchist political organisation(s).'

Throughout history the trade union movement has been a vitally important mass movement. In the face of bitter hardship and repression - even state murder - the downtrodden have banded together and demanded more, driving society forwards in the process. For instance, in Ireland we can thank the union movement for the end of child labour and for the 'weekend'. However, unions are not a relic for museums. Recent victories for better conditions and pay are a practical proof of that, not to mention participation of some fairly large unions in wider grassroots political campaigns. In spite of the relative decline of trade unions in the past neoliberal decades, their role today is still greatly important, as long as there are zero-hour contracts, wage cuts, pay freezes, lay-offs, unpaid overtime, long days, workplace bullying, and capitalism itself.

WSM Points of Unity Explained: 8 - Imperialism

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‘8. We oppose imperialism but put forward anarchism as an alternative goal to nationalism. We defend grassroots anti-imperialist movements while arguing for an anarchist rather than nationalist strategy.’

Many places, including Ireland have a history of being occupied by colonial powers and anti-colonial struggles that included a radical element. For instance the role of the Irish Citizen Army, initially set up to protect striking workers from the police, along with James Connolly are well known radical elements within the anti-colonial struggle here. But there are others, as far back as 1798 there were organised groups within the anti-colonial movement that promoted a radical, levelling democracy not just a change of rulers. There were also reactionary elements who wanted a 'free' Ireland to have its own colonies or who supported the slave trade or otherwise advanced white supremacist positions. Nationalism insists on blending all such elements together into a single movement and history in which being Irish erases the difference between radicals and reactionaries of the past and present.

WSM Points of Unity Explained: 1 - Class Struggle and Leadership of Ideas

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'1. Anarchism will be created by the class struggle between the vast majority of society (the working class) and the tiny minority that currently rule. A successful revolution will require that anarchist ideas become the leading ideas within the working class. This will not happen spontaneously. Our role is to make anarchist ideas the leading ideas or, as it is sometimes expressed, to become a ''leadership of ideas''.’

We're usually told that class society is a thing of the past. After all, aren't we all middle class now? But this isn't true, and there still very much exists a severe division between people based on property and work, a hierarchy which is a basic fact of the economic system known as capitalism.

WSM Points of Unity Explained: 2 - Power Structures

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'2. We reject the idea that society can be changed through 'good people' gaining control of the power structures. This means we reject both the electoral strategy of the social democratic and green parties and the 'revolutionary' strategy of the various left groups.'

The WSM is working towards a free, equal, democratic society. We believe the only way to achieve this is by people taking their destinies into their own hands, forming grassroots mass movements, and creating new truly democratic institutions.

WSM Points of Unity Explained: 3 - Platformism (1)

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'3. We identify ourselves as anarchists and with the "platformist", anarchist-communist or especifista tradition of anarchism. We broadly identify with the theoretical base of this tradition and the organisational practice it argues for, but not necessarily everything else it has done or said, so it is a starting point for our politics and not an end point.’

Sometimes a person associates anarchism with chaos, with a complete disinterest in organisation, system building, and regularity. This is a critical misunderstanding of the anarchist project. The WSM practices a form of anarchism which strives to be highly organised and coherent, learning as much as we can from attempts in the past to create a free world.

WSM Points of Unity Explained: 4 - Platformism (2)

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'4. The core ideas of this tradition that we identify with are the need for anarchist political organisations that seek to develop:

  1. Theoretical Unity
  2. Tactical Unity       
  3. Collective Action and Discipline       
  4. Federalism’

Federalism is an organisational structure based on “the free agreement of individuals and organisations to work collectively towards a common objective”. It is finding the best balance between independence and coherence. This means, for example, that all decisions are made by those affected by them as opposed to centralism, where decisions are made by a central committee for those affected by them. Or that while all WSM branches are united under a common national policy, they can make their own local decisions. It also means that we have no leaders or officials with higher authority than others. Rather, we have 'officers' who are delegated temporary authority to perform certain tasks as mandated by the membership (for instance, to be treasurer).

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