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Impulse

The Impulse to resist…and transform society.

Welcome to Impulse, the blog of the Philly Metro Workers Solidarity Alliance. Inspired by the libertarian socialist paper of the same name from 1970s/1980s Milwaukee, we cover regional labor organizing, critical geography, radical social science and the arts. The views of Impulse do not necessarily reflect those of the Workers Solidarity Alliance.

Philly Metro WSA is a local organization of activists rooted in the libertarian socialist tradition. We work to build a movement grounded in self-management (autogestion), anti-racism, anti-sexism, LGBTQ liberation, ecology and syndicalism (unionism). We believe in the power and intelligence of ordinary working people and their right to control their own lives and fulfill their own potential.

Writers and artists, if you are interested in contributing to Impulse, please write to phillywsa AT gmail DOT com.

Roe Overturned! Working Class Bodies Under Threat -July 2ed and 3ed

Join Philly WSA for a discussion of Abortion Rights from a Labor Perspective. 

Presented by Alexandra, Clarissa and Danielle 

Saturday, July 2, 8:30 pm EST, Jitsi meeting link:

https://meet.jit.si/WSA1bbVdBdDXXESE7GCcuTeUJpcTQV25Df3y3kGC3YV4

and 

Sunday, July 3, 8:30 pm EST, Jitsi meeting link:

https://meet.jit.si/WSA2T5RXZ5cHgT4D4cCy5E75C3a5ruxfTLYPK2EgncNm

Schedule : 

Saturday, July 2,   8: 30 pm EST

Brief History of Choice 

Labor Unions and Why Abortion Access is a Labor Issue 

Sex Worker Activism 

Black Health and Activism 

Discussion and Support 

Saturday, July 3  8 30 EST 

Red States 

Polish Activism 

Queer Access 

What Now and Solid Answers 

Discussion and Support 

WSA May Day Gatherings

By Hanna Waldman

This May Day was certainly a reason to celebrate for members of the Workers Solidarity Alliance working to rebuild their organization after the pandemic. It was a day to connect with new friends, to reconnect with old ones, and to try new things. All of that was accomplished with this year’s May Day events, held via videoconference.

On the afternoon of April 30th, the WSA held its first ever event for families and children. The children in attendance were preschool-aged, and this was reflected in the planned activities. After a cheery greeting, Clarissa (Albany) sang “Alice the Camel,” a classic nursery rhyme song, with the children. Next, Hanna (Indiana) read them the short book A is for Activist by Indonesian activist and author Innosanto Nagara. Finally, the children participated in a craft project, thought up by Sachio and Danielle (Philadelphia), pasting pictures of working people onto a globe,  celebrating the workers of the world united–May Day’s true purpose. The children greatly enjoyed the event, expressing delight at making new friends.

The following evening, May 1st, was the highly-anticipated main event, attended by people from all over the United States and Canada. It was opened by Melissa (New York City), who read a very brief speech, reminding attendees of the hope and potential of labor movements past, and a vision of bringing that potential into the future. Next, Sachio (Philadelphia) performed the folk song “Banks of Marble,” accompanied by Hanna (Indiana) on piano.

Clarissa (Albany) recited a very poignant, moving poem—a remembrance of absent comrades, an expression of the purpose behind the fight for racial justice, and a reminder that while May Day is a day of celebration, there is still much work to be done.

Following this introduction, the event opened to lively discussion. Hanna and Sachio reported on the children’s event the day prior. Many attendees hadn’t gone to May Day marches this year, as the pandemic raged on in their areas. This event gave them the opportunity to hear about May Day happenings in other parts of the continent.

Lucien-Charles (Quebec) discussed events in Quebec, including a family-friendly IWW event, and other events that involved clashes with police. He said that he was searching for ideas about what to do in his own neighbourhood, especially pertaining specifically to anarcho-syndicalism—a sentiment the other attendees affirmed.

Lucien-Charles explained that anarchists are in the minority in his area, and that “most of the leftists in his area are Trotskyist or social democrats.” Others chimed in with their own anecdotes and comments regarding the larger presence of other leftist groups in their local areas. Piper (New Jersey) discussed how, in some areas, the Democratic Socialists of America are the only representatives of the left, causing people whose views might differ— such as anarchists— to join them by default. Sachio mentioned that the DSA used to have a libertarian socialist  caucus for this reason, and that WSA members participated in that caucus. Adam (Chicago) suggested using DSA connections to meet local leftists, both as allies and as potential WSA members.

Lucien-Charles mentioned the unfortunate closure of Black Cat Press, an anarchist publisher in in Edmonton, AB, after fifty years of operation. The discussion then moved on to favorite anarchist reading materials, which attendees were eager to share with each other.

At this point, the forty-minute time limit for Zoom meetings had nearly been reached. Lucien-Charles suggested an alternative, free platform so that future meetings could be longer. The discourse was so engaging and enjoyable that several attendees continued it on this other platform after the event came to a close.

Greg (New Jersey) said, “We’ll keep listening for how different IWA sections are celebrating May Day,” and offered to find out more about what other groups did, so those ideas can be incorporated into next year’s event.

“This is an experiment,” Sachio said of the event. “We’d love to do more events like this in the future… if the pandemic is over next year, we could do some really cool stuff.”

A spirit of eagerly looking forward pervaded the evening. Attendance was double what the organizers had expected, and enthusiasm was high. It brought WSA members together and renewed their enthusiasm for the fight ahead.

May Day Labor and International!

(Labor and International is a section for report backs for Impulse)

1 From the Branch 

2 From the Workforce 

3 IWA-AIT 

1 FROM THE BRANCH 

May Day Greetings from Philly-Metro WSA! 

Happy May Day to our comrades and fellow activists! 

This morning we look forward to joining El Paro and Philly We rise to march in Center City, Philadelphia for the human rights of immigrants, and for a May Day Zoom event in the evening. As we get ready, just a few short thoughts for this morning. 

As organizers, it’s easy to get lost in the work, trying to understand and support local strike campaigns, opposing war, as well as recognizing the pandemic’s horrific toll on the working class and oppressed communities. It’s easy to lose sight of our history, and the future we want.

May Day is a day of resistance. It is also a day to reconnect with comrades from the past. Each year as we march, our phones are a flurry of May Day greetings from across the country, comrades we organized with years ago. By participating in May Day events, we also open the door to new connections in the present, so we can work together for the future.

May Day always carries with it a chance to reflect on our own history as working people. We remember an anarchist pilgrimage to Chicago’s Waldheim Cemetery in the early 90’s, to the grave of Emma Goldman. When we were there we also saw the memorial to the Haymarket Martyrs. In NJ we visited the Batto House Labor Museum, and we marched in the May Day parade in Paterson, with banners celebrating the Silk Mill Strike of 1913. 

So much of May Day rekindles in us the past. May Day invites us to an earlier history, when workers felt the creative potential of their strikes and direct actions. This was before the labor moment made a devil’s bargain with capitalism and the state. 

In these early days of labor history, our fight for day to day rights was connected to our potential as working people to usher in the end of class society, social oppression and exploitation, and to create a world of freedom. On this May 1, we seek to rekindle this vision.

Anarcha-Syndicalist Study Group

Last October, Philly Metro WSA launched its new reading group called Anarcha-Syndicalist Study Group. The first meetings have been helpful and inspiring, averaging about 9 people attending or doing the reading. Below is the original outreach flyer- 

“Anarcha-Syndicalist Study Group is a project of The Philly Metro Branch of WSA.

We come from traditions of Anarcha-Feminism, Intersectional Feminism, and Anarchist-Syndicalism. In order to bring Anarchist-Syndicalist Theory and organizing up-to date, it’s  necessary to re-examine our syndicalist history in light of feminist values. 

Our reading group will start with some classic Anarcha-Feminist texts, 

To Destroy all Domination (an introduction to Anarcha-Feminism) 

The Tyranny of Structurelessness by Jo Freeman aka Joreen, and The Tyranny of Tyranny by Cathy Levine 

The Free Women of Spain  by Martha A. Ackelsberg 

After this we’ll arrange for a gathering for free discussion and next steps. 

While this is a local reading group, anyone interested in Anarcha-Sydncalism or impacted by capitalism, patriarchy, racism, or queer-phobia, you are welcome to participate. Contact us!  

Why Anarcha? 

You might ask why we say AnarchA and Not AnarchO? This goes back to early Anarcha-Feminism of the 1970s, when activists realized it felt strange to talk about AnarchO-Feminism with the male form of AnarchO, (as with Anarcho-Communism, Anarcho-Syndicalism) and that this use of language was equivalent to using ‘Mankind’ as a synonym for ‘Humanity’. It was more comfortable to use the feminine form of AnarchA, or the gender neutral compound AnarchIST-Feminist. 

The truth is that in the wider anarchist movement, there’s a negative stereotype of syndicalism as dominated by grumpy white men. The fact that using the feminist form of AnarchA-Sydicalist seems refreshing and new, even now in 2021, is further evidence that it’s time explore our Anarchist-Syndicalism in light of Feminism.”

Syndicalism and The Cooperative Commonwealth! (How we shall bring about the Revolution) 

  Last year, two WSA comrades banded together, texting during work hours to start reading the great forgotten classic of early French Anarcho-Syndicalism. Syndicalism and the Co-Operative Commonwealth of 1913 was written by Emile Pouget and Emile Pataud, with its introduction by Tom Mann and preface by Peter Kropotkin. The two comrades started out looking at two proceeding Victorian socialist Utopias, William Morris’s News From Nowhere of 1890, and Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backwards of 1888. They also looked over the context of The Co-Operative Commonwealth, the Syndicalist movement at that time, where Anarchists were an influential minority of the wider and eclectic syndicalist movement. Beginning to finally read the novel has been inspiring!

2 From The Workforce- 

Inspiring campaign  

As part of learning about recent janitors’ campaigns,  we’ve been learning about the Twin City Janitors, SEIU Justice for Janitors, and reading about the 2016 campaign victories. The majority surpassed winning $15 dollars an hour and more sick days, better health care and reduced lifting of heavy loads. It was a victory that took big steps toward fighting structural racial disparities in Minneapolis.

In the SEIU account of  the campaign, we read a quote from janitor Lucia Guaman, “My supervisor once told me, when I brought up our increasing workload, to ‘vacuum with one hand, mop with the other and dust with your mouth.’ No one deserves this treatment.” 

Workforce Allies

We’ve started to look at different allies’ trainings for workplaces, especially workshops and resources developed by organized labor. In the workforce, the role of allies becoming aware of institutional oppressions will look very different from situations for white, middle-class office workers. Many ally trainings we find are developed for allies in white-collar professions. 

By exploring what resources are available to blue-collar workplaces, we can create a report back to share. Capitalism divides us by racism, sexism and queer-phobia. But these ally trainings have potential for helping us overcome major divisions as working people.

3 IWA-AIT

When in March Lucien-Charles Tronchet-Ridel met with Philly-Metro WSA to discuss the Climate Strike (See Impulse article ‘Climate Strike’), members of the branch expressed interest in learning how, as local organizers, we can support IWA-AIT work in the future. For example, how can we, on a local level, plug into support for the IWA Climate Committee’s work, and the upcoming Centennial celebrations. Over all, how can a local workers’ organization connect and build relationships with local organizers of other IWA Friends and Sections? 

We will start trying to use google translate more, to keep up on the literature of other Friends and Sections. While Google translate is not perfect, it can get us started in the right direction.

One pamphlet we want to read soon has recently been translated into English, “How We Coped with Problems at Work. Conflicts of Priama Akcia Union (Slovakian section of IWA)  in 2015-2019,” which they released as part of the International Week Against Unpaid wages, dealing primarily with labor conflicts in the Hospitality Sector. We’re excited to read it.

Climate Strike!

By PMW

Philly Metro WSA was visited by Lucien-Charles Tronchet-Ridel, a Quebec-based WSA activist. He met with members of the branch last month to discuss his work in Quebec with Workers for Climate Justice, a network of union activists.

The “Earth Invites Itself to Parliament” in 2019 built solidarity between workers and students, and culminated in a mass climate march in September 2019. This climate march was not only the largest demonstration in Canadian history, but also one of the biggest climate-marches in world’s history..14 unions declared a climate strike, which was mostly carried out by teachers of various CEGEP (publicly funded colleges). CEGEPs have a tradition of organizing student strikes for social causes. 

Cédric Gray-Lehoux, spokesperson for the youth network of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, was one of three people to make a speech in September 2019. Before this, a training camp linked non-native activists with native activists during two days to share their knowledge and experiences. There is a growing concern in the Quebec ecological movement to connect itself to First Nation struggles. The student movement mostly works to build connections with Native people.

In 2021, Earth Invites Itself to Parliament created a separate network of green unionists: Workers for Climate Justice. This network decided to have another mass mobilization for fall of 2022, when they plan to be more oppositional than in the fall of 2019. The 2019 march was mainstream enough that even the prime minister of Canada marched. The Workers for Climate Justice, for their more oppositional march, have prepared a workshop for workers to present on the workshop floor. 

Waging a strike campaign outside of a bargaining period between two contract periods is technically illegal. Since it will be a social strike, a strike for bettering society, it will be a legitimate campaign even if not a legally sanctioned strike for collective bargaining.

Lucien-Charles is helping Workers for Climate Justice to get in touch with environmental and radical ecology groups in North America, and branch members of WSA were happy to put him in touch with their contacts in Philly and Delaware County. 

When asked what pro-IWA groups can offer to this work, Lucien-Charles replied,“the IWA, I feel, can provide a critical anti-capitalist and anti-statist viewpoint, which is lacking in the mainstream Climate movement, which is largely oriented toward the Green New Deal, and is limited to the UN Recommendations for Carbon Emissions.” He added, “IWA and the IWA Climate Committee can bring a much more radical viewpoint, grounded in the creative possibilities of workers’ direct action, to such as strikes and boycotts, and the ideals of anarcho-communism/anarcho-syndicalism.”

Branch members expressed interest in how to engage on a local level with IWA Climate committee work. When Lucien presented a small film from the mass mobilization of 2019, the visual effect of the never-ending march was inspiring..Branch members shared their reactions and reflections. 

Clarissa was brought to tears remembering the mass demonstrations of the World Trade Organization in 1999, and she commented on the marchers in Sea Turtle costumes with signs that read ‘I am Not a trade Barrier’. She said that the sea turtles marched with the Teamsters in “An inspiring moment of the labor and ecology movements working successfully together,” adding, “the role of art in the protests contributed to a visceral sense of the breadth and depth of the movement,” which she re-experienced seeing the footage of the Quebec Climate march. 

Members shared their experiences working on the NYC Peoples Climate March of 2014, with further reflections on what role Syndicalists can play in these mass mobilizations. Similar to the Climate March of 2019, the NYC Climate march was largely liberal and social democratic in orientation. 

“We need to be there and in these mobilizations,” said Sachio. “In our organizing, we need to keep bringing our anti-capitalist values to the forefront.”

The Pre-Syndicates 

By Sam Mainwarring 

From a talk first given by Sam in North Nj in 1995, a Philly-Metro WSA pamphlet.

For decades I’ve given out syndicalist literature, to co-workers and friends. They usually thank me, and I’ve managed to have some good conversations with folks over the years about syndicalism.

The question comes up, here I make all this talk about unions and anarchism, and what do unions have to do with freedom ? I talk about a self-managed society, abolishing capitalism, and replacing it with mutual aid and cooperation, and they see unions as the opposite of all this. 

This is the main point. The unions we are talking about are not the same as what you see in the current AF of L or Teamsters, what we call pro-business unions. While we support the efforts by workers to fight for rights, when the spirit of labor comes to our minds, it will look different. Instead of fighting for only bread and butter issues, we want to completely change society. To quote classical anarchist Max Baginsky, “what we want: living, not dead, unions.” These unions will be several things all at once. While still under capitalism, they will be centers of democracy where workers fight for our basic rights. They will be centers of self-education, a working person’s university, where we can learn about the industry we’re in, preparing us for the future where we change our industries into democracy, where human needs are met in the day to day. 

Working people don’t get anything close to a fair shake, even in the best of times. And when things get bad, we get the worst of it. 

Let’s say right up front, if workers are in a pro-business union currently, fighting for their rights, we stand with them. We don’t say, “That union is not anti-capitalist enough for us, so we’re not gonna support the members. ” If workers are out on strike, we’ll do everything we can to support them, no matter what trade union it happens to be. (This is not including cop unions of course.)

After decades of union busting, most workers in the US are not organized together, but are separated out from each other as wage earners. Often, we only all sit next to each other at training sessions organized by the employer, or some such thing like this. Other US workers, a small minority at this point, are part of established, recognized, labor unions. 

Our movement has to welcome all workers, whether they‘re already part of a recognized union or are fighting from scratch, moving toward creating one. 

When you become interested in revolutionary unions, what we call anarcho-syndicalism, and you’re already part of a union workforce, there is plenty to do inside the union structure. Building relationships with fellow workers; introducing others to the fight for union democracy; ideas of  environmental justice, and that environmental justice and the idea that workers’ rights are connected; addressing the racism and sexism of society out there, the bigotry against the gay community, and in our unions—these are all things that move us upward to a bigger goal, creating unions that can change society from the bottom up.

For many workers, where labor isn’t organized… Yet,  there is another route. That route is organizing your workplace into a bottom-up, not top-down group that keeps people together for addressing grievances. If a group like this has a much more idealistic view, like being a seed for challenging capitalism and changing society, leading up to a general strike that can transform us, this is what we call a ‘syndicate’ (originally French for “trade union”).

As centers of self-learning, our syndicates can have workshops or other ways for workers to learn what our industry is all about, how it’s full of upper dogs and lower dogs, how it’s part of larger systems like capitalism and the state and bigotry. We can learn about our counterparts around the globe—and that is revolutionary! A lot of our manufacturing has been off-shored to poorer countries, where workers have fewer rights and even fewer environmental protections. In our reading groups we can learn about our fellow workers all around the earth, and what is different about our cultures, but also all that we have in common; how we really are brothers and sisters, even as multinational corporations play us against each other.

And the much bigger vision, how our syndicates can be bodies of democracy and be revolutionary: What is the general strike? What if all workers in all industries, agricultural, manufacturing, and service, joined together in action, for all of our sakes, and the democracy of our syndicates becomes the democracy of society and the economy? What if top-down state and capitalism were ended forever, and replaced by a new kind of society, self-managed by all who do the work, for the good of everyone? 

2

Once I was giving a talk and someone asked me,  “What is this anarcho-syndicalism stuff?”

I explained it by saying,  there’s a short answer, and a long answer. If you were going to really get into the theory of it, the history of it, that’s a long, long answer. There is a history, including a social revolution in Spain in the 1930s, a long history of radical workers’ unionism. But here’s my short answer:

Anarchism points to the future-where everyone shares the goods of this world together, where working people have real democracy in our workplaces, and where industry is there for meeting the needs of the community, not for making the rich richer, and brainwashing us with commercialism.

We use the word ‘state’ to mean all the top down government. The politicians are as bad as corporations, and they try to make us think that ‘democracy’ means they get to decide on our behalf. They spend money and time trying to convince us to vote them in and keep them in power; to keep buying what they have for sale, to keep themselves in power. In so-called ‘Communist’ countries, the political class, the Red Bureaucrats, control everything completely, and workers have no rights to organize unions that challenge them. So the revolutionary unions are for real worker’s self-management. We oppose any system where there’s a class system, even if it calls itself ‘Communist.’

Far as I’m concerned, everything I’ve just said is not really theory, but practice. Building workers’ organizations that can turn into revolutionary unions, and then, the revolutionary unions can lead up to the general strike, and the making of an anarchist society. That’s real democracy, and real communism— ‘free’ communism. These are all things we learn by trial and error, by experimentation, by learning from our mistakes. 

The anarcho-syndicalist movement has talked about practice, not academic theories of this kind or another. Its theory is based on experimentation and struggle.

Now there have always been syndicalists much more into the theory side of things, like studies of industry and economics and such like that. I’m all for this, and I have a few of my own ideas.

Firstly, I think anarcho-syndicalist ‘theorists’ should make themselves clear to the common worker and they should say they don’t represent the movement. As I’ve said, there has always been, and always will be, a strong belief that our theory comes out of practice. Not from academics. I want to see the theorists, (who I do appreciate), I want them to make clear the traditional side of syndicalism, that doesn’t rely on fancy economics, geography or what have you, but really stresses that we do our theory in our workplaces, in experiment with democracy and self-education.

Ok, that said, a second thing that we need to be clear on is that syndicalism is, and has always been, multi-tendency. No one detailed ‘theory’ will ever be promoted by our workers’ organizations. And clearly no one name of a theorist will ever be promoted either, like happened with Marxism. We can use the help of intellectuals, but they will never be our prophets or our gods.

Take, for example, our comrades the anarchist geographers, they’ve started doing this stuff in one form or another, carrying on this tradition of some of our famous anarchists, Kropotkin  and Reclus, teaching  themselves revolutionary social science. I’m all for that, for a few reasons. For one, they don’t claim to represent the whole syndicalist movement. And I see what they are doing as a good part of the trial and error of the movement. If other anarchists in the same workers’ organizations like a different approach, all the better. The point is that anarchists do not worship academics the way many Marxists do.  But teaching ourselves geography, economics and the like, sharing what we learn in the worker’s revolutionary syndicates, I’m all for that.

The last thing I wanted to say was about anarcho-syndicalism being up to date. I went to NYC to hear a talk not long ago, and someone was there, an old white guy like me, giving a talk about “all the workers in all the factories,” etc. He was basing everything on Marxism. It was like he came in a time machine from the past, and no one had told him how much industry has changed since Das Kapital, or how much it’s changing now. 

We in our syndicates, in our study groups, have a task before us, to learn how capitalism and the state are different through history. If we are going to support labor struggles today, and sow the seeds of revolutionary syndicates, we have to understand how in different ways we were exploited as agricultural workers, then as factory workers, and service industry workers. We have to see how different the history is of black workers whose ancestors were brought here by violent slavery. 

Everything is speeding up. Now our economy is driven by shipping containers, packed with temporary trash to sell us and make us feel free. These things traveled here by ships, largely from third world countries with fewer protections. Every product out of the container has a history, and this history of each thing they are selling us, well you can’t separate that thing from human rights. We as US workers, unionized or not, are tought to consume these things. But we are also taught to not think about the working conditions people labored in to create them. 

From here to the worldwide general strike, we are at square one. We’re at the point of starting to sow seeds. So let’s make these study groups. Let’s learn exactly what kind of economy we have today, as opposed to where so much older literature was written. Organized labor has dwindled, and so much manufacturing has been off-shored. So many workers in de-industrialized areas are trying to adapt ourselves to the service economy to survive. 

This is my last thought, and I know some folks in the audience will be happy I got here in the talk. Our study groups and syndicates have to, and I really mean have to, reflect the real lives of working people today. I read this old anarcho-syndicalist magazine, written by white men like me. And then I’m on a hospital visit, talking with the aides and nurses and what have you, and they come from diverse backgrounds. And the health service economy is booming now. And there is no way I would show them a magazine where only white men have written articles. In my recent hospital visits, the health staff I have had the pleasure to talk to, they would be put off by it if I showed them this magazine, as if this were what anarcho-syndicalism is all about. 

So two main points: We have to sow seeds for our future syndicates (revolutionary unions in industries); we have to teach ourselves the stages of industry and where we are in the here and now.  And we have to build study groups and then syndicates that reflect our workforce. The stereotype of the grumpy white syndicalist has really got to come to an end (and maybe this is funny, spoken by a grumpy syndicalist).

To bring all of this all together (I’m referring back to notes from past meetings, when someone talked about the early French syndicalism, when the anarchist geographers were here). The anarchist geographers pointed out that industry has gone from agriculture (‘primary sector’) to manufacturing (‘secondary sector’ ) to service economy (‘tertiary sector’) I think even though there are not many anarcho-syndicalists, as few as we are, we can make a big difference. We’ve already said we are at square one, so far as building revolutionary unions.  So be it. What we should do as a syndicalist movement today is come together, if there are none of us in the same workplace, and none of us in the same business or industry, then here’s what we do- we start out with the widest phase of industry. 

If there are two or three agricultural workers among us, then they should come together and form a study group about the history and geography of agriculture, and the history of  workers in agriculture, understanding their place in history and geography, and promoting solidarity among all agriculture workers. And then the same with manufacturing workers, and the same for service economy workers. Even though we are far from actual revolutionary unions or syndicates, these agriculture workers, manufacturing workers and service workers would be sowing the seeds of a syndicate- call them ‘pre-syndicates.’

Then as time goes on, among service workers for example, two or more end up in the same general industry, say secretarial, and then they make a study group tracing the history, geography of secretarial workers, locating themselves in this history and geography, all the social justice parts of this industry, engaging in labor activism from this. And then, in this group, if someone in a working group draws in someone new from their worksite— even if it’s only two at first—they start a study group about their work site, its history, economics, what have you, and begin workplace organizing. This I’m calling ‘pre-syndicalism.’ You start out with the broadest categories and get more and more specific. At each level of this, even if there are not many people involved, it doesn’t matter, because it’s sowing seeds for building revolutionary unions, study groups and organizing teams; sowing the idea of the future general strike; what it could look like; the culture of all equal worker’s democracy; the values of a future world where work is creative; and where workers transform our industries from the inside out. Where all workers the world over build relationships together in common industries, uniting with all their workers, building the future through the all-encompassing general strike. 

The end. 

Against Invasion and War ​

Statement of Philly Metro Workers Solidarity Alliance, Friend of IWA ​

We stand against all Nationalism and Militarism – and we witness with horror Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the targeting of civilians. It is with great disquiet that we recognize this moment in history where we are closer to the brink of nuclear catastrophe than we have been in decades.

In all places where workers and organized labor are taking a stance against invasion and war; by strike, by boycott, by protest in the streets, we stand with you!

NATO’s military might is not the solution to this crisis. Action by the international working and poor will bring us to the path of justice. We are not fodder for war, and refuse to be a target for nuclear gambling! We Stand for Resistance! 

You’re Not as Radical as You Think

By Danielle Kulp 

Your Facebook says you believe Black Lives Matter, and of course you’re a feminist. Maybe you’re an intellectual tm and know the definition of intersectional feminism. You believe in equity and making resources accessible to everyone. This is fantastic! 

You pat yourself on the back and share a post about centering Black queer femme voices, then hop on a zoom for your local anarchist organization chapter, comfortable in your growth. The alt right would seethe if they saw you now. You’re doing great!

You are not as radical as you think. Check out all the squares on you’re next zoom meeting. How many people of color fill those squares? How many queers, diasabled people, women/femmes? Is anyone checking all those boxes? Have you questioned why you have a scant handful of marginalized folks in your organization? “I can’t control who joins and who doesn’t” you scoff and wonder what I’m even getting at. I sound a little too combative and aggressive for your taste, but it’s got you reading doesn’t it?

You’re doing good work, you’re fighting for the revolution, smashing the heteronormative patriarchy, but in your organizations and activist groups you’re failing marginalized people. The left has a big problem and it is reproducing toxic environments for its small membership of marginalized people. Your marginalized members are drowning in microaggressions and in some cases outright aggression, and it’s driving them to silence and scaring away new prospective members. 

You, my dear white anarchist, dream of leading the revolution, breaking down structures of oppression and creating something better. But your eyes glaze over, ignoring the misogyny and racism right in your local group. 

Some of you will swear up and down that it doesn’t exist in your organization, and demand solid proof, while your nose is pressed up against it. Some of you see it, see the thin webs of these structures, but don’t speak up when the only woman in your group gets silenced, when someone seems to have a problem with all of the proposals your Black queer comrade sends out. How can you dream of revolution and uphold these violent structures in your organizations? 

We need you! We need you to wake up right now! We need you to shake the white supremacy out of your eyes and shut down the white toxic masculine behaviors of your comrades. Members of oppressed minorities have strong proud voices-  but in our groups, we have to demand that our comrades respect all voices, and start to notice when cis white men are doing all the talking, and no one else is.

When you go to your next anarchist meeting, I need you to look at those squares, and start thinking about what you could be doing to create an environment that stops repelling the blpoc disabled queer from joining; I want you to question why the only woman in your group is barely speaking. I want you to bring up proposals that encourage your group to partner with more diverse organizations and do outreach with marginalized communities.

If your anarchist membership is so white and male that it could pass for a snapshot of Congress, I need you to go out of your way to ask why that is, and how you’re contributing. I need you to go out of your way to make your minority members feel comfortable and heard, and go further out of your way to seek more diverse membership. 

Check in with your minority members and believe them when they say they’re uncomfortable. If one indigenous comrade says something is racist and the other says they’re ok with it, don’t just take the path of least resistance and assume racism didn’t occur because one of the only two indigenous members said they were ok. Make that effort. No matter how small the infraction seems to you, everytime you call attention to it, you are training your fellow anarchists to see the structures that make your organization toxic. 

Being a radical isn’t just a title, it’s a muscle that has to be worked, and the moment you start feeling comfortable in your gains, it atrophies.

You’re not as radical as you think, until you topple the racist misogynist ableist structures in your own groups, and create in your small corner of the left, the revolution you dream of for the world. It is hard work, but you didn’t become an anarchist because it was easy. If you were looking for easy, you would have just become a liberal and put out a “hate has no home here” sign on your front lawn and called it a day. You’re not as radical as you think, but I believe you will be, because we can’t do this without you.

May Day Greetings

Happy May Day from our Philly Metro Branch of WSA (Workers Solidarity Alliance, Anarcho-Syndicalist ). It’s been a long and hard pandemic, and our thoughts continue to be with you and yours experiencing the impact of this virus on all of our personal and work lives. While we know that medical workers, as well as retail and other service workers, were hardest hit by this pandemic, we also want to especially recognize all of the Black Lives Matter organizers and activists, initiating another historic chapter of the civil rights movement. The Black community was, and still is, dealing with three pandemics: being hit more than most communities by the virus, ongoing police violence, and the violent structures of racism. It is imperative we recognize the layers of danger heaped on our Black comrades and actively educate ourselves and offer support. As the local economy begins to open up and as new labor struggles take shape, we want to renew our activist relationships and begin new ones, as we anticipate working together again. We especially want to support all the Amazon workers who are trying to unionize. During a pandemic where going out into any public space was a danger, Amazon workers strained to meet the growing reliance on online shopping, exacerbating already infamous poor working conditions. While workers in Alabama lost this round of the fight to unionize, we hope to be involved in future union efforts. These workers were part of the lifeblood of the world when everything halted. We cannot allow their exploitation to continue unchecked. Recently much of our Branch’s energy has gone into WSA national work, but looking ahead to the next year we are hoping to move forward on our local projects, and to support community based organizing, the heart of so much positive, lasting, change. This May Day, we honor workers everywhere: Workers are not disposable!

Touting the Tiny Protest

By Danielle Kulp

There is no rock large enough to live under that would keep you from being aware of what’s going on around the world right now.Black Lives Matter, and this message is being heard globally-all 50 US states have had protests. If you haven’t been to one yourself, you’ve seen the footage of mass marches on the news: the UK, France, Germany-even Finland is in on it, as hundreds came to march at the capitol building in Helsinki. Phildaelphia had a thousands-strong march from the steps of the Art Museum to City Hall. These massive protests are magnetic, and the buzz of a throng of hundreds is electrifying. With every footstep you know you are participating in history.These giant cohesive crowds are many an activist’s dream. How many organizers have labored every second of every waking hour trying to connect and network to draw out crowds for a cause, only to have a handful of people show up and weakly chant? These tiny protests, especially in small towns, might seem anemic from the outside and feel disappointing to some when held up against their robust city march counterparts, but the small protest deserves a lot of credit.Upper Darby, a small township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, was recently the site of a protest directly outside of its police station. It was put together by local organizers and at its largest there were thirty people at best. The police didn’t bother to poke their heads out the door, the National Guard stationed just around the corner at the shopping district did not move from their post. It was too tiny to garner more than some side eye from passing police patrols.Upper Darby and its surrounding townships have jarring class lines that butt right up against each other. You can be on a block with large sprawling single homes, and two blocks away families are living on the poverty line. If you’re one of the people in these large homes, say in Drexel Park, where even the street signs look expensive, you might try to avoid the so-called “bad neighborhoods.” You might plot your route to drive through mostly white and polished, pretty, sections of the town on your way to the Acme, and only talk to your white neighbors. You might see the news of these large protests and think to yourself, I’m glad I live here where people are good and respect their homes and don’t riot. Your neighbor agrees with you, and *their* neighbor agrees with you. “Black Lives Matter? What about Blue Lives?” your neighbor says as he mows his lawn.No one you know thinks differently from you and no one is questioning your opinion.This is where the small town protest deserves its praise. That small protest in front of the police station was not the flashy protest of the big cities but it challenged residents passing from their exclusive white neighborhood, and it was a message of solidarity to Black folks out and about running their errands. The neighborhood directly surrounding the police station is a racially mixed area that has definitely known some struggle. A South Asian woman peaked nervously around the corner to watch us. A Black family peered out of their window to read the signs before a little girl excitedly hopped out the door and quickly scrawled on a scrap of cardboard, joined by her sisters. Her small face was bright with the sense of community. Cars that drove by with people who held fists in the air and honked; had shocked smiles; and gave emphatic nods, supported the minute group of activists. The street became a cacophony of car horns that rang in the ears of stern white faces that did their best to ignore us.The small town protest is not as glamorous as the titanic marches, but we owe it to our Black neighbors to challenge the angry white guy who thinks that everyone in the community thinks like he does. We owe it to our Black friends to show them that they are worth it, even if we’re standing alone on the corner shouting to the passing cars that Black Lives Matter and police brutality will no longer be tolerated.

“The Irishman” in Review

By Greg Roberts

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The forthcoming Netflix movie The Irishman (due November 1) is based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, which details the deathbed confessions of Frank Sheeran. Sheeran was a World War II veteran from Darby, PA who later became a truck driver and contract killer. Sheeran was eventually employed by Jimmy Hoffa as a Teamsters official and worked for both Hoffa and Northeastern PA mob boss Russell Bufalino. Sheeran’s story is interesting for Philly WSA as the book details fascinating historical and geographical information about World War II, early 1900s Delaware County PA, and mid-1900s Philadelphia and U.S. labor history.

It is worth pointing out that the book I Heard You Paint Houses is steeped in controversy, for several reasons. In the book Sheeran claims intimate knowledge of mobster involvement in election rigging that allegedly helped JFK win the presidency. Sheeran also claims to have information on mob involvement in JFK’s assassination. Sheeran makes many controversial allegations regarding JFK, Bobby Kennedy, the Teamsters organization, organized crime, etc. One fairly uncontroversial topic raised by Sheeran is the mob working with the CIA in the “Bay of Pigs” failed attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro and gain back control over the mob’s commercial empire in Cuba, which was allegedly funded by the Teamsters’ pension fund.

The book is also controversial because it paints Jimmy Hoffa in a light that is most unfavorable to folks who are sympathetic to Hoffa as well as to conservative/business labor unionism. Sheeran details Hoffa’s ruthlessness in intimidating rank-and-file Teamsters struggling to bring democracy to and gain control over their own organization. Sheeran also details how Teamsters members and officials raided AFL-CIO locals. While the specific details of all these things are controversial, the general labor history around Teamsters/AFL-CIO locals (and other unions) raiding each other is not particularly so. Sheeran also details how mobsters and corrupt labor officials and politicians all worked together to enrich themselves and other powerful figures, against the interests of rank-and-file members and the general public.

As left libertarian labor activists we’re all too familiar with the damage raiding does to building working class solidarity, as well as the need for rank-and-filers to have direct control over their own labor organizations. We’re also familiar with how corrupt business unionism often mirrors the interests of employers, when both invest capital and muscle in the political machine to advance their own interests, against that of rank-and-file members and the general public. That’s why we fight for a new independent labor movement that’s self-managed democratically by the rank and file and builds militant working class solidarity.

Philadelphia-area activists and historians will likely find the information in I Heard You Paint Houses to be fascinating from the perspectives of critical geography, social science and labor history/activism. Sheeran’s accounts of growing up in 1920s Delaware County, and later living in Philadelphia are filled with many interesting anecdotes and geographical notes. Those of us with experience in anti-war activism may find it illuminating how Sheeran recounts his participation in war to helping him later kill for hire without remorse. For labor activists, the harsh realities of mob infiltration in labor organizations and top-down conservative/business unionism are not glossed-over in this book. Many of us are excited for the forthcoming star-studded film The Irishman, hoping that it portrays these topics in a factual and historically valuable manner.