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Is there a need for a new Glasgow /Scotland-wide Anarchist Group?

category ireland / britain | anarchist movement | opinion / analysis author Sunday December 17, 2006 14:39author by Dundee United - Glasgow Platformist Organisationauthor email glasgowplatformistorganisation at gmail dot comauthor phone 0793 238 7757 Report this post to the editors

Document Dsitributed At Glasgow's Radical Bookfair

Dublin has an influential anarchist group, the Workers Solidarity Movement. It co-ordinates involvement in local campaigns ('especifismo' social insertion) and distribute a free quarterly news-sheet of 6000+ copies. Glasgow lacks this, but is not lacking in serious community struggles or a need for closer and more structured involvement of anarchists and other socialists in those struggles.

Is there a need for a new Glasgow /Scotland-wide Anarchist Group?

Dublin has an influential anarchist group, the Workers Solidarity Movement. It co-ordinates involvement in local campaigns ('especifismo' social insertion) and distribute a free quarterly news-sheet of 6000+ copies. Glasgow lacks this, but is not lacking in serious community struggles or a need for closer and more structured involvement of anarchists and other socialists in those struggles.

If you're interested – either as a potential member or potential sympathiser/contact - drop us an email at: or call/text 0793 238 7757.

No new group will be started unless enough committed people come forward. So get in touch. We promise (seriously, we don't have the time anyway!) not to spam you with emails or calls.

The struggle as we see it:-

Struggles in our communities Housing struggles – a number of housing struggles have taken place over the past year. There have been victories, there have been defeats, and there are ongoing battles. We have seen the emergence of a network of residents groups and community campaigners. Before this year there were few active attempts to engage with and revitalise a movement that had been heavily co-opted, rooted in the labour party, and outside of the sphere of involvement of the left and even community activists in general. The past seven months has seen the emergence of the Glasgow Residents Network, which is making real inroads into these issues, and is slowly building up participation and credibility, as well as the struggle of homeowners who have received massive bills by their factor – the mammoth stock-transfer landlord the GHA.

Development – remains a big issue. Current neoliberal reconstruction of the city poses a major threat to much of the city's social housing and to many of the positive aspects of working class Glasgow.

Some of the bigger projects include:-

  • The Commonwealth Games Village in the East End
  • The 'Regeneration' of the Forth and Clyde canal
  • The M74
  • The East End Regeneration Route
  • The Waterfront regeneration
Other smaller attacks mostly centre around the growth of big retail outlets – the ever-expanding sphere of the ossified city centre shopping area, and the overdevelopment of private housing aimed at providing the infrastructure necessary for 'conference Glasgow' (viz. 20,000+ additional housing units for the luxury market).

Much of this corporate restructuring is being challenged, in small community campaigns or by the lefty/liberal political parties, but apart from in isolated cases and in the more middle class districts (where the growth of chain shops is being opposed on a 'small is better' basis by some) this hasn't broken into real community campaigns. It tends also often to feature very low down in working class priorities.

The few exceptions are the defeat of a planned tower block in the Woodside area by a local residents campaign, and a few successful residents campaigns to reopen community facilities – eg the Maryhill Burgh Halls, and Milton football pitches.

Resistance to cuts
Community campaigns against cuts to services, including most notably the closure of 28 primary schools have seen large numbers of people mobilised. The SSP is most in evidence in these campaigns, as well as the CPB, but as ever, most of the participants have been drawn from the communities directly affected. In the earlier part of this year until summer time it had appeared that the struggle to save local schools (cleared for land sales and farming off to PFI schools) would intensify after the final decision had been made, as no school was actually due to close until early next year. The involvement of the SSP however left these struggles isolated from a broader context of community development and class solidarity, and diverted energy into electoral politics. There are structural reasons for this that are beyond the scope of this document, but it's clear that here something else is needed.

Resistance to attacks on immigrants
Perhaps the most sad and heartening struggles have come from refugees and immigrants. Targeted by the UK government, by early this year it became clear that few asylum seekers were being accepted and given 'refugee status.' Previous policy had seen abitrary callousness and decisions and widespread poverty amongst immigrants, but many asylum seekers were still being accepted to refugee status. This has changed, most, if not almost all are now refused, and face imprisonment and deportation. Previous organisational efforts around this issue then had generally been geared towards motivating general public support. This year however has seen the growth of a community-based union with hundreds of members across the city and a growing support base.

This has seen large protests of self-organised refugees, the development of an advice and support centre and campaign base linked into the movement, as well as very regular visible opposition to immigration officials and direct action/stunts outside the city's immigration centre. More recently and most cheerfully of all we have seen a number of dawn raids by immigration officials which have been stopped with acts of resistance by unity members local residents and political activists. The movement has yet to spread fully throughout the city but actual resistance is growing.

Organisations and approaches

Residents groups
There are over 100 community councils, and perhaps twice as many residents associations. Most don't talk to each other, many are controlled by political groups and cliques and a fair few are creatures of landlords but these groups do add up to a potential mass movement.

The Glasgow Residents Network
There are about a dozen groups in contact with it and occasionally attending meetings – currently growing at a rate of 1 or two new associations making contact a month. Acts as a communication network by and large and has no cohesive structures and few democratic procedures as yet as it is not a membership organisation. It's aiming to work towards a federation.

It has hundreds of members, but decisions are taken by a number of local committees, formed in areas where there are large concentrations of refugees. Many more still use the Unity centre as a first port of call to check in and check out before and after signing on at the immigration centre where they may be snatched and incarcerated. Largely it organised protests, and the support workers at the centre (ex-no borders activists and some refugees and other punters) organise mailouts, individual requests for solidarity and so forth as well as advice.

WestGAP/Anti-Poverty Network
WestGAP is an anti-poverty advice and drop-in centre. An official charity but quite radical. It's working towards starting a Scottish anti-poverty network as an alternative to the Labour-party and state dominated anti-poverty politics and associated quiescent groups. This could end up going like Telco/London Citizens and pursuing a radical line linking up community organisations and radical NGOs in a powerful popular organisation. WestGAP have a good reputation tho and have been very active in Partick over the years in helping people out, and they're generally hated by those involved in the poverty industry which demonstrates their credibility, but they will need many others involved in order to build a mass organisation. Anarchists involved within this could help to argue for a democratic and anti-social-partnership line from the outset

In our workplaces
There is no great sense in labouring this one. The workplace is the centre of capitalism, it's where our surplus labour is expropriated by the capitalist class and where our exploitation is felt the most. It's therefore clearly one of the most important fronts in the global war against capitalism and the class system.

The situation for our resistance here however is bad. Glasgow's and Scotland's trade union movement most will agree do not present much opportunity for revolutionary progress. Indeed for every victory we might see for the class, for example the recent partial victory against single status imposition in Glasgow, we have seen decisions taken by an unaccountable leadership which has represented a defeat for the working class (eg the GMB actually advocating housing transfer in Glasgow). This however is nothing new. We also reject the Leninist notion of rank and filism – as much as most of the Scottish left is still trapped in 1902 - as a workplace strategy - no matter how militant our subway workers may be, the recent rank and file conference for union activists where 5 TUC general secretaries bummed on and stifled discussion demonstrates just how wise to these activities the TUC are; nice idea, but it's just not going to work. Equally there is no alternative syndicalist movement. The IWW as the most credible alternative (in terms of numbers) is growing and holds one Industrial Union Shop in the Scottish Parliament, but it is still tiny.

Existing Political Groups
There are a number of political organisations out there involved in each of these struggles to some degree. Most of them represent a negative influence. Of the anarchists too the organisations which exist largely play a propaganda role, atho many individual militants may be involved in important struggles in their own right. To some extent that may be changing – the AF has essentially chosen to back the organisational drive of the IWW and has essentially sustained the Defy-ID campaign. SolFed too clearly have an industrial strategy and so some solid work. However there is no group currently involved in a mass struggles on a programmatic basis with theoretical and tactical unity.

Fighting to win
In many of these fronts in the class struggle we can see that an organised response favouring direct action, accountability and direct democracy could seriously develop these individual struggles and movements. At present experienced campaigners and militants can be thin on the ground, even in vital campaigns and attempts to build up our class power. It is not enough to leave the self-organisation of our communities up to the happenstance that those involved are familiar with effective forms of organisation. It's not enough to assume that democratic workers organisations will form of themselves. And it's not enough to form groups of revolutionaries and distribute propaganda, Our ideas are only relevant as long as they are part of a living breathing working class movement. They'll only be listened to if those making libertarian arguments have been involved in building these movements. And it's also not enough to make our arguments in a haphazard way and assume that good sense will triumph over our poor organisation. Organisations may be bureaucratic or fail in some sense but unless a counter-argument has been made is it any wonder if better organised authoritarians who have been active in campaigns from the beginning end up in a position of leadership. As class struggle anarchists we must provide the leadership of ideas to allow struggles to develop along libertarian lines. We must also be there to build solidarity. As revolutionaries it is our duty to put campaigns in touch with one another, to build best practice and to encourage class conscious elements to develop. If we don't do this we shouldn't be surprised if struggles remain isolated, highly reformist and lobbyistic. Social insertion – the practice of an organised anarchist response and intervention in social struggles to argue for those tendencies which are most likely to lead to eventual victory and indeed revolution is essential for victory.

Scope for development - 2007
Within the context of the class struggle (some of which we've elaborated above) some of the things we might expect a strong platformist organisation to be able to contribute to over the next year could be to:-

See the Glasgow Residents Network move towards having a more accountable federal structure, a much wider remit (taking in struggles such as those to save local schools and hospitals) and two dozen or more affiliated organisations.

[This would have the benefit of taking a number of campaigns outside of the hands of political parties who can more concerned with their electoral benefit or recruitment potential to their party than actual victory]

See a resurgence of the national tenants movement, and move beyond successful anti-stock transfer votes to social movement organisations across many of the regions of the country whose aim is to rebuild grassroots residents organisations throughout their communities

Link up housing and community struggles through a network of comrades internationally, moving beyond advice and lobbyistic organisations like the IUT to a network of radical housing and community campaigns for solidarity, similar to an industrial union.

To help to build the IWW extending the shop base, the membership, the branches and the industrial networks and to develop these through the development of an industrial district council

To bring militant workers together through these initiaves, including militant refugees organised with unity.

To develop and extend unity activity in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from overseas.

But we can only do this with YOUR support! This is an exciting time for the class struggle because we have a real chance of starting to fight back in an organised. Help us build an organisation that will have the real vision, scope and capabilities to develop this potential

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