We have entered a new stage of struggle, a new moment of possibility and danger.
Western Europe is in the news; Iceland’s government has fallen, hundreds of thousands from across the political spectrum shut down France for a day, and now a wave of wildcat strikes is giving England’s government a much-deserved kick in the teeth.
Lets not fool ourselves: if this is news it’s because it’s Western Europe. It’s been two weeks since riots broke out in Lithuania and Bulgaria, with one business publication worrying that Hungary and Estonia might be next. And my morning paper makes no bones about its fear of what might happen next in the highest worldwide concentration of working class misery – the Chinese capitalist tinderbox.
We are just putting our first toe in the waters of this new moment. Time will tell who amongst us actually knows how to swim.
What we can see is that we are entering a time of incredible possibility, where millions of people may not only become rapidly politicized, but may in just the blink of an eye become more militant than the movement we all call home. But nowhere in the world is this fast forward going to automatically occur in a good or progressive or left-wing way – the direction of what has started has yet to be determined.
Take a look at the picture at the top of this posting: hundreds if not thousands of British workers are breaking the law and taking more militant action than many “progressives” have ever done, and they clearly have the support of hundreds of thousands. And yet their demands – sparked by a foreign firm employing Italian and Portuguese workers for cheap wages – are racist: “British Jobs or British Workers.” (That’s not to say the left should step out of this fight, just to say you’d better not have kid gloves on when you step in the ring, because the odds are against you…)
To grasp what is happening is the task before us. Because what is happening will change all of the equations we’ve been playing with, will change the dynamics of every struggle, be it copwatch or the environment, political prisoners or sexual violence. But most certainly if we’re thinking about antifascism or “anti-poverty” work…
Back in September of last year i complained that there was no one on the left worth listening to about all this. People were just echoing what could be found on the business page of any bourgeois newspaper, or else dusting off their cliches from previous periods of turmoil.
That has changed somewhat, and i’d like to strongly recommend that all of you check out the following texts. They’re not as short as most of what you find on the internet, and i doubt anyone will agree with all of what they say, but they do represent some very useful initial takes on where we are and what is happening.
Like flares in the night, that may help show us our way – or reveal the enemy before they are upon us.
Global crisis – Global proletarianisation – Counter-perspectives. This is by Karl-Heinz Roth, a left communist writer (and former political prisoner) from Germany. i found it provided a good historical context for what is happening, but i was very unconvinced by the “programmatic utopianism” in its section on what is to be done. Probably the most dry of the pieces i am recommending.
Navigating the Storm: A Strategic Orientation for Confronting the Advance of Reaction and National Oppression in the “Obama” Era by Kali Akuno of the Malcolm X Grossroots Movement. This text, written in October and drawing on observations by Mike Davis, deals heavily with the Obama presidency that was being prepared for at that time. i have reservations (again) with the programmatic aspects Akuno suggests, but the text is worth reading as it helps to frame some of the subsequent discussion:
Navigating the Storm: Reprise, also by Kali Akuno. A useful reappraisal of his initial Navigating the Storm piece, again with a focus on the Obama presidency and class dynamics within the united states that may make it less useful for those of us outside of the u.s.- nevertheless, definitely worth reading.
Thinking and Acting in Real Time and A Real World by Don Hammerquist. An excellent survey of the field before us, Hammerquist discusses Akuno’s Navigating the Storm piece and also texts by the Midnight Notes collective and Adam Hanieh of Left Turn magazine.
The above texts are just starters… i haven’t made my way through it all, but i Akuno has a blog (Navigating the Storm) devoted to what is unfolding – i’ve added it to the most prominent links on Sketchy Thoughts.
& meanwhile, because it is in the news today, and does show exactly what we can expect more of:
- don’t walk away from the oil refinery strikers! by Steve Ryan, La Commune
- Begging to differ, Lenin’s Tomb
- BNP Targets Oil Refinery Strikes, Infantile and Disorderly
- Wildcat Strikers Kick Out BNP! Infantile and Disorderly
- Far right tries to hijack dispute, Norfolk Unity
- Unofficial refinery walkouts ‘over foreign workers’ spread, Libcom.org