The crisis in capitalism and the anarchist response


Starting at our Spring 2009 national conference the WSM has debated and voted on a number of documents on the capitalist crisis and the resistance to it. This text is the agreed collective position of the WSM and looks at the causes of the crisis, how it impacts workers in Ireland, what resistance there has been and what hope there is for the future.   Most recently this text was updated at the May 2013 Feb WSM national conference.


The crisis in capitalism and the anarchist response

Section 1 - The crisis in capitalism, its causes, effects and 'recovery'

1.1 The crisis represents the collapse of the neo-liberal project which began in the 1970s. Neoliberalism aimed to remove as many restrictions on capital as possible, driven on one hand by the ideological belief that the "free-market" was the most efficient means of allocating investment, and on the other by the practical reality that those with wealth consider the fact that they should be allowed to do whatever the hell the want with it to be the first principle of natural justice.

1.2 The roots of the crisis can be said to lie in the same mechanisms that made possible the globalisation of capital over the last decades. This perspective is important because it means that instruments like Credit Default Swaps were not foolish scams but rather part of the oil keeping the machinery of global finance in motion. Their failure represents not just a huge loss of profit in the short term but also a fundamental break in the machine that kept globalisation functioning.

1.3 This crisis does not however mark the end of capitalism but merely brings to an end the neo-liberal phase of the capitalist project. Capitalism has been forced to re-trench and re-group but there is no evidence to suggest that it won't be able to do so successfully.

Section 2 - The crisis in the Republic of Ireland and what it means for sector by sector

2.1 For most of the 1990's and early 2000's the Republic of Ireland competed with Singapore for the title of 'most globalised economy'. What this meant in practice was that the Republic of Ireland oriented its economy towards offering services to the newly liberated international flows of capital. These services principally consisted of tax-arbitrage (i.e. offering lower corporate tax rates than the rest of the EU) and regulation-arbitrage (i.e. offering a regulation free zone in which capital flows could disappear into tax-havens and reappear as clean money).

2.2 The combination of a low/no tax economy, a practically regulation-free banking sector and a spectacular property speculation 'bubble' meant that the crash in the Republic of Ireland was much more sudden and severe than in most of the world's economies. As the global flows of capital dried up, the crash meant not just the loss of the sectors of the economy based on providing services for them but also those areas like construction based on the speculation made possible by the profits and wages they generated. The reforms afoot in the global financial architecture mean that these flows are likely to progressively lessen and even disappear in the coming years as tax-rates are harmonised and tax-havens are closed down. This makes it certain that the crash will hit the Irish economy far harder then it will hit many other economies.

2.3 The neoliberal strategy of giving workers tax cuts rather than wage increases during the 'social partnership' of the boom years relied on revenue from property transactions to continue to fund public services. The crash has mean not only the loss of the taxes on wages and profits from that sector but also the loss of those transaction taxes (VAT, stamp duty) etc creating a huge deficit in public finances. This deficit has in turn been used to justify the initial wave of attacks on public sector workers and cuts in public services.

2.4 In the private sector the reliance on a few massive global companies like Dell to generate significant sections of GDP and employment has meant that as those companies cut their Irish operations the knock on effect on employment is massive as apart from the direct employment up to 10 times the workforce were employed in suppliers and logistics operations serving those companies.

2.5 A huge sector of the workforce had come to be employed in construction including very large number of migrant workers. The size of the construction bubble is such that a huge surplus of housing exists, a surplus made worse by the drop in demand both due to three factors, the migration of many workers out of the country, the loss of jobs and wages that means housing has become even less affordable despite the drop in prices and the much greater difficulty in obtaining mortgages.

2.6 In the services sector a significant drop in demand flows out of the above as there are fewer people to buy stuff, disposable income has dropped for the rest of the population and easy credit to buy on tick has dried up.

2.7 In short every significant section of the working class is seeing a drop in wages, conditions and in most cases employment. This in turn means a drop in spending and in tax revenue leading to further difficulties for each sector.

The situation in Northern Ireland

2.8 The North is also facing similar effects due to the global recession. This is compounded by the fact that wages and cost of living are lower here than other parts of the UK. The recession has increased the gradual erosion of the manufacturing sector and impacted particularly on the construction industry. In the month of April, 2% of the sector was lost in four days with further job losses announced at Bombardier, Nortel and FG Wilson.

2.9 Since its inception, the northern state has accounted for around two thirds of economic output and employment. However, there has been a gradual shift from the state to the private sector due to ‘security normalisation’, and a Stormont administration which is wedded to neo-liberal privatisation polices such as Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) and Private Public Partnerships (PPPs).

Section 3 - Resistance to the crisis to date and what it tells us

3.1 It was of considerable significance that the first attack the Republic of Ireland government tried to launch in response to the crisis, the removal of the medical card from many retired people, quickly failed in reaction to the mobilisations against this attack. This demonstrated that even minor resistance could be successful and that the government was unprepared for opposition.

3.2 The reaction to this was a delay in rolling out further cuts and very considerable media preparation for the implementation of these cuts. In particular the campaign against public sector workers that went on for months before details of the pay cut were revealed. Likewise the reintroduction of university fees saw a months long media campaign. This media campaign has resulted in the majority of working class people accepting the notion that we must all 'share the pain', that we all 'lost the run of ourselves'/'lived beyond our means' during the boom. The extent of the divide that currently exists between public and private sector workers as a result of this media campaign should not be underestimated. It has become common parlance that we have a 'bloated' public sector and that public sector workers have a 'generous' pension entitlement which 'cannot be afforded'.

3.3 The decision to go ahead with the cuts without ICTU, therefore bringing two decades of social partnership to a temporary end, represented a hardening of state and employer preparation and a determination to face down the unions. To a very limited extent the employers retreated from that position to avoid the March 30 strike but ICTU got nothing in return except for the resumption of talks in the context where the public sector pay cut was a reality.

3.3 In the Republic of Ireland, social partnership provided a political cover for neo-liberal politics for the past 20 years. While the boom lasted it was possible for the trade union leadership to sell the idea that we were all 'in it together'. However the crash has made the selling of this notion much more difficult. The majority of the trade union leadership remain ideologically wedded to the concept of social partnership and take the view that by being part of 'partnership' they can ameliorate the worst effects of government policy. When the talks 'broke down' on 2nd February on the issue of the public sector pension levy, it emerged that it was ICTU leaders Peter McLoone and Dan Murphy who had proposed the pension levy to government as being 'more sellable' than a pay cut. ICTU's walkout from the talks allowed the government to announce and impose the levy supposedly outside of social partnership but within two months talks resumed with the levy firmly in place. It's clear that there has been a hardening of government and employer attitude towards the trade unions and that government would quite happily do away with social partnership at this time but the trade union leadership are desperately hanging on to the remnants of the 'partnership' idea.

3.4 The first months of the crisis impacting living conditions represented a period when there was a possibility of a sudden semi-spontaneous upsurge in struggle as a mass reaction to the speed at which hopes were dashed. The highpoints of that potential were the response to the withdrawal of the over-70s medical card, the series of large national demonstrations against education cuts, the occupation of their workplace by Waterford Crystal workers in reaction to its closure, the ICTU-organised 140,000 strong march on 21st February and the call for a national strike on 30th March. However it was clear that with their attachment to social partnership ICTU was never interested in properly organising for 30th March. This, combined with the massive media campaign referred to in 3.2 above, negated the potential for this struggle. ICTU was able to cancel March 30th without a whimper of protest (see section on state of the unions below). It made sense in this period for us to put a concentrated and sustained effort in to do the little we could to push that possibility as far as it goes. This can be compared with a sprint. That movement did not emerge, ICTU successfully canceled March 30 on the weakest of excuses with almost no reaction. We now need to shift to a strategy aimed at sustained activity in the months and years of the crisis to come.

3.5 The attempts by the left in the period from March 30th to the Autumn of 2009 to launch rank and file initiatives within the unions and to organise street protests were not successful and illustrated how isolated the left is from workers even where it can take positions in the unions at local level. Sizeable demonstrations did not start again until the union leadership decided that they needed to return to street protests when they again showed their ability to mobilise large numbers of workers.

3.6 The public sector strike of November 24, whatever weakness it revealed in the organisational abilities of the unions, illustrated that despite their fears workers were willing to fight back. However rather then escalating the dispute the ICTU leadership called off the second one day strike on the basis of promised talks that once again proved to be meaningless. This caused considerable demoralization within the unions, a fact reflected in the poor turnouts for the budget day protests and the post Budget ICTU protest.

3.7 The work to rule implemented as an alternative strategy in the New Year saw very mixed implementation and results. Although it was locally effective in a number of high profile cases (like that of the passport office) it also played into the hands of the government and IBEC in terms of helping them set their agenda of public sector workers v the rest of society. Despite this it was probably the reason why the government felt forced into taking talks with the unions more seriously resulting in the Public Sector Agreement.

3.8 The Public Sector Agreement offered next to nothing, worse still it undermined working conditions in return for a vague promise to just have a inflation rate pay cut for the next four years.

Section 4 - the state of the left, anarchist and republican movement
4.1 In general we can say that no section of the left, including the anarchist movement, was in any way prepared for the crisis. Reaction to it has generally been too little, too late and lacking in direction.

4.2 The crisis has also revealed in stark terms that the great bulk of the working class is ideologically distant from the left. Although many people undoubtedly want a fairer, more just and more equal society, anti-capitalist alternatives have virtually zero credibility amongst the population. The exception to this is that a layer of trade union and NGO activists is emerging who are questioning the status quo and who provide an audience for anti-capitalist ideas

4.3 Hence, the crisis, rising unemployment, insecurity and falling wages have seen very little or no growth in support for anti-capitalist groups. Attempts to build broad left-wing networks of militants to oppose the attacks on workers' living standards have generally failed to attract anybody beyond the existing, tiny, far left.

4.4 WSM developed an analysis of what was happening to capitalism early in the crisis and have put considerable work into disseminating it.

4.5 We attempted to use the crisis to build resistance to the cuts, but, given the prevailing ideological climate, have met with very limited success. Much of this failure was due to an under-estimation on our part of the degree to which basic socialist ideas such as the importance of economic class, solidarity and the need for struggle have waned.

4.6 We now need to shift to a multi pronged approach aimed at preparing our membership for more effective intervention in community and workplace struggles on the one hand and on the other of creating a convincing model or models of an alternative to capitalism and a road map of getting to that alternative.

Section 5 - the state of the unions

5.1 The crisis has revealed for all to see how weak the unions have become at the grassroots level. A majority of WSM union members found themselves in situations where their local branches could not be called functional in any real sense. Our current position paper assumes a functioning union structure at the local level and is entirely based around this which meant that those members had little or no guidance about what they should be doing that could actually be implemented in the time frame.

5.2 The attempt to build a network of militants across public sector unions failed after a lack luster but not insignificant start at the meeting of public sector workers in the Davenport hotel. The cause of that failure is a mixture of only token involvement by the left and the undemocratic & bureaucratic informal organisation it started from and the high levels of dis-engagement with unions that exists even within unionised workplaces.

5.3 In terms of workplace organising we can identify three situations
a) Unionised workplaces where there is a reasonable level of rank & file activity. That is where people have contact with their union rep and there are general meetings to discuss issues of importance where workers can enter into debate with their fellow workers as a group.
b) Unionised workplaces where for whatever reason there is little or no rank and file activity as yet. In these cases the methods of involvement we advocate members carry out in the position paper may not be at all easy to implement in reality as they often presume such activity.
c) Unorganised workplaces where unions do not exist. Again there is a major hole in our existing position paper on the unions here probably because we have the expectation that recruitment is the work of the unions rather than revolutionaries. However the experience of unorganised members and contacts is that attempts to join unions frequently result in unanswered calls or letters and that even in unionised workplaces it is not that unusual for attempting to join taking long periods and requiring follow up calls.

5.4 In the last months members who found themselves in situation a) were in a position to implement policy in a way that influenced events and are relatively buoyed up from this experience. However members in situation b) and c) were in a very different situation and in some cases have been demoralised by the experience. Steps are being made to address this through a workplace dayschool but it seems obvious that at all levels, including policy making, we need to put much more focus on addressing these situations and developing a working strategy for members to implement.

5.5 This is a general description of where the Irish working class finds itself in relation to workplace organisation. We can hope that much of this will be resolved spontaneously as the crisis forces people to organise. It is clear that huge work is needed at grassroots level in terms of equipping people with the skills to go about 'workplace organising', part of our immediate role must be to move on from semi-rhetorical calls to 'organise your workplace' and push the concrete questions of how to organise up the agenda.

5.6 We should be prepared to investigate and explore all options in terms of workplace organising - working in existing unions where possible but looking to build alternative structures if and where necessary.

5.7 As part of this process we should be escalating our goals of building networks of libertarian workers by industry. The great increase in workplace activity means the possibility of doing this has been both increased and become something more achievable in the short to medium term. This does not mean it will be an easy process but it is one we can escalate.

Section 6 - community organisation & building resistance

6.1 In the community sector an early indication of the crisis was the collapse of the public private partnership redevelopment of run down public housing in Dublin. When the property crash removed the ability to make super profits through the part privatisation of the land this 'regeneration' was to happen on, the developer simply walked away. The attempts by the community sector to resist this were too small and too isolated to have any impact and soon fizzled out.

6.2 Many workers in the community sector are facing huge increases in workload due to rising poverty being created by job losses. At the same time their wages are being frozen or cut as a result of the pensions levy. Winning support for the March 30th strike proved particularly difficult in this sector due in part to the feeling of social responsibility felt by many workers and the fact that they are divided into very small work units where frequently the manager is in the same union (if not the union rep) as the rest of the workers.

Section 7 - the 'movement' & the 'organisation' - what do we try to build and where

7.1 Our attempts to use March 30 to build momentum within the wider anti-authoritarian movement failed to get an echo. The same can be said of our attempt to do the same at the Cork Grassroots Gathering back in the autumn and virtually all of our attempts to involve the movement in struggles that relate to practical and economic matters. All the anti-authoritarian material produced in relation to the crisis has been produced by the WSM and almost all the people circulating this material have been WSM members.

7.2 This is due to the fact that much of the movement was predicated on the strength of the capitalist economic system. It saw itself as a movement in resistance to the capitalist juggernaut. Much of its activity was focused on attempting to curb the system's worst excesses or of finding alternative spaces outside of, yet dependant upon, the system's strength. The movement is united in terms of opposing the current system and organising along anti-authoritarian lines. But it doesn't have an agreed vision of an alternative to the capitalist system.

7.3 The easy path, and perhaps the most effective, would be to abandon any real attempt to influence the anti-authoritarian movement and rely on our own resources and the few individuals who will help us in this work. This would have the advantage of freeing up time and resources for a more broad left approach. However we know from Mayday 2004 and the Shannon protests that a successful mobilization of the movement can have a much greater impact that that of our efforts alone.

7.4 Our challenge is to come up with a concrete economic alternative that appears plausible to people. As the crisis deepens and persists, objective circumstances will push more and more people to consider alternatives that lie outside of a capitalist framework. Our principle task in the coming months will be to develop and deepen our analysis of the crisis and to formulate alternative ways in which people can respond to it that appear plausible to ordinary people while setting them on an anti-capitalist trajectory.

7.5 We should produce analysis of the crisis which can talk to ordinary people and reflect the ways in which the crisis is impacting on their lives. This can best be done through 'Workers Solidarity' and through producing leaflets on specific aspects of the crisis e.g. education cuts/bus strike etc. We should also step up our use of mainstream media both through issuing of press statements and writing of 'letters to the editor'. We should publish our material as broadly as possible on the internet, as this will maintain our visibility and allow us to take advantage of any turns towards radicalisation amongst the masses.

7.6 In tandem with this we should where possible get involved in agitational/fighting back initiatives. Our capacity for kicking off such initiatives ourselves is limited but where particular groups of workers or members of particular communities do take action, we should provide whatever support we can and should attempt to influence/encourage such initiatives towards anti-authoritarian/anarchist politics.

7.7 We should also realise however that we have a very limited capacity for influencing the mass of the working class. We should therefore focus more heavily on
a) Developing a more detailed plan as to how we could get from this society to the society that we propose. In particular, we need to provide a realistic and plausible answer to "what do we do once we've occupied the factory".
b) Disseminating these ideas to as wide an audience as possible, with particular focus on persuading people in a position to be ideologically influential if and when the crisis reaches such a stage where mass resistance breaks out.
c) Attempting to position ourselves in our communities, workplaces and unions in such a way so as that when and if mass resistance breaks out, we and our ideas are already known and respected

7.8 One major weakness we face is our very limited ability to rapidly communicate with large number of people, in particular when it comes to making detailed arguments.  As a matter of urgency we will develop the WSM public site as a reliable source of news and information for those involved in struggle in Ireland. Alongside this we will continue to develop our social networking resources in order to encourage people to regularly visit the site and attend WSM events.

7.9 We will continue to build the WSM website and communication resources. Branches are encouraged to put 'article writing' on their weekly agenda and ensure that at least one member writes a 'personal opinion' piece each week. This should first be published to The editorial group will ensure articles are republished on the WSM site and that a weekly listing of new articles is sent to the WSM announcement list and social networking resources. Branches are strongly encouraged to collect email addressees at any event they are organising or at stalls etc and ensure they addresses are added to Ainriail, the WSM announcement list.

7.10 Workers Solidarity and Ideas & Action both have an essential role to play in this work. At the moment the WS editorial group can choose to produce up to 20,000 of any issue and must produce 6 a year. This limit will be upped to 30,000 and the committee is encouraged to consider this volume in the event of major demonstrations, strikes or other struggles emerging. At times of crisis the committee is also encouraged to move to a monthly production and then pull back to bi-monthly in quieter periods.

7.11 Unbranded stickers will be produced and distributed in large quantities that will be generally identifiable, as anarchist and which will highlight key slogans along the lines of the 'They didn't share the wealth, why should we share the pain'. 800 euro will be allocated to the purchase of a color lazer printer to enable rapid and constant production of such 'silent agitators' on demand for branches.

Section 8 - the possibility of turning resistance into revolution

8.1 The depth of the crisis remains uncertain but nevertheless the attacks that the bosses need to launch on the working class to get capitalism in Ireland back on the road to recovery are massive. Already many workers have not only faced pay cuts and job losses but have seen their net worth wiped out as house prices crashed, plunging many into negative equity. There is a possibility that the depth of the cuts themselves will force workers to take radical action as the most logical solution to the problems the crisis creates for them. We have already seen that in the Waterford Glass and Visteon workplace occupations.

While this possibility remains open we have to now recognize that demoralization has spread and many workers are opting for individual methods of surviving the crisis including emigration.

We will argue for the construction of a genuine united front of struggle against the cuts on a non electoralist basis that involves left organisations, union branches, community organisations and campaigning groups. This should be based around a common set of slogans against and to reverse the cuts. We will proceed by getting such individuals and organisations to sign up to a call for a founding conference of such a united front which will be open to all who agree that the wealthy rather than workers must pay for the crisis. Such a conference should only be held if and when it has achieved substantial backing from a range of organisations.

8.2 The question of putting revolution on the agenda can then be considered to have two components. Both are essential. The first is the spread of militant direct action as a way of tackling and even solving immediate problems. The second is the spreading of the idea that there is a viable alternative to capitalism that can be achieved and that this achievement is of such a value as to be worth the inevitable risks involved. Either or both of these things could happen quite quickly, over months, or they may not happen at all. Our task is to identify the points at which our input into either and both processes can be most effective.

8.3 This question cannot be divorced from the question of organisational growth. The heightened activity of the Feb-March 2009 period saw us very quickly run up against the limitations of our current size. This is not a question that can be answered through either qualitative improvement / training or through greater effort of individual members although both are of course relevant. If the crisis generates a revolutionary situation we need to enter that period with a membership in the low thousands as an absolute minimum or as part of an organised anti-authoritarian alliance of organisations of a similar level of organisation and resources as our own with somewhat greater numbers.

Short term perspectives
   S.1 The current political situation faced by the WSM is broadly determined by the impact of the economic crash and the responses to that, characterised in the main by a renew assault by the bosses and government on working class wages and conditions.
  S.2.1 In regard to the crash and the ensuing crisis it is important to point out that the reputation and standing of establishment had been seriously damaged by what has come about.  For example there is no denying that the return of economic conditions leading to mass unemployment and emigration –at one point imagined to be banished forever from these shores – has significantly dented public confidence in the system.  It is worth nothing too, that in time, this should open up political room for those of us opposed to capitalism and arguing for an alternative way of running society.
   S.2.2 However the bosses and the government have been successful in shifting the blame for the disaster and crisis away from the doorstep of capitalism itself.  They have sought to blame the mess on (i) excessive ‘cronyism’ connected to the Fianna Fáil party; (ii) excessive greed by a few bad apples and (iii) a generalised mood of Celtic Tiger mania that ‘we all participated in equally’.  "In this context key pillars of Irish economic establishment have been protected from blame.  For example Irish capitalism itself and in particular the ‘private sector’ and ‘small businesses’; the multinational sector and the Irish State support system for same; international capitalism itself which the government and bosses now claim has actually come to our assistance i.e. via the IMF/ ECB bailout.
  S.2.3  That said it has not been possible for the bosses and government to protect other pillars of the Irish establishment – namely the banking bosses, the ‘developers’ and the regulators – all of whom have had had their reputations severely damaged by the crisis.
 S.3 The major achievement of the bosses and government has been their ability to shift the cost of paying for the crisis onto the shoulders of the working class, in the main.  Although this has been demoralising to witness, it is important that we arrive at an understanding of why this has been possible.  In so doing we are directly assisting with our own efforts to refocus and rebuild for the future.  We cannot go forward in any meaningful way unless we understand what has just happened.
 S.4 The crisis in its own right has led to an immediate and sharp increase in unemployment.  This, together with high debt levels in society – personal and mortgage debt – has made many people very careful and cautious about fighting back.  There is huge anger and a sense of injustice about the way things have gone (and are still going) but there is also, for the moment, widespread fear about how the full impact of this crisis will bear down on living standards and expectations.  A meltdown scenario is something that many fear and want to avoid – for the most part the establishment has been able to play on this very real fear.
  S.4.1 The current situation signifies a very serious reverse for Irish workers.   However it doesn’t represent a defeat in the traditional sense that we understand that word.  Rather in the present crisis the Irish working class had simply not engaged in battle with government and the bosses.   There has been no show down and consequently no outright defeat.  Instead the present situation, still ongoing, represents more of a general retreat. In unprecedented developments, cuts and significant changes to working conditions have been absorbed – with further absorption still possible.  This is not a situation we had envisaged heretofore.
  S.5 There are many interacting reasons for this failure by the working class to resist and fight back.  A key factor undoubtedly has been the hollowing out of union organisation under the successive decades of partnership.  This reality, which as activists we have been well aware of, has now fully come home to roost.
   S.5.1 Moreover the union bureaucracy had come around to seeing things almost entirely from the point of view of the bosses.  This is quite a turnaround from even a generation ago.  Largely now the union bureaucracy differ with their ‘partners’ (the government and the bosses) only in terms of whether the pain of paying for the crisis should be meted over what kind of timescale.  The bosses want it to be sharp and short in order to further cow workers; the union leadership, aware of their base, believe it must doesn't with sensitivity and patience.  But fundamentally they sing from the same hymn sheet: an acceptance of ‘market rule’ and its pre-eminence in all areas of economic life.
S.5.2 That said the union bureaucracy is not in any position of jeopardy.  On the contrary it retains an iron grip of control on union renounces.  For that reason the bureaucracy has easily managed the anger and dismay among union members and has successfully demobilised resistance by marching it down a cul de sac.  This iron grip of control is a result of the bureaucracy’s real organisational acumen as well as the lack of a significant resistance to it – either ideological or practical – from the general membership.  We note that the union bureaucracy will not easily be dislodged from their current position, nor will it willingly leave the stage it commands in the current crisis; it remains a formidable force to be contended with by all activists seeking to reverse the cuts and austerity drive.
   S.5.3 The lack of any significance grass roots activity in the unions generally has facilitated the overall retreat in the face of the crisis.  While this general deterioration in union activism is a very real problem, we do note that the current crisis has woken up some union members to recognise that there is a problem and that something must be done about it.  Clearly we can and should have a role to place in rekindling this grassroots activism.  Our perspective and rich historical tradition has valuable practical insights to offer in this regard.
  S.6 A second key factor that has facilitated the lack of fight back is the broad influence of a ‘corporatist’ rather than a class view among Irish workers and Irish society generally.  The corporatist view that ‘we are all in this together’ (all classes and sections of Irish society) is deeply entwined with the narrative of Irish history and with Independence.  For the moment this view holds much greater sway than a class view which we in the WSM clearly associate with.  The dominating position of the corporatist view, even among Irish workers, has facilitated the reality of the working class taking the hit for this crisis.  The ‘corporatist’ view stresses that we must all do our bit and that “we are on the one boat together”.  The prevalence of this view in society has, for the moment, greatly assisted the government and bosses in their efforts to deflect criticism and a mobilisation against their interests.
    Impact and Response of the WSM
S.7 We acknowledge that the WSM has been affected by the course of the collapse and the responses to it.  Although we have been hopeful at different points, the situation has turned out badly in terms of the lack of a general fight back in society.  But in a sense too, it would've been unrealistic to have not been affected by what has happened.  Let’s face it: if the reverse had happened and the major fight back had occurred, we would’ve doubled or even trebled in size.
S.8 However the lack of a fight back, the real implications of what this signifies, its significance in terms of the tasks ahead in respect to the uphill battle we face, have sapped some of our confidence and resolve.  Membership has now almost halved from what it was two or so years ago, and we have also lost a number of experienced members.
S.9  Fundamentally we understand that these setbacks are temporary.  The history of working class struggles is riven with successes and setbacks.  Indeed we acknowledge this in a number of places in our Position Papers.  However, what is important for us to remember is that from the perspective of the WSM we cannot remain aloof from these icy cold winds.  It is important that in planning and organising over the next period we remain clear and realistic about what is possible.
S.9.1 It is crucial however that we do move on and that we do so with two important considerations in mind.  Firstly, understanding the crisis in critical.  In that sense we must analyse the crisis as much as possible and attempt to learn from it – what possibilities arise from it and what weakness must be borne in mind.  Secondly, it is vital that we take on a role of education in explaining to our membership, our wider support network and those militants in general who look to us, as to what we see as the way forward from here.  It is important that we are thoroughly honest about the tasks ahead but also optimistic too about the broad prospects.  That is what ‘being a leadership of ideas’ should be about.
    Immediate Priorities of the WSM
 S.10 A key priority in the year ahead should be to stabilise the organisation’s membership.  It is important that in doing this we recompose our ranks with only those who are fully committed to building in the years ahead.  For this reason, from this conference, all memberships, other than that which are active are deemed lapsed.  All members still on leave within a month of this conference are deemed to have left the organisation.  (Such members may reapply to join on an active basis within a three month period post this conference.)
  S.11 A second important priority must be to revive organisational momentum.  What is meant by this is that we must move away from a situation of stasis and adopt a position where we are seeking to grow once more.
   S.12 Effecting this turnaround cannot be simply a matter of will alone.  Fundamentally it will occur when we have a shared common analysis of the crisis, how it has impacted and how we move on from here.  It will also arise from having a shared common understanding of what priorities are important to us.
S.13 A third priority must be internal WSM organisation.  Our internal workings should be reorganised around our real, smaller membership base and our fewer priorities.  
    The WSM and the Battle of Ideas
S.14 The current crisis has highlighted the general weakness of ‘left ideas’ within political life on this island.  Moreover, compared to a generation ago (and a period of time that was more turbulent political – the 70s and 80s) the real influence of ‘left ideas’ has actually weakened in society.
S.15 Various factors have brought this about: namely the decline in the stature of the Soviet/ state socialist ideas to which much of the left identified with; the increase in influence of corporatist ideas (of which ‘social partnership’ was the spawn); the ascendency of ‘market rule’ and with that the neo-liberal agenda.
S.16 However, importantly, we note that the current crisis should lead to a halt in this process.  The crisis and its effects of causing greater impoverishment, inequality and injustice in society will have the outcome, in the medium term, of revitalising oppositional politics.  In a very real way the WSM has an opportunity to benefit from this revitalisation – because of our past history, because our anarchist ideas and because of our well regarded tradition of activism.
S.17 However in the immediate short term – which is what we must now concentrate our efforts on – there may only be some sporadic evidence of this.  Our immediate tasks now must be to rebuild our organisation.
   S.17.1 Apart from ourselves, politically, there are two other forces on the left that are also in a position to benefit from the consequences of the crisis and crash.  Firstly there is the Trotskyist left which is reconstituting itself around the ULA (or some similar electoral offering).  Although this is a case of very old wine in new bottles, it would be a mistake to underestimate this force.  ‘Radical’ left forces traditionally do well in crises and there is no reason why the ULA or a version of them should be different.  As with all electoral avenues the building of ‘radical left alternative’ appears to offer an easy solution to an intractable problem (capitalism).  Electoralism will appeal to many and we are likely to find the ULA or similar entities talking to the same pool that we do when significant grassroots campaigns of opposition get underway.
   S.17.2 Politically the Trot/ Electoral left option is a force we know and understand – for historical reasons.  While it is important that we challenge what they stand for and the solution (electoral success) that they propose for the way forward, it is vital too that we look and act differently to them.  This involves us being clear in terms of our libertarian character and in terms of what sort of tactics we stand for: action not electioneering; participatory politics in campaign building.
   S.18 The other major force we will come across is the republican movement – from Sinn Fein to left republicans.  Sinn Fein has already done very well for itself and proved itself adept at showing two faces to the public: in the North it is involved in cutbacks while in the South it is saying it the resistance to them.  Broadly speaking however republicanism is well positioned to take advantage of the revitalisation in oppositional politics – because of its traditional ‘radical’ aura and but also because its core politics intercepts with the set of ‘corporatist’ ideas that are prevalent in Irish society; although ‘left republicans’ will present this with a much more radical edge.
      S.18.1 It is important that we also tackle the republican profile.  While Sinn Féin is vulnerable in terms of its well documented about turns when it is in government, the more radical republicans are most deficient in terms of their ongoing affinity with ‘statist socialism’ and with the old fashioned authoritarian model.   
S.19 Each Branch is also mandated by Conference to produce at least one article per week for the WSM website.
S.20 We will continue to produce Irish Anarchist review twice a year to coincide with the Dublin and London Anarchist Bookfairs
   S.20.1 Anarchism and Ireland – a basic pamphlet explaining our core ideas, our position on key issues of politics, and our understanding and vision for how things can change – is now out of print as well as being seriously outdated.   A new and expanded version will be prepared for launch in May 1 2012.
   S.20. 2 A dedicated editorial group of two will coordinate the production of this new edition.  This will involve identifying what needs updating and inclusion (in terms of topics), as well as indentifying contributors to work on various sections.

Amended at Feb 2013 WSM National Conference